President Reagan Approves Illegal Iran-Contra Actions; Aides Joke About Prison
In the Oval Office on this day, President Ronald Reagan met with his national security advisers and approved the major parts of the Iran-Contra affair. CIA Director William Casey also approved the plan, but Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger objected, arguing that it was illegal. In fact, they even joked with Reagan that, if anyone went to jail, “visiting hours are on Thursday.” The Iran-Contra affair involved a complex set of international deals in which President Ronald Reagan and members of his administration violated the law and civil liberties principles.
In brief, he 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. President Reagan and some of his aides lied to cover up the affair, and 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 (President George H. W. Bush pardoned six of them on December 24, 1992).
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).
Learn more at a timeline on the Iran-Contra scandal: http://www.ibiblio.org/sullivan/CNN/RWR/ps174/icontra/ictimtxt.htm
Learn more about the Iran-Contra scandal: http://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/iran-contra-affairs.php