Richard L. Armitage

Richard L. Armitage

Richard L. Armitage was born on 26th April, 1945. Armitage graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1967. He joined the United States Navy and served on a destroyer stationed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This eventually resulted in him becoming an advisor to the Vietnamese naval forces.

In 1973 joined the office of the U.S. Defense Attaché in Saigon. Here he became involved with Ted Shackley, the CIA chief in South Vietnam. According to Joel Bainerman (The Crimes of a President) Shackley and his Secret Team (Thomas G. Clines, Carl E. Jenkins, David Morales, Raphael Quintero, Felix Rodriguez and Edwin Wilson) became involved in the drug trade while serving in Laos. They did this via General Vang Pao, the leader of the anti-communist forces in Laos. Vang Pao was a major figure in the opium trade. To help him Shackley used his CIA officials and assets to sabotage the competitors. Eventually Vang Pao had a monopoly over the heroin trade in Laos. Shackley and Clines also helped Vang Pao to obtain financial backing to form his own airline, Zieng Khouang Air Transport Company, to transport opium and heroin between Long Tieng and Vientiane.

Ted Shackley also brought others into his drug operation. This included Armitage and Major General Richard Secord. According to Daniel Sheehan: “From late 1973 until April of 1975, Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Armitage disbursed, from the secret, Laotian-based, Vang Pao opium fund, vastly more money than was required to finance even the highly intensified Phoenix Project in Vietnam. The money in excess of that used in Vietnam was secretly smuggled out of Vietnam in large suitcases, by Richard Secord and Thomas Clines and carried into Australia, where it was deposited in a secret, personal bank account (privately accessible to Theodore Shackley, Thomas Clines and Richard Secord). During this same period of time between 1973 and 1975, Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines caused thousands of tons of US weapons, ammunition, and explosives to be secretly taken from Vietnam and stored at a secret "cache" hidden inside Thailand." This money, with the help of Raphael Quintero, found its way into the Nugan Hand Bank in Sydney. The bank was founded by Michael Hand, a CIA operative in Laos and Frank Nugan an Australian businessman.

Saigon fell to the NLF in April, 1975. The Vietnam War was over and Armitage moved to Washington to serve as a consultant for the United States Department of Defense. He was immediately sent to Iran. In Tehran, Armitage, set up a secret "financial conduit" inside Iran, into which secret Vang Pao drug funds could be deposited from Southeast Asia. According to Daniel Sheehan: “The purpose of this conduit was to serve as the vehicle for secret funding by Shackley's "Secret Team," of a private, non-CIA authorized "Black" operations inside Iran, disposed to seek out, identify, and assassinate socialist and communist sympathizers, who were viewed by Shackley and his "Secret Team" members to be "potential terrorists" against the Shah of Iran`s government in Iran. In late 1975 and early 1976, Theodore Shackley and Thomas Clines retained Edwin Wilson to travel to Tehran, Iran to head up the "Secret Team" covert "anti-terrorist" assassination program in Iran.”

As a result of State Department internal investigation, Armitage was forced to resign his post. He moved to Bangkok where he ran the Far East Trading Company. According to Leslie Cockburn (Out of Control), Armitage "carried on funneling drug money out of the Southeast Asia and into Nugan-Hand and elsewhere."

In 1978 he became an aide to Bob Dole. Two years later he became foreign policy advisor to President Ronald Reagan. In 1981 he was appointed as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia and Pacific Affairs in the Pentagon. In this post Armitage played a leading role in Middle East Security Policies.

On 17th March, 1983, Donald P. Gregg had a secret meeting with Felix Rodriguez and George H. W. Bush in the White House. As a result the National Security Council established a secret scheme to provide aid to the Contras in Nicaragua. Rodriguez agreed to run the Contra supply depot in El Salvador. In a memo written to Robert McFarlane, Gregg argued that the plan grew out of the experience of running "anti-Vietcong operations in Vietnam from 1970-1972". Gregg added that "Felix Rodriguez, who wrote the attached plan, both worked for me in Vietnam and carried out the actual operations outlined above."

On 21st December, 1984, Gregg met with Felix Rodriguez and George H. W. Bush. This led to Gregg introducing Rodriguez to Oliver North. Later, Bush wrote a note to North where he thanked him for "your dedication and tireless work with the hostage thing and with Central America."

In October, 1985, Congress agreed to vote 27 million dollars in non-lethal aid for the Contras in Nicaragua. However, members of the Ronald Reagan administration, including George Bush, decided to use this money to provide weapons to the Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

Gene Wheaton was recruited to use National Air to transport these weapons. He agreed but began to have second thoughts when he discovered that Richard Secord was involved in the operation and in May 1986 Wheaton told William Casey, director of the CIA, about what he knew about this illegal operation. Casey refused to take any action, claiming that the agency or the government were not involved in what later became known as Irangate.

Wheaton now took his story to Daniel Sheehan, a left-wing lawyer. Wheaton told him that Thomas G. Clines and Ted Shackley had been running a top-secret assassination unit since the early 1960s. According to Wheaton, it had begun with an assassination training program for Cuban exiles and the original target had been Fidel Castro.

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.

On 5th October, 1986, a Sandinista patrol in Nicaragua shot down a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras. That night Felix Rodriguez made a telephone call to the office of George H. W. Bush. He told Bush aide, Samuel Watson, that the C-123k aircraft had gone missing.

Eugene Hasenfus, an Air America veteran, survived the crash and told his captors that he thought the CIA was behind the operation. He also provided information that several Cuban-Americans running the operation in El Salvador. This resulted in journalists being able to identify Rafael Quintero, Luis Posada and Felix Rodriguez as the Cuban-Americans mentioned by Hasenfus.

In an article in the Washington Post (11th October, 1986), the newspaper reported that George Bush and Donald P. Gregg were linked to Felix Rodriguez. It gradually emerged that Armitage, William Casey, Thomas G. Clines, Oliver North, Edwin Wilson and Richard Secord were also involved in this conspiracy to provide arms to the Contras.

On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the Irangate scandal. He also claimed that Thomas G. Clines and Ted Shackley were running a private assassination program that had evolved from projects they ran while working for the CIA. Others named as being part of this assassination team included Rafael Quintero, Richard Secord, Felix Rodriguez and Albert Hakim. It later emerged that Gene Wheaton and Carl E. Jenkins were the two main sources for this affidavit.

Six days after the publication of Sheehan's affidavit, William Casey underwent an operation for a "brain tumor". As a result of the operation, Casey lost the power of speech and died, literally without ever talking. On 9th February, Robert McFarlane, another person involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal, took an overdose of drugs.

In November, 1986, Ronald Reagan set-up a three man commission (President's Special Review Board). The three men were John Tower, Brent Scowcroft and Edmund Muskie. Armitage was interviewed by the committee. He admitted that he had arranged a series of meetings between Menachem Meron, the director general of Israel's Ministry of Defence, with Oliver North and Richard Secord. However, he denied that he discussed the replenishment of Israeli TOW missiles with Meron.

Armitage also claimed that he first learned that Israel had shipped missiles to Iran in 1985 when he heard William Casey testify on 21st November, 1986 that the United States had replenished Israel's TOW missile stocks. According to Lawrence E. Walsh, who carried out the official investigation into the scandal (Iran-Contra: The Final Report), claims that Armitage did not tell the truth to the President's Special Review Board. "Significant evidence from a variety of sources shows that Armitage's knowledge predated Casey's testimony. For instance, a North notebook entry on November 18, 1986, documents a discussion with Armitage about Israel's 1985 arms shipments to Iran - three days before Armitage supposedly learned for the first time that such shipments has occurred."

Walsh also adds that "classified evidence obtained from the Government of Israel... and evidence from North and Secord show that during the period Meron met with Armitage, Meron was discussing arms shipments to Iran and Israel's need for replenishment. Secord and North, on separate occasions, directed Meron to discuss these issues with Armitage."

The report implicated Oliver North, John Poindexter, Casper Weinberger and several others but did not mention the role played by George H. W. Bush. It also claimed that Ronald Reagan had no knowledge of what had been going on.

The House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran was also established by Congress. The most important figure on the committee was the senior Republican member, Richard Cheney. As a result George H. W. Bush was totally exonerated when the report was published on 18th November, 1987. The report did state that Reagan's administration exhibited "secrecy, deception and disdain for the law."

Oliver North and John Poindexter were indicted on multiple charges on 16th March, 1988. North, indicted on twelve counts, was found guilty by a jury of three minor counts. The convictions were vacated on appeal on the grounds that North's Fifth Amendment rights may have been violated by the indirect use of his testimony to Congress which had been given under a grant of immunity. Poindexter was also convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and altering and destroying documents pertinent to the investigation. His convictions were also overturned on appeal.

When George H. W. Bush became president he set about rewarding those who had helped him in the cover-up of the Iran-Contra Scandal. Bush appointed Armitage as a negotiator and mediator in the Middle East. Donald Gregg was appointed as his ambassador to South Korea. Brent Scowcroft became his chief national security adviser and John Tower became Secretary of Defence. When the Senate refused to confirm Tower, Bush gave the job to Richard Cheney. Casper Weinberger, Robert McFarlane, Duane R. Clarridge, Clair E. George, Elliott Abrams and Alan D. Fiers, Jr. were pardoned by Bush.

In 1991 Armitage became special emissary to King Hussein of Jordan. In 1992 George H. W. Bush sent Armitage to Europe where he directed U.S. foreign aid to the states that had been formed out of the old Soviet Union.

Armitage lost office when George H. W. Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton. He returned to the private sector but remained involved in politics. In 1998 Armitage was one of those who signed The Project for the New American Century that was sent to President Clinton in 1998. The letter urged Clinton to target the removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq before he created weapons of mass destruction. The main intention of the letter was to protect Israel from Arab countries in the Middle East.

During the 2000 U.S. Presidential election campaign Armitage served as a foreign policy advisor to George W. Bush. After his victory, Bush appointed Armitage as his Deputy Secretary of State. He left office on 22nd February, 2005 when he was replaced by Robert Zoellick.

Primary Sources

(1) Lawrence E. Walsh, Iran-Contra Report (1993)

The Government's trial evidence would have demonstrated that, contrary to the impression created by his false testimony before Congress, Weinberger was a knowing participant in the initiative to send arms to Iran in return for the release of Americans held hostage in Lebanon. In the summer of 1985, Weinberger knew of President Reagan's decision to authorize Israel to send missiles to Iran and his commitment to replenish Israel's missile stocks. Beginning in late September 1985 and continuing through the end of 1986, Weinberger also received a sizeable quantity of highly classified intelligence reports regarding the Iran initiative. These intelligence reports provided detailed information regarding the pricing and delivery of missiles sold to Iran and the release of American hostages in Lebanon. In particular, in very late November and early December 1985, the reports revealed that HAWK missiles were shipped to Iran from Israel in connection with hostage-recovery efforts.

In his testimony before congressional committees, Weinberger falsely claimed that he had been cut off "to a large extent'' from this intelligence until shortly before December 7, 1985, when he first received one of these reports.

The Government's evidence also would have shown that Weinberger deliberately concealed from Iran/contra investigators his diary and meeting notes, which would have demonstrated the falsity of his testimony.

For simplicity of discussing the evidence supporting the individual counts, this Report begins with the evidence proving the falsity of Weinberger's denial of the existence of his notes, which was charged in the original Count One and Count Five. Because Count One was dismissed, this discussion begins with Count Five.

There is strong circumstantial evidence that Armitage on December 5 or 6, 1985, received a paper prepared by North containing significant information regarding the 1985 Iran arms sales and proposals for future sales. The paper states explicitly that Israel, after receiving a U.S. commitment to sell replacement missiles, shipped 500 [sic] TOW missiles to Iran on September 14, 1985, two days before Reverend Benjamin Weir was released by terrorists in Lebanon. The paper describes a proposal to deliver 3,300 TOW missiles and 50 Improved HAWK missiles from Israel to Iran in exchange for the release of five remaining U.S. citizen hostages plus one French citizen hostage and a cessation of terrorism against U.S. property or personnel. The paper declares, without using Secord's name, that "a U.S. businessman acting privately on behalf of the USG [U.S. Government]'' has been negotiating this deal with the Iranians and Israelis. It states that such shipments would ``significantly degrade Israeli stockpiles and require very prompt replenishment'' by the United States. In an emotional summation, North's paper declares that the U.S. ``must make one last try or we will risk condemning some or all of the hostages to death and undergoing a renewed wave of Islamic Jihad terrorism.'' For this reason alone, North's paper immediately became widely known throughout the Executive Branch...

If Armitage reviewed North's paper on or about December 5-6, 1985, this would establish the falsity of Armitage's statements that he was unaware until November 1986 of Israel's 1985 arms shipments to Iran and the U.S. commitment to replenish Israel's stocks. If the North paper was used by Armitage as a basis of briefing Weinberger for the December 7, 1985, White House meeting this would have been powerful evidence that Weinberger's professed lack of early knowledge of the 1985 Israeli shipments was false.

There is no question that Armitage and Weinberger received North's December 5, 1985, paper at some point. Armitage placed a copy of the paper in Weinberger's briefing book before the November 10, 1986, meeting of President Reagan and his senior advisers to discuss the Iran arms sales.OIC obtained no testimonial evidence as to who delivered the North paper to Armitage or when it was delivered, but circumstantial evidence indicates that Armitage received North's paper on December 5 or 6, 1985.

During the November 10, 1986, meeting, Weinberger made extensive notes on the backs of the pages of North's December 1985 paper. After the meeting, the briefing book apparently was returned to ISA, "broken down'' and refiled. Although Armitage obviously returned this document to the files, it was not produced to Congress or Independent Counsel in 1987. The OIC first located the copy of North's paper with Weinberger's notes when it reviewed a segregated collection of Iran/contra material at ISA in 1992.

Armitage's logs show that North placed a telephone call to Armitage's office at 6:50 p.m. on December 5, 1985, but they apparently did not speak. The next morning, North called again and spoke to Armitage at 8:30 a.m. North arrived at Armitage's office at 9:00 a.m., and he called and spoke to Armitage by telephone at 10:05 a.m. Although no witness explained this series of contacts, the sequence of events suggests that North called Armitage to tell him of the paper, then dropped off a copy at Armitage's office, and then called back an hour later to get Armitage's views after he had read the document.

- the North paper was closely related to the series of meetings and conversations regarding arms shipments that Armitage had during that week with Meron, North and Secord;

- because Weinberger and Powell were in Europe until the night of December 6, 1985, Armitage was the senior DoD official at the Pentagon who was familiar with the Iran arms sales; he was the logical person to be informed of the North paper. By his own description, Armitage was the person who was gathering information as part of the effort to prepare Weinberger for the December 7, 1985, White House meeting.

(2) Lawrence E. Walsh, Iran-Contra Report (1993)

After Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh's appointment in December 1986, 14 persons were charged with criminal offenses. Eleven persons were convicted, but two convictions were overturned on appeal. Two persons were pardoned before trial and one case was dismissed when the Bush Administration declined to declassify information necessary for trial. On December 24, 1992, President Bush pardoned Caspar W. Weinberger, Duane R. Clarridge, Clair E. George, Elliott Abrams, Alan D. Fiers, Jr., and Robert C. McFarlane.

Completed Trials and Pleas

Elliott Abrams - Pleaded guilty October 7, 1991, to two misdemeanor charges of withholding information from Congress about secret government efforts to support the Nicaraguan contra rebels during a ban on such aid. U.S. District Chief Judge Aubrey E. Robinson, Jr., sentenced Abrams November 15, 1991, to two years probation and 100 hours community service. Abrams was pardoned December 24, 1992.

Carl R. Channell - Pleaded guilty April 29, 1987, to one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. U.S. District Judge Stanley S. Harris sentenced Channell on July 7, 1989, to two years probation.

Thomas G. Clines - Indicted February 22, 1990, on four felony counts of underreporting his earnings to the IRS in the 1985 and 1986 tax years; and falsely stating on his 1985 and 1986 tax returns that he had no foreign financial accounts. On September 18, 1990, Clines was found guilty of all charges. U.S. District Judge Norman P. Ramsey in Baltimore, Md., on December 13, 1990, sentenced Clines to 16 months in prison and $40,000 in fines. He was ordered to pay the cost of the prosecution. The Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., on February 27, 1992, upheld the convictions. Clines served his prison sentence.

Alan D. Fiers, Jr. - Pleaded guilty July 9, 1991, to two misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress about secret efforts to aid the Nicaraguan contras. U.S. District Chief Judge Aubrey E. Robinson, Jr., sentenced Fiers January 31, 1992, to one year probation and 100 hours community service. Fiers was pardoned December 24, 1992.

Clair E. George - Indicted September 6, 1991, on 10 counts of perjury, false statements and obstruction in connection with congressional and Grand Jury investigations. George's trial on nine counts ended in a mistrial on August 26, 1992. Following a second trial on seven counts, George was found guilty December 9, 1992, of two felony charges of false statements and perjury before Congress. The maximum penalty for each count was five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth set sentencing for February 18, 1993. George was pardoned on December 24, 1992, before sentencing occurred.

Albert Hakim - Pleaded guilty November 21, 1989, to a misdemeanor of supplementing the salary of Oliver L. North. Lake Resources Inc., in which Hakim was the principal shareholder, pleaded guilty to a corporate felony of theft of government property in diverting Iran arms sales proceeds to the Nicaraguan contras and other activities. Hakim was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell on February 1, 1990, to two years probation and a $5,000 fine; Lake Resources was ordered dissolved.

Robert C. McFarlane - Pleaded guilty March 11, 1988, to four misdemeanor counts of withholding information from Congress. U.S. District Chief Judge Aubrey E. Robinson, Jr., sentenced McFarlane on March 3, 1989, to two years probation, $20,000 in fines and 200 hours community service. McFarlane was pardoned December 24, 1992.

Richard R. Miller - Pleaded guilty May 6, 1987, to one felony count of conspiracy to defraud the United States. U.S. District Judge Stanley S. Harris sentenced Miller on July 6, 1989, to two years probation and 120 hours of community service.

Oliver L. North - Indicted March 16, 1988, on 16 felony counts. After standing trial on 12, North was convicted May 4, 1989 of three charges: accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell on July 5, 1989, to a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines and 1,200 hours community service. A three-judge appeals panel on July 20, 1990, vacated North's conviction for further proceedings to determine whether his immunized testimony influenced witnesses in the trial. The Supreme Court declined to review the case. Judge Gesell dismissed the case September 16, 1991, after hearings on the immunity issue, on the motion of Independent Counsel.

John M. Poindexter - Indicted March 16, 1988, on seven felony charges. After standing trial on five charges, Poindexter was found guilty April 7, 1990, on all counts: conspiracy (obstruction of inquiries and proceedings, false statements, falsification, destruction and removal of documents); two counts of obstruction of Congress and two counts of false statements. U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene sentenced Poindexter June 11, 1990, to six months in prison on each count, to be served concurrently. A three-judge appeals panel on November 15, 1991, reversed the convictions on the ground that Poindexter's immunized testimony may have influenced the trial testimony of witnesses. The Supreme Court on December 7, 1992, declined to review the case. In 1993, the indictment was dismissed on the motion of Independent Counsel.

Richard V. Secord - Indicted March 16, 1988 on six felony charges. On May 11, 1989, a second indictment was issued charging nine counts of impeding and obstructing the Select Iran/contra Committees. Secord was scheduled to stand trial on 12 charges. He pleaded guilty November 8, 1989, to one felony count of false statements to Congress. Secord was sentenced by U.S. District Chief Judge Aubrey E. Robinson, Jr., on January 24, 1990, to two years probation.

Pre-trial Pardons

Duane R. Clarridge - Indicted November 26, 1991, on seven counts of perjury and false statements about a secret shipment of U.S. HAWK missiles to Iran. The maximum penalty for each count was five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene set a March 15, 1993, trial date. Clarridge was pardoned December 24, 1992.

Caspar W. Weinberger - Indicted June 16, 1992, on five counts of obstruction, perjury and false statements in connection with congressional and Independent Counsel investigations of Iran/ contra. On September 29, the obstruction count was dismissed. On October 30, a second indictment was issued, charging one false statement count. The second indictment was dismissed December 11, leaving four counts remaining. The maximum penalty for each count was five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan set a January 5, 1993, trial date. Weinberger was pardoned December 24, 1992.


Joseph F. Fernandez - Indicted June 20, 1988 on five counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstructing the inquiry of the Tower Commission and making false statements to government agencies. The case was dismissed in the District of Columbia for venue reasons on the motion of Independent Counsel. A four-count indictment was issued in the Eastern District of Virginia on April 24, 1989. U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton dismissed the four-count case November 24, 1989, after Attorney General Richard Thornburgh blocked the disclosure of classified information ruled relevant to the defense. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va., on September 6, 1990, upheld Judge Hilton's rulings under the Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA). On October 12, 1990, the Attorney General filed a final declaration that he would not disclose the classified information.