Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Update to “Reading tea leaves? …

When Fred Fielding reports to work he will join one of his colleagues from the heady days of Iran-Contragate, namely, Robert Gates, who was recently appointed to replace Donald Rumsfeld as the Secretary of Defense.

In my summary of the Iran-Contra scandal, I elided over some of the many contradictions and outright lies that Ronald Reagan told regarding sales of missiles to Iran, and the involvement of other countries. You can read about them in an article by Eric Alterman in the American Prospect. The point is that enough lies had been told, especially by the Great Communicator, that pressure was building for a credible explanation of the affair.

That’s when Robert Gates, deputy director of the CIA, joined CIA chief William Casey and National Security Advisor John Poindexter, to produce a phony chronology of the “enterprise,” to cover up their illegal deeds and protect Reagan. Oliver North and Poindexter would later testify that the chronologies were deliberately “inaccurate.”

Incidentally, Poindexter was convicted on multiple felony counts on April 7, 1990 for conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury, defrauding the government, and the alteration and destruction of evidence pertaining to the Iran-Contra Affair.[fn] Naturally, that didn't stop him from serving in the Bush administration. From December, 2002, to August, 2003, Poindexter served as the Director of the DARPA Information Awareness Office (IAO). But I digress.

Back to the subject at hand: Robert Gates. Eric Alterman concludes his article on Gates by saying:
In his own memoir, Gates later noted that “[t]he first ingredient in the Contra time bomb was an administration unwilling to make a major national political issue of Nicaragua and live with the results, yet so committed to the Contra cause that it would thwart the obvious will of Congress and, unprecedentedly, run a foreign covert action out of the White House funded by foreign governments and private citizens.” True, but a second ingredient was a CIA willing to go along with it. Let’s hope he’s learned something about the value of institutional independence in the interim.
That strikes Big Mitch as a rather modest hope. Couldn’t we at least aspire to having a government that doesn’t hire people who were right in the middle of lying to Congress to protect a criminal president?

I guess not.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”


[fn] The convictions were reversed in 1991 on the technical grounds that the prosecution’s evidence may have been tainted by exposure to Poindexter’s testimony before the joint House-Senate committee investigating the matter, in which Poindexter’s testimony was compelled by a grant of ‘use immunity’. The prosecution was not able to re-try the case.

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