By Robert Parry
Created Dec 1 2006 - 9:32am
As the next Defense Secretary, Robert M. Gates will be in charge of a new
star-chamber legal system that can lock up indefinitely "unlawful enemy
combatants" and "any person" accused of aiding them. Yet, despite these
extraordinary new powers, his confirmation is being treated more like a
coronation than a time for tough questions.
Not since 2003 when Secretary of State Colin Powell wowed Official
Washington with his United Nations speech on Iraq's WMD has there been such
an awed consensus about any public figure as there has been for former CIA
Director Gates, who is almost universally praised for his intelligence,
experience and down-to-earth style.
But there are serious unresolved questions about Gates's past that the
American people might want resolved before he is entrusted with the awesome
new powers that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 puts in the hands of
the Defense Secretary.
In 1991, for reasons mostly of political expediency and personal friendship,
Gates's last confirmation process for CIA director never got to the bottom
of allegations linking Gates to some of the most serious national security
scandals of the 1980s, including illegal involvement in arms deals with Iran
In his memoir, From the Shadows, Gates revealed why the inquiries were cut
short when he thanked his friend, Sen. David Boren, the chairman of the
Senate Intelligence Committee, for shepherding him through the confirmation
"David took it as a personal challenge to get me confirmed," Gates wrote.
Boren's chief of staff who helped limit the investigation of Gates in 1991
was George Tenet, whose actions earned him the gratitude of then-President
George H.W. Bush, who a decade later urged his son, President George W.
Bush, to keep Tenet on as CIA director.
Amid all this cozy back-scratching, Gates's alleged involvement in illicit
contacts between senior Republicans and Iranian representatives during the
1980 hostage crisis was never seriously vetted. Neither was Gates's alleged
participation in arranging secret arms shipments to Iraq's Saddam Hussein in
the early 1980s.
Though Boren promised to pursue the so-called Iraq-gate allegations against
Gates, the Oklahoma senator never did.
Then, regarding a purported Gates meeting with a key Israeli intelligence
officer who had linked Gates to both the 1980 Iran-hostage scandal and the
later Iraq-gate operations, Gates denied that the meeting ever took place.
To prove it, Gates supplied Boren and Tenet with an airtight alibi - for the
In 1991, when I pointed out this date discrepancy to the Senate Intelligence
Committee staff, they agreed that they had the wrong day but then told me
that they had simply decided to take Gates at his word that he had not met
the Israeli intelligence officer, Ari Ben-Menashe.
Since 1991, however, new evidence has emerged supporting the plausibility of
In January 1993, the Russian government sent then-Rep. Lee Hamilton a report
describing what the KGB's intelligence files revealed about the history of
secret U.S. arms sales to Iran.
According to this Russian report, CIA officer Gates joined then-vice
presidential candidate George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan's campaign chief
William Casey in a clandestine meeting with Iranian representatives in Paris
in October 1980.
At the time, President Jimmy Carter was trying to gain the freedom of 52
American hostages in Iran whose continued captivity sank Carter's hopes for
reelection. The hostages weren't freed until immediately after Reagan and
Bush were sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981.
Though the Russian report contradicted long-standing denials by Gates and
Bush about the Paris trip, Hamilton never subjected the report to a thorough
examination, nor did he release it to the public. He simply filed it away in
unpublished records of a House task force he had headed. [I discovered the
Russian report  a couple of years later.]
In another blow to Gates's credibility in January 1995, Howard Teicher, who
had served on President Reagan's National Security Council staff in the
1980s, submitted a sworn affidavit  detailing the work of Gates and his
boss, then-CIA Director Casey, in arranging arms supplies through Chilean
arms dealer Carlos Cardoen for the Iraqis.
Again, the Teicher affidavit was never seriously investigated, in part
because it complicated a federal prosecution of a private company, Teledyne
Industries, which had supplied explosives to Cardoen.
When Justice Department lawyers couldn't readily find documents that Teicher
said should be in the Reagan archives, the lawyers questioned Teicher's
credibility, ignoring the fact that in 1986, NSC aide Oliver North conducted
a massive "shredding party" of NSC records about secret policies in the
Middle East and Central America.
In the years since Gates's last confirmation hearing in 1991, other evidence
has come along to buttress Ben-Menashe's claims that Gates was an active
player in covert Middle East policies and took part in clandestine
Critics of Ben-Menashe have challenged his claims on the grounds that Gates
was known as a Soviet - not a Middle East - expert and was an intelligence
analyst who would not cross over into covert operations.
But what these critics misunderstood is that while Gates did work in the
Soviet division of the CIA's analytical section, his work there concentrated
on Soviet policy toward the Middle East, according to Gates's former boss,
CIA analyst Ray McGovern. Indeed, McGovern said Gates prided himself in
being a top Middle East expert within CIA.
Gates also didn't confine himself to the cloistered world of CIA analysis,
even when he was in charge of the CIA's analytical division, the Directorate
of Intelligence, in the early- to mid-1980s.
Though CIA analysts are supposed to focus on providing objective
intelligence and leave setting policy to the policymakers, Gates secretly
sent policy recommendations to CIA Director Casey.
For instance, in a December 1984 memo to Casey, Gates called for the bombing
of military targets in Nicaragua and the overthrow of the leftist Sandinista
government as the only way to prevent a permanent "Marxist-Leninist" state
on the mainland of the Americas. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Why
Trust Robert Gates on Iraq ."]
Besides crossing the bright line between analysis and policy, Gates turned
out to be wrong in his assessments. After the Reagan administration rejected
his plan as too extreme, the Sandinistas eventually left power peacefully
when they lost an election. [For more on Gates's history, see
Consortiumnews.com's "The Secret World of Robert Gates ."]
The questions about Gates's integrity and independence stand out in even
sharper relief now because of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act
of 2006 . The new law empowers the Defense Secretary to create a parallel
American legal system, existing outside the protections of the U.S.
As Defense Secretary, Gates would handpick the military judges and set the
rules for administering the system, which was established under a law passed
by Congress in September and signed by President Bush on Oct. 17. The law
allows the jailing of both "unlawful enemy combatants" and "any person" who
allegedly helps them.
While the new law explicitly strips non-U.S. citizens of the habeas corpus
right to a fair and speedy trial, the law implicitly does the same to U.S.
citizens in a section that covers "any person" who "aids, abets, counsels,
commands or procures" actions by "unlawful enemy combatants."
Anyone who is thrust into this parallel legal system is barred from filing
any motions "whatsoever" with a civilian court, presumably preventing
assertion by citizens and non-citizens alike of habeas corpus or other
constitutional rights. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Who Is 'Any Person' in
Tribunal Law ."]
Given the sweeping powers that Gates would inherent as Defense Secretary,
the Senate Armed Services Committee might want to take a little more time
before it rushes through his confirmation.
Currently, Gates is expected to undergo gentle questioning mostly focused on
the Iraq War during pro forma confirmation hearings on Dec. 5. According to
this thinking, his confirmation by the full Senate would follow quickly
during the lame-duck session with the Republicans still in the majority.
But before Gates's confirmation by acclamation, senators might want to
consider posing the following questions:
1. In a 1995 affidavit, former NSC official Howard Teicher put you in the
middle of arranging third-country arms shipments to Iraq in the 1980s.
Exactly what was your role in dealing with the issue of third-country
military shipments to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War? Were you ever
approached by Israeli representatives who voiced concerns about some of
these shipments, particularly those involving dangerous chemicals? If so,
what did you do about these Israeli concerns? What do you know about Chilean
arms dealer Carlos Cardoen?
2. In December 1984, you wrote a memo to CIA Director William Casey
recommending, among other things, the bombing of military targets in
Nicaragua. You warned that if your tough recommendations weren't followed,
you envisioned a permanent "Marxist-Leninist" state in Central America. As
it turned out, the Reagan administration rejected your advice as too extreme
and the Sandinistas surrendered power via an election in 1990. In hindsight,
do you acknowledge that your recommendations were misguided? Since you made
them when you were in charge of the analytical division, do you believe you
overstepped your bounds by getting involved in policy recommendations? Given
the damage to U.S. national interests that has followed the faulty
intelligence on Iraq's WMD, do you believe it's wise for the deputy director
for intelligence to offer detailed policy prescriptions?
3. In a 1993 report to Rep. Lee Hamilton, the Russian government said its
intelligence files put you in a meeting in Paris in October 1980 with
Iranian representatives about American hostages then held in Iran. At that
time, you were the executive assistant to CIA Director Stansfield Turner.
Though you denied participating in such a meeting during your 1991
confirmation hearings, this Russian report followed that denial. First, do
you stand by your earlier denial? And second, can you turn over to Congress
records that would verify your whereabouts during the relevant period of
mid-October 1980, particularly the weekend of Oct. 18-19?
4. On another date for a disputed meeting between you and an Israeli
representative in New Jersey, you apparently gave the Senate Intelligence
Committee an alibi for the wrong day, April 19, 1989, when the date of the
supposed meeting was April 20, 1989. Would you be willing to provide
documentary evidence about your whereabouts on the afternoon of April 20,
1989, such as personal calendars or your official schedule for that day when
you were deputy national security adviser?
5. During your career in the CIA and your assignments to the NSC, how many
times did you travel to the Middle East? Could you provide a list of
destinations, the purposes of the trips, and approximate dates? Do you
consider yourself a Middle East expert?
6. Since the Military Commissions Act of 2006 contains wording that seems to
apply to "any person" who aids and abets acts by "unlawful enemy
combatants," some American citizens fear they might be pulled into the
military tribunal system. Can you offer categorical assurances that no
American citizen would ever be detained under this new law? Do you believe
that Congress should revise the statute to restore the principle of habeas
corpus for all detainees and to include other traditional legal safeguards,
or are you happy with the law as is?
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Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107
"A little patience and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their
spells dissolve, and the people recovering their true sight, restore their
government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are
suffering deeply in spirit,
and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public
debt. But if the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have
patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning
back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at
Still throwing endless temper tantrums over your Muslime terrorist
heroes being inconvenienced, eh? Continue wailing :)
Still smarting over Bolton getting the axe, eh Omar?
Interesting bogus accusation, coming from a creature named "omar."
Not to mention losing the House, Senate and the majority of Governorships.