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How Robert Gates' Lies and Cover-Ups Earned Him a Long, Prestigious Career -- At the Expense of the American People

Two decades ago, U.S. history could have taken a very different course if Gates and his cohorts had faced real accountability and their secrets had been exposed.

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"R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA Director George Bush also took part" in a meeting in Paris in October 1980, according to the Russian report.

Despite its explosive information, the Russian Report was kept hidden by the House October Surprise Task Force, which went ahead with its exculpatory findings. Later, I discovered the report when I gained access to some of the task force's unpublished files.

Years later, Hamilton told me that he had never seen the report, although it was addressed to him. Barcella acknowledged that he might never have forwarded the report to Hamilton. [For the text of the Russian report, click  here. To view the actual U.S. embassy cable that includes the Russian report, click  here.]

Weapons Shipments

Despite lingering uncertainties about the details of the October Surprise case, what is beyond dispute is that once in office, President Reagan did permit weapons to flow to Iran via Israel. One of the Israeli planes carrying an arms shipment was shot down over the Soviet Union on July 18, 1981, after straying off course, but the incident drew little attention at the time.

The secret arms flow continued, on and off, until late 1986 when the Iran-Contra scandal - another case of arms-for-hostages dealing with Iran - broke into public view. [For more details, see Robert Parry's  Secrecy & Privilege.]

Regarding the Iran-Contra scandal - which might be viewed as the sequel to the October Surprise case - independent counsel Walsh chose not to indict Gates, though Walsh's final report didn't endorse Gates's credibility either. After recounting discrepancies between Gates's Iran-Contra recollections and those of other CIA officials, Walsh wrote:

"The statements of Gates often seemed scripted and less than candid. Nevertheless, given the complex nature of the activities and Gates's apparent lack of direct participation, a jury could find the evidence left a reasonable doubt that Gates either obstructed official inquiries or that his two demonstrably incorrect statements were deliberate lies."

For his part, Gates also denied any wrongdoing in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostage deal and expressed only one significant regret - that he acquiesced to the decision to withhold from Congress the Jan. 17, 1986, presidential intelligence "finding" that gave some legal cover to the Iran arms shipments.

Besides the questions about whether Gates lied to protect himself and his superiors in these scandals involving Iran, Iraq and Israel, Gates also faced charges from senior colleagues inside the CIA's analytical division that he corrupted their standards for providing honest assessments to U.S. policymakers.

Once Casey became Reagan's CIA director in 1981, Gates was put on the fast track for career success. Shoving aside more senior officials, Gates rose quickly to head the CIA's analytical division, where he reversed decades of CIA traditions regarding objective analysis.

In that job - and later as Casey's deputy director - Gates oversaw an analytical division that began exaggerating dangers abroad to justify Reagan's massive military buildup. Instead of seeing the signs of a coming Soviet collapse, Gates's analytical product conjured up a Soviet empire gaining on all fronts.

To fit with Reagan's geopolitical needs, Gates's CIA also downplayed real dangers that ironically would emerge as greater threats today. For instance, analysts who warned about Pakistan's secret work on a nuclear bomb were ignored and even punished, apparently because the Reagan administration needed Pakistan's help in supporting anti-Soviet mujahedeen rebels in Afghanistan.

At Gates's confirmation hearings in 1991, former CIA analysts, including renowned Kremlinologist Melvin A. Goodman, took the extraordinary step of coming out of the shadows to accuse Gates of politicizing intelligence. [For details, see's " The Mysterious Robert Gates."]

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