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henry hyde.pdf

henry hyde.pdf

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Published by: Chad B Harper on Apr 14, 2013
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08/28/2013

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December 14, 1999
 
Hyde’s Blind Eye: Contras & Cocaine
 
Henry John Hyde
(April 18, 1924 – November 29, 2007)
By Dennis Bernstein & Leslie Kean
 
H
enry Hyde, who starred as chief House manager in President Clinton'simpeachment, played a very different role a decade earlier.
 
In 1987, instead of the grim prosecutor set on punishing Clinton for his sex-and-liesoffenses, Hyde was the glib defense attorney searching for reasons to spare PresidentReagan from possible impeachment over the Iran-contra scandal and related drugcrimes implicating the Nicaraguan contra army.
 
As a member of the congressional Iran-contra committee, Hyde vigorously defendedReagan’s Iran-contra activities and steered the panel away from any seriousinvestigation of the contra-cocaine connection.
 
The suppression of that contra-cocaine probe, in particular, proved crucial in shieldingReagan and his vice president, George Bush, from blame for a policy that fueledAmerica's cocaine pandemic and wreaked havoc on cities across the nation.
 
While it is not clear exactly what Hyde knew about the contra-cocaine corruption in1987, government investigators already had collected strong evidence of widespreadcriminality.
 
 
The contra-cocaine issue had surfaced publicly in 1985 and had become the subject ofa Senate inquiry in 1986. Even earlier, the CIA and the Drug EnforcementAdministration were aware of the contra-cocaine problem.
 
Those early suspicions have now been proved out. Last year, CIA inspector generalFrederick Hitz issued a lengthy report admitting that drug traffickers permeated thecontra movement from its inception in the early 1980s and that contra-cocainesmuggling continued throughout the decade. [For details on Hitz’s report, see RobertParry's
Lost History 
.]
 
According to the CIA inspector general's report, the evidence showed that from thestart, the CIA knew the contras were involved in "criminal activities," including terroristbombings, hijackings and narcotics trafficking.
 
By 1981, contra operatives had delivered their first shipment of cocaine to the UnitedStates, the report revealed. The inspector general also confirmed that drug traffickersfrom the Medellin cartel secretly collaborated with contra operatives to pump money intothe contra war.
 
We now know, too, that in 1982, Reagan's first attorney general, William French Smith,gave the CIA legal clearance to work with drug traffickers without a requirement toreport on their criminal activities.
 
This so-called "memorandum of understanding" was effectively a carte blanche for theCIA to ignore drug operatives working in the contra movement as well as other CIA-backed projects.
 
Though now confirmed by the CIA’s inspector general and other investigators, thecontra-cocaine charges were a matter of heated denials in the mid-1980s -- when thedrug smuggling actually was taking place.
 
"The government made a secret decision to sacrifice a part of the American populationfor the contra effort," testified Washington attorney Jack Blum before the SenateIntelligence Committee in 1996. Blum had been special counsel to Sen. John Kerry'sSenate Foreign Relations subcommittee on terrorism and narcotics.
 
Reagan administration officials also were "quietly undercutting law enforcement andhuman-rights agencies that might have caused them difficulty," Blum stated. "Policymakers absolutely closed their eyes to the criminal behavior of the contras."
 
F
rom his twin perch on the House Intelligence Committee and the congressional Iran-contra panel, Henry Hyde was especially well positioned to stop potential threats to thecontras from law-enforcement officials and congressional investigators who werecompiling the evidence.
 
 
Hyde’s spot at the nexus of information made him one of President Reagan’s mostimportant defenders.
 
One of the Illinois Republican’s principal contributions to the contra-cocaine cover-upwas his championing of a bogus 1987 investigative report largely clearing the contras ofdrug-trafficking suspicion.
 
The 900-word memo, drafted by Iran-contra committee staff member Robert A.Bermingham, claimed that a thorough investigation into the drug-trafficking charges hadfound no evidence that the contra leadership was implicated in narco-trafficking.Bermingham submitted the memo to Iran-contra committee chairman, Rep. LeeHamilton, on July 23, 1987.
 
"During the course of our investigation, the role of U.S. government officials whosupported the contras and the private resupply effort, as well as the role of privateindividuals in resupply, were exhaustively examined," Bermingham wrote.
 
"Hundreds of persons, including U.S. government employees, contra leaders,representatives of foreign governments, U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials,military personnel, private pilots and crews involved in actual operations werequestioned and their files and records examined. …
 
“There was no information developed indicating any U.S. government agency ororganization condoned drug trafficking by the contras or anyone else.”
 
More broadly, Bermingham disparaged the contra-cocaine allegations as self-servingclaims coming from disreputable individuals.
 
"During the course of our investigation, we examined files of State, DOD, NSC, CIA,DEA, Justice, Customs and FBI, especially those reportedly involving newspaperallegations of contra drug trafficking,” he said. “We have discovered that almost all ofthese allegations originate from persons indicted or convicted of drug smuggling."
 
Bermingham also reported that "contra leaders have been interviewed and their bankrecords examined. They denied any connection with or knowledge of drug trafficking.Examination of contra financial records, private enterprise business records, andincome tax returns of several individuals failed to find any indication of drug trafficking."
 
Bermingham then concluded, "additional investigation of these allegations isunwarranted in view of the negative results to date."
 
While Bermingham's description of his investigation sounded impressive, the memooffered virtually no documentation from -- or even identification of -- the "hundreds" ofwitnesses supposedly questioned.
 

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