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How Two Elections Changed America
Two clandestine operations during hard-fought presidential elections of the past half century shaped the modern American political era, but they remain little known to the general public and mostly ignored by historians. One unfolded in the weeks before Election 1968 and the other over a full year before Election 1980.

Besides putting into power iconic Republican leaders, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, those two elections altered the nation’s course and went a long way toward defining the current personalities of America’s national parties, the anything-goes Republicans versus the ever-accommodating Democrats.
The two cases also demonstrated how Official Washington, including the national press corps, could be convinced to avert its eyes from strong evidence of these two historical crimes, Republican sabotage of both President Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968 and President Jimmy Carter’s hostage negotiations with Iran in 1980.
It was easier for all involved to pretend that nothing happened, with the dirty secrets kept from the public for “the good of the country.”
Yet those two elections had monumental consequences. In 1968, by thwarting Johnson’s nearly completed peace deal, Nixon condemned the country to four bloody and divisive years, with more than 20,000 additional U.S. soldiers dying in Vietnam – along with millions of Indochinese – and a generational divide opening between parents and their children.
The hatreds unleashed by those four years of unnecessary war also led to bitter battles over the Pentagon Papers, the Watergate scandal and Nixon’s ouster in 1974, all further darkening the American political landscape.
In reaction to Nixon’s Watergate debacle, the Right began building an infrastructure of hard-line think tanks, anti-press attack groups and ideological media outlets to protect any future Republican president caught in wrongdoing. From the Left’s internal divisions over Vietnam emerged a group of intense intellectuals who shifted right and became known as the neoconservatives.
Nevertheless, in the late 1970s, Democratic President Jimmy Carter took halting steps in a different direction. He called for elevating human rights as an American foreign policy priority and focused on the need to conserve energy and address environmental dangers.
Carter’s stern lectures about the importance of the United States rejecting materialism and developing renewable energy sources didn’t sit well with many Americans already struggling with economic stagflation. But Carter’s environmental warnings may have been as prescient as Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell message about the dangerous “military-industrial complex.”
Another Turn
But the course of American history took a sharp turn on Nov. 4, 1979, exactly three decades ago, when radical Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took scores of Americans hostage. Eventually, the Iranians would hold 52 of those Americans through the U.S. presidential election and would release them only after Ronald Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.
The coincidence of Reagan’s swearing-in and the hostage release provided powerful impetus to Reagan and his agenda. He was immediately seen as an international figure as potent and fearsome to American adversaries as Carter appeared impotent and inept.
Reagan – also bolstered by a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate – slashed taxes for the well-to-do, assaulted labor unions, deregulated industries, repudiated environmental goals and downplayed energy conservation, even removing Carter’s solar panels from the roof of the White House.
Instead of government-led efforts to address the nation’s challenges, Reagan declared in his inaugural address that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”
On foreign and military affairs, however, Reagan wanted a major new role for the federal government, expanding the U.S. military, launching new weapons programs and approving covert wars against leftist movements in the Third World.
Some of those secret wars would have long-term consequences, especially Reagan’s decision to escalate the CIA’s support for Afghan mujahedeen – essentially Islamist warlords – fighting a Soviet-protected government in Kabul.
Beyond giving a foothold in the region to Islamist extremists, including Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, Reagan’s policy required catering to the sensitivities of Pakistan’s Islamic dictators, including turning a blind eye toward their secret development of a nuclear bomb.
Reagan also credentialed the neoconservatives who provided intellectual heft for the bloody interventions in Central America, Africa and Afghanistan. On Reagan’s watch, too, the right-wing news media grew into a Washington powerhouse (which coincided with a retreat from media and think tanks by American progressives).
The cumulative effects of Elections 1968 and 1980, therefore, can’t be overstated. Which is why it is particularly important for the American people to understand what happened behind the scenes to secure those important Republican victories.
No Serious Investigations
Despite strong evidence of GOP covert interference in Democratic diplomatic initiatives before those two elections, there has never been a determined official probe to get at the truth.
Nixon’s sabotage of Johnson’s Paris peace talks has come under some media scrutiny beginning in 1983 when investigative journalist Seymour Hersh included a sketchy account of Nixon’s maneuverings in Price of Power, Hersh’s critical study of Henry Kissinger’s government career.
According to Hersh, Kissinger, a Harvard academic who was an adviser to Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks, alerted Nixon’s team to the prospects of imminent success. That prompted Nixon’s associates to send secret messages, partly through right-wing China Lobby figure Anna Chennault, to South Vietnam’s President Nguyen van Thieu, assuring him that Nixon would give him a better deal if he threw a wrench into Johnson’s initiative.
When Thieu boycotted the peace talks, Johnson’s last-ditch negotiations failed, opening the door for four more years of the U.S. war in Vietnam, which also spread to Cambodia.
Though more and more evidence has emerged over the years to buttress Hersh’s account – and the story has never been effectively refuted by Nixon’s supporters – the story of the sabotaged Paris peace talks remains confined to the Washington Establishment’s netherworld of impolite topics.
While serving as Nixon’s national security adviser and Secretary of State, Kissinger emerged as a Washington favorite, known for his witty repartee at cocktail parties. He was an intellectual with a keen political sense who cultivated the press and wormed his way into a close relationship with Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post and Newsweek.
So much so that when I was a Newsweek correspondent in the late 1980s, I was surprised at the influence Kissinger wielded inside the magazine.
Once, I was working late at night in 1989, when foreign policy correspondent Doug Waller came by my office. He had been writing a story about the Tiananmen Square massacre and had been stunned to get a phone call from Henry Kissinger.
At the time, Kissinger was promoting lucrative business ventures with the Chinese communist government and was trying to fend off some of the worst publicity from the massacre, which claimed the lives of an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 pro-democracy protesters.
Waller told me that Kissinger didn’t want Newsweek to use the phrase “Tiananmen Square massacre” because Kissinger was claiming that none of the protesters had actually died in Tiananmen Square. I suggested to Waller, “perhaps we can make Henry happy by calling it the ‘round and about Tiananmen Square massacre.’”
Though Kissinger did not prevail in getting his way about blocking the phrase “Tiananmen Square massacre,” his behavior inside Newsweek suggested that he understood his clout with Mrs. Graham and other top Newsweek executives, that he could throw his weight around with their subordinates.
Beyond Mrs. Graham’s domain, any story that put Kissinger in a negative light could expect to get a cold shoulder from many influential media figures who burnished their credentials as Washington insiders by boasting of their access to the great and powerful Kissinger.
So, even a year ago, in November 2008, when the Lyndon Johnson presidential library released audiotapes of Johnson discussing what he called Nixon’s “treason” regarding the Paris peace talks, the remarkable disclosure received only passing notice from America’s major newspapers, which published a short Associated Press wire story about Johnson’s complaint without offering context or details.
The studied indifference by Washington’s political and journalistic elites may have reflected the same attitude that was expressed in 1968 by a pillar of the Establishment, then-Defense Secretary Clark Clifford, who joined Secretary of State Dean Rusk in urging Johnson not to go public with his evidence of Republican treachery.
“Some elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I’m wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story and then possibly have a certain individual [Nixon] elected,” Clifford said in a Nov. 4, 1968, conference call. “It could cast his whole administration under such doubt that I think it would be inimical to our country’s interests.”
Clifford’s remark came in the context of Johnson learning that Christian Science Monitor reporter Saville Davis was working on a story about how Nixon’s entourage had undermined the peace talks by sending its own messages to South Vietnamese officials.
Instead of helping Davis confirm his information, Clifford and Rusk urged Johnson to make no comment, advice that Johnson accepted. He maintained his public silence and went into retirement embittered over Nixon’s peace-talk sabotage, which had denied Johnson a chance to end the war. [See’s “The Significance of Nixon’s Treason.”]
Not in 1983, after Hersh pulled back the curtain on the 1968 peace-talk gambit, nor at any other time, has there been a formal U.S. government investigation regarding Nixon’s “treason.”
And with the Vietnam gambit still unknown in 1980, some of the same figures, including Henry Kissinger, had no reason not to reprise their success by disrupting another Democratic President as he tried to navigate the United States past another foreign policy mess, the rise of an Islamic fundamentalist regime in Iran after the U.S.-back Shah of Iran was forced into exile.
The Story Begins
Arguably, that troubling story began on the afternoon of March 23, 1979, when Kissinger’s longtime mentor, Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman David Rockefeller, and his aide Joseph Verner Reed entered a town house in the exclusive Beekham Place neighborhood on Manhattan’s East Side. They met a small, intense and deeply worried woman whose life had been turned upside down.
The woman, Iran’s Princess Ashraf, the Shah’s strong-willed twin sister, had gone from wielding immense behind-the-scenes clout in the ancient nation of Persia to living in exile – albeit a luxurious one. With hostile Islamic fundamentalists running her homeland, Ashraf also was troubled by the plight of her ailing brother who had fled into exile, first to Egypt and then Morocco.
Now, she was turning for help to the man who ran one of the leading U.S. banks, one which had made a fortune serving as the Shah’s banker for a quarter century and handling billions of dollars in Iran’s assets. Ashraf’s message was straightforward. She wanted Rockefeller to intercede with Jimmy Carter and ask the President to relent on his decision against granting the Shah refuge in the United States.
A distressed Ashraf said her brother had been given a one-week deadline to leave his current place of refuge, Morocco. “My brother has nowhere to go,” Ashraf pleaded, “and no one else to turn to.” [See David Rockefeller, Memoirs]
Carter had been resisting appeals to let the Shah enter the United States, fearing that admitting him would endanger the personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. In mid-February 1979, Iranian radicals had overrun the embassy and briefly held the staff hostage before the Iranian government intervened to secure release of the Americans.
Carter feared a repeat of the crisis. Already the United States was deeply unpopular with the Islamic revolution because of the CIA’s history of meddling in Iranian affairs. The U.S. spy agency had helped organize the overthrow of an elected nationalist government in 1953 and the restoration of the Shah and the Pahlavi family to the Peacock Throne.
In the quarter century that followed, the Shah kept his opponents at bay through the coercive powers of his secret police, known as the SAVAK.
As the Islamic Revolution gained strength in January 1979, however, the Shah’s security forces could no longer keep order. The Shah – suffering from terminal cancer – scooped up a small pile of Iranian soil, boarded his jet, sat down at the controls and flew the plane out of Iran to Egypt.
A few days later, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, an ascetic religious leader who had been forced into exile by the Shah, returned to a tumultuous welcome from crowds estimated at a million strong, shouting “Death to the Shah.” The new Iranian government began demanding that the Shah be returned to stand trial for human rights crimes and that he surrender his fortune, salted away in overseas accounts.
The new Iranian government also wanted Chase Manhattan to return Iranian assets, which Rockefeller put at more than $1 billion in 1978, although some estimates ran much higher. The withdrawal might have created a liquidity crisis for the bank which already was coping with financial troubles.
Ashraf’s personal appeal put Rockefeller in what he described, with understatement, as “an awkward position,” according to his autobiography Memoirs.
“There was nothing in my previous relationship with the Shah that made me feel a strong obligation to him,” wrote the scion of the Rockefeller oil and banking fortune who had long prided himself in straddling the worlds of high finance and public policy.
“He had never been a friend to whom I owed a personal debt, and neither was his relationship with the bank one that would justify my taking personal risks on his behalf. Indeed, there might be severe repercussions for Chase if the Iranian authorities determined that I was being too helpful to the Shah and his family.”
Later that same day, March 23, 1979, after leaving Ashraf’s residence, Rockefeller attended a dinner with Happy Rockefeller, the widow of his brother Nelson who had died two months earlier. Also at the dinner was former Secretary of State Kissinger, a long-time associate of the Rockefeller family.
Discussing the Shah’s plight, Happy Rockefeller described her late husband’s close friendship with the Shah, which had included a weekend stay with the Shah and his wife in Tehran in 1977. Happy said that when Nelson learned that the Shah would be forced to leave Iran, Nelson offered to pick out a new home for the Shah in the United States.
The dinner conversation also turned to what the participants saw as the dangerous precedent that President Carter was setting by turning his back on a prominent U.S. ally. What message of American timidity was being sent to other pro-U.S. leaders in the Middle East?
‘Flying Dutchman’
The dinner led to a public campaign by Rockefeller – along with Kissinger and former Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman John McCloy – to find a suitable home in exile for the Shah. Country after country had closed their doors to the Shah as he began a humiliating odyssey as what Kissinger would call a modern-day “Flying Dutchman,” wandering in search of a safe harbor.
Rockefeller assigned his aide, Joseph Reed, “to help [the Shah] in any way he could,” including serving as the Shah’s liaison to the U.S. government. McCloy, one of the so-called Wise Men of the post-World War II era, was representing Chase Manhattan as an attorney with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy. One of his duties was to devise a financial strategy for staving off Iran’s withdrawal of assets from the bank.
Rockefeller also pressed the Shah’s case personally with Carter when the opportunity presented itself. On April 9, 1979, at the end of an Oval Office meeting on another topic, Rockefeller handed Carter a one-page memo describing the views of many foreign leaders disturbed by recent U.S. foreign policy actions, including Carter’s treatment of the Shah.
“With virtually no exceptions, the heads of state and other government leaders I saw expressed concern about United States foreign policy which they perceived to be vacillating and lacking in an understandable global approach,” Rockefeller’s memo read. “They have questions about the dependability of the United States as a friend.” An irritated Carter abruptly ended the meeting.
Despite the mounting pressure from influential quarters, Carter continued to rebuff appeals to let the Shah into the United States. So the Shah’s influential friends began looking for alternative locations, asking other nations to shelter the ex-Iranian ruler.
Finally, arrangements were made for the Shah to fly to the Bahamas and – when the Bahamian government turned out to be more interested in money than humanitarianism – to Mexico.
“With the Shah safely settled in Mexico, I had hopes that the need for my direct involvement on his behalf had ended,” Rockefeller wrote in Memoirs. “Henry [Kissinger] continued to publicly criticize the Carter administration for its overall management of the Iranian crisis and other aspects of its foreign policy, and Jack McCloy bombarded [Carter’s Secretary of State] Cyrus Vance with letters demanding the Shah’s admission to the United States.”
When the Shah’s medical condition took a turn for the worse in October, Carter relented and agreed to let the Shah fly to New York for emergency treatment. Celebrating Carter’s reversal, Rockefeller’s aide Joseph Reed wrote in a memo, “our ‘mission impossible’ is completed. … My applause is like thunder.”
When the Shah arrived in New York on Oct. 23, 1979, Reed checked the Shah into New York Hospital under a pseudonym, “David Newsome,” a play on the name of Carter’s undersecretary of state for political affairs, David Newsom.
Embassy Crisis
The arrival of the Shah in New York led to renewed demands from Iran’s new government that the Shah be returned to stand trial.
In Tehran, on Nov. 4, 1979, students and other radicals gathered at the university, called by their leaders to what was described as an important meeting, according to one of the participants whom I interviewed years later.
The students gathered in a classroom which had three blackboards turned toward the wall. A speaker told the students that they were about to undertake a mission supported by Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran’s spiritual leader and the de facto head of the government.
“They said it would be dangerous and that anyone who didn’t want to take part could leave now,” the Iranian told me. “But no one left. Then, they turned around the blackboards. There were three buildings drawn on the blackboards. They were the buildings of the U.S. embassy.”
The Iranian said the target of the raid was not the embassy personnel, but rather the embassy’s intelligence documents.
“We had believed that the U.S. government had been manipulating affairs inside Iran and we wanted to prove it,” he said. “We thought if we could get into the embassy, we could get the documents that would prove this. We hadn’t thought about the hostages.
“We all went to the embassy. We had wire cutters to cut through the fence. We started climbing over the fences. We had expected more resistance. When we got inside, we saw the Americans running and we chased them.”
Marine guards set off tear gas in a futile attempt to control the mob, but held their fire to avoid bloodshed. Other embassy personnel hastily shredded classified documents, although there wasn’t time to destroy many of the secret papers. The militant students found themselves in control not only of the embassy and hundreds of sensitive U.S. cables, but dozens of American hostages as well.
An international crisis had begun, a hinge that would swing open unexpected doors for both American and Iranian history.
Hidden Compartments
David Rockefeller denied that his campaign to gain the Shah’s admittance to the United States had provoked the crisis, arguing that he was simply filling a vacuum created when the Carter administration balked at doing the right thing.
“Despite the insistence of journalists and revisionist historians, there was never a ‘Rockefeller-Kissinger behind-the-scenes campaign’ that placed ‘relentless pressure’ on the Carter administration to have the Shah admitted to the United States regardless of the consequences,” Rockefeller wrote in Memoirs.
“In fact, it would be more accurate to say that for many months we were the unwilling surrogates for a government that had failed to accept its full responsibilities.”
But within the Iranian hostage crisis, there would be hidden compartments within hidden compartments, as influential groups around the world acted in what they perceived to be their personal or their national interests.
Rockefeller was just one of many powerful people who felt that Jimmy Carter deserved to lose his job. With the hostage crisis started, a countdown of 365 days began toward the 1980 elections. Though he may have been only dimly aware of his predicament, Carter faced a remarkable coalition of enemies both inside and outside the United States.
In the Persian Gulf, the Saudi royal family and other Arab oil sheiks blamed Carter for forsaking the Shah and feared their own playboy life styles might be next on the list for Iran’s Shiite fundamentalists. The Israeli government saw Carter as too cozy with the Palestinians and too eager to cut a peace deal that would force Israel to surrender land won in the 1967 war.
European anti-communists believed Carter was too soft on the Soviet Union and was risking the security of Europe. Dictators in the Third World – from the Philippines and South Korea to Argentina and El Salvador – were bristling at Carter’s human rights lectures.
Inside the United States, the Carter administration had made enemies at the CIA by purging many of the Old Boys who saw themselves as protectors of America’s deepest national interests. Many CIA veterans, including some still within the government, were disgruntled.
And, of course, the Republicans were determined to win back the White House, which many felt had been unjustly taken from their control after Richard Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972.
This subterranean struggle between Carter, trying desperately to free the hostages before the 1980 election, and those who stood to benefit by thwarting him became known popularly as the “October Surprise” controversy.
The nickname referred to the possibility that Carter might have ensured his reelection by arranging the hostage return the month before the presidential election as an October Surprise, although the term came ultimately to refer to clandestine efforts to stop Carter from pulling off his October Surprise.
CIA Old Boys
When the hostage crisis wasn’t resolved in the first few weeks and months, the attention of many disgruntled CIA Old Boys also turned toward the American humiliation in Iran, which they found doubly hard to take since it had been the site of the agency’s first major victory, the restoration of the Shah to the Peacock Throne.
A number of veterans from that operation of 1953 were still alive in 1980. Archibald Roosevelt was one of the Old Boys from the Iranian operation. He had moved on to become an adviser to David Rockefeller at Chase Manhattan Bank.
Another was Miles Copeland, who had served the CIA as an intermediary to Arab leaders, including Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser. In his autobiography, The Game Player, Copeland claimed that he and his CIA chums prepared their own Iranian hostage rescue plan in March 1980.
When I interviewed Copeland in 1990 at his thatched-roofed cottage outside Oxford in the English countryside, he said he had been a strong supporter of former CIA Director George H.W. Bush in 1980. He even had founded an informal support group called “Spooks for Bush.”
Sitting among photos of his children who included the drummer for the rock group, The Police, and the manager for the rock star, Sting, Copeland explained that he and his CIA colleagues considered Carter a dangerous idealist.
“Let me say first that we liked President Carter,” Copeland told me “He read, unlike President Reagan later, he read everything. He knew what he was about. He understood the situation throughout the Middle East, even these tenuous, difficult problems such as Arabs and Israel.
“But the way we saw Washington at that time was that the struggle was really not between the Left and the Right, the liberals and the conservatives, as between the Utopians and the realists, the pragmatists. Carter was a Utopian. He believed, honestly, that you must do the right thing and take your chance on the consequences. He told me that. He literally believed that.”
Copeland’s deep Southern accent spit out the words with a mixture of amazement and disgust. To Copeland and his CIA friends, Carter deserved respect for a first-rate intellect but contempt for his idealism.
“Most of the things that were done [by the United States] about Iran had been on a basis of stark realism, with possibly the exception of letting the Shah down,” Copeland said. “There are plenty of forces in the country we could have marshaled. …
“We could have sabotaged [the revolution, but first] we had to establish what the Quakers call ‘the spirit of the meeting’ in the country, where everybody was thinking just one way. The Iranians were really like sheep, as they are now.”
Altar of Ideals
But Carter, troubled by the possibility that the Shah would have to launch a bloodbath to retain power, delayed taking decisive action and missed the moment of opportunity, Copeland said. Infuriating the CIA’s Old Boys, Carter had sacrificed an ally on the altar of idealism.
“Carter really believed in all the principles that we talk about in the West,” Copeland said, shaking his mane of white hair. “As smart as Carter is, he did believe in Mom, apple pie and the corner drug store. And those things that are good in America are good everywhere else.”
Veterans of the CIA and Republicans from the Nixon-Ford administrations judged that Carter simply didn’t measure up to the demands of a harsh world.
“There were many of us – myself along with Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller, Archie Roosevelt in the CIA at the time – we believed very strongly that we were showing a kind of weakness, which people in Iran and elsewhere in the world hold in great contempt,” Copeland said.
“The fact that we’re being pushed around, and being afraid of the Ayatollah Khomeini, so we were going to let a friend down, which was horrifying to us. That’s the sort of thing that was frightening to our friends in Saudi Arabia, in Egypt and other places.”
But Carter also bent to the moral suasions of the Shah’s friends, who argued on humanitarian grounds that the ailing Shah deserved admission to the United States for medical treatment. “Carter, I say, was not a stupid man,” Copeland said, adding that Carter had an even worse flaw: “He was a principled man.”
So, Carter decided that the moral act was to allow the Shah to enter the United States for treatment, leading to the result Carter had feared: the seizure of the U.S. Embassy.
Frozen Assets
As the crisis dragged on, the Carter administration cranked up the pressure on the Iranians. Along with diplomatic initiatives, Iran’s assets were frozen, a move that ironically helped David Rockefeller’s Chase Manhattan Bank by preventing the Iranians from cleaning out their funds from the bank’s vaults.
In Memoirs, Rockefeller wrote that the Iranian “government did reduce the balances they maintained with us during the second half of 1979, but in reality they had simply returned to their historic level of about $500 million,” Rockefeller wrote. “Carter’s ‘freeze’ of official Iranian assets protected our position, but no one at Chase played a role in convincing the administration to institute it.”
In the weeks that followed the embassy seizure, Copeland said he and his friends turned their attention to figuring a way out of the mess.
“There was very little sympathy for the hostages,” Copeland said. “We all have served abroad, served in embassies like that. We got additional pay for danger. I think, for Syria, I got 50 percent extra in salary. So it’s a chance you take.
“When you join the army, you take a chance of getting in a war and getting shot. If you’re in the diplomatic service, you take a chance on having some horror like this descend on you.
“But on the other hand, we did think that there were things we could do to get them out, other than simply letting the Iranians, the students, and the Iranian administration know that they were beating us,” Copeland said. “That we could have gotten them out is something that all of us old professionals of the covert action school, we said from the beginning, ‘Why don’t they let us do it?’”
According to The Game Player, Copeland met his old friend, ex-CIA counter-intelligence chief James Angleton, for lunch. The famed spy hunter “brought to lunch a Mossad chap who confided that his service had identified at least half of the ‘students,’ even to the extent of having their home addresses in Tehran,” Copeland wrote. “He gave me a rundown on what sort of kids they were. Most of them, he said, were just that, kids.”
Periphery Strategy
The Israeli government was another deeply interested player in the Iran crisis. For decades, Israel had cultivated covert ties with the Shah’s regime as part of a Periphery Strategy of forming alliances with non-Arab states in the region to prevent Israel’s Arab enemies from focusing all their might against Israel.
Though losing an ally when the Shah fell – and offended by the anti-Israeli rhetoric from Khomeini’s supporters – Israel began quietly rebuilding relations with the Iranian government.
One of the young Israeli intelligence agents assigned to this task was an Iranian-born Jew named Ari Ben-Menashe, who had immigrated to Israel as a teen-ager and was valuable because he spoke fluent Farsi and still had friends in Iran, some of whom were rising within the new revolutionary bureaucracy.
In his own 1992 memoir, Profits of War, Ben-Menashe said the view of Israel’s Likud leaders, including Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was one of contempt for Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s.
“Begin loathed Carter for the peace agreement forced upon him at Camp David,” Ben-Menashe wrote. “As Begin saw it, the agreement took away Sinai from Israel, did not create a comprehensive peace, and left the Palestinian issue hanging on Israel’s back.”
After the Shah fell, Begin grew even more dissatisfied with Carter’s handling of the crisis and alarmed over the growing likelihood of an Iraqi attack on Iran’s oil-rich Khuzistan province. Israel saw Iraq’s Saddam Hussein as a far greater threat to Israel than Iran’s Khomeini.
Ben-Menashe wrote that Begin, recognizing the Realpolitik needs of Israel, authorized shipments to Iran of small arms and some spare parts, via South Africa, as early as September 1979.
Taking Sides
After the U.S. hostages were taken in November 1979, the Israelis came to agree with Copeland’s hard-headed skepticism about Carter’s approach to the hostage issue, Ben- Menashe wrote. Even though Copeland was generally regarded as a CIA “Arabist” who had opposed Israeli interests in the past, he was admired for his analytical skills, Ben-Menashe wrote.
“A meeting between Miles Copeland and Israeli intelligence officers was held at a Georgetown house in Washington, D.C.,” Ben-Menashe wrote. “The Israelis were happy to deal with any initiative but Carter’s.
“David Kimche, chief of Tevel, the foreign relations unit of Mossad, was the senior Israeli at the meeting. … The Israelis and the Copeland group came up with a two-pronged plan to use quiet diplomacy with the Iranians and to draw up a scheme for military action against Iran that would not jeopardize the lives of the hostages.”
In late February 1980, Seyeed Mehdi Kashani, an Iranian emissary, arrived in Israel to discuss Iran’s growing desperation for spare parts for its U.S.-supplied air force, Ben-Menashe wrote.
Kashani, whom Ben-Menashe had known from their school days in Tehran, also revealed that the Copeland initiative was making inroads inside Iran and that approaches from some Republican emissaries had already been received, Ben-Menashe wrote.
“Kashani said that the secret ex-CIA-Miles-Copeland group was aware that any deal cut with the Iranians would have to include the Israelis because they would have to be used as a third party to sell military equipment to Iran,” according to Ben-Menashe. In March 1980, the following month, the Israelis made their first direct military shipment to Iran, 300 tires for Iran’s F-4 fighter jets, Ben-Menashe wrote.
Ben-Menashe’s account of these early Israeli arms shipments was corroborated by Carter’s press secretary Jody Powell and Israeli arms dealer William Northrop, who was indicted by the U.S. government in spring 1986 for his role in allegedly unauthorized shipments of U.S. weapons to Iran (a case that was thrown out after Reagan’s Iran-Contra arms deal with Iran was exposed in fall 1986).
In an interview for a 1991 PBS Frontline documentary, Jody Powell told me that “there had been a rather tense discussion between President Carter and Prime Minister Begin in the spring of 1980 in which the President made clear that the Israelis had to stop that [arms dealing], and that we knew that they were doing it, and that we would not allow it to continue, at least not allow it to continue privately and without the knowledge of the American people.”
Rescue Plans
In the interview at his house in the English countryside, Copeland told me that he and other CIA old-timers developed their own hostage-rescue plan. Copeland said the plan – which included cultivating political allies within Iran and using disinformation tactics to augment a military assault – was hammered out on March 22, 1980, in a meeting at his Georgetown apartment.
Copeland said he was aided by Steven Meade, the ex-chief of the CIA’s Escape and Evasion Unit; Kermit Roosevelt, who had overseen the 1953 coup in Iran; and Archibald Roosevelt, the adviser to David Rockefeller.
“Essentially, the idea was to have some Iranians dressed in Iranian military uniform and police uniform go to the embassy, address the students and say, ‘Hey, you’re doing a marvelous job here. But now we’ll relieve you of it, because we understand that there’s going to be a military force flown in from outside. And they’re going to hit you, and we’re going to scatter these [hostages] around town. Thanks very much.”
Copeland’s Iranians would then move the hostages to the edge of Tehran where they would be loaded onto American helicopters to be flown out of the country.
To Copeland’s chagrin, his plan fell on deaf ears in the Carter administration, which was developing its own rescue plan that would rely more on U.S. military force with only modest help from Iranian assets in Tehran. So, Copeland said he distributed his plan outside the administration, to leading Republicans, giving sharper focus to their contempt for Carter’s bungled Iranian strategy.
“Officially, the plan went only to people in the government and was top secret and all that,” Copeland said. “But as so often happens in government, one wants support, and when it was not being handled by the Carter administration as though it was top secret, it was handled as though it was nothing. … Yes, I sent copies to everybody who I thought would be a good ally. …
“Now I’m not at liberty to say what reaction, if any, ex-President Nixon took, but he certainly had a copy of this. We sent one to Henry Kissinger, and I had, at the time, a secretary who had just worked for Henry Kissinger, and Peter Rodman, who was still working for him and was a close personal friend of mine, and so we had these informal relationships where the little closed circle of people who were, a, looking forward to a Republican President within a short while and, b, who were absolutely trustworthy and who understood all these inner workings of the international game board.”
By April 1980, Carter’s patience was wearing thin, both with the Iranians and some U.S. allies.
Questioned by congressional investigators a dozen years later, Carter said he felt that by April 1980, “Israel cast their lot with Reagan,” according to notes I found among the unpublished documents in the files of a House task force that looked at the October Surprise controversy in 1992.
Carter traced the Israeli opposition to his reelection to a “lingering concern [among] Jewish leaders that I was too friendly with Arabs.”
Carter’s National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski also recognized the Israeli hostility. In an interview, Brzezinski said the Carter White House was well aware that the Begin government had “an obvious preference for a Reagan victory.”
Desert One
Encircled by growing legions of enemies, the Carter administration put the finishing touches on its own hostage-rescue operation in April. Code named “Eagle Claw,” the assault involved a force of U.S. helicopters that would swoop down on Tehran, coordinate with some agents on the ground and extract the hostages.
Carter ordered the operation to proceed on April 24, but mechanical problems forced the helicopters to turn back. At a staging area called Desert One, one of the helicopters collided with a refueling plane, causing an explosion that killed eight American crewmen.
Their charred bodies were then displayed by the Iranian government, adding to the fury and humiliation of the United States. After the Desert One fiasco, the Iranians dispersed the hostages to a variety of locations, effectively shutting the door on another rescue attempt, at least one that would have any chance of returning the hostages as a group.
By summer 1980, Copeland told me, the Republicans in his circle considered a second hostage-rescue attempt not only unfeasible, but unnecessary. They were talking confidently about the hostages being freed after a Republican victory in November, the old CIA man said.
“There was no discussion of a Kissinger or Nixon plan to rescue these people, because Nixon, like everybody else, knew that all we had to do was wait until the election came, and they were going to get out,” Copeland said.
“That was sort of an open secret among people in the intelligence community, that that would happen. … The intelligence community certainly had some understanding with somebody in Iran in authority, in a way that they would hardly confide in me.”
Copeland said his CIA friends had been told by contacts in Iran that the mullahs would do nothing to help Carter or his reelection.
“At that time, we had word back, because you always have informed relations with the devil,” Copeland said. “But we had word that, ‘Don’t worry.’ As long as Carter wouldn’t get credit for getting these people out, as soon as Reagan came in, the Iranians would be happy enough to wash their hands of this and move into a new era of Iranian-American relations, whatever that turned out to be.”
In the interview, Copeland declined to give more details, beyond his assurance that “the CIA within the CIA,” his term for the true protectors of U.S. national security, had an understanding with the Iranians about the hostages. (Copeland died on Jan. 14, 1991, before I could interview him again.)
Secret Meetings
Much of the controversy over the October Surprise mystery has centered on several alleged secret meetings in Europe between senior Republicans – including then-Reagan campaign chief William Casey and Reagan’s running mate George H.W. Bush – and Iranian officials, including senior cleric Mehdi Karrubi.
A variety of witnesses, including Iranian officials and international intelligence operatives, have described these contacts, which have been denied by Bush and other top Republicans.
Though official U.S. investigations have generally sided with the Republicans, a substantial body of evidence – much of it which has been kept hidden from the American people – actually supports the October Surprise allegations. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
In addition, other incriminating evidence was buried in the annex to the January 1993 report by the House October Surprise Task Force, including two letters, one from former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr to the task force in December 1992 and another, the translation of a 1980 letter from Iran’s then-acting foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh to Iran’s Majlis or parliament.
Bani-Sadr’s letter described the internal battles of the Iranian government over the Republican intervention in the 1980 hostage crisis. Bani-Sadr recounted how he threatened to expose the secret deal between Reagan-Bush campaign officials and Islamic radicals close to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini if it weren’t stopped.
Bani-Sadr said he first learned of the Republican “secret deal” with Iranian radicals in July 1980 after Reza Passendideh, a nephew of Ayatollah Khomeini, attended a meeting with Iranian financier Cyrus Hashemi and Republican lawyer Stanley Pottinger in Madrid on July 2, 1980.
Though Passendideh was expected to return with a proposal from the Carter administration, Bani-Sadr said Passendideh instead carried a plan “from the Reagan camp.”
“Passendideh told me that if I do not accept this proposal, they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my [radical Iranian] rivals. He further said that they [the Republicans] have enormous influence in the CIA,” Bani-Sadr wrote. “Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination.”
Bani-Sadr said he resisted the threats and sought an immediate release of the American hostages, but it was clear to him that the wily Khomeini was playing both sides of the U.S. political street.
A Majlis Communique
Ghotbzadeh, in an Aug. 18, 1980, letter to the Majlis, wrote that “another point to consider is this fact. We know that the Republican Party of the United States in order to win the presidential election is working hard to delay the solution of the hostages crisis until after the U.S. election.”
Ghotbzadeh argued for a quicker resolution of the crisis so Iran’s new Islamic government, which had consolidated its power in part because of the hostage crisis, could “get on with other more pressing affairs than the hostage issue.”
He added, that “objection to this argument is that it will be in line with the policy of the Republican Party leaders and supporters of Rockefeller and Reagan. [But] if we leave this issue unsolved, our new government will be constantly under pressure and may not be able to succeed in its affairs. In light of this consideration it is better to settle this crisis.”
However, in his Dec. 17, 1992, letter to the House task force, Bani-Sadr said the secret Republican plan to block release of the hostages remained a point of tension between him and Khomeini. Bani-Sadr said his trump card was a threat to tell the Iranian people about the secret deal that the Khomeini forces had struck with the Republicans.
“On Sept. 8, 1980, I invited the people of Teheran to gather in Martyrs Square so that I can tell them the truth,” Bani-Sadr wrote. “Khomeini insisted that I must not do so at this time. ...
“Two days later, again, I decided to expose everything. Ahmad Khomeini [the ayatollah’s son] came to see me and told me, ‘Imam [Khomeini] absolutely promises’” to reopen talks with Carter if Bani-Sadr would relent and not go public.
Bani-Sadr said the dispute led Khomeini to pass on a new hostage proposal to the U.S. government through Khomeini’s son-in-law, Sadegh Tabatabai, in September 1980 (although that initiative ultimately was derailed by radical Islamists in the Majlis).
Bani-Sadr’s detailed letter meshed not only with Ghotzabeh’s contemporaneous accounts but with a statement made by former Defense Minister Ahmad Madani. Madani had lost to Bani-Sadr in the 1980 presidential race despite covert CIA assistance funneled to his campaign through Iranian financier Cyrus Hashemi.
Madani said he later discovered that Hashemi was double-dealing Carter by collaborating with the Republicans. In an interview with me in the early 1990s, Madani said Hashemi brought up the name of Reagan’s campaign chief William Casey in connection with these back-channel negotiations over the U.S. hostages.
Madani said Hashemi urged Madani to meet with Casey, earning a rebuke from Madani that “we are not here to play politics.”
As the hostage crisis wore on in late summer 1980, Ghotbzadeh made other comments about the Republican interference, telling Agence France Press on Sept. 6, 1980, that he had information that Reagan was “trying to block a solution” to the hostage impasse.
Back in the USA
Evidence from Reagan-Bush campaign files also points to undisclosed contacts between the Rockefeller group and Casey during this phase of the hostage crisis.
According to a campaign visitor log for Sept. 11, 1980, David Rockefeller and several of his aides who were dealing with the Iranian issue signed in to see Casey at Reagan-Bush campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
With Rockefeller were Joseph Reed, whom Rockefeller had assigned to coordinate U.S. policy toward the Shah, and Archibald Roosevelt, the former CIA officer who was monitoring events in the Persian Gulf for Chase Manhattan and who had collaborated with Miles Copeland on the Iran hostage-rescue plan. The fourth member of the party was Owen Frisbie, Rockefeller’s chief lobbyist in Washington.
In the early 1990s, all the surviving the participants – Rockefeller, Reed and Frisbie – declined to be interviewed about the Casey meeting. Rockefeller made no mention of the meeting in Memoirs.
Kissinger, another Rockefeller associate, also was in discreet contact with campaign director Casey during this period, according to Casey’s personal chauffeur whom I interviewed.
The chauffeur, who asked not to be identified by name, said he was sent twice to Kissinger’s Georgetown home to pick up the former Secretary of State and bring him to the Arlington headquarters for private meetings with Casey, meetings that were not recorded on the official visitor logs.
On Sept. 16, 1980, five days after the Rockefeller visit to Casey’s office, Iran’s acting foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh spoke publicly again about Republican interference.
“Reagan, supported by Kissinger and others, has no intention of resolving the problem,” Ghotbzadeh said. “They will do everything in their power to block it.”
Six days later, on Sept. 22, Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army invaded Iran, intensifying Iran’s need for U.S.-made military equipment but also adding another complexity to the crisis.
In the final weeks before Election 1980, FBI wiretaps picked up other evidence that connected Rockefeller associates with two of the key suspects in the October Surprise mystery, Iranian banker Cyrus Hashemi and longtime Casey business associate John Shaheen.
According to the FBI wiretaps hidden in Hashemi’s New York offices in September 1980, Hashemi and Shaheen were involved in the intrigue surrounding the Iran hostage crisis while simultaneously promoting murky financial schemes.
On the surface, Hashemi had been acting as an intermediary for President Carter for secret approaches to Iranian officials about getting the hostages released. But Hashemi also appears to have been serving as a backchannel for the Reagan-Bush campaign, working with Shaheen, who had known Casey since their World War II days together in the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA’s forerunner.
The FBI wiretaps revealed that Hashemi and Shaheen also were trying to establish a bank with Philippine interests in either the Caribbean or in Hong Kong. In mid-October 1980, Hashemi deposited “a large sum of money” in a Philippine bank and planned to meet with Philippine representatives in Europe, an FBI intercept discovered.
The negotiations led Shaheen to an agreement with Herminio Disini, an in-law of Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos, to establish the Hong Kong Deposit and Guaranty Company. Disini also was a top moneyman for Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos.
The $20 million used as starting capital for the bank came through Jean A. Patry, David Rockefeller’s lawyer in Geneva, Switzerland. But the original source of the money, according to two Shaheen associates I interviewed, was Princess Ashraf, the Shah’s twin sister.
Reagan’s Victory
Back in the United States, polls showed the race between Reagan and Carter close, but Carter suffered with voters because of his inability to resolve the hostage crisis, which was again at the top of the news because the first anniversary of the hostage-taking coincided with Election Day 1980.
So, On Nov. 4, 1980, one year to the day after the Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Ronald Reagan routed Jimmy Carter in the U.S. presidential elections. In the weeks after the election, the hostage negotiations continued.
As Reagan’s Inauguration neared, Republicans talked tough, making clear that Ronald Reagan wouldn’t stand for the humiliation that the nation endured for 444 days under Carter. The Reagan-Bush team intimated that Reagan would deal harshly with Iran if it didn’t surrender the hostages.
A joke making the rounds of Washington went: “What’s three feet deep and glows in the dark? Tehran ten minutes after Ronald Reagan becomes President.”
On Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1981, just as Reagan was beginning his inaugural address, word came from Iran that the hostages were freed. The American people were overjoyed. The coincidence in timing between the hostage release and Reagan’s taking office immediately boosted the new President’s image as a tough guy who wouldn’t let the United States be pushed around.
In the days after Reagan’s inauguration, participants in the October Surprise mystery seemed to be getting in line for payoffs.
The bank deal that Cyrus Hashemi and John Shaheen had discussed for months took final shape on Jan. 22, 1981. Shaheen opened the Hong Kong Deposit and Guaranty Bank with $20 million that had been funneled to him through Jean Patry, the Rockefeller-connected lawyer in Geneva who was fronting for Princess Ashraf.
Why, I asked one of Shaheen’s associates, would Ashraf have invested $20 million in a bank with these dubious characters? “It was funny money,” the associate answered. He believed it was money that the Islamic revolutionary government was claiming as its own.
A second Shaheen associate said Shaheen was particularly secretive when asked about his relationship with the deposed princess. “When it comes to Ashraf, I’m a cemetery,” Shaheen once said.
From 1981 to 1984, Hong Kong Deposit and Guaranty pulled in hundreds of millions of petrodollars. The bank also attracted high-flying Arabs to its board of directors.
Two directors were Ghanim Al-Mazrouie, an Abu Dhabi official who controlled 10 percent of the corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International, and Hassan Yassin, a cousin of Saudi financier Adnan Khashoggi and an adviser to BCCI principal Kamal Adham, the former chief of Saudi intelligence.

Though Cyrus Hashemi's name was not formally listed on the roster of the Hong Kong bank, he did receive cash from BCCI, al-Mazrouie’s bank. An FBI wiretap of Hashemi's office in early February 1981 picked up an advisory that “money from BCCI [is] to come in tomorrow from London on Concorde.” (In 1984, the Hong Kong Deposit and Guaranty collapsed and an estimated $100 million disappeared.)
Langley Meeting
Early in the Reagan-Bush administration, Joseph Reed, the aide to David Rockefeller, was appointed and confirmed as the new U.S. ambassador to Morocco. Before leaving for his posting, he visited the CIA and its new director, William Casey. As Reed arrived, CIA official Charles Cogan was getting up and preparing to leave Casey’s office.
Knowing Reed, Cogan lingered at the door. In a “secret” deposition to the House task force in 1992, Cogan said he had a “definite memory” of a comment Reed made about disrupting Carter's “October Surprise” of a pre-election release of the 52 American hostages in Iran.
But Cogan said he couldn’t recall the precise verb that Reed had used. “Joseph Reed said, ‘we’ and then the verb [and then] something about Carter's October Surprise,” Cogan testified. “The implication was we did something about Carter's October Surprise, but I don't have the exact wording.”
One congressional investigator, who discussed the recollection with Cogan in a less formal setting, concluded that the verb that Cogan chose not to repeat was an expletive relating to sex – as in “we f--d Carter’s October Surprise.”

During Cogan’s deposition, David Laufman, a Republican lawyer on the House task force and a former CIA official, asked Cogan if he had since “had occasion to ask him [Reed] about this” recollection?
Yes, Cogan replied, he recently had asked Reed about it, after Reed moved to a protocol job at the United Nations. “I called him up,” Cogan said. “He was at his farm in Connecticut, as I recall, and I just told him that, look, this is what sticks in my mind and what I am going to say [to Congress], and he didn't have any comment on it and continued on to other matters.”
”He didn't offer any explanation to you of what he meant?” asked Laufman.

”No,” answered Cogan.

”Nor did he deny that he had said it?” asked another task force lawyer Mark L. Shaffer.

”He didn't say anything,” Cogan responded. “We just continued on talking about other things.”

And so did the Task Force lawyers at this remarkable deposition on Dec. 21, 1992. The lawyers even failed to ask Cogan the obvious follow-up: What did Casey say and how did Casey react when Reed allegedly told Reagan’s ex-campaign chief that “we f--d Carter’s October Surprise.”
Discovered Documents
I found Cogan’s testimony and other incriminating documents in files left behind by the task force, which finished its half-hearted investigation of the October Surprise controversy in January 1993.
Among those files, I also discovered the notes of an FBI agent who tried to interview Joseph Reed about his October Surprise knowledge. The FBI man, Harry A. Penich, had scribbled down that “numerous telephone calls were placed to him [Reed]. He failed to answer any of them. I conservatively place the number over 10.”
Finally, Penich, armed with a subpoena, cornered Reed arriving home at his 50-acre estate in Greenwich, Connecticut. “He was surprised and absolutely livid at being served at home,” Penich wrote. “His responses could best be characterized as lashing out.”
Reed threatened to go over Penich's head. In hand-written “talking points” that Penich apparently used to brief an unnamed superior, the FBI agent wrote: “He [Reed] did it in such a way as to lead a reasonable person to believe he had influence w/you. The man's remarks were both inappropriate and improper.”
But the hard-ball tactics worked. When Reed finally consented to an interview, Task Force lawyers just went through the motions.
Penich took the interview notes and wrote that Reed “recalls no contact with Casey in 1980,” though Reed added that “their paths crossed many times because of Reed's position at Chase.” As for the 1981 CIA visit, Reed added that as the newly appointed U.S. ambassador to Morocco, he “would have stopped in to see Casey and pay respect.”
But on whether Reed made any remark about obstructing Carter's October Surprise, Reed claimed he “does not specifically know what October Surprise refers to,” Penich scribbled down. [For a text of the Penich notes, click here. To see a PDF file of the actual notes, click here.]
The task force lawyers didn’t press hard. Most strikingly, the lawyers failed to confront Reed with evidence that would have impeached his contention that he had “no contact with Casey in 1980.”
According to the sign-in sheets at the Reagan-Bush campaign headquarters, which the task force had obtained, Reed saw Casey on Sept. 11, 1980, less than two months before the election.
Weapons Flowing
After Reagan entered the White House, U.S. weapons were again flowing secretly to Iran through Israel. For instance, Northrop’s affidavit stated that even before Reagan’s inauguration, Israel had sounded out the new administration regarding its attitudes toward more weapons shipments to Iran and got “the new administration’s approval.”
By March 1981, millions of dollars in weapons were moving through the Israeli arms pipeline, Norththrop said, including spare parts for U.S.-made aircraft and tons of other hardware. Northrop said Israel routinely informed the new Reagan administration of its shipments.
On July 18, 1981, one of these weapons deliveries went awry, however. A chartered Argentine plane strayed off course on its return flight and was shot down by Soviet interceptors, threatening to reveal the clandestine deliveries that might have outraged the U.S. public if it were known that Israel was supplying weapons to Iran with Reagan’s secret blessing.
After the plane was shot down, Nicholas Veliotes, a career diplomat who had been named Reagan’s assistant secretary of state for the Middle East, tried to get to the bottom of the mysterious weapons flight.
“We received a press report from Tass [the official Soviet news agency] that an Argentinian plane had crashed,” Veliotes said. “According to the documents … this was chartered by Israel and it was carrying American military equipment to Iran. …
“And it was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment.
“Now this was not a covert operation in the classic sense, for which probably you could get a legal justification for it. As it stood, I believe it was the initiative of a few people [who] gave the Israelis the go-ahead. The net result was a violation of American law.”
The reason that the Israeli flights violated U.S. law was that no formal notification had been given to Congress about the transshipment of U.S. military equipment as required by the Arms Export Control Act.
In checking out the Israeli flight, Veliotes came to believe that the Reagan-Bush camp’s dealings with Iran dated back to before the 1980 election.
“It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration,” Veliotes said. “And I understand some contacts were made at that time.”
Q: “Between?”
Veliotes: “Between Israelis and these new players.”
Israeli Interests
In my work on the Iran-Contra scandal, I had obtained a classified summary of testimony from a mid-level State Department official, David Satterfield, who saw these early arms shipments as a continuation of Israeli policy toward Iran.
“Satterfield believed that Israel maintained a persistent military relationship with Iran, based on the Israeli assumption that Iran was a non-Arab state which always constituted a potential ally in the Middle East,” the summary read. “There was evidence that Israel resumed providing arms to Iran in 1980.”
Over the years, senior Israeli officials claimed that those early shipments had the quiet blessing of top Reagan-Bush officials.
In May 1982, Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon told the Washington Post that U.S. officials had approved Iranian arms transfers. “We said that notwithstanding the tyranny of Khomeini, which we all hate, we have to leave a small window open to this country, a tiny small bridge to this country,” Sharon said.
A decade later, in 1993, I took part in an interview with former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in Tel Aviv during which he said he had read Gary Sick’s 1991 book, October Surprise, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980 hostage negotiations to disrupt Jimmy Carter’s reelection.
With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, “What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?”
“Of course, it was,” Shamir responded without hesitation. “It was.” Later in the interview, Shamir seemed to regret his frankness and tried to backpedal on his answer.
Lie Detector
Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh also came to suspect that
Patently absurd reasoning in someone’s argument can often tell you about the strength of the underlying facts. If an argument is deceptive on its face, you might suspect the supporting facts are pretty fragile, too.
Such was the situation in late 1992 as America reached an important turning point for whether the people would get to understand their recent history or not. A bipartisan House task force wanted to debunk allegations that Ronald Reagan’s campaign in 1980 had sabotaged President Jimmy Carter’s negotiations with Iran about freeing 52 Americans, who were taken hostage 30 years ago this week.
That alleged act of treachery, making Carter look weak and inept, set the stage for Reagan’s landslide victory on Nov. 4, 1980, exactly one year to the date after the hostages were seized. But the suspicions about this so-called October Surprise case only reached a critical mass in 1991-92 after several years of disclosures about the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scheme.
Despite Republican denials about any secret pre-election 1980 dealings with Iran – and the anger that the allegations drew from influential neoconservatives in the Washington press corps – a House task force was created to examine the case, although without much enthusiasm and mostly with an eye toward debunking the suspicions.
By November 1992, especially after President George H.W. Bush lost his reelection bid to Bill Clinton, the task force’s determination to proclaim the Republican innocence had solidified. The Democrats would be in control of the White House and Congress and were looking forward to bipartisan comity.
However, after Bush’s electoral defeat, the floodgates that had long protected the Reagan-Bush team gave way. To the dismay of the task force, evidence of Republican guilt poured in.
The new evidence was so powerful, including multiple corroborations of secret Republican meetings with Iranians behind Carter’s back, that task force chief counsel Lawrence Barcella saw no choice but to extend the investigation several months and to rethink the planned debunking.
Barcella told me later that he approached Rep. Lee Hamilton, a centrist Democrat who was chairman of the task force, with a request to give the investigators three more months to evaluate the new evidence.
But Hamilton, who prides himself in coming up with bipartisan answers to questions that otherwise might spur partisan conflict, said no. He ordered Barcella to wrap up the probe and to continue with the planned debunking.
Concocting Alibis
Hamilton’s refusal to extend the investigation forced the task force to improvise. It found itself with no choice but to concoct a series of irrational alibis for key Republicans, especially for William Casey, Reagan’s campaign chief in 1980 and later Reagan’s CIA director.
For the debunking to work, Casey had to be accounted for on crucial days because various witnesses had placed Casey in Europe at secret meetings with Iranian emissaries, including cleric Mehdi Karrubi, then a foreign policy adviser to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
So, the task force constructed one Casey alibi around the fact that Reagan’s foreign policy aide Richard Allen had written Casey’s home number down in his notes on a specific day. Even though Allen had no record or recollection of reaching Casey that day, the task force cited the writing down of Casey’s home number as proof that Casey was at home.
For another key day, Oct. 19, 1980, the task force relied on the unsupported memory of Casey’s nephew Larry Casey, who claimed that his late father had called his brother, Bill Casey, that day and found him at work at the Reagan-Bush campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
Though Larry Casey had no corroboration for that memory, the task force cited it as “credible” and thus dismissed other evidence placing Casey in Paris at a meeting with Karrubi that day. The task force stuck to its conclusion even though I had notified the task force that Larry Casey had given me, in a PBS Frontline interview in 1991, an entirely different story for the same day.
Larry Casey insisted to me that he vividly remembered his parents having dinner with Bill Casey at the Jockey Club in Washington on Oct. 19, 1980. ”It was very clear in my mind even though it was 11 years ago,” Larry Casey said.
But then I showed Larry Casey the sign-in sheets for the Reagan-Bush campaign headquarters. The entries recorded Larry Casey’s parents picking up Bill Casey for the dinner on Oct. 15, four days earlier. Larry Casey acknowledged his error, and indeed an American Express receipt later confirmed Oct. 15 as the date of the Jockey Club dinner.
In 1992, however, Larry Casey had replaced the Jockey Club dinner with “the phone call alibi,” which he had not mentioned in the Frontline interview.
Though Larry Casey’s alibi was anything but “credible,” the House task force accepted it as solid proof.
Bush’s Whereabouts
An alibi for George H.W. Bush on that same day also had holes. Bush – as the vice presidential nominee – was under Secret Service protection, so it should have been easy to establish his whereabouts, but it wasn’t.
Bush’s redacted Secret Service records listed one non-public trip on Oct. 19, to the Chevy Chase Country Club, but it could not be corroborated either by club officials, Bush’s supposed guests or his Secret Service team.
Another reputed movement by the candidate that afternoon was to the home of a personal friend, but the Bush administration refused to disclose the identity of the friend. Eventually, in mid-1992, the administration agreed to tell a few task force officials the name of the personal friend but only if the congressional investigators agreed not to interview the witness.
The task force accepted this peculiar arrangement, even though one might have thought that then-President Bush would have been eager to clear up any suspicions by allowing an interview. No interview was ever conducted and the name of the supposed alibi witness remains secret from the American people.
Another person connected to the alleged Paris meeting on Oct. 19, 1980, CIA officer Donald Gregg, also struggled to come up with an alibi, ultimately producing a photograph of himself in bathing trunks at a beach. On the back of the photo, there was a stamp showing that the photo had been processed in October 1980, a point that proved nothing.
There were other problems with the alibis. Documents that investigators expected to find, such as Casey’s 1980 passport and key pages from his calendar, had disappeared.
Meanwhile, as December 1992 wore on, more and more evidence was arriving implicating Republicans in 1980 contacts with Iranians, including the sworn testimony of the biographer for the chief of French intelligence Alexandre deMarenches.
The biographer, journalist David Andelman, said deMarenches had described arranging meetings between Republicans and Iranians in the summer and fall of 1980, with one meeting held in Paris in October. But deMarenches demanded that the story be kept out of his memoir to protect the reputations of his friends, George H.W. Bush and William Casey, Andelman said.
Andelman’s testimony corroborated longstanding claims from a variety of international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush. But the task force brushed Andelman’s testimony aside, paradoxically terming it “credible” but then claiming it was “insufficiently probative.”
Contemporaneous Report
The task force also was aware of contemporaneous knowledge about the alleged Bush-to-Paris trip by Chicago Tribune reporter John Maclean. Maclean, the son of author Norman Maclean who wrote A River Runs Through It, said a well-placed Republican source told him in mid-October 1980 about Bush’s secret trip to Paris to meet with Iranians on the U.S. hostage issue.
After hearing this interesting tidbit, Maclean passed on the information to David Henderson, a State Department Foreign Service officer. Henderson recalled the date as Oct. 18, 1980, when the two met at Henderson’s Washington home to discuss another matter.
For his part, Maclean never wrote about the Bush-to-Paris leak because, he told me later, a Reagan-Bush campaign spokesman denied it. As the years passed, the memory of the leak faded for both Henderson and Maclean, until the October Surprise story bubbled to the surface in the early 1990s.
Henderson mentioned the meeting in a 1991 letter to a U.S. senator that was forwarded to me. In the letter, Henderson recalled the conversation about Bush’s trip to Paris but not the name of the reporter.
A Frontline producer searched some newspaper archives and found a story about Henderson that Maclean had written. Though not eager to become part of the October Surprise story in 1991, Maclean confirmed that he had received the Republican leak. He also agreed with Henderson’s recollection that their conversation occurred on or about Oct. 18, 1980. But Maclean still declined to identify his source.
The significance of the Maclean-Henderson conversation was that it was a piece of information locked in a kind of historical amber, untainted by later claims and counter-claims.
One could not accuse Maclean of concocting the Bush-to-Paris allegation for some ulterior motive, since he hadn’t used it in 1980, nor had he volunteered it a decade later. He only confirmed it when approached by Frontline and even then wasn’t particularly eager to talk about it.
Still, in December 1992, Hamilton had issued the order to end the investigation with a finding of Republican innocence – and contrary facts were not going to get in the way of that mission. [For a full accounting of the October Surprise evidence, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
Avoiding Dissent
For the task force, all that was left to do was to run the report past some bored congressmen and hope that no one looked too closely at the evidentiary gaps and the irrational alibis. That plan mostly worked but a staff aide to Rep. Mervyn Dymally of California spotted some of the absurd alibis.
One of those alibis was the bizarre claim that Richard Allen writing down Casey's home phone number proved that Casey was at home. Another alibi was that because a plane flew from San Francisco directly to London on another key date, Casey must have been onboard, even though actual documentary evidence refuted that.

According to sources who saw Dymally's dissent, it argued that "just because phones ring and planes fly doesn't mean that someone is there to answer the phone or is on the plane." But Dymally's reasonable observations were fiercely opposed by Hamilton.

Hamilton warned Dymally, who was retiring from Congress, that he would "come down hard" on Dymally if the dissent were not withdrawn. The next day, Hamilton fired all the staffers who had worked on Dymally's Africa subcommittee.

Seeing the firings as retribution (though Hamilton denied a connection), Dymally relented and withdrew the dissent, which was never made public. With that obstacle cleared, the task force report was shipped off to the printers.
The report was scheduled for release on Jan. 13, 1993, just one week before George H.W. Bush’s Presidency officially would come to an end. But there was still one more surprise for the October Surprise task force.
On Jan. 11, 1993, Hamilton received a response to a query he had sent to the Russian government on Oct. 21, 1992, requesting any information that Moscow might have about the October Surprise case.
The Russian response came from Sergey V. Stepashin, chairman of the Supreme Soviet’s Committee on Defense and Security Issues, a job roughly equivalent to chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In what might have been an unprecedented act of cooperation between the two longtime enemies, Stepashin provided a summary of what Russian intelligence files showed about the October Surprise charges and other secret U.S. dealings with Iran.
In the 1980s, after all, the Soviet KGB was not without its own sources on a topic as important to Moscow as developments in neighboring Iran. The KGB had penetrated or maintained close relations with many of the intelligence services linked to the October Surprise allegations, including those of France, Spain, Germany, Iran and Israel.
History had shown, too, that the KGB had spies inside the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. So, Soviet intelligence certainly was in a position to know a great deal about what had or had not happened in 1980.
The Supreme Soviet’s response was delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow by Nikolay Kuznetsov, secretary of the subcommittee on state security. Kuznetsov apologized for the “lengthy preparation of the response.” It was quickly translated by the U.S. embassy and forwarded to Hamilton.
To the shock of the task force, the six-page Russian report stated, as fact, that Casey, Bush and others had met secretly with Iranian officials in Europe during the 1980 presidential campaign. The Russians asserted that the Reagan-Bush team indeed had disrupted Carter’s hostage negotiations, the exact opposite of the task force’s conclusion.

As described by the Russians, the Carter administration offered the Iranians supplies of arms and unfreezing of assets for a pre-election release of the hostages. The Iranians “discussed a possible step-by-step normalization of Iranian-American relations [and] the provision of support for President Carter in the election campaign via the release of American hostages.”

But the Republicans were making their own overtures to the Iranians, the Russian report said. “William Casey, in 1980, met three times with representatives of the Iranian leadership,” the report said. “The meetings took place in Madrid and Paris.”

At the Paris meeting in October 1980, “R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter and former CIA Director George Bush also took part,” the Russian report said. “In Madrid and Paris, the representatives of Ronald Reagan and the Iranian leadership discussed the question of possibly delaying the release of 52 hostages from the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran.”

Both the Reagan-Bush Republicans and the Carter Democrats “started from the proposition that Imam Khomeini, having announced a policy of ‘neither the West nor the East,’ and cursing the ‘American devil,’ imperialism and Zionism, was forced to acquire American weapons, spares and military supplies by any and all possible means,” the Russian report said. The Republicans just won the bidding war.

”After the victory of R. Reagan in the election, in early 1981, a secret agreement was reached in London in accord with which Iran released the American hostages, and the U.S. continued to supply arms, spares and military supplies for the Iranian army,” the Russian report continued.
The deliveries were carried out by Israel, often through private arms dealers, the Russian report said.
What to Do
The matter-of-fact Russian report was stunning. It also matched other information the task force had. The task force had discovered that the Israelis, for example, had shipped U.S. military spares to Iran in 1981, with the secret acquiescence of senior Reagan-Bush administration officials.

Hamilton and his task force faced a quandary about what to do with the explosive Russian report, which – if accurate – made the task force report, which was then at the printers, not worth the paper it was being printed on.
Reputations, including Hamilton’s, could have been severely damaged. During his days as House Intelligence Committee chairman in the mid-1980s, Hamilton had come under criticism for ignoring early evidence about Oliver North’s secret contra-supply operations and getting blindsided by the covert military shipments to Iran in 1985-86.
When the Iran-Contra scandal finally broke in late 1986, Hamilton was named co-chairman of the investigative committee and quickly bought into White House cover stories that were later shattered by Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh.
In January 1993, if Hamilton had to renounce his own October Surprise report, he might have been left with a tattered reputation, known as the Republicans’ favorite chump. He might not have built a glittering post-congressional career as a well-regarded senior statesman invited to sit on important panels like the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group.
So, in January 1993, Hamilton and the task force decided to bury the Russian report.
“We got the stuff from the Russians just a few days before” the task force’s own report was set for release, Barcella told me in an interview in 2004. “We weren’t going to be able to look into it, whether it was new information, disinformation or whatever it was.”
When I asked him why the task force didn’t just release the Russian report along with the task force report, Barcella responded that the Russian report was classified, precluding its disclosure to the public. There was no interest in pressing for its declassification, though Hamilton would have been in a strong position to do so and presumably the incoming Clinton administration would have cooperated.
Instead, the Russian report was simply boxed up and filed away with other unpublished information that the task force had collected in its year-long investigation. Barcella said he envisioned the material ending up in some vast government warehouse, “like in the movie ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’”
Actually, the Russian report found an even less elegant resting place. In late 1994, I discovered the task force’s documents, including the Russian report, in boxes that had been piled up in a former Ladies Room in an obscure office off the Rayburn House Office Building’s parking garage. [To examine the key “Ladies Room” documents, click here.]
Having hidden the Russian report and other incriminating evidence, Hamilton and his task force turned next to managing how the Washington press corps would treat the debunking report. The task force briefed friendly reporters making sure the debunking conclusion got wide dissemination.
Then, a news conference was held on Jan. 13, 1993, to release the task force’s findings. However, copies of the report were not given to reporters beforehand.
In a strange process, the reports were kept shrink-wrapped at the front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing room while Hamilton and his Republican co-chairman Henry Hyde conducted the news briefing, followed by questions mostly from reporters who had already bought into the debunking.
Copies of the task force report were only handed out after the news conference was over.
Then, to ensure that there would be little or no second-guessing, Hamilton composed an op-ed for the New York Times that was entitled “Case Closed.” The article cited the supposedly solid alibis for the whereabouts of Casey as the key reason why the task force findings “should put the controversy to rest once and for all.” [NYT, Jan. 24, 1993.]
Floor Speech
Ten days later, Henry Hyde took to the House floor to gleefully mock anyone who still doubted the October Surprise innocence of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
During a "special order" speech, the white-haired Hyde did acknowledge some weaknesses in the House task force findings. Casey's 1980 passport had disappeared, as had key pages of his calendar, Hyde admitted.
Hyde noted, too, that French intelligence chief deMarenches had told his biographer that Casey did hold hostage talks with the Iranians in Paris in October 1980. Several French intelligence officials had corroborated that assertion.

But Hyde insisted that two solid blocks of evidence proved that the October Surprise allegations were false. Hyde said his first cornerstone was hard-rock alibis for Casey and other key suspects.
"We were able to locate [Casey's] whereabouts with virtual certainty" on the dates when he allegedly met with Iranians in Europe to discuss the hostages, Hyde declared. (Those alibis included Allen’s writing down Casey’s home phone number and Casey’s nephew recalling his father chatting with Casey on a specific day a dozen years earlier.)
Hyde also cited an alibi placing the late Iranian financier/CIA operative Cyrus Hashemi in Connecticut on a weekend when Hashemi’s brother, Jamshid, had testified under oath that Cyrus was with Casey and Iranian emissary Mehdi Karrubi in Madrid.
That “alibi” rested on phone records showing two one-minute calls, one from a lawyer to Hashemi's home and one back to the lawyer. There was no evidence that Hashemi received or made the calls, and the pattern more likely fit a call asking a family member when Hashemi was due home and the second call giving the answer.
FBI Wiretaps

The second debunking cornerstone, Hyde said, was the absence of anything incriminating on FBI wiretaps of Cyrus Hashemi over five months in late 1980 and early 1981 when he was under suspicion for his secret dealings with Iran.
"There is not a single indication that William Casey had contact with Cyrus or Jamshid Hashemi," Hyde said. "Indeed, there is no indication on the tapes that Casey or any other individuals associated with the Reagan campaign had contact with any persons representing or associated with the Iranian government."
But Hyde was wrong about the absence of incriminating evidence on the Hashemi wiretaps, although they were still secret in 1993 so Hyde’s argument was impossible to judge.
However, when I accessed the raw House task force documents in late 1994, I found a classified summary of the FBI bugging. According to that summary, the bugs revealed Cyrus Hashemi deeply enmeshed with Republicans on arms deals to Iran in fall 1980 as well as in financial schemes with Casey's close friend and business associate, John Shaheen.
And contrary to Hyde's claim of "not a single indication" of contact between Casey and Cyrus Hashemi, the Iranian banker was recorded as boasting that he and Casey had been "close friends" for years.
That claim was supported by a CIA memo which stated that Casey recruited Cyrus Hashemi into a sensitive business arrangement in 1979, a year before the October Surprise machinations.
Beyond that, the secret FBI summary showed Hashemi receiving a $3 million offshore deposit, arranged by a Houston lawyer who said he was a longtime associate of George H.W. Bush. The Houston lawyer, Harrel Tillman, told me in an interview that in 1980, he was doubling as a consultant to Iran's Islamic government.

After Ronald Reagan’s election in November 1980, Tillman was back on the line promising Hashemi help from the "Bush people" for one of his foundering business deals. Then, the FBI wiretaps picked up Hashemi getting a cash payment, via a courier arriving on the Concorde, from the corrupt Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI).
The House task force had concealed these documents, allowing Hamilton and Hyde to miswrite an important chapter of recent American history.
Another irony of the falsified October Surprise history was that Hamilton’s wished-for bipartisanship never materialized. The Republicans pocketed the Democratic readiness to cover up for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush – and then launched a partisan war against Bill Clinton.
To this day, now 30 years after Iranian radicals seized the American hostages, the real story of what happened and how the Republicans manipulated the process remains mostly unknown.
[For more information on this enduring mystery, see’s “How Two Elections Changed America” or Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
The October Surprise Crystal Balls
By Robert Parry (A Special Report)
November 13, 2009
Editor’s Note: The following story is the third part of a new series on the October Surprise mystery, a history-changing case that started 30 years ago last week when Iranian radicals overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days:
In fall 1980, as President Jimmy Carter struggled to free 52 American hostages in Iran and as American voters focused on a crossroads election, key supporters of Republican candidate Ronald Reagan were confident not only of Reagan’s victory but that the hostages wouldn’t be released until after Reagan was sworn in.
That confidence has been one of the sub-plots linked to the political mystery known as the October Surprise case, which centered on allegations that Republicans went behind Carter’s back to contact Iranians and sabotaged his hostage negotiations, thus guaranteeing Reagan’s resounding victory.
The accumulated evidence – including government documents and statements from some two dozen witnesses – now points to a conclusion that the Reagan campaign did develop covert contacts with Iranian officials and that those dealings did undermine Carter’s efforts. The hostages were freed after Reagan’s was sworn in as President on Jan. 20, 1981.
An October Surprise conclusion that the Republicans were guilty of a political dirty trick bordering on treason also puts into a more sinister light those crystal balls of GOP operatives who foresaw the hostages returning only after Reagan got into office.
While those predictions might be explained away as lucky guesses or astute analyses, the timing assessment from three figures in particular raise eyebrows: former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, neoconservative activist Michael Ledeen and legendary CIA officer Miles Copeland. All three have been linked to the October Surprise mystery.
Copeland, who had taken part in the CIA’s covert operation to oust Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and replace him with the Shah back in 1953, told me during an interview in 1990 that he and some of his old CIA colleagues, including Iran hand Archibald Roosevelt, were in touch with Republicans regarding Carter’s Iranian hostage crisis of 1980.
Copeland said the CIA old boys drafted their own plan for a hostage rescue and passed it along to both the Carter administration and to former President Richard Nixon and Kissinger. However, after Carter’s own failed rescue attempt in April 1980, Copeland said the Republicans in his circle concluded that a second rescue attempt was both unfeasible and unnecessary.
These Republicans were talking confidently about the hostages being freed after a Republican victory in November, Copeland said.
“There was no discussion of a Kissinger or Nixon plan to rescue these people, because Nixon, like everybody else, knew that all we had to do was wait until the election came, and they were going to get out,” Copeland said.
“That was sort of an open secret among people in the intelligence community, that that would happen. … The intelligence community certainly had some understanding with somebody in Iran in authority, in a way that they would hardly confide in me.”
Copeland said his CIA friends had been told by contacts in Iran that the mullahs would deliver the hostages to Reagan.
“At that time, we had word back, because you always have informed relations with the devil,” Copeland said. “But we had word that, ‘Don’t worry.’ As long as Carter wouldn’t get credit for getting these people out, as soon as Reagan came in, the Iranians would be happy enough to wash their hands of this and move into a new era of Iranian-American relations.”
In the interview, Copeland declined to give more details, beyond his assurance that “the CIA within the CIA,” his term for the true protectors of U.S. national security, had an understanding with the Iranians about the hostages. (Copeland died on Jan. 14, 1991, before I could interview him again.)
Kissinger’s Crystal Ball
Though Copeland was coy about describing Kissinger’s precise role in the October Surprise case, Kissinger was among the Republicans who was confidently looking forward to a hostage release once Reagan took office.
After this year’s death of longtime CBS anchor Walter Cronkite, one of our readers was examining Cronkite archival footage and was surprised to find a clip of Cronkite leading a discussion of CBS correspondents on Election Night 1980 about why Reagan had won a landslide after the pre-election polls had shown a much closer race.
Correspondent Leslie Stahl noted how the coincidence of the first anniversary of the Iran hostage-taking falling on Election Day had forced Americans to relive the year-long humiliation and thus they turned to Reagan, a perceived hard-liner who would confront American adversaries.
That comment reminded Cronkite of an earlier interview he had done with Henry Kissinger who, Cronkite said, was “suggesting tonight that he thinks that Reagan being in the White House will help get [the hostages] back and he bets they’ll get back shortly after the Inaugural. Well, that’s still some time. That means that Henry Kissinger must be thinking in terms of long negotiations in order to put the package together.”
As it turned out, of course, Kissinger’s prediction was right on the money. Immediately after Reagan was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1981, the hostages were freed and Reagan basked in the perception that his tough-guy persona had done the trick.
But Kissinger wasn’t just some distant observer when it came to the hostage crisis. He had been there from the outset, in 1979 when he worked with Chase Manhattan Bank chairman David Rockefeller – who had been the Shah’s banker – to pressure President Carter to admit the exiled Shah into the United States for cancer treatment.
According to Rockefeller’s autobiography Memoirs, Kissinger’s role was “to publicly criticize the Carter administration for its overall management of the Iranian crisis and other aspects of its foreign policy” while other Rockefeller associates made private demands for the Shah’s admission.
Carter’s decision to relent – and let the Shah in – provoked radical elements in Tehran to target the U.S. Embassy for a takeover. When they stormed the Embassy on Nov. 4, 1979, the hostage crisis began.
A Lingering Presence
Over the next year, Kissinger remained a behind-the-scenes figure in the crisis, as Copeland noted in the interview.
“There were many of us – myself along with Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller, Archie Roosevelt in the CIA at the time – we believed very strongly that we were showing a kind of weakness, which people in Iran and elsewhere in the world hold in great contempt,” Copeland said. (By 1980, Roosevelt also was working for Rockefeller as a consultant.)
The Rockefeller group was in contact with Reagan’s campaign director William Casey who was at the heart of the October Surprise mystery, with a number of witnesses claiming that Casey met secretly with cleric Mehdi Karrubi and other Iranians involved with the hostage crisis.
Evidence from Reagan’s campaign files revealed undisclosed contacts between the Rockefeller group and Casey. For instance, a visitor log for Sept. 11, 1980, showed David Rockefeller and several aides signing in to see Casey at the campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
With Rockefeller were Joseph Verner Reed, whom Rockefeller had assigned to coordinate U.S. policy toward the Shah, and Archibald Roosevelt, the former CIA officer who then was monitoring events in the Persian Gulf for Chase Manhattan. The fourth member of the party was Owen Frisbie, Rockefeller’s chief lobbyist in Washington.
Kissinger also was in discreet contact with Casey during this period, according to Casey’s personal chauffeur whom I interviewed.
The chauffeur, who asked not to be identified by name, said he was sent twice to Kissinger’s Georgetown home to pick up the former Secretary of State and bring him to the Arlington headquarters for private meetings with Casey that were kept off the official visitor logs.
On Sept. 16, 1980, five days after the Rockefeller group’s visit to Casey’s office, Iran’s acting foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh spoke publicly about Republican interference.
“Reagan, supported by Kissinger and others, has no intention of resolving the problem,” Ghotbzadeh said. “They will do everything in their power to block it.”
So, when Kissinger spoke to Cronkite on Election Night 1980, he may well have known a great deal about the timing of the hostage release because he was working closely with some of the Republicans who allegedly were arranging the release and the timetable.
The Ledeen Connection
A third figure who has been connected to hostage negotiations with Iranians – and who reportedly foresaw a hostage release after Reagan took office – was Michael Ledeen, a neoconservative intellectual and author.
Journalist Richard Sale, who had worked with Ledeen on an article for The Washington Quarterly, said he and Ledeen were keeping in touch after the publication when Ledeen confidently predicted that the hostages would be released upon Reagan’s inauguration.
In a recent e-mail to me, Sale said he asked Ledeen how he knew about the timing and how the release was being arranged. “I will always remember his smug, ‘All it took was a few phone calls,’” Sale wrote.
When I contacted Ledeen about Sale’s recollection, Ledeen responded by e-mail, claiming “Sale has written outright lies about me, as I told him to his ear. At one point he promised to apologize but never did. I wouldn’t listen to anything he had to say.”
When I asked Sale about Ledeen’s “outright lies” claim, Sale noted that Ledeen offered no specifics of any supposed lies, and Sale denied having “an acrimonious exchange, not ever” with Ledeen. “I would have had no reason to apologize nor did he ever demand one,” Sale wrote in an e-mail.
Other evidence also has linked Ledeen to the October Surprise case. A “secret” draft report by a 1992 House task force which investigated the October Surprise allegations stated that Ledeen and another prominent neocon Richard Perle participated in meetings of the Reagan campaign’s “October Surprise Group,” though “they were not considered ‘members.’”
The campaign’s “October Surprise Group” was assigned the task of preparing for “any last-minute foreign policy or defense-related event, including the release of the hostages, that might favorably impact President Carter in the November election,” according to the task force findings.
The draft report also mentioned a Sept. 16, 1980, meeting on something called the “Persian Gulf Project” involving senior campaign officials, including William Casey and Richard Allen. According to the draft report and Allen’s notes, Ledeen also participated in that meeting.
However, both references to Ledeen were removed from the House task force’s final report that was overseen by task force chief counsel Lawrence Barcella, a longtime friend of Ledeen’s.
Ties That Bind
The Barcella-Ledeen relationship dates back several decades when Barcella sold a house to Ledeen and the two aspiring Washington professionals shared a housekeeper. According to Peter Maas’s book Manhunt regarding Barcella’s work as a prosecutor on the case of ex-CIA officer Edwin Wilson who collaborated with Libya, Ledeen approached Barcella about the case in 1982.
Ledeen, who was then working as a State Department consultant on terrorism, was concerned that two of his associates, former CIA officer Ted Shackley and Pentagon official Erich von Marbod, had come under suspicion in the Wilson case.
“I told Larry that I can’t imagine that Shackley [or von Marbod] would be involved in what you are investigating,” Ledeen told me in an interview years later. “I wasn’t trying to influence what he [Barcella] was doing. This is a community in which people help friends understand things.”
Barcella also saw nothing wrong with the out-of-channel approach.
“He wasn’t telling me to back off,” Barcella told me. “He just wanted to add his two-cents worth.”
Barcella said the approach was appropriate because Ledeen “wasn’t asking me to do something or not do something.” However, Shackley and von Marbod were dropped from the Wilson investigation.
Ledeen’s associate, Shackley, also had a connection to the October Surprise case in 1980, having worked with then-vice presidential candidate George H.W. Bush on the Iran hostage issue. [For more on Shackley’s role in the October Surprise case, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege. For a document on Shackley’s October Surprise work with Bush, click here.]
In the context of Barcella’s role on the House task force, the Ledeen connection raised another conflict-of-interest question, after task force investigators were told that Barcella’s friend, Ledeen, was an informal member of the Reagan campaign’s “October Surprise Group.”
Like the Wilson case, it appears that Ledeen convinced his friend Barcella to go in a different direction. When the House task force’s final report was released in January 1993, the draft’s references to Ledeen were all deleted. [To read a portion of the “secret” draft report, click here.]
In my recent e-mail exchange with Ledeen, he said, “Yes, I believe I spoke to Larry Barcella about the October Surprise investigation. … And I undoubtedly told him what I have always said, namely that, to the best of my knowledge, the October Surprise theory is nonsense.”
Ledeen also denied having any contact with William Casey before 1981 and added, “I was not involved in the Reagan campaigns. I was not in any ‘Persian Gulf Project’ or ‘October Surprise Group.’ I can't answer your questions about alleged Republican contacts with Iran because I don't have any reason to believe that there were such contacts. If there were, I don't know anything about them.”
In an e-mail to me, Sale noted that Ledeen’s sweeping denials must always be taken with a grain of salt. Sale wrote that when Ledeen is confronted with troublesome evidence, he behaves as if “disinformation is perfectly permissible and deserved. Michael’s tragedy is that he has chosen to service such ignominious causes.”
Ledeen and other defenders of Ronald Reagan’s legacy did win out in the House October Surprise task force’s conclusions. With Barcella and his team deleting the references to Ledeen and concealing other incriminating evidence, the task force – headed by Reps. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, and Henry Hyde, R-Illinois – rejected the allegations of Republican dirty tricks regarding the Iran hostage crisis.
However, it turned out that even chief counsel Barcella had doubts about those findings. He told me years later that so much evidence poured in near the end of the investigation that he lobbied Hamilton to extend the inquiry for several months so the new material could be evaluated. Barcella said Hamilton turned him down and insisted that the debunking report go forward.
For Official Washington in early 1993 – as the iconic Ronald Reagan struggled with early Alzheimer’s disease and the well-liked George H.W. Bush left office – it was easier to sweep the disturbing evidence of Republican misconduct under the rug.
But the October Surprise mystery -- and the curious predictions of a hostage release upon Reagan’s inauguration -- have never been fully explained.
[For the fullest account of the October Surprise case, see Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege, or the first two parts of the series, “How Two Elections Changed America,” and “The Crazy October Surprise Debunking.”]
The Original Eight-Part Series -- 'October Surprise X-Files'
The Russian Report
What the KGB knew about the October Surprise mystery, but the American people didn't. (12-11-95)

The Ladies Room Secrets
How historic secrets about this political era were recovered from a remote Capitol Hill wash room. (12-21-95)

Bill Casey's Iranian
What FBI wiretaps captured about secret payments from BCCI and a Bush-connected lawyer to an Iranian "double-agent."(12-31-95)

Follow the Money
How some of the world's most secretive and powerful players joined forces to fix the pivotal 1980 election. (1-15-96)

Saddam's 'Green Light'
What a "top secret" report reveals about the origins of the bloody Iran-Iraq War. (1-31-96)

Where's Bill Casey
How the national news media and Congress "debunked" the October Surprise allegations by adopting bogus alibis for Bill Casey. (2-14-96)

Bush & a CIA Power Play
What CIA veterans and former CIA director George Bush did to regain The White House in the 1980s. (2-29-96)

Lies Spun into History
How absurd alibis became part of the October Surprise historical record. (3-14-96)

More Recent Updates
Iran Divided & the 'October Surprise'
Today's divisions in Iran's leadership date back to secret decisions made to influence a U.S. election in 1980, reports Robert Parry. June 24, 2009
GOP Judge Gives Bush a Gitmo Victory
A weakness in the habeas corpus hearings for Guantanamo detainees is that many cases will be heard by partisan Republican jurists, like U.S. District Judge Richard Leon, writes Robert Parry. December 31, 2008
Henry Kissinger: Eminence Noire
Newly released tapes of Lyndon Johnson denouncing "treason" by Richard Nixon's campaign in 1968 reflect on Henry Kissinger, who may have joined in dirty tricks then and in 1980, writes Robert Parry. December 28, 2008
The Significance of Nixon's 'Treason'
The Richard Nixon campaign's successful "treason" in sabotaging Vietnam peace talks in 1968 to win an election explains a lot about Republican dominance of the era, writes Robert Parry. December 9, 2008
Nixon's 'Treason' and Historical Gaps
In a newly released tape, President Lyndon Johnson accuses Richard Nixon's team of "treason" over the Vietnam peace talks. But the U.S. news media still misses the big picture, writes Robert Parry. December 5, 2008
Henry Hyde: Mr. Cover-up
The death of ex-Congressman Henry Hyde is drawing fond eulogies from both sides of the political aisle and across Official Washington. But no attention is being paid to Hyde's crucial role in covering up the worst political crimes of the Reagan-Bush era. November 30, 2007
The Original October Surprise
Both Republicans and Democrats are fretting about the prospect of an "October Surprise" that might hurt them in the last days of Election 2006. But perhaps no "October Surprise" has been more mysterious or more influential than the one in 1980 that -- with the help of George H.W. Bush -- gave the concept its name. Arguably, the 1980 "October Surprise," which involved secret contacts with Iran, launched the modern era of Republican dominance. October 25, 2006
Original October Surprise (Part 2)
Part 2 of our series on the "Original October Surprise" of 1980 focuses on the role of banker David Rockefeller and his collaboration with Republicans during the Iranian hostage crisis. That national humiliation, which played out over 444 days, doomed Jimmy Carter's presidency and helped open the door to the modern era of GOP dominance. October 27, 2006
Original October Surprise (Part 3)
Part 3 of our series on the "Original October Surprise" of 1980 addresses the troubling question of whether disgruntled CIA officers collaborated with their former boss, George H.W. Bush, to sabotage President Jimmy Carter's Iran-hostage negotiations -- and thus changed the course of U.S. political history. October 28, 2006
[size=12] The Bushes & the Truth About Iran[size=12]
As George W. Bush turns to the military option on Iran, the American people first might want to demand that he and his father release secret records about back-channel Republican dealings with the Iranian mullahs dating back to 1980. Those records might show whether face-to-face negotiations with Iran are worth trying, but the documents at least would let the public in on the true history of U.S.-Iranian relations before more people die. September 21. 2006
Secret 'October Surprise' Files[size=12]
Some of the historical records about the secret Republican-Iranian relationship were salvaged by this Web site. To review the actual documents and read about their significance, click on the above headline. September 21. 2006
When Republicans Loved a Filibuster[size=12]
Supporters of George W. Bush are furious that some Democrats might filibuster Samuel Alito's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. But 15 years ago, the Republicans mounted a crucial filibuster of their own to block an investigation that might have destroyed the legacy of the Reagan-Bush era -- and ended the political viability of the Bush Family. January 27, 2006[/SIZE]

The Imperium's Quarter Century[size=12]
The origins of George W. Bush's imperial-style government can be traced back to the extraordinary moment a quarter century ago when Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President and 52 Americans hostages were simultaneously freed in Iran. Americans were swept up in a surge of patriotism and many bought into the idea that Reagan's tough-guy image had scared Iran's fundamentalist Islamic government. The reality of that fateful day now appears to have been quite different, but the cover-up of a Republican scheme that bordered on treason remains an important state secret even 25 years later. January 20, 2006[/SIZE]

The Bushes & the Death of Reason
Some Americans can't understand why George W. Bush and the neoconservatives were so confident in their ability to sell the nation on a bogus case for war with Iraq. Part of the answer can be found in the Republican success in turning back Iran-Contra accusations through the use of irrational arguments. One such case study starts with an unpublished photograph taken at the Bohemian Grove resort on the last weekend of July 1980. May 9, 2005
Real-Life 'National Treasure' -- in Reverse
Walt Disney's action film, "National Treasure," is a fanciful hunt for hidden treasure with characters following complex clues left behind by the Founding Fathers. In real-life Washington, the "October Surprise mystery" -- whether Republicans sabotaged Jimmy Carter in 1980 with behind-the-back dealings with Iran -- represents how the world really works, with modern-day leaders doing all they can to destroy any clues that might lead the nation to an honest conclusion. May 6, 2005
A Lawyer & National Security Cover-ups
Prominent Washington lawyer Lawrence Barcella has come under criticism for the use of a false affidavit to convict former CIA officer Edwin Wilson on terrorism charges in 1983. But the unraveling of the Wilson case -- and its damage to Barcella's reputation -- also raise new doubts about Barcella's role in "debunking" the October Surprise allegations that the Reagan-Bush campaign disrupted President Jimmy Carter's Iran-hostage negotiations before the pivotal national election in 1980. May 4, 2005
David Rockefeller & 'October Surprise' Case
Election 1980 was a turning point in American political history, but how the Republicans exploited Jimmy Carter's humiliation over the Iranian hostage crisis to ensure Ronald Reagan's victory is still little understood. Nor do the American people know the background roles in the "October Surprise" case played by David Rockefeller, the Shah of Iran's banker, and his many powerful friends. Adapted from Secrecy & Privilege. Posted April 15, 2005
Rockefeller Aide's Tie to 'October Surprise'
Some of the most intriguing documents found in the files of the House 'October Surprise' Task Force relate to the role of Joseph Verner Reed, one of Chase Manhattan Bank Chairman David Rockefeller's top aides. According to an FBI agent's notes, Reed tried to stonewall the investigation of alleged Republican interference in President Carter's 1980 Iran-hostage negotiations. The Reed documents were never released to the American people but were found by reporter Robert Parry in a Capitol Hill storage room. Part of our new Document Archive. Posted April 12, 2005.
Russian Report on 'October Surprise' Case
For the first time, we are posting the "confidential" Russian government report about the 1980 "October Surprise" case. The report -- a rare case of Moscow cooperating with the United States on an intelligence investigation -- asserts that Reagan-Bush campaign officials did secretly negotiate with Iranian leaders behind President Carter's back. Posted April 5, 2005
Arafat & the Original 'October Surprise'
Skeletons of an election controversy past -- the alleged Reagan-Bush "October Surprise" scheme of 1980 -- have surfaced, as a top aide to Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat describes a secret meeting between the PLO and a key Republican. The Arafat aide says the Republican sought the PLO's help in sabotaging President Carter's efforts to free 52 American hostages in Iran. November 2, 2004
[URL=""]Russia's Prime Minister & 'October Surprise'
Boris Yeltsin’s nominee for Russia’s new prime minister wrote a secret report in 1993, confirming the 1980 ‘October Surprise’ charges and implicating top Republicans in a hostage plot with Iran. Sergey Stepashin sent the explosive report to the U.S. Congress, but the extraordinary document was hidden. By Robert Parry. May 14, 1999

Earl Brian: Reagan's 'Scandal Man' Off to Jail
In the early 1990s, the word of Ronald Reagan's friend Earl Brian helped debunk two major scandals. But now, Brian's credibility has collapsed with his federal fraud conviction. (8/25/97)

October Surprise: Finally, Time for the Truth?
Seven years ago, Jamshid Hashemi, an Iranian businessman and CIA operative, broke his silence about the October Surprise controversy. Now, with more and more public figures corroborating parts of the story, Jamshid Hashemi is revealing new details about this ultimate dirty trick and the CIA. (5/5/97)

October Surprise: Time for Truth? (Part 2)
The enduring mystery of George Bush and alleged Paris meetings with Iranians in 1980: Did he go or did he stay? (5/19/97)

Return to Archives Index
October surprise

The phrase "October Surprise conspiracy" refers to an alleged plot to influence the outcome of the 1980 United States presidential election between incumbent-Jimmy Carter (D–GA) and opponent-Ronald Reagan (R–CA).
One of the leading, national issues during that year was the release of 52 Americans being held hostage since November 4, 1979, in Iran.[1] Reagan won the election. On the day of his inauguration—in fact, twenty minutes after he concluded his inaugural address—the Islamic Republic of Iran announced the release of the hostages. The timing gave rise to an allegation that representatives of Reagan's presidential campaign had conspired with Iran to delay the release until after the election in order to thwart President Carter from pulling off an "October surprise".
According to the allegation, the Reagan Administration would have rewarded Iran for its participation in the plot by supplying Iran with weapons and by unblocking Iranian government monetary assets in US banks.
After twelve years of mixed media attention, both houses of the US Congress held separate inquiries and concluded that the allegations lacked supporting documentation.
Nevertheless, several individuals—most notably former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, former Naval intelligence officer and National Security Council member Gary Sick, and former Reagan/Bush campaign and White House staffer Barbara Honegger—have stood by the allegation.
Alleged chronology

  • September 22, 1980: Iraq invades Iran.
  • October 15–20: Meetings are held in Paris between emissaries of the Reagan/Bush campaign, with Mr. William Casey as "key participant," and "high-level Iranian and Israeli representatives."[2]
  • October 21: Iran, for reasons not explained, abruptly shifts its position in secret negotiations with the Carter administration and disclaims "further interest in receiving military equipment."[3]
  • October 21–23: Israel secretly ships F-4 fighter-aircraft tires to Iran, in violation of the U.S. arms embargo, and Iran disperses the hostages to different locations.[4]
  • January 20, 1981: Hostages are formally released into United States custody after spending 444 days in captivity. The release takes place just minutes after Ronald Reagan is officially sworn in as president.
History and Background

The issue of an "October Surprise" was brought up during an investigation by a House of Representatives Subcommittee into how the 1980 Reagan Campaign obtained debate briefing materials of then-President Carter. During the investigation (a.k.a Debategate), the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee obtained access to Reagan Campaign documents and discovered numerous instances of documents and memorandum referencing a monitoring effort for any such October Surprise. The Subcommittee, chaired by former U.S. Rep. Donald Albosta (D–MI) issued a comprehensive report on May 17, 1984, describing each type of information that was detected and its possible source. There is a section in the report dedicated to the October Surprise issue.[5]
Proponents of the theory, such as Barbara Honegger, a researcher and policy analyst with the 1980 Reagan/Bush campaign, allege that William Casey and other representatives of the Reagan presidential campaign made a deal during two sets of meetings (July–August) at the Ritz Hotel in Madrid, with Iranians to delay the release of Americans held hostage in Iran until after the November 1980 presidential elections.[citation needed] It was also alleged that Reagan personally called Khomeini on the phone during this period and requested him not to end the hostage crisis before the elections.[citation needed]
Alleged players

Richard Allen was the Reagan campaign's foreign policy chief. In 1980, he penned a note claiming that George H.W. Bush had asked him to look into a rumor about the hostages. A "plane-load of former CIA officers" had taken up residence in campaign headquarters, he said in 1980. The "nutballs," he said, made him decide to work in a separate office.[citation needed]
Theodore Shackley, an agent fired by the Carter Administration, was an agent to whom Allen was to report[citation needed][6] During the Bay of Pigs Invasion, he had been Miami station chief.
Donald Gregg and Robert Gates were National Security Council officials to whom speculation of a role attached.[citation needed] Shackley and Gregg had reported to Bush Sr. in the past, and would do so again. After losing the race in 1980, Carter suggested that Gregg might have leaked classified information to Bush during the campaign.
Also rumored to be involved were three men who planned Carter's doomed Iran rescue mission: Major General Richard Secord, Oliver North, and Albert Hakkim.[7] They went on to become prominent Bush aides.

Gary Sick

Gary Sick wrote an editorial[4] for The New York Times and a book (October Surprise)[8] on the subject. Sick's credibility was boosted by the fact that he was a retired Naval Captain, served on Ford's, Carter’s, and Reagan's National Security Council, and held high positions with many prominent organizations; moreover, he had authored a book recently on US-Iran relations (All Fall Down). Sick wrote that in October 1980 officials in Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign made a secret deal with Iran to delay the release of the American hostages until after the election; in return for this, the United States purportedly arranged for Israel to ship weapons to Iran. Sick wrote that he had interviewed a witness who saw members of the Reagan election team in Paris in negotiations with the Iranian government. According to Sick’s theory of events, Oliver North was the administration's scapegoat who assumed responsibility in order to conceal the "treason" of Reagan and Bush.

A PBS Frontline documentary in 1990 brought a sound bite of a major detail unavoidably to the surface. While playing golf with George H.W. Bush in Palm Springs, Ronald Reagan told reporters he had "tried some things the other way," that is, to free the hostages. When pressed further he added that the details remained "classified." This remark was widely publicized and linked to Reagan's 1980 undisclosed plan to free the hostages.[9]
Senate Investigation

The US Senate’s 1992 report concluded that "by any standard, the credible evidence now known falls far short of supporting the allegation of an agreement between the Reagan campaign and Iran to delay the release of the hostages".[10]
Danny Casolaro

In 1991, freelance writer Danny Casolaro claimed to be almost ready to expose the alleged October surprise conspiracy, among others,[11] when somebody slashed his wrists, raising suspicions. He appeared to be traveling for his investigation. His death was ruled a suicide.
House of Representatives Investigation

The House of Representatives’ 1993 report concluded “there is no credible evidence supporting any attempt by the Reagan presidential campaign—or persons associated with the campaign—to delay the release of the American hostages in Iran”. The task force Chairman Lee Hamilton also added that the vast majority of the sources and material reviewed by the committee were "wholesale fabricators or were impeached by documentary evidence." The report also expressed the belief that several witnesses had committed perjury during their sworn statements to the committee, among them Richard Brenneke,[12] who claimed to be a CIA agent.[13]
The Village Voice

Retired CIA analyst and counter-intelligence officer Frank Snepp of The Village Voice compiled several investigations of Sick’s allegations in 1992. Snepp alleged that Sick had only interviewed half of the sources used in his book, and supposedly relied on hearsay from unreliable sources for large amounts of critical material. Snepp also discovered that in 1989, Sick had sold the rights to his book to Oliver Stone. After going through evidence presented by Richard Brenneke, Snepp asserted that Brenneke’s credit card receipts showed him to be in Portland, Oregon, during the time he claimed to be in Paris observing the secret meeting.[14]
Jury's Findings at Brenneke's Trial

On September 23, 1988, Brenneke, a Portland, Oregon, property manager and arms dealer, voluntarily testified at the sentencing hearing of his "close friend," Heinrich Rupp.[citation needed] During closed-door testimony before Judge James R. Carrigan, Brenneke told the Denver court that both he and Rupp had worked for the CIA on a contract basis since 1967, including flying planes for Air America, a CIA-owned front company in southeast Asia.[citation needed] In his Denver deposition, Brenneke testified that on the night of October 18, 1980, Rupp had flown Reagan-Bush campaign director William Casey from Washington's National Airport to the Le Bourget Airfield north of Paris for a series of secret meetings. According to Brenneke, it was at these meetings— held on October 19 and 20, at the Waldorf Florida and Crillon hotels—that members of the Reagan-Bush campaign secretly negotiated an "arms-for-no- hostages" deal with representatives of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The Iranians allegedly received $40 million with which they could purchase American-made weapons and military spare parts which they needed for their war with Iraq.[citation needed]
Brenneke testified that he was present at only one meeting. He indicated that his participation was at the last of three, working out the details of a cash and weapons transaction. Also present at this meeting, Brenneke said, was William Casey, who was eventually appointed Reagan's CIA director. It was in that latter capacity that Casey masterminded the arms-for-hostages deal with Iran that would eventually be known as the Iran-Contra scandal. Also in attendance at the meeting, according to Brenneke, was Donald Gregg, a CIA liaison to President Carter's National Security Council. Gregg, a CIA operative since 1951, later became National Security Advisor to Vice President George Bush Sr. A third person Brenneke identified as present was George Bush Sr., however, a month after his Denver testimony, Brenneke wrote a letter to Judge Carrigan amending his statement. In the letter, Brenneke explained that he had no first hand knowledge of Bush being in Paris, but had been told by Rupp that Bush had been spotted on the tarmac at Le Bourget, so could have flown to Paris without himself attending the secret meetings.
For his role in the Rupp trial, Brenneke was tried for perjury. On May 4, 1991, after only five hours of deliberation, the jury found Brenneke "not guilty" on all five counts. Following the trial, jury foreman Mark Kristoff stated, "We were convinced that, yes, there was a meeting, and he was there and the other people listed in the indictment were there...There never was a guilty vote...It was 100 percent."[15]

Newsweek magazine also ran an investigation, and they said that most if not all the charges made to be groundless. Specifically, Newsweek found little evidence that the United States had transferred arms to Iran prior to Iran Contra, was able to account for Bill Casey's whereabouts when he was allegedly at the Madrid meeting, saying that he was at a conference in London. But his presence at this meeting was not confirmed by those in attendance including historian Robert Dallock. Newsweek never printed a correction.[16]. Newsweek also alleged that the story was being heavily pushed within the LaRouche Movement[17].
The New Republic

Steven Emerson and Jesse Furman of the The New Republic, also looked into the allegations and found “the conspiracy as currently postulated is a total fabrication”. They were unable to verify any of the evidence presented by Sick and supporters, finding them to be inconsistent and contradictory in nature. They also pointed out that nearly every witness of Sick had either been indicted or were under investigation by the Department of Justice. Like the Newsweek investigation they had also debunked the claims of Reagan election campaign officials being in Paris during the timeframe Sick claimed they had been, contradicting Sick’s sources.[18]
Continuing allegations

A detailed "conspiracy theory" first appeared in December 1980 in a magazine run by Lyndon LaRouche,[19] with a follow-up article in Executive Intelligence Review in September 1983.[20] Among the more mainstream and moderate figures to state that the October Surprise did in fact happen, is former Iranian President Bani-Sadr.
Former Iranian President Bani-Sadr

Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, first elected President of Iran after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, claimed in a December 17, 1992 letter to the U.S. Congress, that he had first learned of the Republican "secret deal" in July 1980 after Reza Passendideh, a nephew of Khomeini, attended a meeting with Cyrus Hashemi and Republican lawyer Stanley Pottinger in Madrid on July 2, 1980. Though Passendideh was supposed to return with a proposal from the Carter administration, Bani-Sadr said Passendideh proffered instead a plan "from the Reagan camp." "Passendideh told me that if I do not accept this proposal, they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my [radical Iranian] rivals. He further said that they [the Republicans] have enormous influence in the CIA. ... Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination." Bani-Sadr said he resisted the threats and sought an immediate release of the American hostages. But Bani-Sadr said Khomeini, the wily Islamic leader, was playing both sides of the U.S. street.[21] Bani Sadr has stated elsewhere that,
"It is now very clear that there were two separate agreements, one the official agreement with Carter in Algeria, the other, a secret agreement with another party, which, it is now apparent, was Reagan. They made a deal with Reagan that the hostages should not be released until after Reagan became president. So, then in return, Reagan would give them arms. We have published documents which show that US arms were shipped, via Israel, in March, about 2 months after Reagan became president."
—Former Iranian President Bani-Sadr [22]
LaRouche's theories

Supporters of Lyndon LaRouche continue to claim that the October Surprise conspiracy actually happened. Swedish prime minister Olof Palme's 1986 murder, on suspicion of which a Swedish extremist with LaRouche connections was initially arrested and released, has been attributed by LaRouche and former CIA agent Richard Brenneke to the P2 Masonic Lodge, which was involved, along with Gladio, in Italy's strategy of tension. According to this theory, Palme was murdered because he was against the deal between Iran and the Contras.[23][24][25]
Barbara Honegger

Barbara Honegger was a member of the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign team and Reagan White House policy analyst. Since 1995, she's been Senior Military Affairs Journalist at the Naval Postgraduate School,(1995−present).[26] After the 1980 election, Honegger headed Reagan's gender discrimination agency review before resigning in August, 1983. While working for Reagan she discovered information that made her believe that George H. W. Bush and William Casey had conspired to assure that Iran would not free the U.S. hostages until Jimmy Carter had been defeated in the 1980 presidential election, and she alleges that arms sales to Iran were a part of that bargain.[citation needed]
Kevin Phillips

Political historian Kevin Phillips has been a proponent of the idea. In his book American Dynasty, although Phillips concedes that many of the specific allegations were proven false, he also argues that in his opinion, Reagan campaign officials "probably" were involved in a scheme "akin to" the specific scheme alleged by Sick.[27]
Ernest Backes' revelations

Banker Ernest Backes from Clearstream (Luxembourg) claimed he was in charge of the transfer of $7 million from Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank, January 16, 1980, to pay for the liberation of the hostages. He gave copies of the files to the National French Assembly.[28]

  1. ^ Abstract of pre-election news broadcast
  2. ^ Martin, Harry V. (1995). "Bush Deal With Iranians". Free America (aka The Napa Sentinel). pp. (see also: "Pilot's full account of Bush's Paris flight"). Retrieved 2008-12-09.
  3. ^ "Tehran Militants Said to Hand Over Custory of Captives". New York Times. 1980-11-28. pp. A1. Retrieved 2008-12-20.
  4. ^ a b Sick, Gary (1991-04-15). "The Election Story of the Decade". The New York Times. pp. op-ed. Retrieved 2008-12-23. (Congressional Record mirrored reprint)
  5. ^ Unger, Craig (2004-09-28). "The Ascendancy of George H. W. Bush". House of Bush, House of Saud. Scribner. ISBN 978-0743253390. ""Unauthorized Transfers of Nonpublic Information During the 1980 Presidential Election," report prepared by the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on the Post Office and Civil Service, May 17, 1984, pt. 1 (see Chapter 3 footnotes 54-60)"
  6. ^ according to the note.[citation needed][This needs to be far more specific.]
  7. ^ "Albert Hakim, Figure in Iran-Contra Affair, Dies at 66"
  8. ^ Gary Sick. 1991. October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan. New York: Random House.
  9. ^ Investigating the October Surprise, PBS Frontline (inoperable PBS link as of 8 August 2008)
  10. ^ U.S. Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations; "The October Surprise: Allegations and the Circumstances Surrounding the Release of the American Hostages Held in Iran", U.S. Government Printing Office; Washington, DC., 1992 (fee)
  11. ^ Linsalata, Phil. The Octopus File, The Columbia Journalism Review, November/December 1991, accessed October 20, 2008.
  12. ^ search: i.e. Brenneke, (New York Times)
  13. ^ Emerson, Steve; "No October Surprise", American Journalism Review, University of Maryland, vol. 15, issue n2, ppg. 16-24, 1 March 1993 (fee)
  14. ^ Snepp, Frank (1992-02-25). "October Surmise". Village Voice (reprinted in Congressional Record, dated 1992-02-24). Retrieved 2008-12-26.
  15. ^ The Verdict is Treason, Z Magazine; July/August 1990. Key excerpts here and via google groups search here
  16. ^
  17. ^ Making of a Myth, Newsweek; November 11, 1991
  18. ^ The Conspiracy that Wasn't; Steven Emerson and Jesse Furman, The New Republic; November 18, 1991
  19. ^ New Solidarity, 2 December 1980
  20. ^ Executive Intelligence Review, 2 September 1983
  21. ^ October Surprise: Time for Truth? Part 2, in Consortium News, by Robert Parry, 1997
  22. ^ Interview with Barbara Honneger (author of October Surprise, Tudor, 1992)
  23. ^ LaRouche 1995 letter
  24. ^ See Statewatch press review here
  25. ^ Skepticfiles (President Cossiga's letter to Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti)
  26. ^
  27. ^ Phillips, Kevin (2004). American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush. Penguin Books. pp. 278–290. ISBN 0-670-03264-6. , reviewed at "search inside" feature
  28. ^ See Denis Robert and Ernest Backes, Revelation$, Les Arènes publishing, 2001

Further reading

  • Abbie Hoffman and Jonathan Silvers, "An election held hostage," Playboy Magazine, October 1988
  • Barbara Honegger, 1989. October Surprise. New York: Tudor. ISBN 0-944276-46-6.
  • Brian Josepher, 2009. The Complete and ExtraOrdinary History of the October Surprise.
  • Robert Parry, 1993. Trick or Treason: The October Surprise Mystery. ISBN 1-879823-08-X.
  • Robert Parry, 1996. The October Surprise X-Files: The Hidden Origins of the Reagan-Bush Era.
  • Kevin Phillips, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush.
External links


Navy flier testifies he flew Bush to Paris for deal to block release of hostages

By Harry V. Martin

Copyright FreeAmerica and Harry V. Martin, 1995


A BAC 111 aircraft, which had been reconfigured to carry a sufficient amount of fuel to travel 3,600 miles, left Andrews Air Force Base in the late afternoon of October 19, 1980. The aircraft's destination: Paris, France. The Passengers aboard the aircraft included the command pilot U.S. Navy Captain Gunther Russbacher, Richard Brenneke and Heinrick Rupp, on the flight deck; and in the cabin was William Casey, soon to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Donald Greggs, soon to be the ambassador to South Korea; and George Bush, the future Vice President and President of the United States and former director of the Central Intelligence Agency. There were also Secret Service agents aboard the aircraft.
This is the weekend - three weeks before the November 1980 Presidential Election, that Bush has claimed he spent at Andrews Air Force Base.
Testifying to this flight is Russbacher, the pilot. The Navy pilot is currently at Terminal Island, a federal prison, awaiting an appeal on a charge of misuse and misappropriation of government properties, misuse of government jets, and misuse of government purchase orders for purchase of fuel. He was also a member of the Office of Naval Intelligence and worked with the Central Intelligence Agency. Russbacher's alias is Robert A. Walker. Russbacher now becomes the second crew member of that flight to testify to this clandestine episode that may have changed the politics of this nation and which has been labeled the "October Surprise". Brenneke was upheld by a Federal jury when he testified about the flight. After his testimony he was charged by the Federal Government with perjury, but a Federal jury acquitted him upholding his testimony that the flight actually took place. The trial was held in Portland, Oregon last year.
Russbacher, in an exclusive interview, states that Bush stayed at the Hotel Crillion in Paris. Russbacher has stated that more than one flight was involved, but that this was the initial flight at which time an agreement was made between Bush and Casey and the Government of Iran to delay the release of American hostages in Iran until after the November 1980 election. Former President Jimmy Carter and several Congressmen are now asking for an investigation into the "October Surprise".
According to Russbacher statements, Bush stayed only a couple of hours. He attended a meeting at the Hotel Crillion and at the Hotel George V. Russbacher, Brenneke, and Rupp stayed at the Hotel Florida. Bush did not return on the same BAC 111 aircraft or return with some of the people he had flown with to Paris, but instead Russbacher flew him back in the SR71. The aircraft was refueled about 1800 to 1900 nautical miles into the Atlantic by a KCl35.
The returning flight with Bush landed at McGuire Air Force base at approximately 2 a.m. on October 20. Russbacher states that Bush, while in Paris, met with Hashemi Rafsanjani, the second in command to the Ayatollah and now the president of Iran, and Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian businessman who was extremely powerful. Arrangements were apparently made to pay Iran $40 million to delay the release of hostages in order to thwart President Jimmy Carter's re-election bid. The $40 million was the beginning of terms that created the Iran-Contra scandal that is now being reopened by Congress.
Russbacher is concerned for his life, but feels that the other pilots will now come forward in a new Congressional investigation. He indicates that there is a growing division within the Central Intelligence Agency. ÒThere is no one higher than the CIA, but there are groups within the company (term used by insiders for the CIA) that are very, very strong. And the group or clique that I belonged to, in my opinion, was probably the strongest but there are other factions that are at war with themselves,Ó Russbacher states."You have these groups that are answerable to no one. Well, they are answerable to one man, on top, and he doesn't seem to care how the problems are resolved, just as long as they are taken care of." The man Russbacher is referring to is President Bush.
On the eve of an announcement of a Congressional investigation into the ÒOctober SurpriseÓ, Russbacher was to have taken a helicopter trip with Navy Intelligence officers, but he did not take the trip. The helicopter carrying several Naval Intelligence officers was reported to have crashed near or on Fort Ord in California. Russbacher, who was willing to tape this interview, states that had he been on the helicopter he would be dead right now. In fact, because of that crash, Russbacher wanted this interview taped for safety reasons.
He believes that the other aircrew members are in danger, as well, but feels that they are ready to come forward and testify, as did Brenneke last year.


By Harry V. Martin

First of a Series

The thread is unwinding and the deeds and misdeeds of high U.S. Government officials are beginning to surface. But why has so much information concerning George Bush's trip to Paris, the Iran-Contra scandal, the growing INSLAW scandal all suddenly surfaced? There have been too many double crosses involving the Central Intelligence Agency and Bush - international double crosses. At the heart of the problem are three nations, Iran, Iraq and Israel. The Bush Administration has been pushing a pro-Arab stance at the cost of Israel. In fact, according to court documents, the United States supported the manufacturing of chemical weapons by Iraq as a counterforce against Israel in the Middle East. The Bush Administration links to oil favored a more pro-Arab stand.
It began in early 1980, when pollsters for presidential candidate Ronald Reagan reported that if President Jimmy Carter was able to obtain freedom for 52 American hostages held in Iran, he would win the election. The Carter Administration was in negotiations with Iran at the time and a release looked promising. The Reagan-Bush campaign was wary of a possible "October Surprise" by the Carter Administration that would result in the early release of the American hostages. Actually, the Iranian government was tired of the hostage issue and wanted to have an early release. They were bickering over release of frozen assets or military replacement parts to support their squadrons of American fighters. At the same time, Iraq was threatening war against Iran. Carter also considered the possibility of a second rescue attempt, but American officials leaked that information to the Iranian government and they dispersed the hostages to many different locations.
Concerned with the possible election turnaround, officials of the Reagan-Bush campaign, notably John McFarland and William Casey, held meetings in Washington, D.C. at the Mayflower Hotel and in Madrid, Spain with representatives of the Iranian government. The concept of an arms-for-hostages deal was consummated. According to Israeli testimony, the Iranians were ready in September 1980 to release the hostages, but the Republican contingent did not want release until after the November 1980 elections. The meeting in Spain were sufficiently productive to warrant a final meeting in Paris between October 18 and October 22. It was at this meeting that agreement was reached on the hostage question and a payment of $40 million was made to the Iranian government through a Luxembourg bank.
Two pilots have now stated that Casey, Donald Gregg, who worked for the CIA under Bush, and Bush attended the meeting. They were flown out of Andrews Air Force Base late in the afternoon of October 19, 1980 Bush was returned, according to Navy pilot Captain Gunther Russbacher, after a few hours in Paris. Russbacher states he flew the SR71, the Blackbird, from Paris to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey, arriving on October 20. Refueling was done 1800 to 1900 nautical miles over the Atlantic by a KC135.
Strangely enough, Bush made no public appearances during that time, three week's before the election, and has yet to prove where he was during the "missing" 21 hours. According to the pilot, Bush only stayed a few hours in Paris and was flown back to the United States. On October 21, the Iranians changed their entire negotiating position with the Carter Administration, the results of a completed deal with the Republicans.
The Israelis were the go-betweens, helping to establish the links between the Reagan-Bush people and the Iranians. The Israelis were used to ferry equipment to Iran, and in one case, an Argentine aircraft was shot down by the Soviet Union in Russian airspace. The aircraft, flown by Israelis, was carrying U.S. military equipment to Iran. Much of the equipment shipped to Iran, began weeks after Reagan took office, was stripped from NATO units in Europe and not from U.S. bases within the United States. The U.S. did not have a sufficient stockpile of arms in the country and resorted to taking weapons from the Reforger stockpile. Reforger was a massive military exercise (war game) staged in Europe with all NATO participating.
But once the Reagan-Bush team came to power, Bush began to push a pro-Arab position within the government, or, in essence, a pro-oil position. This irritated the Israelis and they felt the United States was beginning to betray them. Israel made a deal with the Soviet Union for closer relationships and also sought more Soviet Jews for immigration, thus keeping the Lukid Party in power. Israeli agents are the ones who broke the story of the Iran-Contra scandal in a Lebonese newspaper, as a retaliation against Bush. It is also the Israelis who witnessed arms deals, including the transfer of INSLAW's PROMIS software, in a Chilian meeting. The same names, Dr. Earl Brian and Donald Greggs come up in those testimonies.
The U.S. had also selected Iraq as the stabilizing or balancing Arab force in the Middle East. Israel and Iraq had a good working relationship, as did Iran and Israel. The U.S. also assisted in building up Iraq's chemical warfare base as a counter to Israeli military might. But Saddam Hussein began to show that he was not going to "follow orders" and thus the scenario of the recent Iraqi war unwound. But the U.S. does not want Hussein out of power.
Iran, in the meantime, is anti-Arab and anti-Jew, but has made accommodations with both segments of the Middle East.

MORE DAMAGING TESTIMONY GIVEN Hostage deal, Inslaw cases connected in Congressional probe

By Harry V. Martin

Second in a Series Copyright, Napa Sentinel 1991

The code word for George Bush in Iran is Bosch Batteries - a name used often when the United States was clandestinely engaged in illegal arms shipments to Iran. It was also used to herald his brief presence in Paris on October 19, 1980. Though the President denies that he ever went to Paris to make arrangements for the detention of 52 American hostages until after the U.S. elections in November 1980, more testimony is coming forth from people who claim to have been there and were part of the sophisticated plot.
Navy Captain Gunther Russbacher broke "radio silence" last week in an exclusive Sentinel article which has been picked up by some newspapers and news services, and national radio. Russbacher, who is in Terminal Island awaiting an appeal on charges of misuse and misappropriation of government properties, misuse of government jets, and misuse of government purchase orders to purchase fuel. These charges stem from his position with the U.S. Navy Intelligence and a CIA mission involving a government Lear Jet. Despite his imprisonment, he has continual contact with Naval Intelligence. Russbacher's intelligence background coincides with his story. He says he piloted the BAC-111 that flew Bush, William Casey and Donald Gregg to Paris to meet with Iranian officials to arrange a $40 million transaction and arms shipments to Iran in exchange for delay of any hostage release prior to the election. Russbacher also stated that he flew Bush back to McGuire Air Force Base hours later in the SR71, the Blackbird.
But Russbacher is not the only one to come out of the woodwork to claim Bush went to Paris. From a jail cell in Tacoma, Washington, former CIA operative Michael Riconoscuito, told Congressional investigators that he was the man who transferred the $40 million to a Luxembourg Bank. Why is Riconoscuito in jail? Early this year he signed an affidavit testifying that the U.S. Justice Department did reconfigure INSLAW's PROMIS software to be used by the CIA and Dr. Earl Brian, a very close associate of former Attorney General Edwin Meese, and also a former cabinet member of Ronald Reagan's California cabinet. He claims in the affidavit that members of the U.S. Department of Justice warned him that if he testified before the House Judiciary Committee investigating the theft of the sensitive PROMIS software, that he would be arrested. Within a week of his affidavit, and after it was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch and The Napa Sentinel, he was arrested by Drug Enforcement agents in the state of Washington and held without bail. Most of his records have been seized. According to Riconoscuito, the theft of the PROMIS software grew out of a need to obtain funds to reward Dr. Brian for his work in arranging the hostage agreement. Among other things, Dr. Brian also owns United Press International.
Richard Brenneke, an international arms dealer and former CIA operative and pilot for Air America, testified before a Federal Court that he took part in the Paris flight. The Federal Government tried Brenneke for perjury, attempting to disprove his claims. A jury acquitted Brenneke of the charges. At the trial, former CIA agent and now South Korean Ambassador Donald Gregg who both Brenneke and Russbacher claim to have participated in the 1980 Paris meeting, said he was never in Paris for the alleged meeting. However, he presented testimony to the court that he and his wife were at Rahoboth Beach in Delaware on the date of the Paris meeting. He produced photographs of his family on the sunny beach. But an expert technical witness said the cloud formations in the photograph could not have been recorded over that beach at the time, the weather was far from sunny that day. Gregg was brought into the CIA while George Bush was its director under the Richard Nixon administration. Gregg is believed to have been one of several moles within the CIA under President Jimmy Carter that staged the "October Surprise" in an effort to defeat Carter's re-election bid.
Also, Gary Sick, an Iranian expert of Carter's National Security council, has outlined the history, actions and interactions, of the "October Surprise". Barbara Honegger, a former Reagan White House aide, has written a book called "October Surprise" in which she details the meetings prior to and in Paris, the names of people who attended and the results of those meeting that Bush said he never attended. Aboihassan Bani-Sadr, who was president of Iran when the hostages were being held, is coming to the United States to promote his book, "My Turn to Speak". It also contains the same general allegations that the Reagan-Bush team paid to block the release of 52 American hostages in order to assure victory at the polls.
Bush has released copies of his 1980 campaign schedule, but there is about an 21 hour gap (Nixon's Watergate tape had an 18 minute gap) in his whereabouts. The trip to and from Paris involved about that amount of time.

Media almost broke the Bush-Iran story several years earlier

By Harry V. Martin

Third in a Series Copyright Napa Sentinel, 1991

Before the revelations about the October Surprise, in which George Bush is alleged to have flown to Paris in 1980 to delay release of 52 American hostages from Iran, the American public almost learned the truth. In the first years of the Ronald Reagan Administration a small tempest was created over the Reagan campaign camp allegedly obtaining President Jimmy Carter's briefing book to be used as debate notes. The national new media was unsuccessful in arousing public attention to the situation. Even John Stockwell, a former CIA operative, boasted on the air that Reagan would win the election because of "filched material".
But that episode, as small as it appeared, was only the surface of an iceberg. Actually, the media had focussed on the wrong problem. The Reagan-Bush campaign drew a lot of information from the Carter White House during the 1980 election campaign. The Reagan-Bush campaign was so worried that President Carter might do something to obtain the release of the hostages before the election, that William Casey, with the involvement of people active in the Former Intelligence Officer's Association, systematically set up spy networks in the White House, itself. Key members of the CIA from Bush's tenure as director, were left in place-though President Carter had been warned to purge the CIA of Bush and Nixon men. Several moles within the White House and the National Security Council reported directly to Casey, who in turn reported to Reagan and Bush, but mainly Bush. Reagan was not totally informed of all the details.
One of the pieces of information that the moles inside the White House learned was that Carter had planned a rescue mission, a mission that ended in a desert disaster. According to several books and the San Jose Mercury News, among others, three retired Air Force officers, who were overseers to the Contras, also planned the desert rescue operation. The same people involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, which grew out of the alleged October 1980 deal in Paris made between the Reagan-Bush team and the Iranians, were tied into the rescue mission. Reports that have surfaced from the intelligence community indicate that the rescue attempt may have been sabotaged. Eight American servicemen died in the fiasco. The Iranians were also informed of the rescue attempt through the moles at the White House. The Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Association of Former Intelligence Officers, Stephen Halper, had "far reaching access to the most sensitive materials". Richard Allen, to become Reagan's National Security Advisor and later disgraced, was circulating the day-to-day memos of President Carter. The CIA had virtually vetoed Carter's first choice for CIA chief and successfully pushed for the appointment of Stansfield Turner. Turner is believed to have played a key role in the October Surprise. He believed he would be reappointed .
CIA head under the new Reagan Administration.
The future of American politics, the Iran-Contra deals, arms for drugs shipments, and even the war in Iraq, all had their embryo in the 1980 election campaign. Close to the election, Reagan's own pollsters showed the election was too close to call. Richard Wirthlin, the pollster for the Reagan-Bush campaign, said that if the hostages were released before the election Carter would gain a boost of 5 or 6 percentage points in the polls, or even as much as 10 percent, giving him a sure victory for that election?

Pilot's full account of Bush's Paris flight

By Harry V. Martin

Copyright, Napa Sentinel, 1991 EXCLUSIVE REPORT
(Fourth in a series)

Navy Captain Gunther Russbacher, who worked with Naval Intelligence and the Central intelligence Agency, received a phone call at his home in St. Louis, in mid-October 1980. He was told to meet a TWA flight and take it to Washington, D.C. From there he was met by a car and brought to the Base Hospital at Andrews Air Force Base. At 1900 hours (7 p.m.) he was greeted by two military personnel in flight suits, handed flight papers and boarded a BAC-111 aircraft. Destination? Paris. Purpose of the mission? Unknown at the time.
Richard Brenneke was doing a preflight check when Russbacher closed the cockpit door. He had no knowledge of who else was aboard the aircraft. Brenneke has already testified that he was on the aircraft and his testimony was held up by a federal jury. Russbacher testifies that he did not look into the passenger cabin until he was over the Atlantic. The aircraft refueled at Newfoundland. There was also an Air Force officer aboard, according to Russbacher. It landed at Le Bourget Airport near Paris.
Who did Russbacher see in the cabin?

  • George Bush,
  • Donald Gregg,
  • William Casey,
  • two security people, and
  • a woman, believed to be Jennifer Fitzgerald, Bush's Chief of Protocol for the White House.
Heinrich Rupp was not on the BAC-111, but did fly a Gulfstream aircraft to Paris. He met Brenneke and Russbacher in Paris. Vehicles were waiting for the passengers, some of these vehicles were from the U.S. Embassy. The pilots and crew checked into the Hotel Florida and within three hours Russbacher was called back to duty. He was to fly Bush back in the SR-71, the CIA's Blackbird, from a French Air Force Base to Dover Air Force Base. But because of security leaks in Paris, the aircraft was diverted to McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey. The flight of the Blackbird took one hour and 14-1/2 minutes, being refueled 1800 nautical miles over the Atlantic.
The SR-17 model was the YF12 A, a two-seater. According to Russbacher, Bush had few words to say on the return flight. The pilot stated, "Hold on, we're going out." Bush is reported to have replied, "It's a fast ride." Bush is a former Navy pilot. Bush was met at McGuire by an Air Force colonel who later became a four-star general.
Brenneke was the first crew member to reveal the trip to Paris and much has been done to discredit him. At his perjury trial, Brenneke's defense shot holes through Donald Gregg's testimony that he was not on the flight or in Paris. Gregg showed photographs of him and his wife on a sunny beach in Maryland, stating he was there and not in Paris. Weather experts testified that the weather conditions that day did not match the photograph. Gregg, who has been named by former National Security Advisor Gary Sick and former President Jimmy Carter, as a mole for Bush in the CIA, was a long-time CIA operative who has recently been appointed ambassador to South Korea.
A French intelligence memo does exist claiming that Bush did come to Paris in October 1980 and received French assistance. The meeting in Paris was to delay the release of 52 American hostages held by Iranian radicals. The Republicans sought to delay the release until after the elections in order to prevent President Jimmy Carter from winning the election should the hostages be released early. A total of $40 million was transferred from a Mexican account and Bush presented a draft of the transfer to the Iranians. Within six weeks after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, covert shipments of arms were sent to Iran. When the shipments were discovered around 1985, it became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. But the origins of that scandal began in the flight to Paris. George Bush has never been able to account for this time and Secret Service memos about his whereabouts are also conflicting. Casey was never able to prove his whereabouts either. And Greggs' excuse was shot down in a court of law.
How do we know Russbacher is telling the truth? Obviously, his credibility is critical to the story. Russbacher is currently in a federal prison on Terminal Island near Long Beach. A nationwide search for records relating to Russbacher was undertaken by Tom Valentine of Radio Free America, The Napa Sentinel and other cooperative news media. The search included public records, classified information and information from highly reliable sources within the intelligence community.
Russbacher has been directly linked to both Rupp and Brenneke through the Hapsburg Trust, the Ottokar Trust and the Augsberg Trust. These trusts control billions of dollars and some of the funds were funnelled by Rupp to Aurora Bank, a failed Institution. Russbacher will not discuss the trust. Independent research has also discovered that Russbacher may be the "banker" for the CIA, its number three man. This means that he would have knowledge of various secret accounts the CIA is operating. The search also revealed that F.B.I. has a great interest in Russbacher because he could possibly lead them to monies siphoned off Savings and Loans institutions and funnelled into secret CIA accounts, and also used to finance gun and drug running.
CIA and intelligence figures made Russbacher sign a contract that he would not get married for two years, especially after a divorce from his wife, Peggy, an F.B.I. informant. Russbacher violated that contract and was married. Russbacher's wife, Rae, was told by an Army Intelligence Officer in San Francisco that she and Russbacher would have to separate. Within a few days after their marriage, Russbacher was arrested on several charges, held in jails for months at a time. Each of the charges were dropped and in every single case the criminal investigation files and court records were sealed, which is highly unusual. A fellow prisoner in Terminal Island, Ron Rewald, had the same problem. He was tried in a state court but the prosecutor came from the U.S. Justice Department. Rewald was not allowed to introduce evidence showing his CIA involvement and his records and court case are sealed. Michael Riconosciuto, another CIA operative, is currently sitting in a Pierce County, Washington jail. All his records have been seized and he is being held without bail, after testifying to CIA and Justice Department involvement in the INSLAW case.
Through a special arrangement, Rewald has met with Russbacher and was skeptical at first of Russbacher's background. But after future exchanges and the matching of names, dates and places, Rewald is certain Russbacher is who he claims to be. Rewald was involved in a covert CIA financial institution in Hawaii and had prominent Air Force generals and high ranking intelligence officers working in the firm.
The most damaging evidence against Russbacher's claim comes from Barbara Honegger, who wrote October Surprise several years ago. Honegger has been a long-time friend and associate of Rae Russbacher, who married Gunther about two years ago. Honegger has called several media people, including Valentine and the Sentinel to say that Russbacher is a "pathological liar". Honegger's work has been challenged by such people as Phillip Agee, a former CIA officer, and John Stockwell, a CIA agent. Honegger states that Russbacher is not who he appears to be, that he isn't in the Navy and that he has a criminal past. After further questioning, Honegger admits her entire information has come from a Modesto, CA. attorney named Mark Coleman, Russbacher's appointed public defender when the pilot was charged with misuse of a government aircraft and misuse of a government purchase order. The case was declared a mistrial and under threats of sending Rae Russbacher to prison for unauthorized access to a military base, Russbacher pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and is serving a short term in Terminal Island, with tremendous freedom within the institution. Honegger says that Brenneke denied knowing Russbacher.
Mark Coleman admits that Brenneke has admitted knowing Russbacher, but will no confirm times, places and dates. Coleman also admits, under heavy questioning, that he couldn't find anything to verify or deny Russbacher's background, including no employment records. An F.B.I. officer did testify at Russbacher's trial that Russbacher was doing work for them. Colman finally admits that the basis of his knowledge of Russbacher comes from Peggy Neil, Russbacher's ex-wife and F.B.I. informant.
A court record in Missouri shows that Russbacher pleaded guilty to four counts of investment fraud and was sentenced to 28 years in prison. The judge, reviewing a secret file at the trial, gave Russbacher full probation and allowed him to go to Hollywood to negotiate a movie call The Last Flight of the Blackbird. The prosecutor in the case, Mr. Zimmerman, was fired. The F.B.I. had also arrested Russbacher for kidnapping, his niece, and dropped the charges. He was arrested for impersonating a U.S. Attorney.
There has been a very swift campaign to immediately discredit Russbacher, a familiar pattern associated with Ricconosciuto, Rewald, Brenneke, and Anthony Motolese,, another CIA operative who blew the whistle. The swiftness of the discrediting campaign has been witnessed by both the Sentinel and Valentine. Moments after the two separately interviewed Coleman, the U.S. Attorney in Central California called to inquire about the interview. Honegger also called immediately, stating Coleman had told her about the calls. Why? The Russbacher case is closed, why the calls?
Honegger writes in her book, "I grew not only to like, but to love Ronald Reagan as an individual." She indicates that she did not publish her book until after Reagan left office because of her "love" for him. Yet in 1984, Honegger left the Reagan camp and campaigned for Jesse Jackson for President. Some specific references in Honegger's book to a former associate of the publisher if the Napa Sentinel are known to be seriously incorrect, because of first hand knowledge of that person's direct interrelationship to the incident cited.
Honegger's work, however, is excellent in some areas and she was the first to publicly expose the October Surprise. Her book, unfortunatley did not sell well.
The fact there is no history for Russbacher in a nation that tracks every detail of a person's movements through Social Security cards, and employment records, is not surprising. A high ranking CIA agent in St. Louis has verified certain aspects of Russbacher's story, and a senior U.S. Senator has also verified Russbacher as being "a very good man" and knows of the Hapsburg connection.
Russbacher had several code names, one being Gerhardt MŸller, another Robert A. Walker and sometimes just Raven. He travelled on a Swiss passport and spent a lot of time in Europe on assignments. He logged 750 flight hours as the command pilot of the SR-71. He had some association with the USIS and MI66 intelligence units.
No one has verified Russbacher on the actual aircraft that allegedly flew George Bush to Paris, but the man and his history are recorded in the more secret annals of American records. Rae Russbacher had serious doubts about her husband, but she has close ties to the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, California. Her late husband was the dean of science there, and it was there in 1981 that she met Russbacher in a hallway, in full uniform, having a sword fight with a fellow Naval officer. The Intelligence Community opposed Russbacher's marriage to Rae because of her association with Honegger and her liberal political background, from the early Haight-Ashbury days in San Francisco, to her campaigns. Rae Russbacher was Gary Hart's Central California coordinator. Russbacher was to be "free" for two years. And in looking at the various times he was held in jail or on Terminal Island, it almost amounts to two years.
It is also reported, but not confirmed, that Russbacher has no difficulty leaving Terminal Island on Naval Intelligence business. Prison officials would not comment on that aspect, neither a denial or a confirmation.

Secret French memo on 'October Surprise'

By Harry V. Martin

Copyright, Napa Sentinel 1991 Fifth in a Series

The SDECE, the French equivalent to the American CIA or Russian KGB, apparently monitored George Bush's trip to Paris in October 1980. The monitoring was done because French officials were also involved in the meetings with the Iranians, as were the Israelis. The trip is alleged to have been to delay the release of 52 American hostages held in Iran until after the November 1980 Presidential election.
The man who had the memo was Col. Alexandre de Marenches, head of French Intelligence or the SDECE. There were other foreign powers involved with the Paris meeting, directly and indirectly. According to Navy Captain Gunther Russbacher, who claims to have been the command pilot that flew Bush to and from Paris, the BAC-111 used in the Andrews Air Force Base to Paris flight was retrofitted for the journey and owned by the government of Saudi Arabia. Russbacher reported that information on KING radio in Seattle on Friday night. A French Air Force Base outside of Paris was used for the return flight of Bush to the United States on the SR-71 Blackbird, according to Russbacher's testimony.
Ironically, the Reagan-Bush team gave the Iranians an advanced check for $40 million, drawn off of a Mexican bank. Allegedly Maurice Stans was responsible for getting the money to Mexico and Michael Riconosciuto has told investigators from the House Judiciary Committee that he made the arrangements for the $40 million payment. Riconosciuto is currently in a Pierce County Jail in the state of Washington, being held without bail, after blowing the whistle on the Justice Department's illegal use of INSLAW's PROMIS software.
Former White House National Security Advisor Gary Sick and former Iranian President Bani-Sadr also claim the meeting in Paris did take place. Neither George Bush, George Casey or Donald Gregg have been able to concisely provide information on their whereabouts during this period of time, and even Secret Service memos on the whereabouts of Bush are conflicting. Bush remained off the campaign trail at the time, two and one-half weeks before the election.
Information received by the Sentinel yesterday from the U.S. Department of Justice, indicates that Russbacher does have legitimate CIA ties. The Justice Department commented about the Russbacher articles, "You're pointed in the right direction." Richard Brennecke has testified that he was on the flight to Paris with Bush, William Casey and Donald Gregg. The government tried him for perjury because of those statements, and a federal jury in Portland upheld Brennecke's testimony. The government later tried to indicate that Brennecke did not know Russbacher, and therefore, he could not have been the pilot of the Paris-bound aircraft. But documents that have recently surfaced show that Brennecke, Russbacher and Henrich Rupp, another pilot who claims to have been involved, are all closely related to the Hapsburg Trust or the Farnham-Ottokar Trust, a vast fund of billions of dollars, some of which were used in a Savings and Loan Scandal involving Rupp. Not only do these documents support Russbacher's ties with Brennecke, but tapes in the possession of Russbacher's wife, verify the close relationship between Russbacher and Brennecke. In fact, evidence points to the fact they are cousins and basically grew up together. Brenecke was raised in Winnamucka, Nevada, the same town that Russbacher's father is buried.
The record of what is happening to known CIA operatives who claim they were involved in the October 1980 Paris meetings?

  • Richard Brennecke tried on five counts of false statements to a federal judge.
  • Heinrick Rupp tried on fraud counts involving the Savings and Loan scandal.
  • Gunther Russbacher arrested for kidnapping, investment fraud, desertion, impersonating a U.S. Attorney and a U.S. Marshal. All court records are sealed and he is in Terminal Island for six months.
  • Michael Riconosciuto for manufacturing methamphetamines and held without bail.
All enjoyed top security clearances and were involved in multiple CIA-Intelligence operations from gun running to the sale of Exocet missiles to the Argentine government for use against the British Navy. The General Accounting Office has launched an inquiry into the alleged Paris meeting. Congress is considering conducting an investigation, as well. The GAO is an investigative arm for Congress.

FRENCH CONNECTION, THE SMOKING GUN If Bush went to Paris, the French and U.S. have documents to prove it

By Harry V. Martin

Copyright, Napa Sentinel, 1991 Sixth in a Series

If there is a smoking gun in the allegations that George Bush flew to Paris in October 1980 to arrange for the delay of the release of 52 American hostages, it will be found in a file cabinet in the French SDECE office, or in secure U.S. government computers.
While Bush was allegedly in Paris, the French intelligence service (SDECE) was asked to make certain the Vice Presidential candidate was not seen. French security succeeded in that task and wrote a routine memo on the incident. A man who spent 18-years in the U.S. intelligence service has testified that he actually saw that memo in December 1980 in the files of the C.I.A. The file of the Paris meeting was given to the CIA on November 18, 1980. The agent testifies that Bush had to meet with three different factions of the Iranian revolution. The meeting took place at the Rafael Hotel. The agent not only names Bush, but also William Casey, Donald Gregg and Richard Allen as participants. Bush did not attend the first meeting, only the second.
Afraid that Bush would be recognized by the French press, his aircraft landed at the military part of Orlee. He was whisked away in a closed car and brought directly to the Rafael Hotel. He was there for about two hours, the agent states. This agent has the highest CIA clearance and worked the entire time in the Directorate of Operations in the CIA and was with the Agency since 1965. The agent also testified that the $40 million the Iranians received as a "down payment" in the deal was actually funds left over from a $60 million illegal contribution to the Committee to Reelect the President (Richard Nixon's 1972 reelection campaign) from the Shah of Iran.
In a taped interview, to be released by the Napa Sentinel to KING Radio in Seattle, the agent states that Bush was "out of the loop" from midnight, October 18, 1980 to 5 p.m., October 19. He states that Bush was in a meeting with Hashemi Rafsanjani, representatives of the Ayatollah Behisti, and Javad Bahonar. A key figure was also there for the French SDECE, Robert Benes, the son of Czech President Edward Benes who died in 1948 when the Communists took over his country.
The agent further testifies that Maurice Stans obtained the funds from Mexico. After November 20, 1980. Col. Alexandre de Marenches, head of the SDECE met with President-elect Ronald Reagan in California and presented the Paris meeting report to him. He did not visit President Jimmy Carter. The French intelligence chief warned Reagan not to trust the CIA.
The U.S. agent said Bush and the CIA go back to 1959 and 1960. A memo from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was sent in 1963 to CIA agent George Bush addressing the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the possible reaction of Cubans in Miami who might have believed Fidel Castro was responsible for the plot.
But that is not the only smoking gun that could prove the Bush trip to Paris, a trip that he denies. The computers in Washington have codes buried in them, codes that would identify the Bush-Paris activity. In fact, using the right code name and code number, a complete history of the trip, the manifest of the aircraft and other details, including briefing notes, would emerge. According to three separate CIA sources, the operation was conducted in three stages and had three codes:

  • Part One was Magdelen.
  • Part Two was Maggellan.
  • Part Three was Michaelangelo.
Each has a separate code access. The Maggellan access code is reported to be 0221-001-666. Some of the records can be found at Quantico and others at Andrews Air Force Base. The source of this later information could not be double checked. Navy Captain Gunther Russbacher, who has been verified by several separate agency members and intelligence sources, claims he flew Bush to Paris in a aircraft owned by the Saudi Royal Family, the aircraft was a reconfigured BAC-111, which refueled in Newfoundland. Russbacher's credibility has been a see-saw for awhile because much of his files are missing, and like many agents has a strange and sometimes silent past. Russbacher, is currently serving a short sentence in Terminal Island for allegedly impersonating a U.S. Attorney. The U.S. Defenders Office indicates that the information published about Russbacher is "on the right track". Others have confirmed the same thing.
But the Sentinel has not been totally satisfied with the complete testimony of Russbacher and has pressed other sources and Russbacher, himself, for more detail. Records will now prove that Russbacher is the cousin of Richard Brennecke, who was acquitted of perjury by a federal jury. He was charged with perjury when he testified that Bush went to Paris. Brennecke originally denied knowing Russbacher, but now admits he knows him. They virtually grew up in Nevada together after their families secretly left Austria after World War II and were recruited by U.S. intelligence. Russbacher indentified Brennecke as a member of the flight crew.
One of the difficulties in tracing the steps of CIA agents is the smoke screen, disinformation and attacks on their credibility. The Sentinel has learned that Russbacher escaped from a U.S. Federal Prison in Secoville, Texas in 1975. On national radio, Russbacher openly admitted the escape and said he was placed on the escape list and spent 10 years in Europe and the United States, working with the CIA. The fact that he has been in the United States and the focus of public attention, he has never been rearrested for the escape. But sources very high up in the intelligence community verify his authenticity.
After receiving information from other sources and pressing Russbacher, he has confirmed the reports of other intelligence officials that Robert Gates was also on the aircraft that flew Bush to Paris. "Gates had a strong hand in it," Russbacher finally admitted. Russbacher, who did not originally seek publicity on this case, was very reluctant to bring in Gates' name. Gates has just been appointed by President Bush to head the CIA and is facing Senate confirmation. Intelligence sources indicate that Russbacher is a key figure in CIA financial matters.
The smoking guns are out there, it is a question of whether they will be found or destroyed. The French have a bitter hatred for the CIA and it is plausible they might use the French report to blackmail the President, especially on matters related to the new European Community and Common Market.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Because some of this information has been verbal or on tape, the Sentinel cannot attest to the complete accuracy in the spelling of some names.

SECRET SERVICE CAN'T ACCOUNT FOR BUSH Under sworn testimony, guards don't know where Bush was for 23 hours

By Harry V. Martin

Copyright, Napa Sentinel, 1991 Seventh in a Series

Presidential Press Secretary Marlin Fitzwater stated at a press conference, "The President was on the campaign every day that period. He was on the campaign and he never went to Paris. And anybody who wants to give me a date I can prove it." Thus, the defense of George Bush was made. The then Vice Presidential candidate did not go to Paris to make a deal with the Iranians to delay release of 52 American hostages until after the November 1980 election.
In May 1990, in a Federal Court in Portland, Oregon, a jury found Richard Brenneke not guilty of making false statements alleging Bush went to Paris in 1980. At this trial, two secret service agents in charge of Bush's security in October 1980, swore under oath they could not state definitively or even with a high degree of confidence, where Bush was at all times during the campaign. They could not state where Bush was from 9:25 p.m. Saturday, October 18 until Sunday evening at 7:57. This is direct testimony in the federal court.
Bush claims that he had gone to Chevy Chase Country Club at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, October 19. But the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated this possibility and reported that no one at the country club could be found to substantiate this. Bush claims he had lunch with Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and his wife. The Justice is dead and his wife has no recollection of that luncheon.
At the time of Brenneke's trial for perjury, the Secret Service could not say where Bush was for the missing 23 hours. Assistant U.S. Attorney O'Rourke, who was prosecuting Brenneke, could not find any information on Bush's whereabouts, either. Brenneke, in a recent letter to Fitzwater, stated, "If the government could not prove in court where Mr. Bush was for one 23 hour period discussed in the trial, how are you going to do it for this and, perhaps, other periods?"
Brenneke has asked a direct question to Fitzwater and to 26 other individuals. The other individuals include former President Jimmy Carter; Congressman Tom Foley, Speaker of the House; Congresswoman Pat Schroder; Senator Mark Hatfield; Senator Robert Packwood; Congressman Ron Wyden; Iran-Contra Special Prosecutor Walsh; Michael Scott, Brenneke's attorney; Richard H. Muller; Gary Sick; Robert Parry; John King of Associated Press; Martin Killian of Der Spiegel; Frank Snepp of ABC; Peter Jennings of ABC; Ralph Blumenthal of The New York Times; Phil Insolata of the St. Louis Post Dispatch; Larry King; Abe Rabinovitz of The Jerusalem Post; Shigeo Masui of The Yomiuri Shimbun; James Long of The Oregonian; Philip Stanford of The Oregonian; Jodi Solomon of JFS Speakers; Jacques de Spoelberch of J de S, Inc.; Rev. William Davis of the Christic Institute; and Dr. Robert Hieronimus. The question: "Did Mr. Bush, Mr. Allen, Mr. Casey, Mr. Gregg or anyone from, involved with or in any way associated or affiliated with the Reagan campaign, the Bush campaign, or the Reagan-Bush campaign visit any foreign country at any time during the summer or fall of 1980 and meet or negotiate with any Iranians, any Iranian representatives, or agents of any Iranians regarding anything? If so, was this done with the prior or subsequent knowledge or consent of either candidate? Again, if so, were any discussions, overtures or contacts reported at once to then President Carter?"
Brenneke became embroiled in this controversy when he attempted to defend his close friend, former Nazi pilot Henrich Rupp, who has been a CIA operative for many years. Rupp was charged with fraud in a Savings and Loan scandal and sentenced to 42 years in prison. The sentence was reduced to two years. Rupp claims to have piloted an aircraft that brought several high Republican campaign people to Paris in October 1980 to make a deal with the Iranians not to release the hostages. Brenneke testified on behalf of Rupp concerning his CIA connections and the October 1980 flight. After the testimony, Brenneke was tried on five counts of perjury in connection with his testimony, primarily that Bush and his close associates flew to Paris in 1980.
At one point in Brenneke's trial, Donald Gregg, now ambassador to South Korea, and also reported subject of a Federal Grand Jury indictment for perjury, told a federal jury he could not have been in Paris in October 1980 and produced a picture of he and his wife on a sunny Maryland beach. Weather experts shot down his testimony, saying the weather conditions were adverse the day Gregg claims to have been at the sunny beach.
Both Rupp and Brenneke indicate that the people in Paris to make a deal with the Iranians included George Bush, William Casey, Donald Gates, and Richard Allen.
U.S. Navy Captain Gunther Russbacher came forward in early May and claims that he was the command pilot of the aircraft flown to Paris. Russbacher's background in the intelligence community has been independently verified by many intelligence sources throughout the United States. Brenneke is elusive as to his full knowledge of Russbacher, but he readily admits knowing Russbacher's wife, Rae Allen. But this week Brenneke confirmed with Tom Valentine, of the Sun Radio Network, that he knew Robert Walker. In the first articles concerning Russbacher's claims, he stated that one of his aliases was Robert Walker.
Brenneke also confirmed information that was never published prior to the Russbacher interviews in the Napa Sentinel, that the BAC111 was a reconfigured Saudi aircraft. Brenneke indicated that there were only about three BAC111s available in October 1980, but no one knew about the aircraft being reconfigured. Brenneke indicates that the aircraft flew non-stop, but Russbacher indicates it was refueled in Newfoundland. Rupp has admitted the aircraft was refueled in Newfoundland, as well.
But what shocked Brenneke the most was the revelation made in last Friday's Sentinel of the code words of the mission:

  • Part One was Magdelen.
  • Part two was Maggellan.
  • Part three was Michaelangelo.
The code number is 0221-001-666. This information has never been made public before the Sentinel article and Brenneke was genuinely shocked at their publication. Though the information had come from other intelligence sources, Russbacher was asked what the code names were without being supplied any clues or hints. The Sentinel had preknowledge of at least one of the codes in order to test Russbacher. Brenneke provided some key information about the SR-71, information that is not classified, but also not of common knowledge. This information will be used to again test the validity of Russbacher's statements. The Sentinel has continually tested the man's validity time and time again. Even though the newspaper has verified his background in the intelligence community, it cannot absolutely guarantee he was one of the pilots. But then, nobody can guarantee the Brenneke or Rupp claims, either. In each case, the men have slightly contradicted each other and sometimes their own testimony, but there has been no major deviation from the main claim that Bush was in Paris in October 1980. Brenneke has confirmed his association with the Farnham-Ottokar Trust and the Sentinel has documents to prove that association.
A French intelligence memo and the codes could shed light on the entire controversy. The French memo, delivered to President-elect Ronald Reagan in California in December 1980, details Bush's presence in Paris and also the complete details of the various meetings held between the Republicans and the Iranians.
The Sentinel also published information linking Robert Gates, now facing Senate confirmation hearings as CIA Director, to the October 1980 flight.
In the meantime, Michael Riconosciuto, who claims he made the money transfer of $40 million as a "down payment" to the Iranians, is reported to have suddenly been moved from his Pierce County, Washington, jail cell and taken to an unknown location. The Sentinel has no direct confirmation of that move. Riconosciuto was a key witness in the Congressional investigation of the Justice Department and also a witness for a low-key Congressional investigation into the October Surprise. Seattle's KING Radio was set to interview Riconosciuto on the weekend, but his sudden transfer may have blocked the interview.
Though all parties agree that Bush was in Paris, there seems to be some sort of disinformation campaign going on to cover up all the principals involved in the flight, including the name of Gates. Three separate intelligence sources have indicated Gates was aboard the aircraft as either a pilot or a passenger. Several individuals who are pushing their respective books, are challenging each and every researchers, which only adds to the confusion and disinformation campaign. Each of the researchers have strong, valid reports, but they differ slightly from their prospective.
A U.S. attorney with knowledge of the background of each of the individuals involved, an investigative reporter in Florida who has talked with his intelligence sources, and a former CIA operative, all have stated, "You're on the right track."

Who is this man who claims he flew Bush to Paris?

By Harry V. Martin

Copyright, Napa Sentinel, 1991 Eighth in a Series

It was in the beginning of May, that U.S. Navy Captain Gunther Russbacher's name came into play in the Napa Sentinel and on the national news. He claims to be the pilot who flew George Bush to Paris to participate in the negotiations with the Iranians to delay the release of 52 American hostages until after the November 1980 election.
There have been some challenges, naturally, to his statements. Through various intelligence and news sources, the Sentinel has been able to verify Russbacher's long intelligence background. To expound about the credibility of Russbacher's claim, it is important that his background be partially disclosed.
The man was born on July 1, 1942 in Salzberg, Austria. His birth certificate reads, Gunther Karl, Baron von Russbach, Count von Esterhazy. On his father's side, he was descended from the Baron who had captured Richard the Lionhearted and held him for ransom. On his mother's side, he was descended from Hungarian royalty. The Esterhazy's had been advisors to the Emperors of Austria for generations. His Godfather, was Ernest Kaltenbrunner, the head of Austrian Intelligence during World War II. The records of Russbacher's family are kept in the family church in Salzberg. His family was part of the Gehlen group which was also called the Canaris group.
After the war, several Austrian families, including his, had to leave Austria in order to avoid prosecution for working with the Nazis. Eighteen members of his family were forced into exile in the United States. His interests, as a youth, were in math, science, government and survival training, both in Oklahoma and in Nevada. He learned to fly at an early age.
In 1961, Russbacher entered the U.S. Army at Ft. Carson, CO. After basic training he was transferred to the North American Air Defense Command, where he obtained high levels of security clearances. He earned his cryptography credentials and had close meetings and ties with intelligence officers at Norad and Ft. Carson and at Ent Air Force Base.
That is basically the public life the government is quite willing to share. But in 1963, he was discharged from the military and "buried" as far as government records were concerned. At this point, Russbacher began to work with people from the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and was then transferred to the NASA school in Pasadena, TX. He moved around a lot from there, learning languages at military language schools, taught photo intelligence evaluation and aircraft thrust evaluation.
In 1965, Russbacher, who also goes by the name Robert A. Walker or Raven, was transferred to a facility at Langley Center. Most of the training at that time occurred at Air Force bases throughout the U.S., at the Center and in the Vienna, VA area. He was transferred to advanced flight schools at Shepard Air Force Base, TX. From there he went to Carswell Air Force Base, TX and then Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas and then Cannon Air Force Base, NM. He operated in Vietnam.
In 1968, he was assigned to the Office of Naval Intelligence with a permanent commission. As a flier, he was sent to Nellis Air Force Base and then to Beale for training on the SR program. He spent about seven months in simulator training before having the first loner run in the SR, Blackbird. He received his habu patch and logged a total of 750 hours front and stick time, and 150 hours as radar service officer. His assignment with the SR was at Beale, Cadena, Mindenhall, Akrotiri and in Turkey. The last runs of the Blackbird were out of Ramstein Air Force Base, Kaiserslauten, Germany.
It is the Blackbird that Russbacher claims he flew Bush back in after the Paris meeting. Originally, the SR-71 was called the RS 71 for Reconnaissance Strike aircraft. The aircraft is equipped with twin J-58 turbo-ram jet engines, which equal 32,500 pounds of thrust per unit. The speed is regulated by the nacelle spike, which are inlets which read 26.125 inches in length and can be changed from a fore to an aft position, to change the positions of the spike, which will change the power pack to turbo fans to ram jets. From 93 to 95 percent of the frame of the aircraft is made of titanium. At operational speeds, not top speeds, the center of the aircraft's skin gets anywhere from 510 to 515 degrees Fahrenheit while the temperatures along the engines run anywhere from 1050 to 1110 degrees Fahrenheit. The exhaust areas around the engines are a minimum of 1200 Fahrenheit. The cockpit glass gets so hot that you cannot touch it even with a flame retardant glove. The tires are 22 ply and contain aluminum pieces and parts in order to dissipate the heat. The air in the tires is really nitrogen. It travels at 32 miles a minute. The nose of the aircraft is interchangeable to affix different kinds of sensors.
In 1972, Russbacher was still active Navy, but most of his 201 file was closed due to frequent assignments with the CIA. The objective of a 201 file is that you build a nice clean record that you can transfer from military to civilian life. But because of Russbacher's intelligence operations, much of his 201 file is spotty. Also in 1972, he was loaned to the Department of State for Central and Eastern Europe and attached to the black consular operations, a special operations group. He was stationed at Badgodesberg, which was the U.S. Embassy in Bonn, Germany. But he also operated out of Belgrade, Vienna, Rome and Paris, plus a short term in Moscow. In Italy he worked with counter revolutionaries and counter terrorists groups in liaison with Italian intelligence staff and carbinieres. The object was to infiltrate the Brigade Roso, Red Brigade. He was in Milan when the train station was bombed.
He also worked out of the consular general's office in Genoa, held Swiss and German passports under the name of Gerhard MŸller and Wagner. He worked with and against the Badermeinoff and Red Army faction. He helped get high level people out of Czechoslovakia.
In 1979, he was called back to Beal for updates and flew three tours on the newer version of the SR. He updated the global positioning system and firefly platforms at low darkness and red levels.
In February 1980, He returned to Langley, and then to St. Louis. He became an investment broker and financial planner with Prudential and Connecticut Mutual. After gaining the experience he opened up a CIA-proprietary company called National Brokerage Companies, National Financial Services, Crystal Shores Development Corporation and other companies. CIA money was laundered through these operations. He also attended Centerpoint, Phoenix which was a desert sabotage school. In October 1980, he was command pilot for the aircraft used allegedly to fly George Bush to Paris. The three code names for the operation were Magdalen, Maggellen and Michaelangelo. While he was in Paris, his cover was that he was attending the Connecticut Mutual School for advance planning in Hartford.
In January 1981, he was in Tegucigalpa, Honduras to meet with the resistance and continued the talks in Costa Rica and Cancun. Russbacher funded the group with low level black funds channeled from European banks.
In February 1982, he returned to Frankfurt to discuss shipments to Israel after boats of Marseille harbor to Arab contacts. From March to July 1982, Russbacher was on Navy duty in and out of Monterey, and also loaned to the Looking Glass and operation Michaelangelo. This involved details of using Reforger stored arms for shipment to Iran. Funds were transacted from Luxembourg City to Geneva and Zurich. His group met with Mossad (Israeli intelligence) people in Alicante for the final delivery of weapons to Iran. Aircraft was utilized from the Saudi, French, German, Austrian and Dutch government.
In October 1982, Russbacher was back at Langley (CIA headquarters), for briefing on the supply of arms to Afghani rebels. He met a special operation group at Islamabad and Ralapindi, Pakistan. Agreements were reached with the resistance people at Seven Rivers Junction in Afghanistan. Funds to finance the operation came out of financial sources in the state of Washington, Oregon, Indiana, Florida and Georgia. Much of the heavy equipment was moved to Frankfurt.
Russbacher fell from grace with the CIA after his mission in Eastern Europe failed with the death of a U.S. Army major from Heidelberg.
In February 1983 he returned to Eastern Europe. The purpose of the trip was to acquire Czech plastique explosives and small arms.
In March to August 1983, he infiltrated the Pipefitters Union in St. Louis. A year later he was back in Afghanistan. Then back to St. Louis and then to Paris on hostage taking and counter terrorism assignments.
In March 1985, he was incarcerated at Segoville, TX for an escape from federal conviction resulting from 1973 where he was caught with numerous bags of bearer bonds while dressed as a U.S. Air Force major.
From November 1985 to July 1986, he was attached to DOS consular operations service. he was active in Operation Clydesdale.
From July 1986 to August 1990 he was assigned to numerous internal U.S. operations for the CIA. In June 1989, he signed an agreement not to marry for two years, a common commitment for intelligence operatives after a divorce. But he did marry. He married a woman who was a political activist and who had lobbied against Donald Gregg's appointment for U.S. ambassador to South Korea. Gregg, at the time , was head of the CIA discipline committee. Russbacher was warned that his wife could be a KGB agent or possibly a mole for the State Department or FBI, entities that do not have a great love for the CIA.
Within days after his marriage, Russbacher was moved from California to Missouri. He pleaded guilty to an investment fraud and was sentenced to 28 years in jail. The judge, after reading a secret report, allowed Russbacher free on probation and the prosecutor was fired.
On his release he met with William Webster at Offutt Air Force Base. The trip was associated with the Lookinglass Command. He was ordered to fly to Castle Air Force Base in California. He was arrested by the FBI for trespassing and impersonating a Naval officer. These charges were dropped immediately.
He was then charged with impersonating a U.S. Attorney and misuse of government purchase orders, jet and fuel. The case was declared a mistrial. The prosecutor told him to plead guilty and therefore his wife would not be charged with trespassing on a military base. He was given 21 months in prison and is scheduled for release in December, though he has enjoyed considerable freedom.
In early May, Russbacher's boss in the Office of Naval Intelligence tried to have him transferred to Naval custody. A U.S. Senator from the Senate Judicial Committee has asked Russbacher to testify to the Senate and has personally assured him of his safety.

The Conclusion: Did Bush go to Paris?

By Harry V. Martin

Copyright, Napa Sentinel, 1991 Last in an Ten Part Series

Congressman Lee Hamilton has announced that there is not sufficient evidence to prove that George Bush went to Paris in October 1980 to negotiate a deal with the Iranians not to release 52 American hostages until after the November 1980 elections. The purpose of the meeting was to block any chance that President Jimmy Carter would create an "October Surprise" by gaining release of the hostages and thus assure his reelection to a second term. Hamilton has conducted a low level investigation into the October Surprise, the purpose of his investigation was to determine whether or not a large scale Congressional investigation into the allegations against Bush should be held.
Hamilton has apparently made no attempt to locate a French intelligence memo delivered to the CIA in December 1980 that reports on Bush's visit and the contents of the meeting between American civilian and Iranian government representatives. Hamilton, further, has not attempted to check Norad's computers for the code name Maggellan and the code number 0221-001-666, nor have flight logs from any KC135 been obtained for the night of October 20, 1980, the night that an aircraft was allegedly refueled over the Atlantic, an aircraft that was reportedly carrying Bush.
Also, it is not known if Hamilton checked the sworn testimony of two Secret Service agents in a federal trial...
The real Iranian hostage story from the files of Fara Mansoor

By Harry V. Martin

Copyright FreeAmerica and Harry V. Martin, 1995

Fara Mansoor is a fugitive. No, he hasn't broken any laws in the United States. His crime is the truth. What he has to say and the documents he carries are equivalent to a death warrant for him, Mansoor is an Iranian who was part of the "establishment" in Iran long before the 1979 hostage taking. Mansoor's records actually discount the alleged "October Surprise" theory that the Ronald Reagan-George Bush team paid the Iranians not to release 52 American hostages until after the November 1980 Presidential elections.

Mansoor's meticulous documents, shared exclusively with this magazine, shows a much more sinister plot, the plot to take the hostages in the first place. "For 15 years the truth about the nature and origins of the Iranian hostage crisis has been buried in a mountain of misinformation," Mansoor states. "Endless expert analysis has served only to deepen the fog that still surrounds this issue. We have been led to believe that the 'crisis' was a spontaneous act that just sprang out of the 'chaos' of the 'Islamic Revolution'. Nothing could be further from the truth!"

"To really understand the hostage crisis and 'who done it', one has to look not only with a microscope, but also a wide angle lens to have a panoramic view of this well scripted 'drama'," Mansoor states. "That 'drama' was the result of large historical patterns, models, and motives. Once its true nature is understood, it will be clear how Iran/Contra happened. Why Rafsanjani has been trying to 'move toward the West,' and why Reagan called him a 'moderate'. And why, during the Gulf War, James Baker said, 'we think Iran has conducted itself in a very, very credible way through this crisis'" Mansoor emphasizes that the "October Surprise" myth has served as dangerous misinformation.


With thousands of documents to support his position, Mansoor says that the "hostage crisis" was a political "management tool" created by the pro-Bush faction of the CIA, and implemented through an a priori Alliance with Khomeini's Islamic Fundamentalists." He says the purpose was twofold:

To keep Iran intact and communist-free by putting Khomeini in full control.

To destablize the Carter Administration and put George Bush in the White House.
"The private Alliance was the logical result of the intricate Iranian political reality of the mid-70s, and a complex network of powerful U.S.-Iranian 'business' relationships," Mansoor states. "I first met Khomeini in 1963 during the failed coup attempt against the Shah. Since that time I have been intimately involved with Iranian politics. I knew in 1979 that the whole, phoney 'Islamic Revolution' was 'mission implausible'." Mansoor was frank. "There is simply no way that those guys with the beards and turbans could have pulled off such a brilliantly planned operation without very sophisticated help."

Mansoor has spent 10 years researching the issue. "I have collected enough data to yield a very clear picture. Mr. Bush's lieutenants removed the Shah, brought Khomeini back to Iran, and guided his rise to power, sticking it to President Carter, the American people (52 in particular), and the Iranian people." he stated with boxes and boxes of evidence to support his contentions. "My extensive research has revealed the heretofore untold truth about this episode. This is not another 'October Surprise' theory purporting how the hostage crisis resulted in some Khomeini-Republic better deal. That theory puts the cart before the horse. Its absurd premise is that a major international deal was initiated and consummated in three weeks. Give me a break! Bill Casey didn't have to go to Paris to play lets-make-deal. The 'deal' had been in operation for at least two years. This game of blind-man's-bluff around Casey's gravestone was more disinformation, damage control."


Mansoor produced a confidential document called the "Country Team Minutes" of April 26, 1978, more than a year before the hostage crisis. The meeting was held in Iran. The second paragraph of the routine minutes, states, "The Ambassador commented on our distinguished visitors, Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Margaret Thatcher, and commented that Teheran seems to be the site for an opposition parties congress." Mansoor indicates the entire relationship was probably the most sophisticated criminal act in recent history. "That the people who, until recently, were holding power in Washington and those who currently are still in control in Teheran, got there by totally subverting the democratic process of both countries is news. That their methods of subversion relied on kidnapping, extortion and murder is criminal," Mansoor states.

Mansoor became a target after he did a radio show in Portland on November 13, 1992. It was the first time he attempted to go public with his documents and information. The Iranian regime has placed a bounty on Mansoor's head and he has received many death threats.

Is Mansoor just another conspiracy nut? Ervand Abrahamian of Baruch College of New York stated in a letter to Mansoor, "As you know I am very weary of conspiracy theories. But, despite my preconceived bias, I must admit I found your manuscript to be thoroughly researched, well documented, and, of course extremely relevant to the present. You have done an first-class job of interviewing participants, collecting data from scattered sources, and putting them together like a highly complicated puzzle."

Mansoor's meticulous research clearly demonstrates how Khomeini's published vision of an Islamic Government (Vilayat-Faqih) dovetailed with the regional and global strategic objectives of a hard-core subset of the U.S. National Security establishment loyal to George Bush. It shows that the Iranian hostage crisis was neither a crisis nor chaos. In 1953, the CIA orchestrated a coup in Iran, which threw out the democratic government and installed the Shah.

In order to understand the imperative of this Alliance, we must realistically examine the sociopolitical alignment both in Iran and the U.S., and accurately assess their respective interests to find the command ground for this coalescence. The anti-monarchic forces in mid-70s Iran consisted of various nationalists groups including religious reformist, the Islamic Fundamentalists, and the leftists and communist.

The Nationalist forces were varied. Some were from within the government, but they were poorly organized and without grass-roots support. Their position was clearly anti-left and anti-communist, but they were vulnerable to being taken over by the well-organized left.

The Islamic Fundamentalists had no government experience, but they had major grassroots supports. Islam, in its Shi'ite format was deeply embedded in the lives of the vast majority of the Iranian people. The Fundamentalists were absolutely anti-communist.


The philosophical divide within the U.S. National Security establishment, especially the CIA, became quite serious in the aftermath of Watergate. To make matters worse, the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976, his campaign promise to clean the "cowboy" elements out of the Central Intelligence Agency and his "human rights" policies alarmed the faction of the CIA loyal to George Bush. Bush was CIA director under Richard Nixon. Finally, the firing of CIA Director George Bush by Carter, and the subsequent "Halloween Massacre" in which Carter fired over 800 CIA covert operatives in 1977, angered the "cowboys" beyond all measure. That was Carter's October surprise, 800 firings on Halloween 1977.

Bush and his CIA coverts were well aware of the Shah's terminal cancer, unknown to President Carter. The team had an elaborate vested interest to protect. They were determined to keep Iran intact and communist-free and put George Bush in the White House.


Hence, the Islamic Fundamentalists were the only viable choice through which the Bush covert team could implement its own private foreign policy. The results: the birth of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the fall of President Carter, and the emergence of something called the "New World Order." Mansoor's documents show step-by-step events:

1. In 1974, the Shah of Iran was diagnosed with cancer.

2. In 1975, former CIA director, and the U.S. Ambassador to Iran, Richard Helms learned of the Shah's cancer through the Shah's closest confidant, General Hossein Fardoust. The Shah, Helms and Fardoust had been close personal friends since their school days together in Switzerland during the 1930s.

3. On November 4, 1976, concurrent with Jimmy Carter's election as President, CIA Director George Bush issued a secret memo to the U.S. Ambassador in Iran, Richard Helms, asking:

"Have there been any changes in the personality pattern of the Shah; what are their implication pattern for political behavior? Identification of top military officers that most likely play key roles in any transference of power if the Shah were killed...who will be the leading actors? How will the Shah's pet projects, including the economic development program, be effected by his departure?"

4. By July 1977, anticipating trouble ahead, the Bush covert team issued preliminary script for the transition of power in Iran. According to John D. Stemple, a CIA analyst and Deputy Chief Political officer of the U.S. Embassy in Iran, "A ten page analysis of the opposition written by the embassy's political section in July 1977 correctly identified Bakhiar, Bazargan, Khomeini and Behesti as major actors in the drama that begin unfolding a year later."

5. Contrary to this analysis, in August 1977, the "official wing" of the CIA fed President Carter a 60-page Study on Iran which concluded:

"The Shah will be an active participant in Iranian life well into the 1980s...and there will be no radical changes in Iranian political behavior in the near future."

6. On October 31, 1977, president Carter made good on his campaign promise to clean the "cowboys" out of the CIA. He fired over 800 covert operatives from the Agency, many of whom were loyal to George Bush. Carter's presidency split the CIA. It produced in them, among whom were "many well-trained in political warfare, a concerted will for revenge." By the end of the 1970s many of these special covert operatives had allied themselves with George Bush's candidacy, and later with Ronald Reagan's presidential campaign.

7. On November 15, the Shah of Iran visited Washington, D.C. Carter toasted his guest, "If ever there was a country which has blossomed forth under enlightened leadership, it would be the ancient empire of Persia."

8. On November 23, Ayatollah Khomeini's elder son, Haji Mustafa, died mysteriously in Najaf, Iraq. According to professor Hamid Algar, he was "assassinated by the Shah's U.S.-instituted security police SAVAK...the tragedy inflamed the public in Iran." Ayatollah Khomeini placed an advertisement in the French Newspaper Le Monde which read: "thanking people for condolences that had been sent of the murder of his son". He also "appealed to the army to liberate Iran, and to the intellectuals and all good Muslims to continue their criticism of the Shah".

9. December 31, 1977, Carter visited the Shah in Iran. He toasted the Shah for maintaining Iran as "an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world." Ironically, that so-called stability evaporated before the champagne lost its fizz.

10. On January 7, 1978, an insidious article entitled Iran and the Red and Black Colonialism, appeared in the Iranian daily newspaper Ettela'at. It castigated the exiled Khomeini, and produced a massive protest riot in the Holy City of Qum the next day. The clergy had little choice but to rally to Khomeini's defense. The Qum incident shifted many of the clergy from a position of support for the Shah's monarchy to an active opposition. That "dirty trick" perpetuated by General Fardoust was the trigger that sparked Islamic movement participating in the anti-Shah democratic Revolution. John D. Stempel, characterized Fardoust's importance to the Alliance: "it is hard to over estimated the value of having a mole in the inner circle of the Shah."

11. On February 3, a confidential communiqué from the U.S. Embassy clearly reflected the vision of the Alliance: "Though based on incomplete evidence, our best assessment to date is that the Shia Islamic movement dominated by Ayatollah Khomeini is far better organized, enlighten and able to resist Communism than its detractors would lead us to believe. It is rooted in the Iranian people more than any western ideology, including Communism."

12. April 1978, Le Monde "identified Khomeini's Liberation Movement of Iran as the most significant force in the opposition followed by the Shi'ite Islam joins the reformist of progressive critics of the Shah on the same ground. In fact, this analysis was contrary to what Mohaammad Tavassoli, leader of the Liberation Movement of Iran, expressed to John D. Stempel on August 21, 1978: "The nationalist movement in Iran lacks a popular base. The choice is between Islam and Communism...close ties between the Liberation Movement of Iran and the religious movement was necessary. Iran was becoming split by Marxist and the religious."

13. On April 26, the confidential minutes of the U. S. Embassy Country team meeting welcomed Bush, Reagan and Thatcher.

14. On May 6, Le Monde became the first western newspaper to interview Khomeini in Najaf, Iraq. Khomeini acknowledged his compatibility with the strategic imperatives of the Bush covert team, "we would not collaborate with the Marxists, even to the overthrow of the Shah."

15. The same month, Khomeini's old ally from the failed 1963 coup (that resulted in Khomeini's arrest and major uprising in June 1963 and his subsequent exile to Iraq) General Valliollah Qarani sent his emissary to meet Khomeini in Najaf. Qarani had been a major CIA asset in Iran since the 1953 coup. Seeing another chance to gain power for himself, he advised Khomeini, according to former Iranian President Abol Hassan Bani-sader:

"if you settle for the Shah's departure and don't use anti-American rhetoric, Americans are ready to take him out."

16. In August, the Bush team sent its own point man to meet the exiled Ayatollah in Najaf. Professor Richard Cottam carried excellent credentials. During the 1953 coup, he had been in charge of the CIA's Iran Desk, also, he had been in close contact with Dr. Ibrahim Yazdi in the U.S. since 1975. Curiously, he admitted to Bani-sadr in 1987, that he had not been working for the Carter Administration. Cottam's visit must have had an impact, because Iran suddenly began to experience a series of mysterious catastrophes:

In Aberdeen, Fundamentalist supporters burned down a theater killing the innocent occupants, blaming it on the SAVAK and the Shah.

There were riots in Isfahan that resulted in martial law.

On August 27, one of Khomeini's rivals among the Shia Islamic faithful outside of Iran, Ayatollah Mosa Sadr mysteriously disppeared. According to an intelligence source he was killed and buried in Libya.
17. By late August, the Shah was totally confused. U.S. Ambassador Sullivan recorded the Shah's pleadings over the outbreak of violence:

"he said the pattern was widespread and that it was like an outbreak of a sudden rash in the gave evidence of sophisticated planning and was not the work of spontaneous oppositionists...the Shah presented that it was the work of foreign intrigue...this intrigue went beyond the capabilities of the Soviet KGB and must, therefore, also involve British and American CIA. The Shah went on to ask 'Why was the CIA suddenly turning against him? What had he done to deserve this sort of action from the United States?"

18. September 8, the Shah's army gunned down hundreds of demonstrators in Teheran in what became known as the "Jaleh Square Massacre".

19. On September 9, President Carter phoned the Shah to confirm his support for the Shah, a fact that enraged the Iranian population.

20. A few days later, Carter's National Security aide, Gary Sick, received a call from Richard Cottam, requesting a discrete meeting between him and Khomeini's representative in the U.S., Dr. Yazdi. Sick refused.

21. Khomeini for the first time, publicly called for the Shah's overthrow.

22. In Mid-September, at the height of the revolution, "one of the handful of Khomeini's trusted associates", Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Beheshti, secretly visited the United States among others, he also meet with Yazdi in Texas. Beheshti was an advocate of the eye-for-an-eye school of justice.

23. In early October 1978, the agent for the Bush covert team arranged to force Khomeini out of Iraq.

24. October 3, 1978, Yazdi picked up Khomeini in Iraq and headed for Kuwait. According to Gary Sick, he received an urgent call from Richard Cottam, learning for the first time that Khomeini had been forced out of Iraq. Sick was told that Khomeini and his entourage were stuck in no man's land while attempting to cross the border. Cottam was requesting White House intervention to resolve the issue. Sick respond, "there is nothing we could do".

25. October 6, Khomeini's entourage, having gotten back through Baghdad, popped up in Paris. According to Bani-sadr, "it was Khomeini who insisted on going to Paris instead of Syria or Algeria". Whoever helped Khomeini out of the Kuwaiti border impasse had to have been on good terms with both the French and Saddam Hussein.

26. December 12, Yazdi made a trip to the U.S. to promote Khomeini and his Islamic Republic. Yazdi met secretly with Henry Precht on an unofficial capacity. Precht was the Director of the Iran Desk at the State Department and one of the Bush team's main choke points in the Carter Administration. Later Precht and Yazdi appeared together for televised discussion of Iran. Yazdi assured the American public that Khomeini had not really called for a "torrent of blood", and that the "election would be absolutely free". The Islamic Republic "would enjoy full freedom of speech and the press, including the right to attack Islam.

27. December 28, Cottam visited Khomeini in Paris where he noted that U.S. citizen Dr. Yazdi was the "leading tactician in Khomeini's camp" and apparent "chief of staff". Khomeini was not interested in the Mullahs taking over the government. Also noted that "Khomeini's movement definitely plans to organize a political party to draw on Khomeini's charisma. Cottam thinks such a party would win all Majlis seats."

28. Leaving Paris, Cottam slipped into Teheran, arriving the first week in January 1979, to prepare Khomeini's triumphal return to Iran.

29. January 4, 1979, Carter's secret envoy, General Robert Huyser arrived in Iran. His mission was to prevent the "fall of the Shah". According to Huyser, Alexander Haig, ostensibly a strong Shah supporter-inexplicably, "took violent exception to the whole idea." Huyser recalled that "General Haig never gave me a full explanation of his strong objections." Huyser also revealed that Ambassador Sullivan "had also expressed objections." Two pro-Shah advocates opposed to the prevention of the Shah's fall.

30. On January 14, President Carter finally "authorized a meeting between Warren Zimmerman and Ibrahim Yazdi. On the same day, Khomeini, in an interview on CBS claimed, "a great part of the army was loyal to him" and that "he will be in effect the strong man of Iran."

31. On January 16, in an exact repeat of the 1953 CIA coup, Bush's covert team ushered the "eccentric and weak" Shah out of Iran.

32. On February 1, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini staged his own version of a "triumphal return" in the streets of Teheran.

33. Khomeini moved quickly to establish his authority. On February 5 he named Mehdi Bazargan, a devoted Muslim and anti-communist, interim Prime Minister. Yazdi and Abbas Amir Entezam became Bazargan's deputies, Dr. Sanjabi Foreign Minister, and General Qarani was named military Chief of Staff.

34. On February 11, 1979, in seemingly a bizarre twist, General Qarani asked the Shah's "eyes and ears" General Hossien Fardoust for recommendations to fill the new top posts in Iran's armed forces. Outside of the Chief of SAVAK, all the other recommendations were accepted. Shortly after, General Fardoust became head of SAVAMA, Khomeini's successor to SAVAK.

35. On February 14, 1979, two weeks after Khomeini's return to Iran, the U.S. Embassy in Teheran was seized by Khomeini supporters disguised as leftist guerrillas in an attempt to neutralize the left. U.S. hostages were seized, but to the chagrin of Khomeini's Fundamentalist, the Iranian coalition government restored order immediately. Ironically, in the same day in Kabul, Afghanistan, the U.S. Ambassador was also kidnapped by fanatic Islamic Fundamentalists disguised as leftist guerrillas and killed in the gunfight.

36. On February 14, soon after the order was restored at the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, Khomeini's aide Yazdi supplied the Embassy with a group of Iranians for compound security. Ambassador Sullivan installed armed, and trained this Swat squad lead by SAVAK/CIA agent Mashallah Kahsani, with whom Sullivan developed a close working relationship.

37. By August, pro-Bush CIA official George Cave was visiting Iran to provide intelligence briefings to Khomeini's aides, especially Yazdi and Entezam. These intelligence exchanges continued until October 31, the day Carter fired Bush and the 800 agents. Then with all the Iranian officials who had restored order in the first Embassy seizure eliminated, the stage was set for what happened four days later.

38. On November 4, 1979, the U.S. Embassy was taken again. Leading the charge was none other than Ambassador Sullivan's trusted Mashallah Kashani, the Embassy's once and former security chief.

With the evidence and documentation supplied by Mansoor, the alleged October Surprise would not have been necessary. President Carter was the target, in revenge for the Halloween Massacre, the night 800 CIA operatives and George Bush were fired by Carter. The man thrust, however, was to prevent a communist takover of Iran on the Shah's anticpated death.
A Russian government report, which corroborated allegations that Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign interfered with President Jimmy Carter’s Iran-hostage negotiations in 1980, was apparently kept from the Democratic chairman of a congressional task force that investigated the charges a dozen years later.
Lee Hamilton, then a congressman from Indiana in charge of the task force, told me in a recent interview, “I don’t recall seeing it,” although he was the one who had requested Moscow’s cooperation in the first place and the extraordinary Russian report was addressed to him.
The Russian report, which was dropped off at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow on Jan. 11, 1993, contradicted the task force’s findings – which were released two days later – of “no credible evidence” showing that Republicans contacted Iranian intermediaries behind President Carter’s back regarding 52 American hostages held by Iran’s Islamic revolutionary government, the so-called October Surprise case.
I was surprised by Hamilton’s unfamiliarity with the Russian report, so I e-mailed him a PDF copy. I then contacted the task force’s former chief counsel, attorney Lawrence Barcella, who acknowledged in an e-mail that he doesn’t “recall whether I showed [Hamilton] the Russian report or not.”
In other words, the Russian report – possibly representing Moscow’s first post-Cold War collaboration with the United States on an intelligence mystery – was not only kept from the American public but apparently from the chairman of the task force responsible for the investigation.
The revelation further suggests that the congressional investigation was shoddy and incomplete, thus reopening the question of whether Reagan’s landslide victory in 1980 was, in part, set in motion by a dirty trick that extended the 444-day captivity of the hostages who were freed immediately after Reagan was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 1981.
The coincidence between Reagan’s inauguration and the hostage release was curious to some but served mostly to establish in the minds of Americans that Reagan was a tough leader who instilled fear in U.S. adversaries. However, if the timing actually resulted from a clandestine arms-for-hostage deal, it would mean that Reagan’s presidency began with an act of deception, as well as an act of treachery.
The Russian report also implicates other prominent Republicans in the Iranian contacts, including the late William Casey (who was Reagan’s campaign director in 1980), George H.W. Bush (who was Reagan’s vice presidential running mate), and Robert Gates (who in 1980 had been a CIA officer on the National Security Council before becoming executive assistant to Carter’s CIA Director Stansfield Turner).
Casey, who served as Reagan’s first CIA director, died in 1987 before the 1980 allegations came under scrutiny. Bush, who was President during the task force’s 1992 inquiry, angrily denied the accusations at two news conferences but was never questioned under oath. Gates, who was CIA director in 1992 and is now President Barack Obama's Defense Secretary, also has brushed off the suspicions.
Competing Offers
As described by the Russians, the 1980 hostage negotiations boiled down to a competition between the Carter administration and the Reagan campaign offering the Iranians different deals if the hostages were either released before the election to help Carter or held until after the election to benefit Reagan.
The Iranians “discussed a possible step-by-step normalization of Iranian-American relations [and] the provision of support for President Carter in the election campaign via the release of American hostages,” according to the U.S. Embassy’s classified translation of the Russian report.
Meanwhile, the Republicans were making their own overtures, the Russian report said. “William Casey, in 1980, met three times with representatives of the Iranian leadership,” the report said. “The meetings took place in Madrid and Paris.”
At the Paris meeting in October 1980, “R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA Director George Bush also took part,” the Russian report said. “In Madrid and Paris, the representatives of Ronald Reagan and the Iranian leadership discussed the question of possibly delaying the release of 52 hostages from the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran.”

Both the Reagan-Bush Republicans and the Carter Democrats “started from the proposition that Imam Khomeini, having announced a policy of ‘neither the West nor the East,’ and cursing the ‘American devil,’ imperialism and Zionism, was forced to acquire American weapons, spares and military supplies by any and all possible means,” the Russian report said.
According to the Russians, the Republicans won the bidding war. “After the victory of R. Reagan in the election, in early 1981, a secret agreement was reached in London in accord with which Iran released the American hostages, and the U.S. continued to supply arms, spares and military supplies for the Iranian army,” the Russian report continued.
The deliveries were carried out by Israel, often through private arms dealers, the Russian report said. [For text of the Russian report, click here. To view the U.S. embassy cable that contains the Russian report, click here.]
The Russian report came in response to an Oct. 21, 1992, query from Hamilton, who asked the Russian government what its files might show about the October Surprise case. The report came back from Sergey V. Stepashin, chairman of the Supreme Soviet’s Committee on Defense and Security Issues, a job roughly equivalent to chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
In what might have been an unprecedented act of cooperation between the two longtime enemies, Stepashin provided a summary of what Russian intelligence files showed about the October Surprise charges and other secret U.S. dealings with Iran.
In the 1980s, after all, the Soviet KGB was not without its own sources on a topic as important to Moscow as developments in neighboring Iran. The KGB had penetrated or maintained close relations with many of the intelligence services linked to the October Surprise allegations, including those of France, Spain, Germany, Iran and Israel.
History had shown, too, that the KGB had spies inside the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies. So, Soviet intelligence certainly was in a position to know a great deal about what had or had not happened in 1980.
The Supreme Soviet’s response was delivered to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow by Nikolay Kuznetsov, secretary of the subcommittee on state security. Kuznetsov apologized for the “lengthy preparation of the response.” It was quickly translated by the U.S. embassy and forwarded to Hamilton.
Lost Report
However, if the recollections of Hamilton and Barcella are correct, the report may never have reached Hamilton, instead being intercepted by Barcella who had previously acknowledged to me that he decided to simply file the report away in boxes containing the task force documents.
After I discovered the Russian report in one of those boxes in late 1994, I failed to get a response to questions I placed with Hamilton’s congressional staff. Back then, Hamilton was a powerful figure in Congress, transitioning from being chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to being the panel’s ranking Democrat.
Years later, in 2004, while working on the book Secrecy & Privilege, I managed to get Barcella on the phone to ask him why the task force hadn’t at least released the Russian report along with the final task force report which had reached a contradictory conclusion.
Barcella explained that the Russian report had arrived late and its classification, as “confidential,” meant that it couldn’t simply be made public. Instead he said he filed it away, assuming it would disappear into some vast government warehouse, “like in the movie ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’”
In that interview, Barcella also acknowledged that new evidence implicating the Republicans in the October Surprise intrigue arrived in December near the end of the investigation, leading him to ask Hamilton to extend the investigation for a few more months so the new material could be evaluated, but that Hamilton refused.
However, the task force report – released on Jan. 13, 1993 – reflected none of that uncertainty, as it attacked various witnesses who claimed knowledge of the secret Republican-Iranian contacts. The task force claimed to have established solid alibis for the whereabouts of Bill Casey and other key Republicans on dates of alleged meetings with Iranians.
In my view, many of the task force’s alibis and other key findings were misleading or downright false. [For details, see Secrecy & Privilege.]
However, in 1993, Washington’s conventional wisdom was that the October Surprise story was a bogus conspiracy theory, despite the fact that many of the same Reagan figures had been caught lying about the secret Iran-Contra guns-for-hostages negotiations in 1985-86.
Back on the Radar
The October Surprise case popped back onto my radar in late February 2010 while I was traveling in Los Angeles. I received an e-mail from one of the former task force members, ex-Rep. Mervyn Dymally, D-California. Since we were both in Los Angeles, I suggested meeting for breakfast, which we did.
Dymally said he was pulling together some of his papers and was surprised to learn that Hamilton and task force vice chairman, Republican Henry Hyde, had forwarded the task force report to House Speaker Thomas Foley with a letter indicating that there had been a unanimous vote approving the debunking findings on Dec. 10, 1992.
Dymally said he never voted to approve the findings and indeed tried to submit a dissent to the final report, only to face resistance from Hamilton and Barcella. Dymally added that Hamilton called him in January 1993, demanding that the dissent be withdrawn.
“If it were the case [that there had been a unanimous vote on Dec. 10, 1992], why call me in January and talk to me about the dissent,” Dymally said. “I didn’t know of any meeting on the tenth.”
Dymally’s dissent letter had protested some of the absurd alibis that Barcella and the task force were using to establish Casey’s whereabouts on key dates. For instance, the task force claimed that because someone had written down Casey’s home phone number on one day that proved Casey was at home, and that because a plane flew from San Francisco directly to London on another date, Casey must have been onboard.
According to sources who saw Dymally’s dissent, it argued that “just because phones ring and planes fly doesn’t mean that someone is there to answer the phone or is on the plane.” But Barcella reportedly was furious over the prospect of a dissent and enlisted Hamilton to pressure Dymally into withdrawing it.
In an interview with me back in 1993, Dymally, who had just retired from Congress, said the day his dissent was submitted, he received a call from Hamilton warning him that if the dissent was not withdrawn, “I will have to come down hard on you.”
The next day, Hamilton, who was taking over the House Foreign Affairs Committee, fired the staff of the Africa subcommittee that Dymally had headed. The firings were billed as routine, and Hamilton told me back then that “the two things came along at the same time, but they were not connected in my mind.”
Hamilton said his warning to Dymally had referred to a toughly worded response that Hamilton would have fired off to Dymally if the dissent had stood. Hoping to salvage the jobs of some of his staff, Dymally agreed to withdraw the dissent.
However, Dymally told me at our Los Angeles breakfast that he never approved the report and was certainly not onboard for a unanimous vote on Dec. 10, 1992, which came more than a month after Congress had adjourned in that election year.
Russian Mystery
I also asked Dymally if he had known of the Russian report or the other late-arriving evidence that had supposedly led Barcella to recommend an extension of the task force investigation. Dymally said he knew of neither.
Because of Dymally’s dispute about the unanimous vote, I began contacting other ex-task force members to plumb their recollections. I tracked down two former congressmen who had served on the task force, Edward Feighan and Sam Gejdenson. Neither had a clear recollection of the vote, but were stumped when asked about the Russian report and Barcella’s proposed extension.
One Democratic congressional staffer who had served on the investigation told me that interest in the October Surprise inquiry faded quickly after the November 1992 election when Democrat Bill Clinton defeated President George H.W. Bush in his bid for a second term. The focus of Official Washington turned to staffing the new administration, he said.
The Washington Establishment also had a great fondness for the departing President, so there was a feeling that pursuing old scandals that might implicate him in wrongdoing would be excessive. Incoming President Clinton also wanted to focus the Democrats on gaining as much bipartisan goodwill for his agenda as possible.
When I first spoke with Hamilton recently, he said his memory also was foggy regarding the events of the early 1990s, including the circumstances surrounding the supposedly unanimous vote by task force members. But he said he would not have claimed a unanimous vote if there had not been one.
Regarding Barcella's claim that he had urged an extension of the investigation and that Hamilton had turned him down, Hamilton suddenly bristled.
“That would have been an extraordinary development,” Hamilton said, indicating that he would have remembered that. “We would not have closed an investigation if there was pending evidence.”
When I asked Hamilton about the Russian report, he responded, “none of that is ringing a bell with me.” I then e-mailed him a PDF file of the Russian report.
Barcella’s Response
I also contacted Barcella, who is now a lawyer in private practice at Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker LLP. He responded via e-mail, beginning with some personal insults:
“It's sad that after so many years, you're still obsessing over this. It's equally sad that you have insisted on one-sided interpretations and twisted characterizations of things. Nonetheless, at the risk of feeding your quixotic obsession, here's my best recollection, recognizing it is at best partial after nearly 2 decades.
“The information from Russia came in literally at the last minute. It's [sic] source was unclear and needed verification. The information was hardly self-authenticating and lacked detail. Russia was in chaos in this immediate post-Soviet Union period and information and disinformation was spewing out like and uncapped oil well.
“The Task Force report was either printed or at the printers. The Task Force authorization was expiring or expired. It was only authorized for that Congress and that congress had expired. I spoke briefly w/ Lee [Hamilton] and don't recall whether I showed him the Russian report or not.
“He felt ham-strung, as there was a new Congress, a new(and Democratic)President, a new Administration and new priorities and nothing could be done w/o a whole new re-authorization process. The original authorization had been very acrimonious and had taken weeks and weeks.
“He wasn't sure there was any stomach for fighting for re-authorization, particularly given the thoroughness of the investigation and confidence in the results. There's no doubt in my mind that if It were up to Lee, he would have given me the green light.
“The realist in him knew that the House leadership wasn't going to break their pick on a re-authorization fight.”
Hamilton, however, told me that he had no recollection of any such re-authorization request from Barcella. After receiving the PDF file of the Russian report, Hamilton also reiterated that he had no recollection of having ever seen it before, nor did his staff aide on the task force, Michael Van Dusen.
Barcella’s contention in his e-mail about “the thoroughness of the investigation and confidence in the results” is also open to question.
On Dec. 8, 1992, recognizing the report’s shaky conclusions, Barcella ordered his deputies “to put some language in, as a trap door” in case later disclosures disproved parts of the report or if complaints arose about selective omission of evidence. [For the “trap door” memo, click here.]
After the trap-door memo, more late-arriving evidence implicated the Reagan campaign, but that material was either shoved aside or misrepresented in the final report.
For instance, a detailed letter from former Iranian president Abolhassan Bani-Sadr – dated Dec. 17, 1992, and describing his first-hand account of internal battles with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini over whether to conspire with the Republicans – was dismissed as “hearsay” that lacked probative value.
The next day, Dec. 18, 1992, David Andelman, the biographer of French intelligence chief Alexandre deMarenches, gave sworn testimony about what deMarenches had confided to him about the Republican-Iranian contacts.
Andelman, an ex-New York Times and CBS News correspondent, said that while he was working on deMarenches’s autobiography, the arch-conservative spymaster admitted arranging meetings between Republicans and Iranians about the hostage issue in the summer and fall of 1980, with one meeting held in Paris in October.
Andelman said deMarenches ordered that the secret meetings be kept out of his memoirs because the story could otherwise damage the reputations of his friends, William Casey and George H.W. Bush. Andelman’s testimony corroborated longstanding claims from a variety of international intelligence operatives about a Paris meeting involving Casey and Bush.
But the task force report brushed this testimony aside, too, paradoxically terming it “credible” but then claiming it was “insufficiently probative.” The report argued that Andelman could not “rule out the possibility that deMarenches had told him he was aware of and involved in the Casey meetings because he, deMarenches, could not risk telling his biographer he had no knowledge of these allegations.”
More Corroboration
Yet, besides corroborative testimony from intelligence operatives, such as Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe and several members of French intelligence, Barcella also was aware of a contemporaneous account of the alleged Bush-to-Paris trip by Chicago Tribune reporter John Maclean.
Maclean, the son of author Norman Maclean who wrote A River Runs Through It, had said a well-placed Republican source told him in mid-October 1980 about Bush’s secret trip to Paris to meet with Iranians on the hostage issue.
That evening, Maclean passed on the information to David Henderson, a State Department Foreign Service officer who later recalled the date as Oct. 18, 1980. At the time, Maclean didn’t write about the Bush-to-Paris leak because, he told me, a Reagan-Bush campaign spokesman subsequently denied it and Maclean didn’t have additional corroboration at that time.
The Maclean-Henderson recollection only bubbled to the surface in the early 1990s when the October Surprise investigation began. Henderson mentioned the meeting in a 1991 letter to a U.S. senator that was forwarded to me while I was working for PBS Frontline. In the letter, Henderson recalled the conversation about Bush’s trip to Paris but not the name of the reporter.
A Frontline producer searched some newspaper archives to find a story about Henderson as a way to identify Maclean as the journalist who had interviewed Henderson. Though not eager to become part of the October Surprise story in 1991, Maclean confirmed that he had received the Republican leak on or about Oct. 18, 1980, precisely the time frame when Bush was alleged to have made a quick trip to Paris.
Despite the mounting evidence that the Republicans indeed had made secret contacts with Iranians in 1980, the task force kept refusing to rethink its conclusions. Instead, to debunk the October Surprise suspicions, the task force relied on supposed alibis for Casey and Bush, but the investigators knew how shaky the alibis were.
The alibis included the one about Reagan’s foreign policy adviser Richard Allen writing down Casey’s home phone number, which was interpreted as solid evidence that Casey must have been at home, even though Allen had no recollection of calling Casey and no record of any call. Other alibis were equally false or flimsy. [See’s “The Crazy October Surprise Debunking.”]
Barcella’s Game
Now, with Barcella’s claim that he urged Hamilton to extend the investigation so the late-arriving evidence could be thoroughly vetted, the former chief counsel seems to be playing a double game, acknowledging that he was concerned about the fragility of the report’s conclusions while still insisting that the debunking was airtight.
The fact that Barcella and Hamilton now differ on the question of whether Barcella requested an extension – and their apparent agreement that Barcella never showed the Russian report to Hamilton – suggests that Barcella may have decided to sink the October Surprise suspicions for his own reasons.
That also might explain Barcella’s touchiness over the case being brought back up again.
Barcella always seemed to be an odd choice for chief counsel, although he volunteered for the October Surprise job in 1991 and at the time had a reputation as a tough prosecutor because of his work in the 1980s capturing “rogue” CIA operative Edwin Wilson, who was subsequently convicted of selling explosives and other military items to Libya.
However, Barcella had apparent conflicts of interest, including a friendship with neoconservative operative Michael Ledeen, who had been a key figure in the Iran-Contra scandal and was linked as well to the October Surprise case.
For instance, an early draft of the task force report had identified Ledeen and another prominent neocon Richard Perle as participating in meetings of the Reagan campaign’s “October Surprise Group,” though “they were not considered ‘members.’”
The campaign’s “October Surprise Group” was assigned the task of preparing for “any last-minute foreign policy or defense-related event, including the release of the hostages, that might favorably impact President Carter in the November election,” the draft report said.
The draft also mentioned a Sept. 16, 1980, meeting on something called the “Persian Gulf Project” involving senior campaign officials, including William Casey and Richard Allen. According to the draft and Allen’s notes, Ledeen also participated in that meeting.
However, both references to Ledeen were removed from the task force’s final report, apparently after Ledeen spoke with his friend Barcella. [To read portions of the draft report, click here.]
“Yes, I believe I spoke to Larry Barcella about the October Surprise investigation,” Ledeen told me in an e-mail exchange last year. “And I undoubtedly told him what I have always said, namely that, to the best of my knowledge, the October Surprise theory is nonsense.”
The Barcella-Ledeen relationship dates back several decades when Barcella sold a house to Ledeen and the two aspiring Washington professionals shared a housekeeper. According to Peter Maas’s book Manhunt about Barcella’s work as a prosecutor on the Wilson case, Ledeen approached Barcella regarding the investigation in 1982.
Ledeen, then a State Department consultant on terrorism, was concerned that two of his associates, former CIA officer Ted Shackley and Pentagon official Erich von Marbod, had come under suspicion in the Wilson case.
“I told Larry that I can’t imagine that Shackley [or von Marbod] would be involved in what you are investigating,” Ledeen told me in an interview years later. “I wasn’t trying to influence what he [Barcella] was doing. This is a community in which people help friends understand things.”
Barcella also saw nothing wrong with the out-of-channel approach.
“He wasn’t telling me to back off,” Barcella told me. “He just wanted to add his two-cents worth.” Barcella said the approach was appropriate because Ledeen “wasn’t asking me to do something or not do something.” However, Shackley and von Marbod were dropped from the Wilson investigation.
Ledeen’s associate, Shackley, also had a connection to the October Surprise case in 1980, having worked with then-vice presidential candidate George H.W. Bush on the Iran hostage issue. [For more on Shackley’s role in the October Surprise case, see Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege. To reach a document on Shackley’s October Surprise work with Bush, click here.]
The Collapsing Case on Wilson
Barcella’s golden reputation from the Wilson conviction also has been tarnished in recent years. In 2003, an irate federal judge threw out Wilson’s Libya conviction after learning that the U.S. government had lied in a key affidavit which denied that Wilson was in contact with the CIA regarding his work with the Libyans.
The government’s false affidavit, which disputed Wilson’s defense claim that he had been cooperating with the CIA, was read twice to the jury before it returned the guilty verdict in 1983. Jury foreman Wally Sisk has said that without the government’s affidavit, the jury would not have convicted Wilson.
“That would have taken away the whole case of the prosecution,” Sisk said.
The discovery of this prosecutorial abuse – after Wilson had been imprisoned for two decades – led U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes to vacate Wilson’s conviction for selling military items to Libya.
“There were, in fact, over 80 contacts, including actions parallel to those in the charges,” Hughes wrote in his decision. “The government discussed among dozens of its officials and lawyers whether to correct the testimony. No correction was made,” until Wilson managed to pry loose an internal memo describing the false affidavit and revealing the debate among government officials about whether to correct it.
In an interview with ABC’s “Nightline,” Wilson called Barcella and another prosecutor “evil” for their role in the deception. “Once they got me convicted, then they had to cover this thing up constantly,” Wilson said. “They wanted to make sure that I would never get out of prison.”
Barcella, who was the supervising prosecutor in the Wilson case, has said he doesn’t recall seeing the affidavit before it was introduced and has denied any impropriety afterwards, when other government officials challenged the affidavit’s accuracy.
While the Wilson reversal dimmed Barcella’s standing, Hamilton’s reputation remains glittering, at least as far as Official Washington is concerned.
After retiring from Congress in 1999, he became president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Considered a Washington Wise Man by many, he has served on blue-ribbon panels in recent years, including the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group.
Now, the question is whether Hamilton will insist that his task force’s certainty regarding its October Surprise debunking be reconsidered in light of the new evidence – or whether he’ll assume that it’s smarter to keep quiet and trust that Washington’s misguided conventional wisdom will continue to hold.
[For more on this topic, see’s “How Two Elections Changed America” or Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
[Duplicate Deleted...]
A new article from Robert Parry about the October Surprise:

I love this quote:
Perhaps the closest the public can expect of a CIA admission came from Miles Copeland in that 1990 interview with me and in his memoir, The Game Player, with his references to the "CIA within the CIA."
Copeland told me that "the way we saw Washington at that time was that the struggle was really not between the Left and the Right, the liberals and the conservatives, as between the Utopians and the realists, the pragmatists.
"Carter was a Utopian. He believed, honestly, that you must do the right thing and take your chance on the consequences. He told me that. He literally believed that." Copeland's deep Southern accent spit out the words with a mixture of amazement and disgust.
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