Richard Allen was head of the October Surprise Working Group. It met every morning to try to come up with ways to prevent Carter from bringing the hostages successfully home.
You have to remember that Reagan realized he would win as long as Carter didn't pull off a last-minute hostage rescue.
It was meant to release the hostages . . . exactly . . . the moment Ronald Reagan was president.
Barbara Honegger: Not just many of the key witnesses but the key witnesses in this entire affair have been, in my opinion, murdered.
The best way to get to the bottom of controversial activities is to air the facts. Air them dispassionately and carefully, and let the chips fall where they may.
November 1979. Fifty-two Americans were taken hostage in Iran. The American public was held in suspense as the Carter Administration worked to bring the hostages home--first, in the failed Desert One rescue attempt, and then through negotiations with the revolutionary Iranian government. In October of 1980 an agreement was reached to unfreeze Iran's monetary assets for the safe return of the hostages. For some reason, the hostages were not released until January 20, 1981, the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president. In the dawn of the Reagan era, many, in momentary blindness, neglected to seriously question the implications of such an event. It is now charged that in the few short months before the 1980 presidential election, the tremors of a domestic destabilization of America by Americans was shaking the nation.
The October Surprise. Produced by The Other Americas Radio. I'm Jane Perry. In this special program we will examine allegations that members of the Reagan-Bush campaign cut a secret deal with the Ayatollah Khomeini before the 1980 election. We will also explore what may have been the deliberate failure of President Carter's Desert One hostage rescue mission.
Honegger: The very possibility that Carter could bring the hostages home was close to certain to wreck a Reagan bid for the presidency; so the Reagan campaign took phenomenal secret measures to ensure that the Carter White House was not successful.
Perry: Barbara Honegger was a researcher with the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980. Subsequently she spent two years in the White House as a policy adviser to President Reagan. Honegger's investigation into this issue has revealed a disturbing story of treason, blackmail and sabotage.
Honegger: Reagan's 1980 campaign manager, William Casey, was knowledgeable, before the fact, of the upcoming Carter Desert One rescue attempt of April 1980. Now that is a phenomenal fact, because many of even the highest-level officers in Carter's own Central Intelligence Agency were kept in the dark about that very Desert One rescue operation.
Perry: Historian and author Donald Freed suggests links between the Reagan-Bush campaign and the failed Desert One rescue operation.
Freed: Precisely the people in the intelligence community commissioned to develop some kind of rescue for the hostages were clearly those elements of covert action close to Casey and demonstrably hostile to Carter.
Perry: Was the CIA loyal to President Carter--or to candidate Ronald Reagan? Jonathan Marshall is an investigative journalist and co-author of the book The Iran-Contra Connection. Like Donald Freed, he views with suspicion some circumstances surrounding President Carter's hostage rescue attempt.
Marshall: Miles Copeland, who had had some CIA connections in his past, ran in the Washington Star a hypothetical hostage rescue piece--how he would do it--and it's so remarkably close to the actual mission, and came only about one or two days before the mission took place, that there is legitimate room for at least questioning as to whether it was some kind of leak that came out in the form of fiction to protect him from charges that he had sabotaged it.
Freed: He printed a scenario for a rescue in the desert, and that story was later broadcast on Radio Iraq and Iran, and it was certainly heard in Iran. So the most closely guarded secret was, in effect, foreshadowed by this scenario.
Perry: Several years after leaving the White House, Barbara Honegger's research shows some startling links between the players of the 1980 hostage rescue operation and what has come to be known as "the secret team."
Honegger: And then, of course, we have Mr. Richard Secord, Oliver North, and Albert Hakim. Richard Secord was one of the chief planners for the so-called "failed" Desert One rescue attempt; Mr. North was involved in that rescue attempt, in the mother ship, which was on the Turkish border awaiting the cue from Mr. Secord to fly into Teheran to rescue the hostages; and Mr. Albert Hakim was in charge of the ground operations for the Desert One rescue attempt--in particular, obtaining the trucks and other vehicles that were going to be necessary for it. Mr. Hakim skipped town, left Teheran, 24 hours before the rescue attempt was to take place; and the reason for that, as detailed in my research documentation, was that Secord, North and Hakim had absolutely no intention of seeing Desert One carry through, and so sabotaged the operation.
Perry: The hostage rescue team consisted of eight helicopters, six C-130 transport planes, and 93 Delta Force commandos. But Delta Force never made it to Teheran. Only five of the eight helicopters reached the site of Desert One in operable condition. Perhaps this is due to a bizarre incident that occurred on the deck of the aircraft carrier Nimitz, where the helicopters were tightly guarded. General James Vaught, the mission's task force commander, suspects the incidents on the Nimitz may have been a deliberate effort to stop the hostage rescue mission. According to General Samuel Wilson, who investigated the many failures of the Eagle Claw rescue mission, the Pentagon's review panel found negligence on a level surprising even to those hardened to military incompetence. The incident on the Nimitz is only one of the many strange events surrounding the Desert One hostage rescue mission. Barbara Honegger takes us back to Teheran during the rescue attempt.
Honegger: This mysterious fifty-third hostage, Mrs. Cynthia Dwyer, who was in Iran and who had not yet been taken hostage at the time, told Reverend Moore, an American Presbyterian minister who was there and interviewing her at the time by phone, that the CIA had sabotaged the rescue attempt. She told him that immediately after the so-called "aborted" failure. And we also know from Reverend Moore, who was in Teheran at the time of the so-called Desert One rescue attempt, that a mullah who was at a prayer meeting heard a siren that went off in Teheran, and stood up in the middle of the prayer and said "God is great, God is good, your helicopters have just crashed in the desert." There are a number of other reasons and independent sources we have for a sabotage, but it was definitively sabotaged and there was advance multiple-failure planning.
Perry: The failed Eagle Claw rescue mission left eight men dead and three helicopters in the desert filled with classified documents, which fell into the Iranians' hands.
The benefits to be gained by President Carter's success in bringing the fifty-two hostages home sent tremors through the Reagan-Bush campaign headquarters. Barbara Honegger was working for the Reagan campaign at the time.
Honegger: Richard Werthlin, who was Ronald Reagan and George Bush's 1980 presidential campaign pollster, had determined that an "October surprise," which was a successful attempt by Jimmy Carter to release the hostages and bring them home before the 1980 election, would be the death knell to a Reagan-Bush presidency. That was determined by Reagan and Bush's pollster in March of 1980--which, not coincidentally, was approximately one month before the sabotaged Desert One rescue mission.
Perry: Investigative reporter Jonathan Marshall:
Marshall: We know that the Reagan people were extremely concerned about what they called the "October surprise"; and that Reagan's campaign manager, William Casey, later to become head of the CIA, was running what he called an "intelligence operation" against the Carter camp. This, of course, came out when David Stockman revealed that Reagan had prepared for his TV debates with Carter using a stolen briefing book. We know now that the espionage operation was much broader than just stealing some briefing books: it included former military officers, CIA people, FBI agents, and the like, who tapped into the Carter camp, into the intelligence bureaucracy, to find out whether this "October surprise" would actually happen; because if it did, and if it were successful, it would have cost Reagan the election.
Perry: Was the CIA loyal to Carter--or Casey?
Carter's new CIA chief, Stansfield Turner, had removed about 600 people from their jobs in the area of covert operations, which made for a very unhappy network. Congressional investigations have since revealed that active-duty CIA officers were working with the Reagan-Bush campaign.
Historian Donald Freed:
Freed: Casey, at various points in his career, sometimes officially, and sometimes unofficially, operated in a kind of old-boy network. In 1979 and '80 it is clear that the fear of an "October surprise" motivated a network being drawn up by Casey.
Perry: In October of 1980, Casey decided to create the October Surprise Working Group. Barbara Honegger:
Honegger: Richard Allen was head of the October Surprise Working Group. It met every morning to try to come up with ways to prevent Carter from bringing the hostages successfully home.
Perry: To what extent would the Reagan-Bush campaign go to prevent President Carter's success? Recently declassified CIA documents reveal that in the waning days of the 1980 campaign Reagan advisers met with an envoy of the Iranian government.
Honegger: We do know from published accounts in the Knight-Ridder papers across the country that Richard V. Allen, who at the time was the chief foreign policy adviser on Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign, met with Robert McFarlane, soon to become a key person in Irangate, and an alleged emissary from Khomeini's regime, in Washington D.C. in early October of 1980, to discuss a deal to delay release of the hostages until after the November 4, 1980 election, insuring Reagan's victory, insuring Carter's defeat. There is no question that that meeting happened; Richard Allen and McFarlane have acknowledged that it did.
Perry: Barbara Honegger was a campaign researcher and later Policy Adviser to President Reagan. Robert McFarlane told reporters that the Iranian that approached him was referred to the Reagan-Bush campaign, but later was judged to be a fraud, and dismissed. According to Richard Allen, allegations of a secret deal are "absolute baloney."
Honegger: Mr. Allen and McFarlane deny that any deal was cut. But the bulk of the evidence shows that that's not the case. In particular, Richard Allen had referred to a deal between Reagan and Iran back in late November of 1986 on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. He was being interviewed at the time, and he was referring to the very first day that Reagan was president of the United States. Allen recalled for the MacNeil/Lehrer audience that he--Allen--told Reagan, then just president, that there was a fifty-third hostage, a Mrs. Cynthia Dwyer, who had not yet been released. She was still being held in Teheran, and Reagan responded, and Allen told MacNeil/Lehrer's audience, "You get the Iranians on the phone for me, and I'm going to tell them that our deal is off unless she is also released." Well, you would have expected the interviewer on MacNeil/Lehrer to jump and say, "Just a minute, sir, what deal was that?" Now the reason that that had to have been, in my studied opinion, a deal between Reagan and Khomeini, made before Reagan became president, is because at the time that Reagan made that phone call to Iran, ALL, categorically ALL, of Carter's deal with Khomeini had been consummated. So, when Reagan said "Tell Iran the deal's off . . . " unless Mrs. Dwyer was released, he had to have been referring to his own deal.
Perry: Because Iran's arsenal was comprised of U.S.-supplied weapons, they were dependent on U.S.-made spare parts and ammunition. On October 22, following Carter's lengthy negotiations for the release of the hostages, the Iranians' persistent demand for U.S. weapons was suddenly dropped. Iranians said they did not link the release of hostages to obtaining military spare parts from the U.S. The president of Iran at the time, Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr, explains why, though facing war with Iraq, Iranian negotiators no longer demanded these essential military supplies:
Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr: It is now very clear that there were two separate agreements: one, the official agreement with Carter in Algeria, and the other one a secret agreement with another party which, obviously, it is now apparent, was Reagan. They made a deal with Reagan that the hostages should not be released during the Carter's Administration, and that they should be released when Reagan became president. So then, in return, Reagan would give them arms. We published agreements which indicated that the arms would be received in March, approximately two months after Reagan became president.
Perry: During this interview in Paris, the former Iranian president gave copies of the weapons contracts to The Other Americas Radio. Bani-Sadr then went on to charge that former CIA men, including Casey and Ghorbanifar, had collaborated in engineering this treasonous deal.
Bani-Sadr: These former CIA people, along with the former SAVAK left over from Shah's period, and the Israelis, maintained contact; and they are the ones that organized the hostage-taking, and also they are the ones that organized the arms exchange.
Perry: Shortly after being deposed, while in exile in Paris, the former president of Iran said he received military intelligence reports which noted that George Bush and Richard Allen were among those who had met with representatives of Beheshti at the Hotel Rafael in Paris. Barbara Honegger:
Honegger: One of the founders of Hezbollah, the Iran-loyal terrorist organization, which has blown up a Marine barracks and also our American embassies in both Kuwait and Beirut in the early 1980s, sent a representative to the Paris meeting, before the 1980 election, with Allen, Bush, and top officials of the Central Intelligence Agency, to cut the secret deal with the Reagan campaign to delay the release of our hostages in exchange for a promise of arms, that began being shipped to Iran in 1981.
Perry: Former Iranian president Bani-Sadr said this meeting took place some time during the last two weeks in October 1980. We checked the New York Times computer Nexus, which revealed no mention of any campaign or public appearances by George Bush from the 21st to the 27th of October--just one week before the 1980 presidential election. A press secretary in George Bush's office found that his campaign calendar was unaccounted for during these same six days. Barbara Honegger recalls an incident that occurred in the very same time period of October 21st-27th 1980, when she was working at Reagan-Bush campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.
Honegger: In late October, as part of my job on the writing staff of the national campaign headquarters, I was required every night to cover the news. I went into the operations center, which was the nerve center, the communications center, of the national headquarters for the Reagan campaign in 1980, to cover the 11 o'clock news. As I did so, I was amazed to see a complete 180-degree shift, over the last week and a half or so, in the mood in the operations center. Because of the worry about the "October surprise," that mood had been one of anxiety and tension for a week to a week and a half; and suddenly there was a party atmosphere. My first thought that it was someone's birthday, I walked up to a woman who worked for the gentleman who was in charge of the operations center, and asked her what was going on; and she said "Oh, haven't you heard? We don't have to worry about the October surprise. Dick cut a deal." She was standing next to a very heavy-set gentleman whom I didn't recognize, and I said, "Dick . . . you mean Dick Allen?" and she then got jabbed in the ribs by the man and just said, "Let it go. Dick cut a deal."
Perry: A deal with Khomeini? Investigative journalist Jonathan Marshall shares some doubt:
Marshall: There is one at least logical problem that has to be addressed, that doesn't rule the theory out; but to have made a bargain with the Iranians before the election, that the hostages' return should be delayed in return for arms, would have given the Iranians, on a silver platter, the biggest blackmail card imaginable. If we think about the arms-for-hostage deal, that alone caused one of the biggest scandals in recent American history. That at least was for what you might call a good cause, to bring the hostages back early. To delay the return of hostages for domestic political gain, in return for arms, would have led not only to impeachment, but just the drawing and quartering of anyone who had made such a bargain.
Honegger: In fact, we do know that the Khomeini regime, and Hezbollah in particular, has been blackmailing the Reagan-Bush Administration ever since 1981. We know from Oliver North's own notes that profits from the Iran arms sales were going to Hezbollah right from the beginning--millions and millions of dollars' worth of those profits--and because American hostages were not released as a result of those money payments to Hezbollah, it is clear that in fact those were hush-money payments; because Hezbollah and the Iranians have in fact been blackmailing Reagan and Bush and their Administration, precisely because of what they know about the treasonous 1980 deal.
Perry: Mansur Rafisadeh is the former U.S. chief of SAVAK, the Shah of Iran's secret police. He was also a covert agent for the CIA, and was in communication with factions in both United States and Iranian governments during the hostage crisis.
Rafisadeh: The CIA asked me to get in touch with a powerful source inside of Iran. So I took the liberty before consulting CIA that they meant, American government, they want the hostages to be released! That's the first step. The answer came back in a few days, you are wrong. American government, they don't want the hostages to be released, or possibly there are government inside of the government, or they're lying to us, or they're lying to you. That's not the demand. What else they want?
Perry: George Bush had been director of the CIA during the Nixon Administration, and still had many friends in the agency. Former SAVAK chief Rafisadeh told The Other Americas Radio that secret negotiations between Khomeini and CIA elements loyal to the Reagan-Bush campaign had arranged a deal to keep the hostages in Iran until Reagan was in the White House.
Rafisadeh: After the election was done, Khomeini was going to release the hostages. Why Khomeini was going to release the hostages--because he didn't understand, he doesn't know the system of government; he thinks Reagan is in office tonight, he's going to put President Carter and his family in jail tomorrow morning, and here we go! But as soon as we told him, no, no! still Carter is president!--then, the deal was made, to release the hostages exactly the moment Ronald Reagan was president.
Question: Did this have anything to do with promises that the Reagan campaign had made to the Iranian government, or was it just enough that the--
Rafisadeh: No, no, no, it was promised for the arms. At that time the deal was made that the hostages would be released when Ronald Reagan is in the office, and then we will ship them arms.
Question: And who made that agreement?
Rafisadeh: CIA. CIA. And we learn about that agreement, also, ahead of time . . . General Oveissi learn that they are going to send arms to Khomeini, the deal is made; he told me that. I believe that as much involvement William Casey had, or Richard Allen had, George Bush had--look at George Bush: he's intelligent, he's smart, he knows the business, he was running CIA--
Question: He was apparently very popular in the CIA--
Rafisadeh: Very popular in CIA. So I don't believe George Bush was not involved in it. No. He was involved in it. The other thing--Khomeini did all the damage to Carter. He didn't do any bad thing to Reagan. He released the hostages the moment Reagan was president. Hostages, they were sitting in a plane, in Marabad Airport, there is a documentary film from CBS, NBC, anyone can watch it. And the guards, they are standing by with the radio. The moment Ronald Reagan was president, they signal the plane, they took off. Why didn't they send them two days before? Why they didn't wait until the next day to do it? And after, the shipment of the arms start from Tel Aviv.
Question: So this is in 1981--
Rafisadeh: '81. 1981, we are talking, not 1985. Now, if anyone is going to tell me that the government of Israel shipped arms to Iran without the knowledge or permission of the United States, I don't believe it.
Perry: Mansur Rafisadeh.
On July 18th, 1981, an Argentine cargo plane crashed on the Soviet-Turkish border. It was loaded with weapons in transit from Israel to Iran. High-level Israeli officials have said that the Reagan Administration knew and approved of the arms dealings the crash exposed. The cargo of spare parts and ammunition were all American-made. From reports in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, we know of two separate groups of shipments to Iran in 1981. The first, as we have already heard, was shipped through Israel with authorization from the Reagan Administration officials. The second group of arms was shipped by an Iranian-born arms merchant, Cyrus Hashemi. Hashemi had worked for the CIA beginning in 1975. He died suddenly of a rare form of acute leukemia in 1986. Congressional investigators noted that the CIA has chemical injections and sprays that can cause such symptoms. One informant said he was told by U.S. customs officials that Hashemi had been "bumped off" by government agents. Private research consultant Barbara Honegger:
Honegger: Mr. Cyrus Hashemi was murdered by government agents because of his knowledge of the 1981 links; and Mr. Cyrus Hashemi, before he was murdered, which was in July of 1986 in London, England, Mr. Hashemi had told colleagues and associates that the original 1981 shipments were part of necessary arrangements and deals to accomplish the delay of the release of the original fifty-two hostages.
Perry: Is it a coincidence that many of the key witnesses to this entire affair have died under similar and questionable circumstances? The scandal may be bigger than anyone imagines. The alleged deal to prevent President Carter's reelection in 1980 could be the root of the Contragate scandal. According to an Athens newspaper account of tapes made of Robert McFarlane, the U.S. had shipped $1.3 billion worth of military equipment to Iran by 1986, and a total of $5 billion in military equipment was promised. As we have heard from former CIA operative and chief of U.S. SAVAK, Mansur Rafisadeh, these shipments began in 1981, when there were no longer any U.S. hostages left in Iran.
Rafisadeh: They are making remarks all the time that we will disclose those secret tapes, secret information, later on. And I believe that the Reagan Administration is blackmailed by Khomeini. Because they have so much dirt going on between them.
Perry: Congressman John Conyers has wondered why Reagan Administration officials approved weapons shipments to Iran in early 1981. Conyers is probing contacts between Iran and the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign. The charges stated in this program, of unlawful activity by Richard Allen, George Bush, and others, are those of treason. They require further investigation.
Honegger: These individuals have had an arrogant contempt for the will of the American people as expressed through the Congress of the United States, and the laws of the United States. I know, having been in this White House, and from my research since, that this contempt for the rule of law in this country comes because these people have an erroneous belief that they are serving a higher law.
Perry: The October Surprise was produced by Eric Schwartz, Carolyn Selar, and Dale Lewis of The Other Americas Radio. Interviews were conducted by Robin Stallings and Paul Cheney. Music for this production was written and performed by Brian Parris. The Other Americas Radio is a not-for-profit, independent broadcast group based in Santa Barbara, California. Executive Producer, Eric Schwartz. For a free catalog of our taped programs, please write to: