Memo shows data shared with Bush Then-vice president received details on plot to free captives

October 23, 1992|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- A classified White House memorandum dated Nov. 26, 1985, shows for the first time how national security aides involved George Bush in their plans to use Terry Waite, the Church of England envoy, to win the release of Americans held hostage in Lebanon.

The memorandum was prepared for John M. Poindexter, then the deputy national security adviser, by Oliver L. North, a National Security Council aide. It was written to familiarize then-Vice President Bush with Mr. Waite's hostage-release activities in advance of Mr. Bush's hastily arranged meeting with the Anglican emissary on the afternoon of Nov. 26.

It is not entirely certain that Mr. Bush read the memo, but if he did the contents are not in conflict with his past statements. All along, Mr. Bush has said he knew about the efforts to gain the release of American hostages being held in Lebanon. But the memo is significant because it shows that White House aides gave Mr. Bush a wealth of details about their secret efforts to free the hostages, raising more questions about Mr. Bush's recent assertions that he was "not in the loop" about the Iran-contra affair.

Although the memorandum did not refer to the arms-for-hostages deal with Iran that was getting under way at that time, through arms sales arranged with Israel, it does ask Mr. Bush to discuss with Mr. Waite some of the ancillary demands the Iranians had made as part of hostage negotiations.

It also includes a cryptic hint that Mr. Bush was told of plans to encourage Mr. Waite to persuade the Kuwaiti government to exchange "blood money" for the release of 17 Muslim terrorists they had in prison, one of Iran's demands. If the reference to

paying "blood money" was in effect a ransom, that would have been a contravention of the U.S. policy that forbade bargaining with hostage takers.

C. Boyden Gray, the White House counsel, said he would not talk about the contents of the document. "Since it is apparently classified, I should not discuss it," he said.

The memorandum also sheds more light on the puzzling relationship forged between Mr. North, the cocksure Marine lieutenant colonel working in the White House, and Mr. Waite, the headstrong church official who risked his life traveling to Beirut to meet with the hostages' captors, only to become a hostage himself.

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