The Government Must Be Watched

CARL T. ROWAN

October 16, 1992|By CARL T. ROWAN

WASHINGTON — Washington. -- Richard Nixon was forced to resign from the presidency because he tried to use federal agencies such as the CIA, the IRS and the FBI to undermine the Constitution. Election-year passions have blinded millions of Americans to the fact that the Bush administration is guilty of the same sort of abuses.

It is clear beyond argument that the Bush administration has used the Justice Department and/or the CIA in a cover-up of a scandal in which the Atlanta branch of the Banca Nazionale del Lavoro made more than $4 billion in illicit loans to Iraq for the purchase of weapons and food before the Persian Gulf War.

The Bush administration was so desperate to cover up its support for Iraq's Saddam Hussein, helping him to build up a deadly arsenal, that its operatives somehow got Christopher P. Drogoul, the manager of the Lavoro Bank's Atlanta branch, to plead guilty to defrauding the parent company by making the loans.

District Judge Marvin H. Shoob smelled a rat. So did members of Congress. They got the CIA to admit that it had large files on the loans to Iraq, including proof that senior bank officials in Rome had approved the loans to Iraq. Drogoul was about to go to jail as the fall guy saving higher-ups. But which higher-ups, where? In the CIA? The Justice Department? The White House?

In recusing himself from the case, Judge Shoob suggested that there was a conspiracy at the top levels of the Justice, State and Agriculture departments, and within the U.S. intelligence community, to withhold information and prevent the American people from learning what the Bush administration was doing before President Bush made Mr. Hussein the great demon. Judge Shoob reminded us that ''the government must be watched.''

And so it must. We now have a situation where William Sessions, director of the FBI, which is supposed to investigate whether the CIA or the Justice Department masterminded the Lavoro Bank cover-up, is himself facing a criminal inquiry by a unit of the Justice Department.

Police-state tactics have embroiled the police-state agencies in an incredible internecine blood struggle.

Meanwhile, the cover-up of Mr. Bush's involvement in the Iran-contra scandal is unraveling. Only Republicans who are beyond redemption, and gullible sycophants, can fail to see that Mr. Bush was up to his eyeballs in the scheme to trade arms to Iran for hostages, and to use funds from arms sales to give illegal aid to the Nicaraguan contras. Mr. Bush let a snippet of truth slip out in an impromptu interview with NBC's Katie Couric Tuesday -- only to have his White House lawyer rush to say that the `D president misspoke, answering a question that he didn't understand.

Now we have the ghoulish story of a top State Department official telephoning the U.S. embassies in London and Oslo, urging them to comb their files for information about Bill Clinton's trips to those cities and the Soviet Union in 1969. Forget the lame excuse that the State Department was simply seeking information requested by the news media; this was a mean, frightening use of the State Department in Mr. Bush's desperate effort to get smear data with which to destroy the man who is about to take his job.

Note, please, that the Baltimore Sun went directly to the KGB, the Soviet Union's dread intelligence and security organization, to ask if the KGB had had any contact with Mr. Clinton during his visit to the Soviet Union. ''No contact'' was the reply.

I am not surprised that in these last days of a losing political campaign Messrs. Bush and Quayle would try to manipulate federal agencies to discredit Governor Clinton. What terrifies me is that long before the president and his colleagues faced defeat they were engaging in outrageous cover-ups and manipulations of the FBI and the CIA.

The men who drafted the Bill of Rights knew what Judge Shoob and others of us now know: A police state can be imposed in many ways at any time; the government must be watched.

Carl T. Rowan is a syndicated columnist.

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