Defense Secretary Nominee Robert Gates Tied to Iran-Contra Scandal and the Secret Arming of Saddam Hussein
On Wednesday President Bush nominated former CIA director Robert Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Gates briefly appeared with President Bush and Rumsfeld at the White House and spoke with reporters.
Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense Nominee, speaking November 8th, 2006.
President Bush spoke highly of Robert Gates.
President Bush, speaking November 8th, 2006.
But questions are already being raised about Gates' role at the CIA in connection to the Iran-Contra scandal and the secret arming of Saddam Hussein. In 1987 President Reagan nominated Gates to become CIA director but the nomination had to be withdrawn because of stiff opposition in the Senate. Four years later President George H.W. Bush re-nominated Gates to be CIA chief and this time he was confirmed.
Today we are joined by two guests in Washington who have closely followed the career of Robert Gates.
Melvin Goodman, former CIA and State Department analyst. He is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Center's National Security Project. From 1966-1986 he was a senior CIA soviet analyst. In 1991 he was one of three former CIA officials to testify before the Senate against the nomination of Robert Gates as director of central intelligence. Goodman is co-author of the book, "Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives are Putting the World at Risk."
Robert Parry, veteran investigative journalist and editor of ConsortiumNews.com. For years he worked as an investigative reporter for both the Associated Press and Newsweek magazine. His reporting led to the exposure of the 'Iran-Contra' scandal. His books include "Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth'" and "Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq."
JUAN GONZALEZ: On Wednesday, President Bush nominated former CIA director Robert Gates to replace Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Gates briefly appeared with President Bush and Rumsfeld at the White House and spoke with reporters.
ROBERT GATES: United States is at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are fighting against terrorism worldwide, and we face other serious challenges to peace and our security. I believe the outcome of these conflicts will shape our world for decades to come. Because our long-term strategic interest and our national and homeland security are at risk, because so many of America's sons and daughters in our armed forces are in harm's way, I did not hesitate when the President asked me to return to duty.
JUAN GONZALEZ: President Bush spoke highly of Robert Gates.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Bob is one of our nation's most accomplished public servants. He joined the CIA in 1966 and has nearly 27 years of National Security experience, serving six presidents of both political parties. He spent nearly nine years serving on the National Security Council staff. And at the CIA, he rose from an entry-level employee to become the director of the Central Intelligence. And his experience has prepared him well for this new assignment.
JUAN GONZALEZ: But questions are already being raised about Gates’s role at the CIA in connection to the Iran-Contra scandal and the secret arming of Saddam Hussein. In 1987, President Reagan nominated Gates to become CIA director, but the nomination had to be withdrawn because of stiff opposition in the Senate. Four years later, President George Herbert Walker Bush re-nominated Gates to be CIA chief, and this time he was confirmed.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, we’re joined by two people in Washington, D.C., who have closely followed the career of Robert Gates. Melvin Goodman is a former CIA analyst. In ’91, he was one of three former CIA officials to testify before the Senate against the nomination of Robert Gates as director of Central Intelligence. Mel Goodman now serves as senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and director of the Center’s National Security Project.
We're also joined by Robert Parry, an investigative journalist who helped expose the Iran-Contra affair while working as a reporter for the Associated Press and for Newsweek. He now serves as editor of the online e-zine consortiumnews.com and is author of the book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.
Mel Goodman, I want to begin with you. Go back to the beginning of the ’90s. Why did you testify against Bob Gates?
MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, I testified, Amy, against Bob Gates for one very simple reason: Bob Gates, over the period of the 1980s, as a deputy for Intelligence and then as a deputy to CIA director Bill Casey, was politicizing intelligence. He was spinning intelligence on all of the major issues of the day, on the Soviet Union, on Central America, on the Middle East, on Southwest Asia. And I thought this record, this charge, should be presented before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
I think also it’s important that Bob Gates is a graduate of the Iran-Contra class of 1986. And the reason why he had to withdraw his nomination in 1987 was simply because the majority of the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, when Ronald Reagan nominated Gates as CIA director, did not believe Gates’s pleas that he knew nothing about Iran-Contra and this was happening around him, but he wasn’t part of it.
And, of course, in 1991, he attracted 31 negative votes, more than all of the votes against all of the CIA directors in history going back to 1947. So I think the committee believed that he was spinning the intelligence, and there was this great controversy, but the Republicans held the line. They made this a loyalty test to President George Bush, and so he was confirmed. But 31 negative votes was very significant.
AMY GOODMAN: Melvin Goodman, you didn’t just testify, you spent days with the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Why?
MELVIN GOODMAN: Well, I thought it was very important for people such as Bill Bradley and Sam Nunn, who were very opposed to Bob Gates, to understand how intelligence was politicized, how it was made up out of whole cloth; how if you look at the papal assassination plot that Gates commissioned in 1985, how this had no bearing on intelligence whatsoever. And I think there is a rather delicious irony in the fact that here is a nation that went to war with politicized intelligence, and now it’s naming as a CIA director someone who was the most important practitioner of politicized intelligence in the history of the CIA. So, as Yogi Berra would have said, “This is deja-vu all over again.”
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break. And then, when we come back, we’ll continue with you, Mel Goodman, former CIA and State Department analyst, now at Center for International Policy, testified against Bob Gates when he was put forward as director of Central Intelligence in 1991. We’ll also speak with journalist Bob Parry. Stay with us.