Iran–Contra Affair: Former White House aide Oliver North is convicted

Iran–Contra Affair: Former White House aide Oliver North is convicted ...
parseed.ir 04/05/1989 History

Keywords:#American, #American_Civil_Liberties_Union, #Attorney_General, #Bush, #CIA, #Congress, #Duane_Clarridge, #Enterprise, #Hakim, #Hezbollah, #Indiana, #Iran, #Iranian, #Iran–Contra_Affair, #Iran–Contra_Scandal, #Iran–Contra_affair, #Islamic, #Islamic_Republic, #Islamic_Republic_of_Iran, #Islamic_Revolutionary_Guard_Corps, #Israel, #Israeli, #John_Poindexter, #Khomeini, #Lebanon, #Mexico, #National_Security_Council, #Nicaragua, #Oliver_North, #Parseed, #Parseed.ir, #Persian, #President, #Ronald_Reagan, #Security_Council, #September, #Supreme_Court, #Swiss, #TOW, #Task_Force, #U.S._Congress, #United_States, #Vice_President, #Washington, #White_House, #Yitzhak_Shamir

Oliver North was indicted in March 1988 on 16 felony counts. His trial opened in February 1989, and on May 4, 1989, he was initially convicted of three: accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and ordering the destruction of documents through his secretary, Fawn Hall. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gesell on July 5, 1989, to a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines, and 1,200 hours of community service. North performed some of his community service within Potomac Gardens, a public housing project in southeast Washington, DC. However, on July 20, 1990, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), North's convictions were vacated, after the appeals court found that witnesses in his trial might have been impermissibly affected by his immunized congressional testimony.
The individual members of the prosecution team had isolated themselves from news reports and discussion of North's testimony, and while the defense could show no specific instance in which North's congressional testimony was used in his trial, the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judge had made an insufficient examination of the issue. Consequently, North's convictions were reversed. After further hearings on the immunity issue, Judge Gesell dismissed all charges against North on September 16, 1991.
The Iran–Contra affair (Persian: ماجرای ایران-کنترا‎, Spanish: Caso Irán–Contra), popularized in Iran as the McFarlane affair, the Iran–Contra scandal, or simply Iran–Contra, was a political scandal in the United States that occurred during the second term of the Reagan Administration. Senior administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to the Khomeini government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo. The administration hoped to use the proceeds of the arms sale to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Under the Boland Amendment, further funding of the Contras by the government had been prohibited by Congress.
The official justification for the arms shipments was that they were part of an operation to free seven American hostages being held in Lebanon by Hezbollah, a paramilitary group with Iranian ties connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The plan was for Israel to ship weapons to Iran, for the United States to resupply Israel, and for Israel to pay the United States. The Iranian recipients promised to do everything in their power to achieve the release of the hostages. The first arms sales authorized to Iran were in 1981, prior to the American hostages having been taken in Lebanon.
The plan was later complicated in late 1985, when Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council diverted a portion of the proceeds from the Iranian weapon sales to fund the Contras, a group of anti-Sandinista rebels, in their insurgency against the socialist government of Nicaragua. While President Ronald Reagan was a vocal supporter of the Contra cause, the evidence is disputed as to whether he personally authorized the diversion of funds to the Contras. Handwritten notes taken by Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on 7 December 1985 indicate that Reagan was aware of potential hostage transfers with Iran, as well as the sale of Hawk and TOW missiles to "moderate elements" within that country. Weinberger wrote that Reagan said "he could answer to charges of illegality but couldn't answer to the charge that 'big strong President Reagan passed up a chance to free the hostages.'" After the weapon sales were revealed in November 1986, Reagan appeared on national television and stated that the weapons transfers had indeed occurred, but that the United States did not trade arms for hostages. The investigation was impeded when large volumes of documents relating to the affair were destroyed or withheld from investigators by Reagan administration officials. On 4 March 1987, Reagan made a further nationally televised address, taking full responsibility for the affair and stating that "what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages".
The affair was investigated by the U.S. Congress and by the three-person, Reagan-appointed Tower Commission. Neither investigation found evidence that President Reagan himself knew of the extent of the multiple programs. In the end, fourteen administration officials were indicted, including then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Eleven convictions resulted, some of which were vacated on appeal. The rest of those indicted or convicted were all pardoned in the final days of the presidency of George H. W. Bush, who had been Vice President at the time of the affair.
Indictments
Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Defense, was indicted on two counts of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice on 16 June 1992. Weinberger received a pardon from George H. W. Bush on 24 December 1992, before he was tried.
Robert C. McFarlane, National Security Adviser, convicted of withholding evidence, but after a plea bargain was given only two years of probation. Later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State, convicted of withholding evidence, but after a plea bargain was given only two years probation. Later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
Alan D. Fiers, Chief of the CIA's Central American Task Force, convicted of withholding evidence and sentenced to one year probation. Later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
Clair George, Chief of Covert Ops-CIA, convicted on two charges of perjury, but pardoned by President George H. W. Bush before sentencing.
Oliver North, member of the National Security Council was indicted on 16 charges. A jury convicted him of accepting an illegal gratuity, obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents. The convictions were overturned on appeal because his Fifth Amendment rights may have been violated by use of his immunized public testimony and because the judge had incorrectly explained the crime of destruction of documents to the jury.
Fawn Hall, Oliver North's secretary, was given immunity from prosecution on charges of conspiracy and destroying documents in exchange for her testimony.
Jonathan Scott Royster, Liaison to Oliver North, was given immunity from prosecution on charges of conspiracy and destroying documents in exchange for his testimony.
National Security Advisor John Poindexter was convicted of five counts of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, perjury, defrauding the government, and the alteration and destruction of evidence. A panel of the D.C. Circuit overturned the convictions on 15 November 1991 for the same reason the court had overturned Oliver North's, and by the same 2 to 1 vote. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
Duane Clarridge. An ex-CIA senior official, he was indicted in November 1991 on seven counts of perjury and false statements relating to a November 1985 shipment to Iran. Pardoned before trial by President George H. W. Bush.
Richard V. Secord. Former Air Force major general, who was involved in arms transfers to Iran and diversion of funds to Contras, he pleaded guilty in November 1989 to making false statements to Congress and was sentenced to two years of probation. As part of his plea bargain, Secord agreed to provide further truthful testimony in exchange for the dismissal of remaining criminal charges against him.
Albert Hakim. A businessman, he pleaded guilty in November 1989 to supplementing the salary of North by buying a $13,800 fence for North with money from "the Enterprise," which was a set of foreign companies Hakim used in Iran–Contra. In addition, Swiss company Lake Resources Inc., used for storing money from arms sales to Iran to give to the Contras, plead guilty to stealing government property. Hakim was given two years of probation and a $5,000 fine, while Lake Resources Inc. was ordered to dissolve.
The Independent Counsel, Lawrence E. Walsh, chose not to re-try North or Poindexter. In total, several dozen people were investigated by Walsh's office.
George H. W. Bush's denial
During his election campaign in 1988, Vice President Bush denied any knowledge of the Iran–Contra affair by saying he was "out of the loop". Though his diaries included that he was "one of the few people that know fully the details", he repeatedly refused to discuss the incident and won the election.
A book published in 2008 by Israeli journalist and terrorism expert Ronen Bergman asserts that Bush was also personally and secretly briefed on the affair by Amiram Nir, a counterterrorism adviser to the then Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, when Bush was on a visit to Israel. "Nir could have incriminated the incoming President. That Nir was killed in a mysterious chartered airplane crash in Mexico in December 1988 has given rise to numerous conspiracy theories", writes Bergman.
Pardons
On 24 December 1992, having been defeated for reelection, and nearing the end of his term in office, lame duck President George H. W. Bush pardoned five administration officials who had been found guilty on charges relating to the affair. They were:
Elliott Abrams;
Duane Clarridge;
Alan Fiers;
Clair George; and
Robert McFarlane.
Bush also pardoned Caspar Weinberger, who had not yet come to trial. Attorney General William P. Barr advised the President on these pardons, especially that of Caspar Weinberger.
In response to these Bush pardons, Independent Counsel Lawrence E. Walsh, who headed the investigation of Reagan Administration officials' criminal conduct in the Iran–Contra scandal, stated that "the Iran–Contra cover-up, which has continued for more than six years, has now been completed." Walsh noted that in issuing the pardons Bush appears to have been preempting being implicated himself in the crimes of Iran–Contra by evidence that was to come to light during the Weinberger trial, and noted that there was a pattern of "deception and obstruction" by Bush, Weinberger and other senior Reagan administration officials.
Conviction
In Poindexter's hometown of Odon, Indiana, a street was renamed to John Poindexter Street. Bill Breeden, a former minister, stole the street's sign in protest of the Iran–Contra affair. He claimed that he was holding it for a ransom of $30 million, in reference to the amount of money given to Iran to transfer to the Contras. He was later arrested and confined to prison, making him, as satirically noted by Howard Zinn, "the only person to be imprisoned as a result of the Iran–Contra Scandal".
Modern interpretations
The Iran–Contra affair and the ensuing deception to protect senior administration officials (including President Reagan) has been cast as an example of post-truth politics.
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