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John Kerry - Iran-contra Investigation (Part 1 of 2 )

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angrydemocrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Dec-21-04 04:18 PM
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John Kerry - Iran-contra Investigation (Part 1 of 2 )
In 1986 members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gathered behind closed doors off the chamber floor to hear what some called a sales pitch fro Kerry, who had spent the spring conducting a freelance investigation into reports that the Regan administration was illegally providing aid to the Nicaraguan contras. At this session he planned to urge the committee to launch an official probe.

Kerry's critics, and they were especially fierce toward a Mass. liberal at the height of President Reagan's popularity, they said it seemed like another case of grandstanding. The Republican senators who controlled the committee owed there majority to Reagan's popularity. Privately they were feeling increasing pressure from a shadowy figure at the White House, a Marine lieutenant colonel named Oliver North, who was orchestrating support for the contras.

But behind the scenes, Kerry had forged a alliance with senator Jesse Helms, a hidebound conservative from North Carolina. As a senior Republican on the committee, Helms was the key. And the key to Helm's was the the drug war. In the course of their investigation Kerry found evidence that some of the contras had ties to drug smuggling.

On matters of political philosophy, Kerry and Helms were opposites. Yet each was something of a maverick, contemptuous of the capital's courtiers and willing to rock the clubby Senate. Kerry said, "I spent time with Jesse. I talked to him. I talked his language. Jesse didn't believe the same things I did in many cases, but he was a gentlemen. He was a man of his word."

As Kerry finished his presentation, the senior members turned to Helms, asking his thoughts on the issue. "Jesse? What do you think about this?" asked senator Joe Biden, the ranking Democrat on the panel. "I know your a contra supporter," Biden said.

"I will tell you what I don't support, and John Kerry and I have talked about this: anybody sending drugs into this country," Helms told his colleagues. "I don't care whose side they are on." Helms was on board The committee reached a consensus: It would investigate the contras and the contra-drug connection.

As the Iran-contra scandal unfolded, Kerry would find an outlet for his prosecutorial skills, and his still simmering outrage over "seeing the government lie, and realizing the consequences in Vietnam.

North was an obscure White House aide. He had secretly begun to organize a complex scheme to raise money from wealthy conservatives, foreign nations, and eventually from the proceeds of secret arms sales to circumvent the law and keep the contras in the field.

Word of something was afoot began to seep into Kerry's Capitol Hill office, which had become a magnet for tips from journalists, activists, and conspiracy theorists drawn to the Kerry's antiwar history and criticisms of Reagan's Central America policy. "A central part of my campaign had been the notion that I would bring to the Senate the experience of the Vietman period, which cautioned me against the kind of illegal activities we were hearing about, and the things that are going on now," Kerry recalled. "Literally, I did an ad hoc investigation."

Kerry assembled a combative crew inside the Russell Senate Office Building. Kerry's staff had minimal Washington experience and like Kerry, little desire to fit in with the normally genteel style of the U.S. Senate. They had their own style and ways of doing things. In his choice of aides, as with the senators he sought out as partners, Kerry was eclectic. "John formed non-conventional alliances. You can't pigeonhole him. He likes feisty people who are fighters like him," said former chief of staff Frances Zwenig. Another former chief of staff, Ronald Rosenblith offered a telling description of his own personality: "I annoy people. All I know how to do is to tell the truth."

In late 1985, an intriguing report came to Kerry's staff from John Mattes, a public defender in Miami. Mattes had a client who claimed to know about the contras secret supply network. Kerry's staff interviewed Mattes and his client and traveled to Costa Rica to quiz other young men who had allegedly been working in a U.S.-sanctioned contra supply network. "It was like a detective story at that point," Winer, Kerry's council at the time. The clues pointed to "violations of U.S. law by the Reagan administration, including this guy Ollie North, who I didn't know anything about." On hearing some of the wilder allegations brought to him by his staff-tales of mercenaries and smugglers and assassination plots -Kerry recalled he would grimace and complain: "This is cockamamie. It cannot be true."

But Kerry gave his people plenty of running room. Kerry enjoyed the trust of Senator Richard Lugar, with whom he had worked during a trip to monitor the 1986 Philippine elections. "He understood that I was ambitious and serious about the work that we were doing, an enormous agenda, and in fairness, he regularly participated. He was not one of the dissident types. I did not see in him someone who was out there going after President Reagan, out after a Republican president," Lugar recalled.

North did worry about Kerry and seen him as a threat. His notebooks later obtained by Congress, were peppered with notations of concern about Kerry, his staff, and their freelance investigation. On April 18,1986 North wrote: "Sen. Kerry trying to get evidence linking RR to La Penca," the location of assassination attempt against a contra leader by hard-liners in the movement.

Before long, Kerry encountered resistance. Congressional investigators would later detail how the government intimidated Kerry's witnesses, including a mysterious figure Jack Terrell, who claimed to have been a contra adviser operating under the nom de guerre "Colonel Flaco."

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elshiva Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-26-05 11:47 PM
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1. The Contra Tour

Shortly after taking office in 1985, Kerry and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa went on a fact-finding trip to Nicaragua, where they met with Daniel Ortega (right) and other Sandinistas. The trip was criticized when the Sandinistas cemented ties with Moscow.
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