Monday, December 1, 2008


Robert Parry, Consortium News - Nearly 16 years ago, during the last transition from a President Bush to a Democrat, Moscow made an extraordinary gesture to Washington: The Kremlin supplied a summary of its intelligence information about secret U.S.-Iranian contacts in the 1980s.

The report was from a national security committee of the Russian Duma to Rep. Lee Hamilton, who had requested what might be in Moscow's files as part of a task force investigation into whether the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980 had interfered with President Jimmy Carter's bid to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

The Russian report arrived late, via the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, showing up on Jan. 11, 1993, but the contents were stunning. The Russians reported that their intelligence revealed that long-rumored meetings between Republicans and Iranians in Europe during Campaign 1980 had indeed occurred.

But this information went against what Hamilton and other members of the task force had decided to conclude, that there had been no such contacts. Hamilton had already rebuffed advice from his chief counsel, Lawrence Barcella, that the investigation be extended a few months because of other late-arriving evidence of Republican guilt.

Instead, Hamilton had ordered the probe wrapped up with a conclusion of Republican innocence. The Russian report just represented another complication, especially since the task force's debunking report had already gone to the printers and was set for release two days later, on Jan. 13, 1993.

So, the Russian report - like much of the other incriminating evidence - was kept secret, unceremoniously stuck into a cardboard box and filed away in a make-shift Capitol Hill storage room.

Barcella told me later that he envisioned this evidence undergoing the fate of the crated Ark in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," lifted into a vast government warehouse in the closing scene. The Russian report, however, ended up in a less grand place, an abandoned Ladies Room off the Rayburn House Office Building's parking garage, where I discovered it in late 1994.

The reason I'm mentioning this document now is that one of the Americans implicated by the Russian report was Robert Gates, who in 1980 was a junior CIA official, who had served on Carter's National Security Council staff before returning to the CIA as executive assistant to CIA Director Stansfield Turner.

As translated by the U.S. Embassy, the Russian report stated, "[Robert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA Director George [H.W.] Bush also took part" in a meeting with Iranians in Paris in October 1980. . .

Gates has denied any role in the secret Republican-Iranian talks, and it is possible that the Russian intelligence isn't any good. . . Indirectly, well-informed Russians assured me that the report to Hamilton was based on their own intelligence data and that the information was considered reliable, not simply picked up from press articles. . .

What is clear is that after Ronald Reagan took office and sent his campaign chief William Casey over to run the CIA in 1981, Gates's career took off. Casey, who also was implicated in the October Surprise controversy, elevated Gates to be the assistant director for intelligence analysis and then to be deputy CIA director.

Later, Gates was linked to both the Iran-Contra scandal, which involved the trading of arms for hostages with Iran, and the Iraqgate controversy, the clandestine military support given to Iraq's Saddam Hussein during his eight-year war with Iran.


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