[Diary of a Vengeance Foretold] Part 101

OCTOBER 11 1988

”We have received clear testimony from C.I.A. people that they have deliberately done things to provoke an overreaction on the part of the Government in Nicaragua.”

Jim Wright, the Speaker of the House

Where exactly stands the line that separates vigorous policy debate from unauthorized disclosure of Government secrets?

Jim Wright, the Speaker of the House, has just rekindled the time honored debate a few weeks ago when he revealed to reporters the ongoing role of the CIA in destabilizing the government of Nicaragua.

The House ethics committee inquiry will determine whether Wright has divulged classified information in violation of House rules. But many observers believe that the Representative is being targeted for exposing the covert policy of the Reagan – Bush administration in Central America.

Many also agree that if the source of his allegations had been any institution other than the CIA, no one would have paid attention. Some Republicans disagree.

”The emotional involvement on both sides of the Central American debate exaggerates the problem, but the significance of what was said is that the Speaker said it. It would have been just as dangerous conceptually and institutionally if he had talked about a covert action in Scotland,”said Representative Henry J. Hyde of Illinois, the senior Republican on the House intelligence committee.

The last comment leaves me wondering if Hyde was actually aware that the CIA was using the TEREX Company in Motherwell – Scotland – to provide mobile Scud launchers to the Iraqis, in violation of the UN embargo.

In the aftermath of the Congressional investigations of the Iran-contra affair, a legislative recommendation was proposed that would require the President to notify Congress within 48 hours about covert operations undertaken by the executive branch. The text was approved by the Senate earlier this year but House leaders have decided not to take it up.

Some members of Congress contend that the current oversight system is stacked in favor of the executive branch. There is indeed little doubt that the Administration can easily abuse the system when it wishes to stifle Congressional criticism. Representative Tony Coelho of California, the House Democratic whip, said he has simply stopped accepting classified briefings.

”I think the C.I.A. likes to compromise members of Congress by briefing them so they can’t talk about things,” argues Coelho.

Under the current procedures, covert American activities abroad must be authorized by a Presidential ”finding.” While the House and Senate intelligence committees are entitled to review such findings, the panels do not have the power to reject the covert activities.

The ultimate instrument, representatives Boren and Cohen said, is the power of the purse, namely the ability to withhold money to finance covert programs.

Neither Boren nor Cohen seem to realize that this is exactly why the CIA has a long history of working with drug and arms dealers such Monzer al Kasaar, a man suspected to have play some role in the bombing of Pan Am 103 and the Buenos Aires bombings.

Released on April 13, 1989, Senator John Kerry’s Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report on Contra drug links concluded that:

“senior US policy makers were not immune to the idea that drug money was a perfect solution to the Contras’ funding problems.”


Walking a Tightrope on Intelligence Issues   – October 11, 1988

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