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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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Since Gates denied knowing Ben-Menashe at all, it was a perfect test for determining which one was lying.

It was before Gates’s CIA confirmation, so I brought the information about the alleged New Jersey meeting to Senate Intelligence Committee staffers. They checked on Gates's whereabouts and came back to me, laughing. They said Gates had a perfect alibi for that day. They said Gates had been with Sen. Boren at a speech in Oklahoma.

But when I cross-checked that claim, it turned out that Gates's Oklahoma speech had been on April 19, a day earlier, and that Boren had not been present. I also discovered that Gates had returned to Washington by that evening.

So where was Gates the next day? Could he have taken a quick trip to northern New Jersey?

Since senior White House national security officials keep detailed daily calendars, it should have been easy for Boren's investigators to check Gates's scheduled meetings and corroborate his alibi with a few interviews.

After I pointed out their screw-up on the Oklahoma speech, the committee staffers agreed to check again on the right date. They later called me back saying that Gates's personal White House calendar showed no trip to New Jersey and that Gates had denied taking such a trip. That was good enough for the committee, they said.

But the investigators couldn't (or wouldn't) tell me where Gates was that afternoon or with whom. They also acknowledged that they interviewed no alibi witnesses. And they rebuffed my later request to review their copy of Gates's calendar, which they claimed to have returned to him.

For his part, Gates wrote in his memoir that "the allegations of meetings with me around the world were easily disproved for the committee by my travel records, calendars, and countless witnesses." But none of Gates's supportive evidence was made public by Gates, by the Intelligence Committee, or by later inquiries into the Iran-hostage allegations or the Iraq-gate scandal.

Not one of Gates's "countless witnesses " who could vouch for Gates's whereabouts was identified. Perhaps most galling for those of us who were trying to assess Ben-Menashe's credibility was the committee's failure in 1991 to fully test Ben-Menashe's claim about the April 20, 1989, meeting.

Calendar Revealed

It wasn't until 2007 after Gates had become George W. Bush's Defense Secretary (replacing Donald Rumsfeld) that I finally secured a copy of Gates's calendar from the National Archives, via a Freedom of Information Act request.

I quickly leafed through the FOIA packet and pulled out the April 20, 1989, page. I finally thought I had the proof to confront Ben-Menashe with a clear-cut lie.

The calendar showed Gates with a full slate of White House meetings through the afternoon, including a public signing ceremony for the Space Council at 1:05 p.m., an Oval Office meeting with Belize's Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel at 3 p.m., and a session with two journalists John Cochran and Sandy Gilmore at 4 p.m.

However, before I challenged Ben-Menashe to his face, I thought I should check out the calendar as best I could, given the lapse of 18 years and the likelihood that memories of Gates's routine meetings with White House staff might be especially hazy.

Still, I could ask the archivists at the George H.W. Bush Library to check for photos of the public signing event. A picture of Gates would surely nail down that part of the time window. There also are sign-in sheets for Oval Office meetings like the one with the prime minister, so that would cover mid-afternoon. And the reporters might recall a White House sit-down with Gates.

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