Probe by House finds no 'October surprise' Hostage conspiracy by GOP discounted

January 13, 1993|By New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan House panel has concluded that there is no merit to the persistent accusations that people associated with the 1980 presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan struck a secret deal with Iran to delay the release of U.S. hostages until after the election.

"There is no credible evidence supporting any attempt or proposal to attempt by the Reagan presidential campaign, or persons representing or associated with the campaign, to delay the release of the American hostages in Iran," the panel concluded in a summary of its report, which is to be made public today.

The summary describes the report as "the most thorough and complete investigation and analysis of the October Surprise allegations to date."

The Reagan campaign, the report said, was fearful that President Jimmy Carter would arrange a last-minute agreement to free the 52 hostages in the final month of the election campaign, or that he would spring an "October surprise."

That term became a catchall to describe the entire episode, including the accusations that some of Mr. Reagan's aides worked to delay the hostages' release and deny Mr. Carter the benefit of the publicity.

In essence, the investigation concluded that the stories of Reagancampaign operatives working covertly with the Iranians to delay the hostages' release were spread by people whose testimony does not hold up against credible documentary evidence, including telephone, hotel and credit card records, and raw intelligence reports.

In addition, one of the principal sources for many of the news reports, Iranian arms dealer Jamshid Hashemi, has retracted his story.

The findings of the $1.35 million investigation were similar to those of a far less ambitious inquiry by a Senate committee last year.

The hostages were freed by Iran on Jan. 20, 1981, the day Mr. Reagan was sworn in as president. The theory that the Republican campaign had engineered a delay of that release until after Election Day circulated in Washington throughout the Reagan and Bush administrations, but it attracted heightened public interest in April 1991, when Gary Sick, a national security aide in the Carter White House, said he had concluded that the accusations were true because of the variety of sources who told similar stories.

Under the theory, the Reagan administration arranged for the shipment of arms to Tehran through Israel in exchange for the delay.

Mr. Sick and other journalists reported that William J. Casey, the Reagan campaign chairman, met with representatives of Iran in the summer before the election in Madrid, Spain, to discuss the delay and consummated the deal that fall in Paris. Mr. Casey, later CIA director, died in 1987.

"With respect to the alleged meetings in Madrid, the task force found that the evidence allegedly supporting each of these meetings was neither from credible sources nor corroborated," the report concluded.

The summary of the report harshly criticizes another principal source of many of the allegations, Israeli Ari Ben-Menashe, who has said that he was present at a meeting in October 1980 in Paris between Iranian representatives and people from the Reagan campaign.

Mr. Ben-Menashe has suggested at various times that George Bush, the Republican candidate for vice president at the time, was at the Paris meeting, but the panel said it had conclusive evidence that Mr. Ben-Mehashe was not in Paris during that time.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.