Robert Michael Gates was born on 25th September, 1943 in Wichita, Kansas. While studying at the College of William and Mary he was active in the Young Republicans. He was also the business manager for the William and Mary Review, a literary and art magazine. He graduated in 1965 and the following year he obtained a degree in history from Indiana University. Later he obtained a Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.
Gates joined the Central Intelligence Agency while at university. However, before taking up his post he spent two years in the United States Air Force. This included a spell in Vietnam. Afterwards he worked for the CIA as an intelligence analyst.
During the 1980 presidential election campaign Ronald Reagan was informed that Jimmy Carter was attempting to negotiate a deal with Iran to get the American hostages released. Robert Parry has argued that Gates was the source of this leak to Reagan. "We now have a lot of documents. We have some records from that period. We have statements from former Iranian officials, including the former Iranian president, Banisadr, the former defense minister, the former foreign minister, all of whom saying that they had these dealings with the Republicans behind the scenes. So, as we went back through that, the evidence built up that there had been these earlier contacts and that Bob Gates was one of the people involved in them."
Jimmy Carter's secret negotiations posed a serious problem for the Reagan campaign. If Carter got the hostages out before the election, the public perception of the man might change and he might be elected for a second-term. As Michael Deaver later told the New York Times: "One of the things we had concluded early on was that a Reagan victory would be nearly impossible if the hostages were released before the election... There is no doubt in my mind that the euphoria of a hostage release would have rolled over the land like a tidal wave. Carter would have been a hero, and many of the complaints against him forgotten. He would have won."
According to Barbara Honegger, a researcher and policy analyst with the 1980 Reagan/Bush campaign, William J. Casey and other representatives of the Reagan presidential campaign made a deal at two sets of meetings in July and 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. Reagan’s aides promised that they would get a better deal if they waited until Carter was defeated.
On 22nd September, 1980, Iraq invaded Iran. The Iranian government was now in desperate need of spare parts and equipment for its armed forces. Jimmy Carter proposed that the US would be willing to hand over supplies in return for the hostages.
Once again, the Central Intelligence Agency leaked this information to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. This attempted deal was also passed to the media. On 11th October, the Washington Post reported rumors of a “secret deal that would see the hostages released in exchange for the American made military spare parts Iran needs to continue its fight against Iraq”.
A couple of days before the election Barry Goldwater was reported as saying that he had information that “two air force C-5 transports were being loaded with spare parts for Iran”. This was not true. However, this publicity had made it impossible for Carter to do a deal. Ronald Reagan on the other hand, had promised the Iranian government that he would arrange for them to get all the arms they needed in exchange for the hostages.
In the election Reagan easily defeated Jimmy Carter by 44 million votes to 35 million. The Republican Party also won control of the Senate for the first time in 26 years. According to Mansur Rafizadeh, the former U.S. station chief of SAVAK, the Iranian secret police, CIA agents had persuaded Khomeini not to release the American hostages until Reagan was sworn in. In fact, they were released twenty minutes after his inaugural address.
Reagan appointed William J. Casey as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In this position he was able to arrange the delivery of arms to Iran. These were delivered via Israel. By the end of 1982 all Regan’s promises to Iran had been made. With the deal completed, Iran was free to resort to acts of terrorism against the United States. In 1983, Iranian-backed terrorists blew up 241 marines in the CIA Middle-East headquarters.
In 1982 Gates was appointed Deputy Director for Intelligence. Four years later he was promoted to the post of Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, under William J. Casey. In May 1986 Gene Wheaton told Casey about what he knew about the Iran-Contra operation. Casey refused to take any action, claiming that the agency or the government were not involved in what later became known as Irangate.
Gene Wheaton now took his story to Daniel Sheehan, a left-wing lawyer. Wheaton also contacted Newt Royce and Mike Acoca, two journalists based in Washington. The first article on this scandal appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on 27th July, 1986. As a result of this story, Congressman Dante Facell wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger, asking him if it "true that foreign money, kickback money on programs, was being used to fund foreign covert operations." Two months later, Weinberger denied that the government knew about this illegal operation.
Charles E. Allen, a national intelligence officer for counter-terrorism, went to see Robert Gates on 1st October, 1986, and told him that he believed that the proceeds from the Iran arms sales may have been diverted to support the contras. Gates then passed this information onto Casey.
On 5th October a Sandinista patrol in Nicaragua shot down a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras. Eugene Hasenfus, an Air America veteran, survived the crash and told his captors that he thought the CIA was behind the operation. Two days later, Roy M. Furmark, who was working for Adnan Khashoggi, told Casey that his boss was owed $10 million for his role played in the arms-hostages deal. Furmark also claimed that the man behind the deal was Oliver North.
On 9th October, Robert Gates and William J. Casey had lunch with Oliver North. It seems that the CIA wanted to see the paperwork for the delivery of arms to Iran. Gates told North: "If you think it's that sensitive we can put it in the director's personal safe. But we need our copy." That afternoon, Casey appeared before two Congressional oversight committees, where he maintained that the CIA had nothing to do with the supplying of contras.
On 15th October, leaflets were given out in Tehran stating that high-ranking advisers to President Ronald Reagan had been visiting Iran the previous month to negotiate a deal to release hostages for arms. Two days later, Charles E. Allen provided Casey with a seven-page assessment of the "arms-hostage machinations". Allen wrote: "The government of the United States, along with the government of Israel, acquired substantial profit from these transactions, some of which profit was redistributed to other projects of the U.S. and of Israel."
Meanwhile, Eugene Hasenfus was providing information to his captors on two Cuban-Americans running the operation in El Salvador. This information was made public and it was not long before journalists managed to identify Raphael Quintero and Felix Rodriguez as the two men described by Hasenfus.
At the beginning of November, newspapers in the United States began running stories about the Iran-Contra conspiracy. On 6th November, President Ronald Reagan told reporters that the story that Robert McFarlane had been negotiating an arms for hostages deal "has no foundation". He also argued that he would not carry out talks with Iran as its government was part of "a new international version of Murder Incorporated".
On 21st November, William J. Casey appeared again before the House Select Committee on Intelligence (HSCI). By this time it was public knowledge about the arms-hostages deal. Casey was asked who was responsible for what one committee member described as this "misguided policy". Casey replied: "I think it was the President". Casey also claimed that this was a National Security Council operation. As Bernard McMahon pointed out, "we came out believing the CIA had acted only in a support role at the direction of the White House".
The following day, two investigators working for Attorney General Edwin Meese, discovered important documents while searching Oliver North's office. These documents revealed that the profits on the Iranian arms deals amounted to $16.1 million. However, the Contras had only received $4 million and at least another $12.1 million had gone missing. It was later established that Richard Secord and his partners had taken at least $6.6 million in profits and commissions.
William J. Casey was now summoned to appear before the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. On Monday 8th December, he was questioned about the possibility of Iranian payments being diverted to Afghanistan. Two days later he appeared before the House Foreign Relations Committee (HFRC). He was questioned about when he first knew that money was being diverted from the profits of the hostage-arms deals. Casey claimed that he first heard about it from Edwin Meese. Members of the HFRC pointed out that Roy M. Furmark had already testified that he told casey about the deal as early as the 7th October. Casey was questioned for five and a half hours. One member said that "questioning Bill Casey was like punching a pillow". Another claimed: "He didn't seem to know what was going on in his own agency."
The following day Casey appeared before the House Select Committee on Intelligence (HSCI). Alan Fiers, a colleague at the CIA who also attended the session, remarked: He stumbled and fumbled. at times it seemed he couldn't talk. He had to be carried. He'd start to answer and wave to one of us to take over when his words or his facts failed him."
William J. Casey was due to appear before the HSCI on 16th December. The day before, CIA physician, Dr. Arvel Tharp went to visit Casey in his office. According to Tharp, while he was being examined, Casey suffered a seizure. He was taken to Georgetown University Hospital and was not able to appear before the HSCI. Tharp told Casey he had a brain tumor and that he would have to endure an operation. Casey was not keen and asked if he could have radio therapy instead. However, Tharp was insistent that he needed surgery.
Casey entered the operating room on 18th December. The tumor was removed but during the operation, brain cells were damaged and Casey lost his ability to speak. As his biographer, Joseph E. Persico, points out (The Lives and Secrets of William J. Casey): "one school of rumors ran, the CIA or the NSC or the White House had arranged to have a piece of the brain removed from the man who knew the secrets".
Robert Gates now became acting director of the CIA. He claimed that he was not involved in the Iran-Contra operation. In 1987 President Ronald Reagan nominated Gates to become the Director of the CIA. However, he was forced to withdraw when it became clear that he was going to be rejected by the Senate. This was partly because most members believed he lied about his involvement in the Iran-Contra Scandal. Gates was also suspected of passing intelligence to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.
In his final report Walsh suggested that Gates did not tell the truth when he said he only became aware on the "Iran/Contra activities" when he was told about it on 1st October, 1986, by Charles E. Allen. According to DDI Richard J. Kerr, Gates received a report that "Iran arms sales may have been diverted to support the contras" during the summer of 1986. Allen also testified that he believed he sent a memorandum to Gates several months before about the money that Oliver North needed to pay Manucher Ghorbanifar.
In his report Lawrence E. Walsh remarked: "Accordingly, the evidence was clear that Gates's statements concerning his initial awareness of the diversion were wrong: Kerr brought him the information from Allen over a month earlier than Gates admitted. This would have been material because it suggested that the CIA continued to support North's activities without informing North's superiors or investigating..... Gates's defense was that he did not recall the Kerr meeting. To say the least, this was disquieting." However, Walsh came to the conclusion that there was not enough evidence to warrant a prosecution of Gates.
Robert Gates remained as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence until 20th March, 1989, when he became Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from March until August of 1989, and was Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser from August 1989 until November 1991.
President George H. W. Bush nominated Gates as Director of Central Intelligence on 14th May, 1991. Three of his colleagues in the CIA testified against Gates. Melvin Goodman, recently explained his reasons for taking this action: "Bob Gates, over the period of the 1980s, as a deputy for Intelligence and then as a deputy to CIA director Bill Casey, was politicizing intelligence. He was spinning intelligence on all of the major issues of the day, on the Soviet Union, on Central America, on the Middle East, on Southwest Asia. And I thought this record, this charge, should be presented before the Senate Intelligence Committee."
In an article published in July, 1991, Walter Pincus called for the Senate to approve Bush's nomination of Gates as director of the CIA. This time he was confirmed but he attracted 31 negative votes, more than all of the votes against all of the CIA directors in history. He served until 1993.
In 1992, Pincus falsely claimed that "special prosecutors have told former Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger that he might face indictment on felony charges in the Iran-Contra scandal, unless he provided them with evidence they believe he has against former President Reagan... The dramatic attempt to get a former cabinet officer to turn on his commander-in-chief occurred a few days ago as Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh tried to conclude his five and one-half year investigation of the affair."
A few days later Pincus wrote that Lawrence E. Walsh was considering indicting Ronald Reagan. This was again untrue and Walsh argues in his book, Firewall, that Bush was using Pincus to spread disinformation on the investigation. As Walsh pointed out: "Of all the sideswipes that we suffered during this period, the false report that we were considering indicting the nation's still-admired former president hurt us the most."
Walsh was attacked by the right-wing media of carrying out the "biggest witch hunt in America since Salem". The leader of the Republican Party in the Senate, Bob Dole, made a speech where he called on Walsh to close down the investigation. He criticized Walsh's "inability to understand the simple fact that it is time to leave Iran-Contra to the history books".
This time he was confirmed but he attracted 31 negative votes, more than all of the votes against all of the CIA directors in history. He served until 1993.
After retiring from the CIA Gates worked as an academic and lecturer. He published his memoirs, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, in 1996. Gates also served as president of Texas A&M University and in March 2006 he joined the the Iraq Study Group.
On 8th November, 2006, President George W. Bush nominated Robert Gates as his new United States Secretary of Defense. When he heard the news, Melvin Goodman commented: "I think there is a rather delicious irony in the fact that here is a nation that went to war with politicized intelligence, and now it’s naming as a CIA director someone who was the most important practitioner of politicized intelligence in the history of the CIA. So, as Yogi Berra would have said, “This is deja-vu all over again.”
Gates was an early subject of Independent Counsel's investigation, but the investigation of Gates intensified in the spring of 1991 as part of a larger inquiry into the Iran/contra activities of CIA officials. This investigation received an additional impetus in May 1991, when President Bush nominated Gates to be director of central intelligence (DCI). The chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) requested in a letter to the Independent Counsel on May 15, 1991, any information that would "significantly bear on the fitness'' of Gates for the CIA post.
Grand Jury secrecy rules hampered Independent Counsel's response. Nevertheless, in order to answer questions about Gates' prior testimony, Independent Counsel accelerated his investigation of Gates in the summer of 1991. This investigation was substantially completed by September 3, 1991, at which time Independent Counsel determined that Gates' Iran/contra activities and testimony did not warrant prosecution.
Independent Counsel made this decision subject to developments that could have warranted reopening his inquiry, including testimony by Clair E. George, the CIA's former deputy director for operations. At the time Independent Counsel reached this decision, the possibility remained that George could have provided information warranting reconsideration of Gates's status in the investigation. George refused to cooperate with Independent Counsel and was indicted on September 19, 1991. George subpoenaed Gates to testify as a defense witness at George's first trial in the summer of 1992, but Gates was never called.
Gates consistently testified that he first heard on October 1, 1986, from the national intelligence officer who was closest to the Iran initiative, Charles E. Allen, that proceeds from the Iran arms sales may have been diverted to support the contras. Other evidence proves, however, that Gates received a report on the diversion during the summer of 1986 from DDI Richard Kerr. The issue was whether Independent Counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates was deliberately not telling the truth when he later claimed not to have remembered any reference to the diversion before meeting with Allen in October.
Allen did not personally convey to Gates his concerns about the diversion until October 1, 1986. Allen testified, however, that he became worried during the summer of 1986 that the Iran initiative would be derailed by a pricing impasse that developed after former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane failed in his attempt to secure release of the hostages during his trip to Tehran in May 1986. Lt. Col. Oliver L. North of the NSC staff had inflated the price to the Iranians for HAWK missile spare parts that were to be delivered at the Tehran meeting by a multiple of 3.7. Manucher Ghorbanifar, who brokered the parts sale, added a 41% markup to North's price of $15 million. With another increase added by Ghorbanifar during the Tehran meeting, the Iranians were charged a total of $24.5 million for HAWK spare parts priced by the Defense Department at $3.6 million.
Allen believed, however, that he sent a memorandum to Gates discussing, among other things, how much money North needed to pay Manucher Ghorbanifar from the Iran initiative. (Memorandum from Allen to the DCI, Subject: American Hostages, 11/10/86, ER 19739; Allen, Grand Jury, 1/4/88, pp. 19-21.) Independent Counsel was unable to corroborate Allen's testimony.
In late June 1986, Mohsen Kangarlu, Ghorbanifar's channel to the Iranian government, informed the CIA through Agency annuitant George Cave that the Iranians had evidence that they were being drastically overcharged for HAWK missile spare parts. Kangarlu asked the Americans to lower the price. Led by North, the Americans first attempted to blame Ghorbanifar for the overcharges. When blaming Ghorbanifar failed to break the impasse in U.S.-Iran talks, North sought to convince the Iranians that the pricing was fair, and attempted to provide the Iranians with falsified pricing documents.
A frightened and angry Ghorbanifar finally called Allen in late August 1986 to complain that the situation had become unbearable. He told Allen that he had borrowed $15 million to finance the HAWK parts transactions, and that he was now being pursued by his creditors for repayment. Ghorbanifar insisted that it was not his markup, but the U.S. Government's, that was responsible for the pricing impasse. Ghorbanifar then pleaded with Allen to do something to resolve the issue. Allen told Ghorbanifar that he would bring the matter to North's attention.
By this time, Allen had concluded that something was deeply wrong with the Iran initiative. Allen related his concerns to Cave, Duane R. Clarridge, a senior officer in the CIA's Directorate of Operations, and North. North told Allen not to believe Ghorbanifar because he was a liar. Instead, North insisted that Allen stick to the story that gathering the HAWK spares was expensive and to not break ranks with other U.S. officials on the pricing cover story.
I had begun to think along those lines, after the 15th of August 1986, when it was clear that with White House support, Major General Secord and Mr. Hakim had established a new link or a new channel into the government of Iran. It was clear that they were dealing with Hashem Rafsanjani, Ali Hashem Rafsanjani, who was a nephew, I believe, of the current President Rafsanjani.
It was clear to me that Mr. Hakim and Major General Secord were moving to take over the control of the operation; that they were moving to exclude Mr. Ghorbanifar - that was very clear. I was very much aware that Mr. Hakim by that time and Mr. Secord were involved in other matters, relating to the contras in Central America.
It appeared to me that Mr. Ghorbanifar's call was sort of the final indicator that something was deeply awry -- that the problem was not Mr. Ghorbanifar; the problem was the operation being directed by U.S. officials. And I then came to the analytic judgment - based on all these indications that money was being diverted from the profits from the sale of arms to Iran to the contras in Central America.
I did not have hard proof of this. In fact, I had no direct evidence in writing from anyone. It was simply aggregating a series of indicators into a conclusion. And at that point it was at that time or shortly thereafter, I recall walking out from the building to my car late in the evening and thinking very deeply about this -- thinking of the fact that two operations were probably being combined - that the lives of the hostages were being actually endangered by such a reckless venture; and I raised the point with Mr. Cave at the office....
Having received no satisfaction from North or Clarridge, Allen brought his concerns to Richard Kerr, who was DDI and Allen's immediate superior. Kerr's deputy, John Helgerson, joined their meeting. Allen testified:
I went through what was occurring. I brought Mr. Kerr up to date on the initiative. I met with him occasionally to brief him orally on the White House effort and the Agency support. He had asked to be kept informed when I had something useful to say, so I worked my way through the current problem -- the fact that after the failure of the McFarlane trip to Tehran, there had been a hiatus and efforts had been made to move this process along; but the Iranians had begun to complain very strongly about the price being charged.
Then I went through the rationale of why I believed that the United States was charging excessive costs to the Iranian government for the arms and that profits from the sale of the arms were being diverted to Central America.
I made it clear I did not have direct evidence, but that when you put the indicators together, it sounded as if two separate problems or projects were being mixed together. And I pointed out to him that it made no sense to me and in fact could endanger the hostages in Lebanon.
Allen believed he also told Kerr and Helgerson that retired U.S. Air Force Major General Richard V. Secord and Albert Hakim were involved in both the Iran arms sales and the NSC's contra project. Allen related the markups alleged by Ghorbanifar, and described intelligence reports that indicated that the Iranians were upset by the high prices.
Allen testified that this information made Kerr visibly upset. Kerr told Allen to "stay on top of the issue'' and to "keep him advised of any new developments.'' According to Allen, Kerr pulled him aside later that same day and expressed "deep concern.'' Kerr believed that if Allen's story were true, the arms sales ultimately would be exposed.
In various interviews, Kerr admitted Allen told him of his suspicions. Kerr also corroborated Allen that Helgerson was present at the meeting. Kerr's account of his reaction to Allen's information, however, differed from Allen's. Kerr said that, as a general matter, he did not find Allen credible - that Allen was a person who started and put out his own fires'' - and therefore he did not take his allegations as seriously as Allen said he did. Kerr had Helgerson there, he stated, to calm Allen down.
Still, Kerr admitted that he took Allen's concerns seriously enough to bring them to Gates, who was Kerr's immediate superior. Kerr acknowledged this meeting in two interviews with the CIA's inspector general, and in an interview with the Select Committees. Kerr stated that he did not remember when this meeting took place, dating it some time between May and September 1986. In an interview with the inspector general on December 4, 1986, Kerr stated that Gates's response was, ``God only knows what Ollie is up to.'' A memorandum for the record written by a CIA attorney reporting Kerr's interview with the Select Committees recites that Kerr testified that when he informed Gates of Allen's concerns, ``Gates responded that he was aware that rumors were circulating that profits were being made on the sales of arms to Iran and that money from the arms sales was being made available to the Contras.''
Gates's calendar shows frequent meetings with Kerr in late August 1986, but this is inconclusive evidence of when the meeting occurred. Dating the meeting is made even harder by the close working and personal relationship between Kerr and Gates. According to Diane Edwards, Gates's secretary, Kerr was in regular contact with Gates and was among a handful of people who would see Gates without an appointment.
Kerr told Independent Counsel that he did not recall Gates referring to other rumors of a diversion at this meeting. The Select Committees' report of the interview did not contain the statement that Gates was aware of "rumors'' of a diversion, but it did state that Gates told Kerr to "keep him informed.'' Accordingly, the evidence was clear that Gates's statements concerning his initial awareness of the diversion were wrong: Kerr brought him the information from Allen over a month earlier than Gates admitted. This would have been material because it suggested that the CIA continued to support North's activities without informing North's superiors or investigating. By October, when Gates claimed he first remembered hearing of the diversion, Casey ordered an inquiry and later made a report to Poindexter; but, by then, the Hasenfus aircraft had been shot down and Casey and Gates were beginning to cover.
Gates's defense was that he did not recall the Kerr meeting. To say the least, this was disquieting. He had been told by a very senior officer that two of President Reagan's personal priorities were in danger - not something an ambitious deputy director of central intelligence would likely forget. Allen was acting as a whistle-blower in a difficult situation. His concern was for the safety of the hostages and the success of the efforts of the President. His information suggested serious malfeasance by Government officials involved in a clandestine and highly sensitive operation. Even though Gates may have believed Allen to be excessively concerned, could such an expression of concern be forgotten, particularly after it had been corroborated within a few weeks? Logically, Gates could ignore or forget the Allen report only if he already knew of the diversion and he knew that Casey and Poindexter knew of the diversion. Gates also was on the distribution list for highly reliable intelligence that should have informed him of the pricing dispute among Kangarlu, Ghorbanifar, and the U.S. Government, although it did not refer specifically to any diversion of funds. Gates claimed that he rarely reviewed the intelligence.16 North testified that he did not discuss the diversion with Gates or in Gates's presence. Gates also never met with Richard Secord, whom Gates was aware of only as a "private benefactor'' (the CIA's term for non-Government donors to the contras) by July 1986.
In testimony he gave before the Select Committees' report was issued, Gates made no reference to a meeting with Kerr. In two later Grand Jury appearances, however, Gates acknowledged the conflict between his recollection of events and Kerr's, but he insisted that he did not recall the meeting.
Notwithstanding Independent Counsel's disbelief of Gates, Independent Counsel was not confident that Kerr's testimony, without the support of another witness to his conversation with Gates, would be enough to charge Gates with perjury or false statements for his testimony concerning the timing of his knowledge of the diversion.
Gates maintained consistently that he was unaware that North had an operational role in supporting the contras. He testified that he believed that North's activities were limited to putting contra leaders in contact with wealthy American donors, and to giving the contras political advice.18 While sufficient circumstantial evidence exists to question the accuracy of these statements, it did not adequately establish that Gates knowingly was untruthful about his knowledge of North's activities...
Independent Counsel found insufficient evidence to warrant charging Robert Gates with a crime for his role in the Iran/contra affair. Like those of many other Iran/contra figures, the statements of Gates often seemed scripted and less than candid. Nevertheless, given the complex nature of the activities and Gates's apparent lack of direct participation, a jury could find the evidence left a reasonable doubt that Gates either obstructed official inquiries or that his two demonstrably incorrect statements were deliberate lies.
Dear Mr. Lee G. Hamilton:
With excuses for the lengthy preparation of the response to your appeal, I am sending you the material in our possession which, as we hope, may help you in your work.
Secretary of the Committee, People's Deputy of the RF N. Kuznetsov
On the supply of American arms to Iran according to available information, the Chairman of the R. Reagan election campaign, William Casey, in 1980 met three times with representatives of the Iranian leadership, in particular with the arms dealers Djamshed and Kurosh Hashemi. The meetings took place in Madrid and Paris. At the meeting in Paris in October 1980, in addition to Casey, R. Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration for Jimmy Carter and former CIA Director George Bush also took part.
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, taken hostage by Iranian "students" and members of the "Corps of Defense of the Islamic Revolution" on 4 November 1979 until after the elections that took place in November 1980. In exchange for this, the American representatives promised to supply arms to Iran. This was asserted, in particular, by a former Israeli intelligence agent, Ari Ben-Menash, a Jew born in Iran and arrested in 1989 in the U.S. for supplying arms to Iran (arrested in California on charges of exporting contraband C-130 aircraft from the U.S. to Iran and who was in prison for 11 months and then freed). According to his calculation, the total value of the arms illegally delivered to Iran reached 82 billion dollars.
Data on attempts by the R. Reagan team to temporarily block the release of American hostages in Teheran are also contained in official statements of several Iranian figures, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Gotb-Zade in September 1980.
As terms for the release of the hostages Iran at that time proposed the unblocking of Iranian accounts in the USA, the return of the funds of the Shah and his family, the lifting of the economic blockade of Iran and the end of the embargo on supplies to Iran of spare parts for previously purchased American arms.
On the other hand, there has also appeared evidence that in 1980 there also took place negotiations between representatives of the Carter administration and the Iranian leadership, in the course of which the question of secret supplies to Iran of American arms and spare parts, the release of the American hostages and the unblocking of Iranian accounts was discussed. Thus, in July 1980 in the city of Athens, a delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) including Deputy Defense Minister Farivara, General Faroh-Zade, Colonel Veisi, Foreign Minister representative Etminana met with representatives of the Pentagon. An agreement in principle was reached on the supply of arms and spare parts for American weapons in Iran's possession.
In July 1980 in Athens, representatives of Washington and Teheran discussed a possible step-by-step normalization of Iranian-American relations, the provision of support for President Carter in the election campaign via the release of American hostages.
In accord with Athens agreement, in October 1980 a significant quantity of spare parts for F-4 and F-5 aircraft and also M-60 tanks were sent to Iran via Turkey. The Democrats, like the Republicans, started from the proposition that Imam Homeini, 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.
Military experts noted that, immediately after Islamic revolution in Iran, the government was faced with a sharp deficit of arms, spares, and military supplies with which to cut down the uprising of Iranian Kurds and carry out the war with Iraq that began in September 1980. The Iranian army in this period was based on Western, mostly American and British, arms, and the Air Force was totally equipped with U.S. planes.
The need for immediate supplies of arms and military equipment was also explained by the fact that after the revolution in Iran large orders for weapons deliveries to Iran of a total value of about 10.5 billion dollars were annulled.
In accord with the evaluation of sources in military circles, supplies of spare parts and military supplies from the U.S. through Israel which began in 1980 allowed the Iranian Air Force to carry out combat activities.
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 organization of the deliveries was undertaken by Colonel of the General Staff of the IRI Domkan, and "Mossad" Colonel Yakus Marvidi. The latter played his part as the owner of a private firm buying arms of American production on the black market.
In March-April 1981, planes carried from Israel to Iran spares for the F-14 fighter and other military equipment. Through the Israeli conduit, Iran in 1983 bought surface-to-surface missiles of the "Lance" class plus artillery of a total value of 135 million dollars.
In July 1983 a group of specialists from the firm "Lockheed" went to Iran on English passports to repair the navigation systems and other electronic components on American-produced planes.
In 1985, supplies of arms from the U.S. to Iran via Israel took on a large-scale character. The arms were sent by planes and ships. 200 "Hawk" anti-aircraft missile systems and 2,000 "Tow" anti-tank missiles were sold to Iran. According to subsequent information, the Tow and Hawk missiles allowed the Iranian army to oppose the numerically superior tank units and air force of Iraq.
Then, just as we thought the CIA was being less obstructive, Acting Director Robert Gates ordered the agency's inspector general to conduct an internal investigation of CIA officials. No longer would we be able to question CIA witnesses while they were fresh. They would already have run their stories by the inspector general. The CIA high command-Gates and his director of operations, Clair George-would learn where the agency was vulnerable before we had a chance to uncover the truth.
I felt frustrated. I might represent the government of the United States, but I had no control over my client. I doubted that a court could or would prevent the agencies from intruding in my investigation. Even an honest management would understandably want to clean up its act without awaiting a criminal prosecution. The question was: Where should the priority be? Correction or prosecution? Cover-up or prosecution? If the correction could not be made without risking a cover-up, could not internal discipline have waited?
Matters had come to a head the day after Hasenfus's aircraft was shot down in Nicaragua. North had flown back from a meeting with the Iranians in Germany and had eaten lunch with Casey. Gates, whose office adjoined Casey's, claimed he had been in and out of the meeting and had heard North making cryptic remarks about Swiss bank accounts. Gates said that he had subsequently asked Casey about the remarks but that Casey had simply ignored his question.
In interviews by my staff, Gates professed not to remember having been warned by Kerr and Allen during the summer of 1986. The first warning he acknowledged having received had come on the day in October when he had told Allen to pass the information on to Casey. We did not believe Gates. It simply was not credible that the secondhighest officer of the CIA would forget a warning of an illegal activity linking President Reagan's two favorite programs. We decided against prosecuting Gates for making a false statement, however, because there had been only one witness to each of the conversations he claimed to have forgotten. Kerr and Allen had each been alone with Gates when they gave him the information, so we could not corroborate their testimony as to either incident.
Gates's problems epitomized those of the administration. At a time when negotiations with the Soviets for arms control were especially promising, Gates was perhaps our most accomplished intelligence analyst on Soviet matters. Reagan needed his help. The president nominated him to succeed Casey as director of central intelligence, but the Senate intelligence committee questioned the truthfulness of Gates's claim that he did not remember the early warnings of the diversion. He asked to have his nomination withdrawn. President Reagan then appointed Gates as his deputy national security advisor, a personal staff appointment that did not require Senate confirmation but kept Gates in a position to assist in dealing with the Soviets. FBI Director William Webster was then nominated to head the CIA. After Webster's nomination was confirmed, Richard Kerr became his deputy.
Special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh, a former US prosecutor and judge from Oklahoma City, a life-long Republican, began his investigation. In the probe that stretched through the rest of Reagan-time and the entire presidency of G.H.W Bush.
Walsh made his most effective headway by bringing charges for lying to Congress. This is how he nailed Elliott Abrams, Duane "Dewey" Clarridge, Alan Fiers, Clair George and Robert McFarlane . They all either pleaded guilty to what Libby was just indicted for, obstruction of justice and making false statements, or were convicted of same or, in the cases of Weinberger and Clarridge, were awaiting trial.
As Walsh plowed forward, those trying to protect Reagan and Bush included Stephen Hadley, a long-time Cheney sidekick now possibly in Fitzgerald's line of fire as the current president's national security advisor. In the Iran contra era Hadley was Counsel to the Special Review Board, known as the Tower Commission, established by President Reagan to enquire into U.S. arms sales to Iran, which headed off any unwelcome focus on Reagan or Bush's complicity in the scandal. Meanwhile in the House, Rep Richard Cheney was the ranking Republican on a House committee also investigating Iran-contra. He played a major role in stopping the probe from staining Bush or Reagan. (Libby himself had been working in the Pentagon ifrom 1982-85 as director of Special Projects.)
By the fall of 1992 Walsh was finally closing in on Bush for his role in contra-gate as Reagan's vice president. Days before the 1992 election Walsh reindicted Caspar Weinberger, Reagan's defense secretary, for lying to Congress. The trial was scheduled for January of 1993. Walsh was expected to grill Weinberger about notes that implicated Bush. In the line of fire here too was Colin Powell, who had been Weinberger's assistant in the crucial year of 1985. Walsh was also planning to question Bush his failure to turn over a diary he'd kept in the mid-1980s. We could have seen a former president indicted for obstruction of justice and making false statements.
The press was mostly against Walsh. There were plenty of nasty articles about the cost and duration of his probe. Bush felt politically safe covering his own ass and that of his co-conspirators by issuing pardons, which he duly did, on Christmas Eve, 1992. Off Walsh's hook slipped Weinberger, Abrams, Clarridge, St George, Fiers, and McFarlane. Walsh said furiously that "the Iran-contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed."
Will history come close to repeating itself? John Dean, White House counsel in Nixon time and knowledgeable about executive cover-ups, argues that Fitzgerald has Cheney in his sights, and may b ed planning to charging him under the Espionage Act for revealing Plame's name. Cheney's survival depends on Libby keeping his mouth shut, and of taking the fall until Christmas Eve, 2008, when Bush Jr.issues the necessary pardon or pardons.
Already in the wake of Libby's indictment the air has been thick with talk of pardons, as though it's now become a predictable ritual for incumbent presidents to clear their subordinates of indictments or convictions for crimes committed during government service. Fitzgerald should say that anyone seriously urging pardons may risk indictment for conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Such pardons go hand in hand with the lying which Fitzgerald denounced. If officials violating the law and then lying about it knows with certainty that they are going to escape legal sanction, then we no longer have a government. We have a sequence of criminal conspiracies. There have been scandalous pardons down the decades, but as with lying the Reagan years raised the bar.. It should become a major political issue. A model here could be Jonathan Pollard, sentenced to life in 1987 for spying for Israel. Bush Sr and Clinton were under huge pressure to pardon him but declined to buckle because the Armed Services simply said No, we won't stand for it. To the prospect of any pardon for Libby and others the popular message should be the same. Otherwise Fitzgerald will be wasting his time and the people's money.
I was amused to read in David Ignatius' Washington Post column this week that Gates "was the brightest Soviet analyst in the [CIA] shop, so Casey soon appointed him deputy director overseeing his fellow analysts." He wasn't; and Casey had something other than expertise in mind. Talk to anyone who was there at the time (except the sycophants Gates co-opted) and they will explain that Gates' meteoric career had mostly to do with his uncanny ability to see a Russian under every rock turned over by Casey. Those of Gates' subordinates willing to see two Russians became branch chiefs; three won you a division. I exaggerate only a little.
To Casey, the Communists could never change; and Gorbachev was simply cleverer than his predecessors. With his earlier training in our Soviet Foreign Policy branch (and a doctorate in Soviet affairs no less), Gates knew better. Yet he carried Casey's water, and stifled all dissent. One consequence was that the CIA as an institution missed the implosion of the Soviet Union-no small matter. Another was a complete loss of confidence in CIA analysis on the part of then-Secretary of State George Shultz and others who smelled the cooking. In July 1987 in the wake of the Iran-Contra affair, Shultz told Congress: "I had come to have grave doubts about the objectivity and reliability of some of the intelligence I was getting."
And well he might. In the fall of 1985, for example, there was an abrupt departure from CIA's analytical line that Iran was supporting terrorism. On November 22, 1985 the agency reported that Iranian-sponsored terrorism had dropped off substantially in 1985, but no evidence was adduced to support that key judgment. Oddly, a few months later CIA's analysis reverted back to the pre-November 1985 line, with no further mention of any drop-off in Iranian support for terrorism.
It could be more than coincidental that the US illegally shipped Hawk missiles to Iran in late November 1985. When questions were raised later about this zigzag in intelligence, Stephen Engelberg of the New York Times quoted senior CIA official Clair George saying this was "an example of a desperate attempt to try to sort of prove something was happening to make the policy [arms to Iran for hostages] look good, and it wasn't."
Also in 1985 Gates commissioned and warped a National Intelligence Estimate suggesting that Soviet influence in Iran could soon grow and pose a danger to US interests. This provided additional "justification" for the illegal arms-for-hostages deal with Iran.
More serious still was Gates' denial of awareness of Oliver North's illegal activities in support of the Contra attacks in Nicaragua, despite the fact that senior CIA officials testified that they had informed Gates that North had diverted funds from the Iranian arms sales for the benefit of the Contras. The independent counsel for the Iran-Contra investigation (1986-93), Lawrence Walsh, later wrote in frustration that, despite Gates' highly touted memory, he "denied recollection of facts thirty-three times."
In 1991, when President George H. W. Bush nominated Robert Gates for the post of Director of Central Intelligence, there was a virtual insurrection among CIA analysts who had suffered under his penchant for cooking intelligence. The stakes for integrity of analysis were so high that many still employed at the agency summoned the courage to testify against the nomination. But the fix was in, thanks to then-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, David Boren and his staff director, George Tenet. The issue was considered so important and the damaging evidence so abundant, however, that thirty-one Senators voted against Gates when the committee forwarded his nomination. Never before or since has a CIA director nominee received nearly as many nays.
A highly respected former CIA station chief, Tom Polgar, offered the following at the 1991 Gates nomination hearings:
"His proposed appointment as director also raises moral issues. What kind of signal does his re-nomination send to the troops? Live long enough, your sins will be forgotten? Serve faithfully the boss of the moment, never mind integrity? Feel free to mislead the Senate-Senators forget easily? Keep your mouth shut-if the Special Counsel does not get you, promotion will come your way?"
Gates is the one most responsible for institutionalizing the politicization of intelligence analysis. He set the example and promoted malleable managers more interested in career advancement than the ethos of speaking truth to power. In 2002, it was those managers who then-CIA Director George Tenet ordered to prepare what has become known as the "Whore of Babylon"-the October 1 National Intelligence Misestimate on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He instructed them to adhere to the guidelines set by Vice President Dick Cheney in his Aug. 26, 2002 preemptive speech and to complete it in three weeks (in order to force a congressional vote before the mid-term election). To their discredit, senior sycophants saluted and produced the most fraudulent-and consequential-NIE in the history of American intelligence.
Those commenting on the Gates nomination so far seem largely unaware of this history. The exception is Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), who worked in the State Department's intelligence bureau and now sits on the House Intelligence Committee. Pointing out Gates' reputation for putting pressure on analysts to shape their conclusions to fit administration policies, Holt called the nomination "deeply troubling" and stressed that the confirmation hearings "should be thorough and probing." Too bad Holt is not in the Senate.
Robert Gates, George W. Bush’s choice to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary, is a trusted figure within the Bush Family’s inner circle, but there are lingering questions about whether Gates is a trustworthy public official.
The 63-year-old Gates has long faced accusations of collaborating with Islamic extremists in Iran, arming Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship in Iraq, and politicizing U.S. intelligence to conform with the desires of policymakers – three key areas that relate to his future job.
Gates skated past some of these controversies during his 1991 confirmation hearings to be CIA director – and the current Bush administration is seeking to slip Gates through the congressional approval process again, this time by pressing for a quick confirmation by the end of the year, before the new Democratic-controlled Senate is seated.
If Bush’s timetable is met, there will be no time for a serious investigation into Gates’s past.
Fifteen years ago, Gates got a similar pass when leading Democrats agreed to put “bipartisanship” ahead of careful oversight when Gates was nominated for the CIA job by President George H.W. Bush.
In 1991, despite doubts about Gates’s honesty over Iran-Contra and other scandals, the career intelligence officer brushed aside accusations that he played secret roles in arming both sides of the Iran-Iraq War. Since then, however, documents have surfaced that raise new questions about Gates’s sweeping denials.
For instance, the Russian government sent an intelligence report to a House investigative task force in early 1993 stating that Gates participated in secret contacts with Iranian officials in 1980 to delay release of 52 U.S. hostages then held in Iran, a move to benefit the presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
“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” in a meeting in Paris in October 1980, according to the Russian report, which meshed with information from witnesses who have alleged Gates’s involvement in the Iranian gambit.
Once in office, the Reagan administration did permit weapons to flow to Iran via Israel. One of the planes carrying an arms shipment was shot down over the Soviet Union on July 18, 1981, after straying off course, but the incident drew little attention at the time.
The arms flow continued, on and off, until 1986 when the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal broke.
Gates also was implicated in a secret operation to funnel military assistance to Iraq in the 1980s, as the Reagan administration played off the two countries battling each other in the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq War.
Middle Eastern witnesses alleged that Gates worked on the secret Iraqi initiative, which included Saddam Hussein’s procurement of cluster bombs and chemicals used to produce chemical weapons for the war against Iran.
Gates denied those Iran-Iraq accusations in 1991 and the Senate Intelligence Committee – then headed by Gates’s personal friend, Sen. David Boren, D-Oklahoma – failed to fully check out the claims before recommending Gates for confirmation.
However, four years later – in early January 1995 – Howard Teicher, one of Reagan’s National Security Council officials, added more details about Gates’s alleged role in the Iraq shipments.
In a sworn affidavit submitted in a Florida criminal case, Teicher stated that the covert arming of Iraq dated back to spring 1982 when Iran had gained the upper hand in the war, leading President Reagan to authorize a U.S. tilt toward Saddam Hussein.
The effort to arm the Iraqis was “spearheaded” by CIA Director William Casey and involved his deputy, Robert Gates, according to Teicher’s affidavit. “The CIA, including both CIA Director Casey and Deputy Director Gates, knew of, approved of, and assisted in the sale of non-U.S. origin military weapons, ammunition and vehicles to Iraq,” Teicher wrote.
Ironically, that same pro-Iraq initiative involved Donald Rumsfeld, then Reagan’s special emissary to the Middle East. An infamous photograph from 1983 shows a smiling Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein.
Teicher described Gates’s role as far more substantive than Rumsfeld’s. “Under CIA Director [William] Casey and Deputy Director Gates, the CIA authorized, approved and assisted [Chilean arms dealer Carlos] Cardoen in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs and other munitions to Iraq,” Teicher wrote.
Like the Russian report, the Teicher affidavit has never been never seriously examined. After Teicher submitted it to a federal court in Miami, the affidavit was classified and then attacked by Clinton administration prosecutors. They saw Teicher’s account as disruptive to their prosecution of a private company, Teledyne Industries, and one of its salesmen, Ed Johnson.
But the questions about Gates’s participation in dubious schemes involving hotspots such as Iran and Iraq are relevant again today because they reflect on Gates’s judgment, his honesty and his relationship with two countries at the top of U.S. military concerns.
About 140,000 U.S. troops are now bogged down in Iraq, 3 ½ years after President George W. Bush ordered an invasion to remove Saddam Hussein from power and eliminate his supposed WMD stockpiles. One reason the United States knew that Hussein once had those stockpiles was because the Reagan administration helped him procure the material needed for the WMD production in the 1980s.
The United States also is facing down Iran’s Islamic government over its nuclear ambitions. Though Bush has so far emphasized diplomatic pressure on Iran, he has pointedly left open the possibility of a military option.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we’re joined by two people in Washington, D.C., who have closely followed the career of Robert Gates. Melvin Goodman is a former CIA analyst. In 1991, he was one of three former CIA officials to testify before the Senate against the nomination of Robert Gates as director of Central Intelligence. Mel Goodman now serves as senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Center’s National Security Project.
We're also joined by Robert Parry, an investigative journalist who helped expose the Iran-Contra affair while working as a reporter for the Associated Press and for Newsweek. He now serves as editor of the online e-zine consortiumnews.com and is author of the book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.
Mel Goodman, I want to begin with you. Go back to the beginning of the ’90s. Why did you testify against Bob Gates?
MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, I testified, Amy, against Bob Gates for one very simple reason: Bob Gates, over the period of the 1980s, as a deputy for Intelligence and then as a deputy to CIA director Bill Casey, was politicizing intelligence. He was spinning intelligence on all of the major issues of the day, on the Soviet Union, on Central America, on the Middle East, on Southwest Asia. And I thought this record, this charge, should be presented before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
I think also it’s important that Bob Gates is a graduate of the Iran-Contra class of 1986. And the reason why he had to withdraw his nomination in 1987 was simply because the majority of the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, when Ronald Reagan nominated Gates as CIA director, did not believe Gates’s pleas that he knew nothing about Iran-Contra and this was happening around him, but he wasn’t part of it.
And, of course, in 1991, he attracted 31 negative votes, more than all of the votes against all of the CIA directors in history going back to 1947. So I think the committee believed that he was spinning the intelligence, and there was this great controversy, but the Republicans held the line. They made this a loyalty test to President George Bush, and so he was confirmed. But 31 negative votes was very significant.
AMY GOODMAN: Melvin Goodman, you didn’t just testify, you spent days with the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Why?
MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, I thought it was very important for people such as Bill Bradley and Sam Nunn, who were very opposed to Bob Gates, to understand how intelligence was politicized, how it was made up out of whole cloth; how if you look at the papal assassination plot that Gates commissioned in 1985, how this had no bearing on intelligence whatsoever. And I think there is a rather delicious irony in the fact that here is a nation that went to war with politicized intelligence, and now it’s naming as a CIA director someone who was the most important practitioner of politicized intelligence in the history of the CIA. So, as Yogi Berra would have said, “This is deja-vu all over again.”
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Bob Parry, I’d like to ask you - Mel Goodman mentioned Bob Gates as being part of the Iran-Contra class, but in this world of ahistorical journalism that we live in today, where very few people - Iran-Contra is practically ancient history to most of the - especially the young Americans in this country, could you give us a quick snapshot of what the Iran-Contra scandal was?
ROBERT PARRY: Well, in a synopsis, the Iran-Contra scandal was an effort by the Reagan administration to circumvent various restrictions on carrying out their foreign policy, both in the Middle East and also in Central America.
The Contra part related to the Nicaraguan Contras who were put in place to fight the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. And when Congress tried to cut off that support from the CIA, the Reagan administration went around Congress by having Oliver North of the National Security Council, in essence, sort of oversee this operation of getting weapons and money to the Contras. But it still involved many people in the CIA, even when they were denying they were involved. We now know, based on the investigations, that CIA Director William Casey, who was Bob Gates’s direct supervisor, was deeply involved, as were people lower down the chain, including some of the station chiefs in the field.
In the case of the Middle East, the Reagan administration was carrying out secret policies to arm basically both sides of the Iran-Iraq War. This started, we now know, back in the very early part of the 1980s. By 1981, there were shipments of weapons that had been approved by the Reagan administration that went through Israel to Iran, and that continued on through to the mid-1980s. And at times when the Iranians would get the upper hand in the war with Iraq, the United States would tilt back and start helping the Iraqis, the government of Saddam Hussein. So there were efforts to move weapons through third countries that would help Saddam Hussein in his fight. There was military intelligence that was provided to assist him and even advice on how to use his air force. So there was this whole secret policy that was operating behind the scenes, and the Reagan administration essentially was trying to go around Congress, keep the intelligence committees as much in the dark as possible, and Bob Gates was in the center of almost all of that.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And in terms of - I’d like to get back to Mel Goodman. After initially rejecting Gates for an appointment, the Senate then later confirmed him. In your estimation, what were the changes or what happened that the Senate changed its mind?
MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, I think the Senate didn’t change its mind. The man who changed his mind was David Boren, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and his staff director, George Tenet, who, of course, went on to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency and is/was Mr. Slam Dunk for President George Bush in the Iraq war. Boren and Gates developed a very close relationship over the period of the late ’80s and early ’90s. And Gates gave the impression to Boren that Gates would be very careful in running the CIA, that he would pay a lot of attention to the director of the Senate Intelligence Committee and that he would come to the Intelligence Committee to vet covert operations and certain projects of the CIA.
And this is what Boren used to bring some of the Democrats who were opposed to Gates, such as Sam Nunn from Georgia, into line to vote for Bob Gates. But the majority of the Democratic members of the Senate were opposed to him. And if it weren’t for some of the antics of Senator Warren Rudman, who used charges of McCarthyism against the critics of Bob Gates, I think there would have been some Republicans, as well. But the White House did make it a loyalty test, and every Republican voted in favor of Bob Gates in 1991.
AMY GOODMAN: I remember well the Bob Gates hearings. My colleague, Julie Cohen, who was working at WBAI/Pacifica, now is over at NBC, was one who exposed how Gates had lied to Congress, that he had told the Senate Intelligence Committee that in November of 1986 he was preparing testimony for the CIA director, William Casey, about Iran-Contra, that he didn’t realize a presidential finding had been prepared a year before to authorize the CIA's role in an earlier shipment in 1985, arms shipment to Iran, leading to Casey deceiving Congress. Can you explain what that was all about?
MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, there were a series of episodes in which Casey had to go to the Congress, because after two years of Bill Casey, the Senate Intelligence Committee really regretted that it had ever confirmed him in the first place. And he really angered the Republican leadership more than the Democratic leadership. And Barry Goldwater became an extremely important critic of Bill Casey.
Bill Casey relied, for all sorts of testimony and briefings and talks that he gave, on Bob Gates. Bob Gates wrote all of his major speeches. He wrote some of his Op-Ed articles, and he wrote all of his testimony. And, of course, there were backdated findings. There were denials of information that was widely known. Bob Gates was told by his deputy about sensitive intercepts involving how we were arming Iraq, how we were getting aid, some of it from the Israeli inventories, to Iran, how we were supplying the Contras with funds that were the profits of these arms sales to Iran. So, Bob Gates and Bill Casey worked extremely closely on all of these matters, and Casey really relied on Bob Gates.
And Bob Gates has always been really a political windsock in these matters in serving the interest of his masters. That’s the way he operated at the National Security Council, and that’s the way he operated at the CIA. And I remember in 1987, he was admonished severely by George Shultz, the Secretary of State at the time, and then in 1989 by James Baker, the Secretary of State at the time, because he was undercutting American policy in trying to serve the interest of the National Security at a time when American policy was changing.
So Bob Gates will serve a master, but I don’t think he’ll be a careful steward of the Pentagon and of the $460 billion defense budget. And the question is, has he now somehow obtained the maturity and integrity to run the Pentagon? I don’t think he has. And now, it’s up to the Senate Armed Forces Committee to make serious decisions about his ability to serve in this very sensitive position.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Bob Parry, in politics at every election time there's always talk of an “October surprise” that will affect an election. And obviously the phrase "October surprise" actually goes back to even before this Iran-Contra scandal: the election in 1980 between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Could you talk at all about - was Bob Gates, did he have any role and involvement in that first alleged October surprise?
ROBERT PARRY: Well, when we were doing the Iran-Contra investigations, one of the mysteries was when it really started, and we were able to trace it back initially to 1984, when there were these contacts between some Iranians and some Israelis and some former CIA people, which sort of led to the scandal that we knew at the time. But as we went back, we learned that there the shipments of weapons did not begin in 1985, as we had first thought, but really back in 1981. So we had to look at some of these issues of these allegations that were sort of longstanding from some people who had sort of been in the intelligence world that there had been earlier contacts, that during the 1980 campaign, when 52 Americans were being held hostage in Iran and Jimmy Carter was trying desperately to get them out, that the Republicans went behind his back, first to get information, but also then to make contacts with the Iranians directly.
And the evidence on this has built up over time. We now have a lot of documents. We have some records from that period. We have statements from former Iranian officials, including the former Iranian president, Banisadr, the former defense minister, the former foreign minister, all of whom saying that they had these dealings with the Republicans behind the scenes. So, as we went back through that, the evidence built up that there had been these earlier contacts and that Bob Gates was one of the people involved in them.
Gates, at the time, had been assigned to the National Security Council for Jimmy Carter and then had become the executive director - executive assistant to Stansfield Turner, the CIA director. So he was in a key spot. And he was also, though, developing these close ties to some of the Republicans who were about to come into power. So, as these investigations were sort of picked up on in the early 1990s, there was a real effort to sort of put it aside. There was not much stomach left for this investigation, which was headed at that point by Lee Hamilton, who had been the House Intelligence Committee chairman at one point. He kind of had missed the early part of Iran-Contra. He was then put on the Iran-Contra investigation and kind of bought into the cover-up and the cover stories that were used. And then he was made head of this task force on the so-called October Surprise case and behaved similarly. He didn’t really want to push it very far.
And one of the interesting things, which probably should be looked at now, is that after -- because the Gates hearings were in 1991. He denied pretty much everything, but there’s evidence that’s come out since then that he’s never really been confronted with, including a remarkable report that the Russian government prepared at Hamilton's request in January of 1993, in which the Russian government went back through their KGB files on what they knew about these contacts with Iran, and they reported to Lee Hamilton on January 11, 1993, that in fact these contacts with the Republicans had occurred, the Soviets at that point had intelligence on it, and that Bob Gates was one of the people involved in it. That report was never released by Hamilton. It was put in the unpublished files of this investigation, and I discovered it a couple years later. So you have that kind of evidence that’s important.
And on the Iraq side, you have a very important document that has not gotten much attention, which was an affidavit prepared by Howard Teicher, who had been an NSC official for Ronald Reagan, in which he describes Gates’s role in getting secret weapons to the Iraqis. This affidavit was filed in connection with a criminal case that was then underway in Florida in 1995. But these issues have never been really confronted to Gates. There were earlier allegations that he has denied. Some of the witnesses were dismissed. But now there’s more information that he’s never been presented with. And one of the points...
AMY GOODMAN: And, Bob, when you say “secret weapons to the Iraqis,” you're talking about during the Iranian-Iraq war?
ROBERT PARRY: Yes, back in the - starting about 1982, President Reagan became concerned that the Iranians, who were secretly getting help from the United States via Israel, had gained the upper hand in the war. And so, there was this effort, as the period went on, to give some more help to Saddam Hussein to keep that war sort of at a more even keel. And one of the guys involved, according to the Teicher affidavit and other witnesses, was Bob Gates. But he’s always denied involvement there. So both the facts of the history are important, as well as his honesty. Did he lie to Congress when he denied being involved in these matters?
AMY GOODMAN: Just on this issue, because it’s so key, I mean, the allegation that Gates personally approved the sale of cluster bombs to Saddam in the 1980s, before the war crimes that he was just convicted of.
ROBERT PARRY: Right. And some of these allegations also go to chemicals, the precursor chemicals that Saddam Hussein allegedly used in his chemical weapons that were deployed against the Iranians and other targets in Iraq. So, Gates was allegedly involved in all those kinds of - that’s the very secretive side of US foreign policy that Casey was overseeing, but Gates was sort of his man handling some of the details.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Mel Goodman, given some of this history, I wonder - and given what you have said about the history of Gates as having a record, as using intelligence, basically spinning intelligence to serve political ends, why would President Bush, facing now a Democratic senate, nominate a guy like Bob Gates to this post?
MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, I think he needs someone like Bob Gates now, because the Bush administration is really circling the wagons. The policy in Iraq has failed miserably. This has been the most profligate decision that any American president has made with regard to national security and foreign policy. And Bob Gates is a very loyal and obedient servant to his master. In this case, his master will be George Bush. And I think what he needs Bob Gates for is to tone down some of the criticism in the Pentagon. I think Bob Gates is out there in the same way that General Hayden is out at the CIA, to calm down the critics, to calm down the contrarians, to stop some of the negative reporting that’s coming from Iraq from CIA station chiefs and CIA analysts. And I think what Bob Gates will do now is silence some of the military criticism of what’s going on in Iraq. I think you'll see an end to a lot of the public remarks of our active duty general officers, our flag officers who have been clearly critical of what’s happening in Iraq.
And let me just add one thing to what Bob said, because there’s an intelligence aspect that Bob Gates was responsible for in the 1980s that I am aware of. In order to have arms sales to Iran and secret deliveries from Israel to Iran, you had to change the intelligence analysis on Iran, and Bob Gates was part of that. He worked very closely, again, with Howard Teicher over at the National Security Council and Graham Fuller, his National Intelligence officer for the Middle East, to rewrite the intelligence record to say that Iran was no longer interested in terrorism, Iran was now looking to open up dialogue with the United States, that the Soviet Union was about to move into Iran. And this became the intelligence justification for Iran-Contra and why this operational policy had to be put into play.
There was no truth to any of these three charges, but Graham Fuller managed to get them into a National Intelligence Estimate, and Graham Fuller and Bob Gates regularly briefed the National Security Council on the so-called changes in Iranian policy that were made up out of whole cloth. And there was a record of Bob Gates creating intelligence out of whole cloth and urging Bill Casey to take even more provocative measures than the CIA and the Reagan administration was proposing toward Central America, particularly toward Nicaragua. Remember, the CIA was involved in the mining of the harbors in Corinto, which was clearly an act of war. And Bill Casey had never briefed this to the Senate Intelligence Committee. That’s what led to the extreme anger on the part of Barry Goldwater and why Casey had to be brought back to the Senate Intelligence Committee. And, of course, Gates prepared all of Casey’s testimony at this time.
AMY GOODMAN: And this was condemned by the World Court, the mining of the harbors of Nicaragua. And so, you have two major figures coming together now. You have Casey - rather, you have Bob Gates, who could become director of Central Intelligence Agency, and you have Daniel Ortega now, who has just been elected the president of Nicaragua.
MELVIN GOODMAN: Also part of this delicious irony, that on the same day that Ortega is announced as the president-elect, here’s Bob Gates, again, the Iran-Contra alumni, joining Elliott Abrams at the National Security Council. And remember, John Poindexter for a while had a key role in the Pentagon as part of this Iran-Contra class that George Bush seems to resort to.
AMY GOODMAN: And let me just correct that: of course, he’s been nominated to be head of the Pentagon, to be Defense Secretary. But one other thing I wanted to get to now, because you both have mentioned Lee Hamilton, who was a key figure then. And you’re saying that he very much was there to squelch true investigation of what was going on at the time, that he could be relied upon to do this. Well, now you have the Iraq Study Group that is headed by James Baker and, yes, Lee Hamilton, together with Bob Gates.
MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, I think the Iraq Study Group is also a political stratagem on the part of the Bush administration to try to give some chance at damage limitation to this Iraq policy. Lee Hamilton wasn’t very impressive in his 9/11 work as a co-commissioner. I think the study of the intelligence community, and particularly the CIA, was really softened. I think Lee Hamilton had something to do with this. He brought in people like Douglas MacEachin of the CIA. He was also a close colleague of Bob Gates, and he testified in favor of Bob Gates in 1991. And the first personnel appointment that Bob Gates made when he took over the CIA in 1991 was to make Doug MacEachin his Deputy Director for Intelligence. So, I don’t think Lee Hamilton is the zealous investigator that he once was and the kind of junkyard dog that he once was when he was on the Hill in the Congress.
So I think there is an attempt now to soften the debate on Iraq. Getting Rumsfeld out of the Pentagon helps in this direction. Bringing Gates in, and it’s sort of tabula rasa now at the Pentagon with regard to Iraq. And I think the Iraq Study Group - and if you look at the Iraq Study Group -- five Democrats, five Republicans - not a one has any experience whatsoever on the Middle East. There are no Arab experts, no Islamic experts on this group. And I think what Baker is trying to do is trying to limit the damage that Iraq has done to George Bush, the legacy of the Bush family, both Bush the elder and Bush the younger, and try to soften the debate in the American public and divert attention. And clearly, by removing Rumsfeld, Bush has already diverted a great deal of attention from the election loss and from this disaster that Iraq policy is.
JUAN GONZALEZ: And, Bob Parry, the investigations that you did in the ’80s at least led to congressional investigations into some of these issues. Given what happened now with this election, do you have any hope that the new congress will take a deeper look into some of these issues surrounding Bob Gates and the intelligence failures and spinning of the Bush administration?
ROBERT PARRY: Well, as a journalist, I always hope that information will come out somehow, but it does appear that the strategy that the Bush White House is following is to release - first of all, release this information the day after the election, in a sense give in to one of the chief Democratic demands - that is, the ouster of Rumsfeld - and then say that there must be quick action on Bob Gates's nomination. I think yesterday there was an announcement by the Armed Services Committee, the chairman and the ranking Democrat, that they would move expeditiously on the Gates nomination and push it through before the end of the year - that is, in the lame-duck session of the Congress, the Republican-controlled congress.
So there doesn’t seem to be much eagerness to sort of go back and sort of confront Bob Gates with the questions that Mel has raised about his involvement with the politicization of intelligence, which is a key issue obviously in Iraq war, and his involvement or lack thereof with secret arms deals with the Iranians and the Iraqis, two of the countries that the Defense Department is most interested in at this point. So, but whether those questions will even be asked is a question here, that apparently the idea is to sort of just sort of have the Democrats show their bipartisanship again by not asking tough questions of Bob Gates. And this is very similar to what happened in 1991, when Senator Boren backed away from the gates, from pressing on the Gates nomination for the CIA director.
And it goes back, really, to what Lee Hamilton was doing in the 1980s. I do have to disagree a bit with Mel in that I never found Hamilton to be a junkyard dog in his investigations. When we did our first stories about Oliver North in ’85 and ’86 at the Associated Press, they finally - those stories finally went to Lee Hamilton at the Intelligence Committee. He arranged a meeting with Oliver North, which involved Dick Cheney, who was on the Intelligence Committee at the time, and Henry Hyde and some other members, and they essentially asked Ollie if these stories were true, and he said they weren’t. And that was pretty much the end of the investigation at that point. And it was only because a plane was shot down, one of Ollie’s planes was shot down, in October of 1986 that the Nicaraguan side of the story started spilling out.
AMY GOODMAN: That was the downing of Eugene Hasenfus's plane?
ROBERT PARRY: Correct. Eugene Hasenfus survived the crash and began talking about what was actually going on. And that sort of put Hamilton back on the spot. When the Iran-Contra scandal sort of broke open in November of ’86, he was made head of the investigation. But again, he led it in a way that was not designed to find the truth. It was designed to sort of reach a political solution, which was not to have impeachment of Ronald Reagan, not to have it go too far, not to damage the CIA. It wasn’t to find the facts, as much as it was to sort of reach a consensus that enough people could agree on.
And we’ve seen that repeatedly with Hamilton. We saw it in the October Surprise investigation, which he headed in 1992, which, when at the end of that investigation so much evidence was pouring in, in late 1992, about this 1980 matter that the chief counsel, Larry Barcella, went to Hamilton and said, “We need another three months, another few months to review all this new incriminating evidence about the Republicans.” And Hamilton said “No,” that “we’re not going to continue this. We’re wrapping it up.”
AMY GOODMAN: And just to be clear, you're talking about 1980, this allegation that somehow the Reagan forces, before Ronald Reagan became president, worked to stop the hostages from being released under Carter, what would have been the October Surprise, and have them released on Inauguration Day, when President Reagan was being sworn in, that allegation, and this possibility, though many have discounted it, of a meeting that was held in Paris in October, where US officials, perhaps like Vice President George H.W. Bush, met with Iranian officials.
ROBERT PARRY: Right. And there’s actually a great deal of evidence that has built up to support that. But again, the idea was, of that investigation, was to avoid having the kind of political crisis, the crisis of confidence, that might occur if the American people began to see their government as it was actually functioning, not as some people in Washington would like them to see it, which is as a more fair, a more decent operation. So, Hamilton has always been the guy who sort of steps in and sort of smoothes things over, tries not to have too many rough edges, and moves on. So that’s been his record and, of course, now he’s working on the Iraq Study Group. But he’s never been the fellow who actually goes to find the truth and lets the facts stand where they may. He has never been that guy.
Nicaragua wasn’t the only place Gates wanted to take action. In 1985, sounding very much like one of today’s neoconservative hawks, the then head of intelligence analysis at the CIA drafted a plan for a joint U.S.-Egyptian military operation to invade Libya, overthrow Col. Muamar Ghaddafi, and “redraw the map of North Africa.” On the basis of this idea, CIA Director Casey, sometimes said to be the man who invented Gates, ordered up a list of Libyan targets and the National Security Council developed a plan to have Egypt attack Libya with U.S. air support and seize half the country. The Joint Chiefs drew up plans for a military operation involving 90,000 troops. Alarmed, the State Department subsequently succeeded in downsizing Gates proposal to “contingency” status.
According to Robert Parry, a reporter who has closely tracked this period in the CIA’s history, during this time the Reagan administration was “pressing the CIA to adopt an analysis that accepted right-wing media reports pinning European terrorism on the Soviets. The CIA analysts knew that these charges were false, in part because they were based on ‘black’ or false propaganda that the CIA itself had been planting in the European media. But the ‘politicization’ tide was strong.” And Gates, he writes, led an effort to implicate the Soviets in the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. “In 1985, Gates closeted a special team to push through another pre-cooked paper arguing that the KGB was behind the 1981 wounding of Pope John Paul II. CIA analysts again knew that the charge was bogus, but could not block the paper from leaving CIA.”
Critics have long thought Gates was heavily involved from the very beginning in putting together and implementing the secret Iran-Contra war. In his book, “Firewall: The Iran/Contra conspiracy and Cover-Up,” Lawrence E. Walsh, the independent counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation, wrote that he was skeptical of Gates’ repeated denials of having been aware or involved with the details of the Iran-Contra operations with Oliver North. According to the National Security Archive’s chronology of the day-by-day happenings in Iran-Contra, on October 1, 1985 the CIA’s National Intelligence Officer, Charles Allen, informed then deputy director Gates of his suspicion that funds were being diverted to the Contras. Gates, for his part, has insisted he first learned of the diversion one year later. “Whenever questioned, Gates had always claimed that he had first learned of Allen's concern about the diversion on the day after Eugene Hasenfus was shot down over Nicaragua on October 5, 1986,” writes Walsh, referring to the lone survivor on board a CIA cargo plane that was shot down over Nicaragua while on a mission to supply the Contras. “Gates said that he and Allen had then reported this to Casey, who told them that he had just received much the same information from another source.’’
In blunt terms, Walsh thought Gates was a liar. It was only for a lack of evidence that he eventually gave up trying to indict him.
In November 1991, years after Iran-Contra messily unraveled, the Senate deliberated on the nomination of Gates to succeed William H. Webster as the next director of Central Intelligence. Democrats, including former Senator Tom Daschle, Jay Rockefeller, and the late Paul Wellstone spoke forcefully, vowing to vote against the nominee. “Robert Gates became the Deputy Director of the CIA in April, 1986, after a meteoric rise in the Agency,” Wellstone said. “His confirmation hearings provided ample and credible evidence that, as the Deputy Director, he repeatedly skewed intelligence to promote the world view of his mentor and his boss, William Casey. Analysts specializing in the Soviet Union, Latin America, Africa, and scientific affairs, came forward--some at risk to their careers in the agency--to provide examples. The record further strongly suggests that Robert Gates supported--passively or actively--terribly misguided or illegal covert operations, including the diversion of funds to the Nicaraguan Contras obtained through the sale of arms to Iran. He also had a hand in hiding some of the details of these covert operations from Congress. Lastly, the record showed that Robert Gates crossed the line from independent intelligence-gathering into high-profile policymaking when he gave speeches advocating an unyielding line toward the Soviet Union and deployment of a star wars missile defense system.”
“My questions regarding whether or not Robert Gates participated in the politicization of intelligence culminate in my deep concern about what we can expect from Robert Gates if he is confirmed as the next Director of Central Intelligence,” Daschle said. “Again, I ask my colleagues, if Robert Gates cooked the books to advocate the ideological position of the administration while serving as Deputy Director for Intelligence and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, is it possible that U.S. intelligence under his guidance will continue to politicize intelligence? My answer is, ‘We cannot afford to take that chance.’”
Gates, who is a member of the Iraq Study Group, which is preparing an assessment of the situation on Iraq that may well inform the nation’s policy going forward, has been hailed as the man who may bring order to a disastrously waged war. His nomination, some say, indicates a policy shift that is already in motion. Many of the nation’s problems now stem from the fact that politics and ideology have seeped into nearly every crevice of the federal bureaucracy. And Congress must now decide whether it can afford to take another chance on Robert Gates.
In November 1987, as the Reagan administration was still scrambling to contain the Iran-Contra scandal, then-deputy CIA director Robert M. Gates denied that the spy agency had soft-pedaled intelligence about Iran’s support for terrorism to clear the way for secret U.S. arms shipments to the Islamic regime.
“Only one or two analysts believed Iranian support for terrorism was waning,” Gates wrote in articles that appeared in the Washington Post and Foreign Affairs magazine. “And no CIA publication asserted these things.”
However, a month earlier, an internal CIA review had found three reports from Nov. 22, 1985, to May 15, 1986, claiming that Iranian-sponsored terrorism had declined, according to a sworn statement from veteran CIA analyst Ray McGovern, who prepared the review for senior officials in the Directorate of Intelligence [DI].
“My findings uncovered an unexplained discontinuity,” McGovern’s affidavit said. “To wit on 22 November 1985, in an abrupt departure from the longstanding analytical line on Iranian support for terrorism, DI publications began to assert that Iranian-sponsored terrorism had ‘dropped off substantially’ in 1985. I recall being particularly struck by the fact that no evidence was adduced to support that important judgment.
“This new line was repeated in at least two additional DI publications, the last of which appeared on 15 May 1986. Again, no supporting evidence was cited. After May 1986, the analytical line changed, just as abruptly, back to the line that had characterized DI reporting on this subject up to November 1985 (with no mention of any substantial drop or other reduction in Iranian support for terrorist activity).”
The timing of CIA’s dubious reporting in 1985 about a decline in Iranian-backed terrorism is significant because the Reagan administration was then in the midst of secret Israeli-brokered arms shipments of U.S. weapons to Iran.
The shipments not only were politically sensitive, but also violated federal export laws – in part because Iran was officially designated a terrorist state. So, playing down Iran’s hand in terrorism worked for the White House whether supported by the facts or not.
At that time, Gates was deputy director in charge of the DI, putting him in a key bureaucratic position as the CIA worked to justify geopolitical openings to Iran. Even earlier, in spring 1985, Gates had overseen the production of a controversial National Intelligence Estimate that had warned of Soviet inroads in Iran and conjured up supposed moderates in the Iranian government.
That Gates, two years later, would make exculpatory claims about the CIA’s reporting – assertions contradicted by an internal DI report – suggests that he remained more interested in protecting the Reagan administration’s flanks than being straight with the American public.
In his affidavit, McGovern wrote that after Gates’s exculpatory articles in November 1987, “efforts to correct the record remained unsuccessful.”
[McGovern’s report to senior DI management about the Iran-terrorism issue was dated Oct. 30, 1987; his affidavit was signed Oct. 5, 1991, during Gates’s confirmation to be CIA director, but the sworn statement was not made public at that time.]
While in charge of the CIA's analytical division in the mid-1980s, Robert M. Gates made wildly erroneous predictions about the dangers posed by leftist-ruled Nicaragua and espoused policy prescriptions considered too extreme even by the Reagan administration, in one case advocating the U.S. bombing of Nicaragua.
Gates - now President George W. Bush's nominee to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary - expressed his alarmist views about Nicaragua and the need to bomb the country's military targets in a secret Dec. 14, 1984, memorandum to then-CIA Director William Casey.
The memo has new relevance today because Gates's private advice to Casey suggests that Gates was either more of an extremist ideologue than many in Washington believe or he was pandering to Casey's personal zealotry.
Either possibility raises questions about Gates's fitness to run the Pentagon at a time when many observers believe it needs strong doses of realism and independence to stand up to both a strong-willed President and influential neoconservative theorists who promoted the invasion of Iraq.
The Iraq War - now exceeding the length of U.S. participation in World War II - has been marked by politicized intelligence, over-reliance on force, fear of challenging the insider tough-guy talk, and lack of respect for international law - all tendencies that Gates has demonstrated in his career.
In the 1980s, Gates was a Cold War hardliner prone to exaggerate the Soviet threat, which put him in the good graces of Reagan administration officials. They also rejected the growing evidence of a rapid Soviet decline in order to justify a massive U.S. military build-up and aggressive interventions in Third World conflicts.
Put in charge of the CIA's analytical division, which supposedly is dedicated to objective analysis, Gates instead pleased his boss Casey by taking an over-the-top view of the danger posed by Nicaragua, an impoverished Third World nation then ruled by leftist Sandinista revolutionaries who had ousted right-wing dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979.
Though Gates opens his December 1984 memo with the declaration that "it is time to talk absolutely straight about Nicaragua," he then ignores many relevant facts that get in the way of his thesis about the need to launch air strikes against Sandinista military targets and to overthrow the supposedly "Marxist-Leninist" regime.
For instance, Gates makes no mention of the fact that only a month earlier, the Sandinistas had won an election widely praised for its fairness by European and other international observers. But the Reagan administration had pressured pro-U.S. candidate Arturo Cruz into withdrawing when it became clear he would lose - and then denounced the election as a "sham."
Without assessing whether the Sandinistas had any real commitment to democracy, Gates adopts the Reagan administration's favored position - that Nicaragua's elected president Daniel Ortega was, in effect, a Soviet-style dictator.
"The Nicaraguan regime is steadily moving toward consolidation of a Marxist-Leninist government and the establishment of a permanent and well armed ally of the Soviet Union and Cuba on the mainland of the Western Hemisphere," Gates wrote to Casey.
The Gates assessment, however, turned out to be wrong. Rather than building a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship, the Sandinistas competed six years later in a robust presidential election - even allowing the United States to pour in millions of dollars to help elect Washington's favored candidate, Violeta Chamorro.
The Sandinistas respected the election results, ceding power to Chamorro. The Sandinistas also have competed in subsequent elections with Ortega finally regaining the presidency in the latest election held in November 2006.
In the 1984 memo, Gates also promotes another right-wing canard of the era - that Nicaragua's procurement of weapons was proof of its aggressive intentions, not an attempt at national self-defense.
Again, Gates ignores significant facts, including a history starting in 1980 of first the right-wing Argentine junta and then the United States financing and training a brutal counterrevolutionary movement, known as the contras.
By 1984, the contras had earned a reputation for rape, torture, murder and terrorism - as they ravaged towns especially along Nicaragua's northern border. In 1983-84, the CIA also had used the cover of the contra war to plant mines in Nicaragua's harbors, an operation later condemned by the World Court.
But Gates offers none of this context in his five-page memo to Casey, a strong advocate of the contra cause. The memo makes no serious analytical attempt to gauge whether Nicaragua - the target of aggression by a nearby superpower, the United States - might have been trying to build up forces to deter more direct U.S. intervention.