Robert W. Owen

Robert W. Owen worked for the United Nations refugee program in Thailand in the late 1970s. It is possible that he was at this time involved in CIA covert activities. According to Peter Dale Scott (The Iran Contra Connection) Owen worked with John Singlaub who had been forced to resign in May, 1978 after criticizing President Jimmy Carter and his plans to reduce the number of troops in South Korea.

Owen returned to the United States in 1980 and became staff assistant to Dan Quayle of Indiana. Joseph Trento has argued that at this time George Bush and William Casey agreed to use the CIA to bring down Jimmy Carter. In order to carry out their plan "law firms, Senate and House offices, and public-relations and lobbying outfits all became places to park the new foot soldiers... many of their names would emerge years later in government scandals - names like Rob Owen, Neil Livingstone, and Carter Clews."

Peter Dale Scott believes that Robert Owen worked "as a cut-out contract between the National Security Council and the Contras." In 1983 Owen introduced John Hull to Oliver North. He also served as liaison to the network funding the Contras.

Gene Wheaton argues that Dan Quayle was closely connected to William Casey and Beurt SerVaas, who was on the Executive Board of the Veterans of the OSS. Wheaton claims that this organization "runs the CIA from behind the scenes." He adds: "SerVaas brought Quayle into the Casey network early in the game." According to Barbara Honegger (October Surprise) Owen left the staff of Quayle in November, 1983, to work with North's Project Democracy which "oversaw secret U.S. arms shipments to both the Contras and Iran."

Owen was with Hull at his apartment in San Jose, Costa Rica, the night of the La Penca bombing. In January 1985, he met with Adolfo Calero at his home in Miami. Others at the meeting included John Hull, Tom Posey, Felipe Vidal, Amac Galil, Francisco Chanes and Rene Corvo. Owen also met Felix Rodriguez in January at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Rosslyn, Virginia. On 22nd January, Donald P. Gregg arranged for Rodriguez to meet Vice President George Bush.

In January 1985, Owen established the Institute for Democracy, Education and Assistance (IDEA). Later that year IDEA received a $50,000 grant from the State Department's Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office (NHAO). This money was used to deliver aid to the Contras. Owen also oversaw the NHAO's grant of $230,000 to Frigorificos de Puntarenas, the company owned by Francisco Chanes and Moises Nunez was used to ship cocaine and launder money on behalf of the Contras. In 1985 Owen's salary was paid by the Institute for Terrorism& Subnational Conflict.

Singlaub visited South Korea and Taiwan in order to obtain money and weapons for the Contras. Later that year Singlaub developed a plan for a large military action called the "Rainbow Mission" which involved the invasion of Nicaragua by Americans and Contras. This plan was approved by Robert Owen and Oliver North. Soon afterwards Singlaub procured a $5.3 million of Eastern bloc arms for the Contras through GMT. This included 500 pounds of C-4, five ground-to-air missiles, grenades and mortars.

According to Peter Dale Scott (The Iran Contra Connection) Owen served with John Singlaub "as a cut-out contract between the National Security Council and the Contras."

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.

John Singlaub agreed to divert press attention away from the activities of George H. W. Bush, Oliver North, William Casey, Donald P. Gregg, Robert Owen, Felix Rodriguez, Rafael Quintero, Ted Shackley, Richard L. Armitage, Thomas G. Clines and Richard Secord. He gave several interviews where he admitted raising money for the Contras. This included an article in Common Cause where he claimed he had raised "tens of million of dollars... for arms and ammunition".

This money was raised via the World Anti-Communist League. Most of this money came from the governments of Taiwan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. As the U.S. Neutrality Act bans a private American organization from supplying weapons to foreign groups, Singlaub established a secret overseas bank account to collect this money.

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 John Singlaub, Richard L. 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. Richard L. 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.

According to Lawrence E. Walsh, who carried out the official investigation into the scandal (Iran-Contra: The Final Report): "By the spring of 1985 it became clear that Congress would not rescue the Contras any time soon. The House defeated a $14 million supplemental aid package in March, leaving the Contras to rely on North and his associates. Alfredo Calero found himself surrounded not only with recommended arms brokers like Secord - who by June 1985 had arranged several large arms shipments - but also willing broker/contribution solicitors like Singlaub." Walsh added: "Using Robert W. Owen as a courier, North provided the contras with significant military advice and guidance."

Walsh also discovered that: "CIA officers in South Korea informed CIA headquarters on January 28, 1985, that retired U.S. Army Major General John K. Singlaub had asked the governing political party to contribute $2 million to the Contras. The Koreans told CIA personnel that some signal from the U.S. Government endorsing the Singlaub request would be necessary." Walsh obtained a memorandum from Oliver North to Robert McFarlane discussing this issue.

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. Richard L. 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 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 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 Bush became president he set about rewarding those who had helped him in the cover-up of the Iran-Contra Scandal. Bush appointed Richard L. 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. Later, Casper Weinberger, Robert McFarlane, Duane R. Clarridge, Clair E. George, Elliott Abrams and Alan D. Fiers, Jr., who had all been charged with offences related to the Iran-Contra scandal, were pardoned by Bush.

Robert W. Owen is currently Executive Vice President of Global Options, "an international security and risk management company."

Primary Sources

(1) Barbara Honegger, October Surprise (1989)

Wheaton claims that the "French Connection" to the U.S. "Irangate" includes then Senator Dan Quayle, President George Bush's choice for vice-president in 1988. According to Wheaton, a major source of Quayle's political power in Indiana, his home state, is a longtime associate of former CIA director William Casey, Beurt SerVaas. SerVaas, Wheaton says, was on the Executive Board of the Veterans of the O.S.S. (the predecessor organization to the CIA), which "runs the CIA from behind the scenes. " SerVaas's daughter, Joan, according to Wheaton, is married to an "off-the-books" French intelligence asset and Indiana resident, Bernard Marie. In 1982, Wheaton claims to have introduced Marie to Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials who then played a key role in the Reagan-Bush Administration's secret deliveries of U.S. arms to Iran in the 1980's.54 DIA was one of the military intelligence agencies that was uninterested in prosecuting Colonel Ralph Broman for his arms dealings with the Khomeini regime out of Paris in the early to mid 1980's.

Oliver North's courier in the Iran/Contra operation, Robert Owen, was introduced to another Indianan, John Hull, and to Contra commander Luis Rivas in Senator Dan Quayle's office on July 21, 1983, when Owen was Quayle's legislative aide. Senator Quayle reportedly stayed for the beginning of the meeting.55 That summer, Quayle authorized Owen to travel to Hull's ranch in Costa Rica at Hull's expense. The ranch was being used by the CIA as a military supply site for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, a relationship that continued throughout the period during which "profits" from the administration's secret arms sales to Iran were illegally diverted to the Contras. In November 1983, Robert Owen left the staff of Senator Dan Quayle and went to work for Oliver North's "Project Democracy," which oversaw secret U.S. arms shipments to both the Contras and to Iran.

Considering Senator Quayle's reported link to French intelligence through Beurt SerVaas and Bernard Marie, and his link to Oliver North's "Project Democracy" through their mutual aide Robert Owen, it is more than likely that Mr. Quayle had also been made aware of secret U.S. arms shipments to Iran in the first years of the Reagan-Bush Administration. If so, it is probable that he was also privy to the genesis of those early arms deliveries to the Khomeini regime in alleged pre-1980-election meetings among future CIA director William Casey, Iranian representatives, and French intelligence agents. According to Gene Wheaton, "SerVaas brought Quayle into the Casey network early in the game."

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

The creation of the conspirators' more tightly organized secret resupply network dated from a June 28, 1985, meeting in Miami, Florida. This meeting was attended by, among others, North, Adolfo Calero (political leader of one contra faction known as the FDN), Enrique Bermudez (commander of the FDN's military forces), Secord, Clines and Rafael Quintero, an associate of Secord. At the Miami meeting, North informed Calero and Bermudez that the contras would no longer be left to decide what arms they would purchase or from whom they would buy them. In the future, North would provide the contras with materiel, and Secord would deliver it to the contras in the field. In addition, North directed that actions be taken to develop and resupply a "southern front" along the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

Following the Miami meeting, North assumed a central role in the contra war effort. Using Robert W. Owen as a courier, North provided the contras with significant military advice and guidance. At the same time, with the assistance of Secord, North in the following fashion secretly brought into being the resupply operation that he had described on June 28.

First, North directed Owen and William Haskell, another North courier, to travel to Costa Rica and help activate a southern military front. Owen and Haskell, aided by CIA Costa Rican Station Chief Joseph F. Fernandez, undertook to build a clandestine airstrip to be used to resupply it. Haskell eventually negotiated the acquisition of property for the strip, which was funded using Swiss accounts controlled directly by Secord and Hakim, and indirectly by North.

Within the United States, North attended planning sessions and personally commissioned private individuals to do preliminary site work and engineering tasks necessary for the construction of a usable airstrip.

(3) Joel Bainerman, The Crimes of a President (1992)

John Hull visited Washington in July 1983 to convince Congress that Contra leader Eden Pastora should not be supported, claiming he was being controlled by the Sandinistan government. Pastora and Hull both visited Quayle and his legislative assistant, Robert Owen. Owen arranged for other congressional aides to talk to the visitors too, such as Vaughn Forrest, an administrative assistant for Representative Bill McCollum (R-Florida), and also introduced Hull to Oliver North.

In November 1983 Owen began working for Gray and Co., a powerful Washington, D.C., public relations and lobbying firm known for its close ties to the Administration and U.S. intelligence bodies.

In April 1984 Contra leader Adolfo Calero, head of the Nicaraguan Democratic Front, the largest Contra group, asked Gray and Co. to represent the Contras. Owen was given the assignment and came up with plans to raise money in the U.S. through non-profit organizations and companies to purchase weapons for the Contras.

One of Owen's tasks was to garner information on the financial and military needs of the Contras and pass this on to North. He reported to North that more that $1 million a month would be needed to just to keep the level of resistance at its current level, and $1.5 million if it were to increase.

In July 1984 Owen procured South African arms for the Contras. In late October he returned to Central America, met with Calero and Hull, and made an arrangement whereby he would receive $2,500 a month plus expenses from Calero, and Hull would get $10,000 a month in return for his assistance on the southern front.

In summer or fall 1985 Owen served as a courier for North, delivering Swiss bank account numbers to representatives of the Taiwan government in Washington so they could make "Contra contributions." In February 1985 he went to Central America with a letter from North assuring Calero that he would soon receive $20 million. Owen knew what type of people he was dealing with and of some Contra leaders' ties to drug runners. Oliver North was also informed. On April 1st, 1985, Owen described to North Costa Rican rebel leader Jose Robelo's "potential involvement in drug running." Owen told North that another Contra leader, Sebastian Gonzalez, was "now involved in drug running out of Panama." North wrote during an August 9th, 1985, meeting with Owen that the "DC6 which is being used for runs out of New Orleans is probably being used for drug runs into U.S." On February, 10th, 1986, Owen informed North that another Contra plane, a DC-4, was armed at one time to run drugs, and part of the crew had criminal records. Nice group the Boys [the CIA] chose," Owen added.

(4) Robert Parry, Lost History (1999)

The State Department has never explained how the four drug smuggling and money-laundering companies were selected, although Ambassador Robert Duemling who oversaw contra "humanitarian" aid recalled that North wanted continuation of "the existing arrangements" that had been set up for the contras.

Those "existing arrangements" were maintained despite even earlier drug warnings from some of North's field operatives. In June 1984, North's courier, Robert Owen, passed on information that Cuban-Americans working with the contras are "involved in drugs." Another North aide, Lt. Col. Robert Earl, recalled that in 1986, CIA officers on the ground were worried because these Cuban-Americans were knee-deep in "corruption and greed and drugs." But the DEA has stated that it has no record that North or his associates passed on evidence of contra-drug trafficking.