A consensus: Investigate

May 16, 1991

A month has passed since Gary Sick, a former Navy captain who worked on the National Security Council staff in the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, wrote a widely read article for the New York Times stating his belief that Reagan campaign operatives in 1980 cut a secret deal with the Iranians to forestall the release of the American hostages who had, at that point, been held for a year in Teheran.

Predictably, the article provoked a welter of agreement and disagreement, not always from predictable sources. For example, Lloyd Cutler, who was President Carter's legal counsel at the time and close to the negotiations, disbelieves the story. On the other hand, Moorhead Kennedy, the ranking diplomat held hostage for the entire period and now a Republican party activist in New York, believes Sick's account is true. A neutral observer who covered much of the episode, Lou Cannon of the Washington Post, doubts that such a deal was cut.

But virtually everyone agrees on one thing: The charge merits a full investigation. There seems to be a consensus that whether true or untrue, the allegations are so serious that a congressionally authorized investigation should take place -- if only to assure the Reagan-Bush presidencies fair consideration in history.

It does not have to be -- indeed, perhaps should not be -- Congress itself that conducts the investigation. Rather, an bipartisan commission with subpoena powers, composed of respected private citizens such as Maryland's former Republican Sen. Charles McC. Mathias, would be a far better mechanism.

But it seems clear by now that such an investigation is merited.

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