Congressional committees investigating the Iran-Contra Affair

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House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran /
Senate Select Committee On Secret Military Assistance to Iran And the Nicaraguan Opposition
Purpose To investigate the Iran-Contra affair
Location
Chairman (House) Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind)
Chairman (Senate) Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI)
Vice-Chairman (Senate) Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-NH)[1]
Parent organization United States House of Representatives / United States Senate

The Congressional Committees Investigating The Iran-Contra Affair were committees of the United States House of Representatives and of the United States Senate formed in January 1987 to investigate the Iran-Contra affair. The committees held joint hearings and issued a joint report. The hearings ran from 5 May 1987 to 6 August 1987, and the report was published in November, with a dissenting Minority Report signed by six Republican Congressmen and two Republican Senators.[2]

Process[edit]

The Committees were constituted in January 1987, and agreed a deadline for the investigation of 7 August, when Congress was due to adjourn, with several more months to prepare the final report.[1] According to a participant in the meetings, the Senate committee decided early on not to pursue the President, not only because he was too old and lacked the mental ability to fully understand what happened, and had too little time left in office, but because the Senators "honestly thought that the country didn't need another Watergate. They were urgently hoping to avoid a crisis."[1]

The hearings ran from 5 May 1987 to 6 August 1987.[3] During the hearings Rep. Henry Hyde defended Oliver North and John Poindexter lying to Congress.[4]

Majority Report[edit]

The Majority Report concluded that "The NSC staff turned to private parties and third countries to do the Government’s business. Funds denied by Congress were obtained by the Administration from third countries and private citizens. Activities normally conducted by the professional intelligence services — which are accountable to Congress — were turned over to [retired Gen. Richard] Secord and [Albert] Hakim."[5]

Minority Report[edit]

The Minority Report blamed conflict between executive and legislature over foreign policy: "Congressional Democrats tried to use vaguely worded and constantly changing laws to impose policies in Central America that went well beyond the law itself. For its own part, the Administration decided to work within the letter of the law covertly, instead of forcing a public and principled confrontation that would have been healthier in the long run."[2] Rep. Henry Hyde, one of the signatories to the Minority Report, wrote that "All of us at some time confront conflicts between rights and duties, between choices that are evil and less evil, and one hardly exhausts moral imagination by labeling every untruth and every deception an outrage."[4]

Criticism[edit]

The Report was criticized by Peter Dale Scott, among other things for failing to accurately present the allegations and background of whistle-blower Jack Terrell. Scott wrote that "where the committees' Report suppresses or misrepresents the truth (as happens too often), it is usually to prevent disclosure of other covert operations already authorized by Congress," citing as an example the suppression of The Enterprise's involvement in arms supply to the rebels in Angola.[6]

Aftermath[edit]

Richard Secord was later tried for false testimony to the Committees.

In 1989 the Senate Intelligence Committee investigated why documents appearing at the trial of Oliver North had not been submitted to the Committees.[7] It concluded the non-submission was not intentional.[8]

In 1991 Lawrence Walsh's investigation found papers had been withheld from the Congressional committees. This led to indictments for cover-up-related offenses against Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, CIA clandestine services chief Clair George and CIA European Division Chief Duane Clarridge. George was convicted in late 1992; the trials of Weinberger and Clarridge, due in early 1993, were halted after the outgoing President George H. W. Bush pardoned all those involved.[9]

References[edit]

External links[edit]