1992 December 24

President G. H. W. Bush Pardons Six Reagan Administration Figures in Iran-Contra Scandal

 

On this day, President George H. W. Bush pardoned six officials from the President Ronald Reagan administration who had been convicted of crimes in the Iran-Contra scandal (October 5, 1986; November 3, 1986). They were: Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams; former Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger; former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane; Duane Clarridge, senior operations officer for the CIA; Clair George, deputy director of the CIA; and Alan Fiers, CIA chief of Central American Task Force.

President Reagan and his CIA Director William Casey were fierce anti-Communists, determined to fight what they saw as communist threats anywhere in the world, even if it meant violating the law and established policies, as the Iran-Contra affair revealed.

In brief, the Iran-Contra scandal was a complex affair in which the Reagan administration sold military arms to Iran in exchange for American hostages, and the profits from the sales were used to secretly fund the anti-Communist Contras in Nicaragua. The arrangement violated the Arms Embargo Act and the Boland Amendment prohibiting aid to Nicaraguan forces (see December 21, 1982), as well as the established policy of not negotiating with terrorists over hostages. When President Reagan approved one set of illegal actions on December 7, 1985, his Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense both joked with him about going to prison (“visiting hours are on Thursday,” one of them said). President Reagan and some of his aides lied to cover up the affair — National Security Council staff member Oliver North shredded key documents as part of the cover-up (November 21, 1986). In the end, eight administration officials were convicted of crimes related to the affair, but were pardoned on this day.

The Iran-Contra affair is particularly important because it demonstrated the readiness of an ideologically driven administration to violate the law and controls over national security in the pursuit of its policies. President George W. Bush also violated a variety of laws in the war on terrorism, authorizing both illegal NSA spying (see the exposure by the New York Times on December 16, 2005) and torture (see the infamous “Torture Memo” on August 1, 2002.

Read President George H. W. Bush’s pardon statement: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=20265

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