October Surprise: The First Stolen Election
A Congressional Task Force
By now, there was enough outside pressure for the House of Representatives to form an October Surprise Task Force in February 1992. The fellow who chaired the committee was Lee Hamilton, a bipartisan Democrat who from then on always seemed to end up in charge of these types of investigations. The chief counsel for the Houses October Surprise Task Force was a fella named Barcella, fresh from having been lead attorney for the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which had paid his firm more than $2 million to keep it shielded from investigations by the press or government agencies. When a reporter asked Barcella if he saw any conflict of interest, since BCCI had helped finance arms deals to Iran in 1983, Barcella accused the man of McCarthy-like behavior.
Well, you wont find BCCI mentioned once in the Task Forces reporteven though within days after William Casey became head of Reagans CIA, BCCI officials, along with Iranian banker Cyrus Hashemi, set up two Hong Kongbased banks that were underwritten by $20 million in Iranian assets from the Shahs royal family.
Given who was in charge, we shouldnt be too surprised at the task forces conclusions. In 1993, the House report found no credible evidence supporting any attempt by the Reagan presidential campaignor persons associated with the campaignto delay the release of the American hostages in Iran.
A U.S. Senate Investigation
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee also conducted a small-scale investigation. Theyd imposed travel restrictions on checking out leads in Europe, denied subpoena power and claimed a shortage of funds. The Secret Service wouldnt allow any questioning of agents who might have gone with Bush to Paris. The Senates report, issued on November 19, 1992, said the vast weight of all available evidence was that Bush never made that trip to cut a deal with Iran.
William Casey was dead by now, and his family decided not to supply any of his records. Donald Gregg, a member of Bushs NSC staff after working more than 30 years for the CIA, failed a lie-detector test on the matter, but the Senate committee would only say that Greggs response was lacking in candor. The House found credible French intelligence sources about the Paris meetings, but still concluded somehow that it was all baseless.
As for that report by the Russians, which ended up in Hamiltons hands two days before he was to announce the Task Forces conclusions, he instead took at face value a cable from an American Embassy official in Moscow that the report might be based largely on material that has previously appeared in the Western media. (Not the Times or the Post, Ill bet!) The Russians continued to insist that the intel was their own and reliable; they considered the report a bomb and couldnt believe it was ignored.
[And so] the precedent-setter for one political party to steal a presidential election from another happened with Ronald Reagan, a man some would like to see join our greatest presidents on Mount Rushmore.