(Mr. LIVINGSTON asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend his remarks and include extraneous material.)
Mr. LIVINGSTON. Mr. Speaker, another hand grenade has been dropped on the Democrats' October Surprise debacle. The counterculture Village Voice has published an extensive review of the conspiracy theory and its sources.
Proponents of the October Surprise theory might have been overjoyed that the liberal Village Voice would add to the allegations against the 1980 Reagan campaign. Unfortunately for the conspiracy minded, the Village Voice has joined Newsweek and the New Republican thoroughly refuting Gary Sick's provocative claims.
The Voice article states,
Based on a review of exclusive documentation it appears that none of Sick's key informants had any original knowledge of the October Surprise counterplot.
Only by swapping rumors and tacking with the latest ones, a process that the Voice has traced in detail, were they able to create an impression that they knew of this event firsthand.
The article also states,
The picture that finally emerged from the investigation was one of a self-perpetuating fraud.
Mr. Speaker, due to the overwhelming evidence debunking the October Surprise myth, you owe it to the American people to call off this partisan witch hunt. I call on the Democratic leadership to apologize to Presidents Reagan and Bush for this political hatchet job.
Mr. Speaker, I include for the Record the entire article.
Former Carter aide Gary Sick says, in his recent book October Surprise, that the many sources he relied on for his searing indictment of Reagan campaign tactics in 1980--an indictment that accuses the GOP campaign staff of sabotaging Jimmy Carter's Iran hostage negotiatons--all spoke independently with no common script. That's why he believed them, he maintains.
`As time went on and the number and diversity of sources increased,' he writes, `the likelihood of a concerted, organized disinformation campaign dwindled.' But in an exhaustive examination of the origins of the Surprise story, the Voice has discovered that Sick's assumption is wrong.
All his principal sources harken back to a group of Israeli and European arms merchants who dealt regularly with one another throughout the 1980s and early '90s, first in shipping arms to Iran, then in shopping the October Surprise story to reporters. Several members of this group got caught in a U.S. Customs sting in 1986, which left them with an incentive to pay back the Republicans and George Bush.
Based on a review of exclusive documentation it appears that none of Sick's key informants had any original knowledge of the October Surprise counterplot, an alleged Reagan campaign attempt in 1980 to head off a preelection release of the 52 American hostages then being held in Tehran. Only by swapping rumors and tacking with the latest ones--a process that the Voice has traced in detail--were they able to create an impression that they knew of this event firsthand.
By 1988 Martin Kilian, a journalist for the German magazine Der Spiegel, was keeping many of these sources supplied with information they needed for this charade. He devoted countless hours to trading tips with them, though his journal has published only two October Surprise stories in three years. At times Kilian seems to have been unaware that he was contributing to distortions. But records of his phone conversations with one source, Richard Brenneke, indicate that he also knew that some of his contacts couldn't toe a straight line.
Even the most doubtful of these sources he passed on to Sick, who credits Kilian for having encouraged him to pursue the October Surprise story. In late 1988, writes Sick, `Kilian began calling me at my home in Manhattan after each new interview or whenever he picked up some nugget of information from the small network of individuals who continued to delve into the elusive story.' It was a pattern Kilian would follow with others.
So pervasive was his influence and so tightly knit the group of sources and journalists who fed off him and one another that the truth about the scandal may be lost to the confusion they generated.
The Voice investigation was based in part on nearly 8000 pages of phone records and dairy notes compiled by Brenneke to support his own October Surprise claims. Brenneke's onetime researcher, Peggy Adler Robohm, initially thought that he'd picked up his knowledge firsthand. But last June, after examining his files, she wrote a warning letter to his literacy agent. `Much of this material seems to come from Martin Kilian,' she said.
Later she let the Voice examine a small set of phone records and credit card receipts that debunked Brenneke's claim that he'd participated in October Surprise negotiations in Paris. After the Voice published a story based on this material last September, Robohm contacted Representative Lee Hamilton, chair of the House's October Surprise staff, and began preparing to help with an official investigation of Brenneke's files. When Hamilton brushed her off with a form letter, she again contacted the Voice, this time offering the entire Brenneke archive.
To verify the substance of Brenneke's files, the Voice checked with Kilian and others quoted in the files to see if they had said what Brenneke reported. (The taped conversations spoke for themselves.) In every instance, these principals recalled the statements or conduct attributed to them.
The picture that finally emerged from the investigation was one of a self-perpetuating fraud. Reporters with preconceptions about October Surprise had often suspended skepticism in deference to helpful sources. Sick himself ignored or overlooked inconvenient details. As early as 1989, he also became involved in the first of two movie deals that committed him prematurely to an unverified conspiracy theory.
For all the many permutations of the October Surprise story, Congress told it first, and most convincingly, eight years ago. A subcommittee under Democrat Representative Don Albosta was charged in 1983 with unraveling `Briefing-gate,' the theft of President Carter's briefing book during the 1980 campaign. A yearlong investigation confirmed the larceny and also produced evidence of a more sinister kind of campaign espionage.
According to the Albosta report, 120 `foreign policy consultants' working for Reagan in 1980 had monitored military bases, heisted secrets, and leaked disnformation, all in an effort to anticipate and head off a preelection hostage release. Even if nothing more had been uncovered, that should have been enough to scorch the reputations of ranking Reaganites, for it was clear from Albosta's findings that the effort had been deliberately disruptive and directed from the top, by campaign boss William Casey and several aides, including Richard Allen and Robert Gray.
It was Gray, the committee discovered, who had brainstormed a PR strategy aimed at screwing up Carter's last-minute bargaining. `If we leak to news sources our knowledge of the Carter planned events,' ran one Gray memo, `we can get the press [to] say Carter is politicizing the issue.' In fact, the leak campaign did much more, prompting misleading press reports of concessions and breakthroughs that doubtless confused the Iranians--at the very moment Carter was edging toward a deal. The reverberations in Tehran may not have been the ultimate cause of the breakdown of Carter's initiative. But there is no doubt that this was the Republicans' objective. `If there is a moral truth to the October Surprise scandal,' declared one ex-Carterite, `the most important revelations reside in the Albosta report itself.'
But like many other scandals, this one quickly lapped over the boundaries of fact and even righteous supposition. The earliest proponents of a Republicans-did-it conspiracy theory were in fact searching for something else. As the election neared, Lyndon Larouche's right-wing journals launched an attack on Carter, claiming that he'd gone soft on pro-Khomeini `terrorists' in the United States.
The focus of their pamphleteering was Iranian exile Cyrus Hashemi, who they said was running terrorist money through a bank he owned. They also concocted a supporting cabal, incongruously made up of Zbigniew Brzezinski and Henry Kissinger, which they said was out to pit Khomeini against communism in the gulf. All this might have been laughable except that, in fingering Hashemi, they'd inadvertently found a key to Carter's hostage strategy. According to FBI surveillance reports recently released under the Freedom of Information Act, Hashemi was even then conducting overtures to Iran for Carter.
The delicacy of Hashemi's position naturally made him publicity-shy, so he sued LaRouche and his aides for libel in September 1980. That didn't quiet them, though, and after the election they zapped Kissinger again, arguing that he'd secretly bargained with the Iranian parliament to head off a hostage release. In December, one of their publications surfaced what is surely the first articulation of the October Surprise counterplot. `It appears, they wrote, `that a pattern of cooperation between the Khomeini people and circles nominally in Reagan's camp began six to eight weeks ago, at the height of President Carter's efforts to secure an arms-for-hostages deal with Teheran.'
Over the next three years, the Larouchies dogged the scandal and bayed at each new indication that Israel, a favorite bugbear of theirs, was slipping arms to Iran. Meanwhile, Cyrus' brother, Jamshid, approached LaRouche's organization in a bid to settle the libel suit quietly (the court finally dismissed it). In early 1983 he told LaRouche researcher Ed Spannaus that it wasn't Carter who'd nuzzled up to him and his brother in 1980, but the Republicans. `Jamshid told me,' recalls Spannaus, `that Cyrus was in fact much closer to the Reagan-Bush administration than to the Carter people.'
Later, in mid July, Time magazine published an investigative piece linking Jamshid to Iran arms smuggling. Again Spannaus was summoned. This time, he says, Jamshid leveled about his Carter connection, acknowledging `that he had personally spent about six months flying back and forth between the USA, London and Madrid as a courier for messages between the U.S. and Iran.' Jamshid also got cagey about the Republicans. Though Spannaus' recollections are hazy on this point, he clearly recalls Jamshid telling him that Cyrus was being protected by `the highest levels' of the Reagan administration.
According to one published version of this conversation, Jamshid also mentioned the GOP's October Surprise plot, though without claiming to have been a part of it. In another account, which has likewise appeared in a LaRouche publication, Jamshid refused to be explicit. In both stories, Spannaus claims to have asked: `Was Casey involved in the hostage negotiations?' To which Jamshid replied, `I wouldn't tell you if I knew.'
Even given Spannaus' impression, it seems that as early as 1983 Jamshid was beginning to confide in LaRouche's propagandists. Some of his remarks have checked out. According to the recently released FBI surveillance reports, Cyrus Hashemi did help the White House with its hostage negotiations in 1980, even as he was arranging illegal arms sales to Iran, and Gary Sick acknowledges in his recent book that Cyrus brokered a secret meeting between a Carter representative and Iranian officials in Madrid in early July 1980.
Citing Jamshid as his source, Sick also argues that the Hashemis did similar duty for William Casey and other Reagan campaigners in 1980, providing them hostage information and a `backchannel' to Iran that enabled them to outflank Carter. Noting in the censored FBI surveillance files bears out this charge, and Jamshid clearly missed an opportunity to tell the story himself in his earliest known public statement on the hostage issue. That itself raises a question about his credibility. For if he wouldn't clearly implicate Casey, then why believe him when he does so now?
By 1985 the integrity of both Cyrus and Jamshid Hashemi was in tatters. Cyrus had turned Customs informant to avoid prosecution on gun-smuggling charges, Jamshid was hiding out abroad for the same reason, and William Casey's CIA, evaluating their potential as middlemen in a new hostage venture, turned them down flat. According to one contemporaneous CIA assessment, obtained through FOIA, Cyrus was deemed `only slightly less sleazy than his notorious brother Jamshid who is con artist par excellence and is a candidate for the scam of the month championship.' Another CIA report, dated June 14, 1985, indicates that Director Casey himself vetoed any cooperation with Cyrus. `The point was,' ran the report, `he [Casey] did not want the agency involved in the Hashemi brothers' problems with the Department of Justice.'
Ten months later, Cyrus redeemed himself slightly by helping to nab an Israeli arms ring that included, coincidentally, many who later preached the October Surprise. His own glory, however, was short-lived. In July 1986, he died under mysterious circumstances in London and Jamshid hunkered down to nourish his own vision of the Surprise, the one he eventually fobbed off on Sick and ABC's Nightline.
The Larouchies, meanwhile, shared their own research with others, and some of it turned up as footnotes in the first October Surprise book, by Barbara Honegger. The scandal had taken its first captives.
Another initial fillip to the story came from news of early Irsaeli-Iran arms deals. Beginning in mid 1981, when the London Sunday Times reported the downing of a mysterious `Argentine' cargo plane en route from Tehran, the prospect of an Israeli arms pipeline to Iran prompted only evasiveness in Washington. But Israeli leaders themselves were more candid, hinting that they had Washington's sanction despite the U.S. embargo.
Then came the Time report in 1983 that set Jamshid so much on edge. In a concurrent Time memo, which the Voice has obtained, the anonymous sources quoted in the article are named. `Prime source on this is Admiral Inman,' the memo states, referring to Bobby Inman,' who'd just resigned as the CIA's deputy director.
The weighing in of such an authority inevitably strengthened speculation that Israel was feeding the ayatollah's war machine. But it was not until Gary Sick published All Fall Down in 1985, a book about Carter's Iran policies, that the Israeli shenanigans were tied back to the hostage crisis of 1980. Sick wrote that Carter had discovered, in the midst of his secret bargaining, that Israel was treating Khomeini to military spare parts. Sick did not, in this initial foray, suggest any Republican complicity, but the very hint of such an Israeli end run was enough to set wheels turning.
The loop was closed during the Iran-contra investigations of 1987, which proved, among other things, that a Republican was capable of conspiring in the Israel-Iran arms shuttle. Granted, the deals exposed long postdated 1980. But one aroused suspicion often begets another, and even before Congress had completed its Iran-contra probe, a network of conspiracy fetishists was beginning to take shape.
Initially, the most ardent accusers were Iranian exiles. In April 1987, the former chief of the shah's secret police, Manzur Rafizadeh, took the first swipe, accusing the CIA of having persuaded Iran's foreign minister in November 1980 to hold off a hostage release until Reagan took office.
Rafizadeh had been in exile at the time, so his charge, leveled in a memoir, was second-guessing. But later that year exiled Iranian president Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr pumped life into the story. In a New York Times interview, he said that two ex-rivals of his, the ayatollahs Beheshti and Rafsanjani, had broken off negotiations with Carter in October 1980 because of an overture by unnamed Republicans in Paris. He also linked subsequent Israeli arms deliveries to this event. It was the first time anyone had pulled all these threads together.
The Miami Herald, meanwhile, put faces to the conspirators, reporting that a mysterious Iranian had approached Richard Allen and Robert McFarlane in Washington a month before the 1980 election and offered to broker a hostage deal beneficial to Reagan. Allen acknowledged the overture and said he'd rebuffed it, but admitted that he'd failed to tell the Carter White House about it. Senate majority leader Robert Byrd cried foul, and the House Judiciary Committee started digging.
The initiative soon fizzled, however, along with the Iran-contra investigation itself, and by late 1987 the October Surprise `lobby' had shriveled to a claque of political Ishmaels best personified by an ex-Reagan staffer Barbara Honegger.
Honegger, a trenchworker for the GOP campaign in 1980, had bailed out of a Justice Department job three years later to protest the administration's handling of women's issues. Denounced as a `munchkin' by the White House for taking her gripes public, she promptly retaliated by handing the Albosta committee some real dirt. In October 1980, she testified, she had overheard a Reagan aide boasting that `Dick [Allen] cut a deal' to ward off Carter's much-feared October Surprise. The committee skirted her recollections in its final report, and Honegger was left to disclose them on a Larry King radio show in December 1986.
What cinched her suspicions about the scandal, she later told Bani-Sadr, was his New York Times interview. In talking with him about it by phone in August 1988, she did not mention his own shortcomings as a witness--though based on a transcript of their conversation, which the Voice has reviewed, she recognized them. She is heard in the exchange discussing scandal-related gossip that she'd fed Bani-Sadr to jog his memory, and he is heard debating the truth of his own previous statements. When she reminds him of his claim that Reagan campaign aides met with Iranian counterparts in Paris in October 1980 to discuss the hostage crisis, he replies: `I am not sure. I have said it is possible.' When she asks if he knows the names of the Reagan participants, he says simply, `No,' and then proceeds to emphasize that it's all secondhand--`information from Iran sent to me.'
Honegger would later tout Bani-Sadr as a source for her own October Surprise theories, demonstrating a remarkable ability to filter out what she didn't want to hear. (Honegger refused to return calls about this story.)
Not that she was the only offender. In fall 1988, Playboy magazine published an October Surprise story that skirted the reliability of another source, Iranian American arms merchant Hushang Lavi. By Playboy's account, Lavi had courted the John Anderson campaign, offering to open contacts with Iran in order to deny the president a hostage breakthrough. The implication was that Lavi had played into the hands of Republicans out to delay a release.
But in fact Lavi had said something quite different. According to a transcript of the interview that the Voice has examined, Lavi, when asked `about a deal between the Reagan campaign and Khomeini,' had replied: `I am not aware of that. I do not know.' Jonathan Silvers, the interviewer, had then asked: `Do you personally believe that Reagan officials negotiated to delay the release of the hostages?' Lavi replied: `I don't believe so, sir.'
None of this crept into the Playboy story itself, which was written by Silvers and ex-Yippie Abbie Hoffman, or into Honegger's approving statements about the article. Lavi would survive to become a primary source for accusations against the Reagan campaign, including Gary Sick's.
On August 25, 1988, the October Surprise story got its first big airing at a Washington news conference sponsored by an anti-CIA watchdog group. The feature attraction was Honegger. Unfurling a copy of the Playboy article, she quoted Bani-Sadr as placing Bush at an October 1980 plotter's meeting in Paris and Manzur Rafizadeh, the ex-Savak chief, as including Donald Gregg in Bush's Paris entourage. (It was the first time anybody had so clearly linked Gregg, who in 1980 had been a Carter official, to Reagan's supposed machinations.)
Again citing Bani-Sadr, she fixed the negotiations at Paris's Hotel Raphael and listed the Iranians present as `representatives of Rafsanjani and Behesti.' She then dropped a bombshell, announcing that arms dealer Cyrus Hashemi and the CIA's Casey had been involved. Her source, she said, was someone she would only refer to as `Mr. X.'
As events would prove, this new secret sharer was Portland businessman Richard Brenneke.
A word about his background: Documents from his files show that throughout the mid '80s Brenneke courted a bunch of would-be weapons dealers, including Ari Ben-Menashe, who has emerged as an equally omniscient October Surprise expert. According to business and other records, Brenneke's contact with this group traced back to late 1984, when he began traveling to Europe as an apprentice arms broker for the Farnham-Ottokar Trust, a baroque outfit registered in the Channel Islands. In early summer 1985, during one such junket, he was introduced to an American arms merchant in France, John Delarocque, and, through him, became aware of Ari Ben-Menashe.
Soon afterward, on July 29, Brenneke wrote to one Nick Davies in London, proposing a weapons deal. Later he received an MCI telex from the same man. Since such documents are difficult to fabricate, the telex seems to link Brenneke definitively to Davies, who is described in Seymour Hersh's recent book, The Sampson Option, as an Israeli intelligence agent and Ben-Menashe's partner in a London-based arms company. Thus, by mid 1985, Brenneke appears to have been increasingly moving in conspiratorial circles.
Based on Brenneke's diaries, Ben-Menashe and Davies were much on his mind when he met Delarocque in St. Tropez the following September to discuss an Iran arms deal known as the `Demavand Project.' His notes of their conversation are speckled with references to `Nick' and `Arie' (initially misspelled with an E).
Brenneke comes across in these pages as a novice at the arms game. But soon afterward he experienced an instant greening. On September 24, during a stopover in Seattle, he was rousted by U.S. Customs agents and relieved of his notebooks. Thereafter, according to other documentation, he became a low-grade Customs informant, and also began sending notes to the Pentagon and even the White House designed to distance himself from Demavand.
In early 1986, in one such note, Brenneke mentioned a secret White House decision permitting covert arms sales to Iran. How he got this tip-off to the Iran-contra scandal isn't known. But over the next few weeks, even as he continued playing up to his arms-dealing friends, U.S. Customs set up a sting against them. It was sprung in mid April. Delarocque eluded arrest, Brenneke later claimed, only because of a warning call from him, and Ben-Menashe recalled a similar alert from Delarocque. Nine others, however, were arrested, including three Israelis.
Spearheading the sting was a bona fide inside informant, Cyrus Hashemi, the very man whom brother Jamshid and other October Surprise buffs would place in the vanguard of Reagan's 1980 schemes.
Over the next year, Brenneke stayed in touch with Delarocque and, according to personal notes, shared his own phone records with the FBI. He also cultivated the press, finally leaking a story on Demavand to a New York Times reporter in early 1987. The resulting notoriety enabled him to strike a book deal with the reporter, and by August he'd lined up another collaborator, Will Northrop, an American-born Israeli rolled up in the Demavand sting, who was now living in Oklahoma City awaiting trial.
Looking to make money fast, Brenneke drew up a plan to insure a bestseller. `The primary method of doing this,' he wrote, `is to bring new information to the press. The information must create interest and controversy.' Under `People,' he listed himself, Northrop, Delarocque, and--`Ari Ben-Menashe.'
It is apparent from Brenneke's diaries that he and Northrop were never sure of Ben-Menashe's or Delarocque's bona fides. After speculating that the two might be Mossad agents, they settled on a less flattering conclusion. `John [has] no connection with mossad,' Brenneke wrote after a phone conversation with Northrop in late 1987. `John is known only as an independent with no sponsorship. He is not trusted by Israel . . . Ari is not known at all. They believe he is only an arms dealer.'
Nowhere in his diary notes from this period does Brenneke quote Ben-Menashe or Delarocque on the October Surprise. The only relevant marginalia he immediately picked up from his Demavand buddies was a miscue--from Northrop. On May 26, 1988, Brenneke jotted a Northrop phone message: `Oct. 80 Bush in Paris meeting with Bani-Sadr.' If either had been acquainted with the evolving October Surprise story, they would have realized how absurd this was. No one had ever suggested that Bani-Sadr himself was in on the Paris meetings.
If Brenneke initially knew little of October Surprise, however, he did possess information that would ultimately be woven into that tapestry like an integral thread, and in July 1988 he unspooled it. Two former Customs informants, Gary Howard and Ron Tucker, had sued the government to recover expenses they'd racked up in an abortive sting operation in the early 1980s. Part of their argument was that the government itself had crippled the project to protect an early Iran arms deal never reported to Congress. Brenneke, ever determined to legitimize Demavand, decided to offer testimony. His sworn statement marked his first attempt to write himself into the October Surprise scenario.
He told Howard and Tucker's lawyers that, as a contact CIA employee and sometimes Mossad agent, he'd flown 12 cargo flights to Iran between 1980 and 1982 as part of a joint U.S.-French operation. Included, he said, were spare parts for the Iranian air force drawn from NATO stores. For corroboration, Brenneke cited Delarocque, and despite having privately pegged him as an `independent,' described him here as an agent of the French, U.S., Israeli, and Iranian governments.
The testimony, so clearly a hodgepodge of half-truths, might have dropped into obscurity except for Howard and Tucker themselves, who in pressing their suit soon became October Surprise devotees. What made the testimony all the more noteworthy, moreover, was the way it seemed to dovetail with earlier reports of Israeli arms deliveries to Iran. Brenneke himself was never involved in any of these flights (his credit card receipts show that he was in Portland, Oregon, on many of the dates when he said he'd made deliveries). But his `confirmation' of such a pipeline--first mentioned by Bani-Sadr--was enough to set conspiracy theorists buzzing. After all, how could you have a secret 1980 deal between Iran and the Reagan campaign without a payoff? From now on, Brenneke was to be a player in the daisy chain.
It wasn't an easy fit, though. By the summer of 1988, he was on the outs with the liberal establishment in Washington, a sounding board for October Surprise rumors. Earlier in the year, he had won a $4000-a-month job at Washington's Center for Development Policy by publicly accusing Vice-President Bush of running an Israeli-backed drugs-for-arms operation in Central America. Most recently, though, a Senate investigator named Jack Blum had soured on him because of his inability to documents his charges, and on July 31, soon after his statement in the Howard-Tucker case, Brenneke's boss at the liberal think tank suspended him for failing to put Bush in the hot seat, as he'd promised.
Brenneke was desperate, and might now have hauled himself back to Portland, had not Barbara Honegger fortuitously materialized from the wings. She was preparing for her news conference, and needed a bit more than Bani-Sadr had given her. On August 22, she approached Brenneke and asked his help.
As she later admitted in her own book, she virtually scripted the discussion. She handed Brenneke a list of possible Paris conspirators, including Bush and Gregg, and asked him to confirm it. After striking one name (Honegger herself had put a question mark beside it) and promising to ask around about Bush's presence, Brenneke numbly suggested that there might have been two meetings in Paris, not one. His own record of the conversation reveals how bewildered he was: `Honegger meeting notes: Thesis: Reagan-Bush campaign conspired to delay the hostage release until after the November 1979 election . . . Howard Hughes was somehow involved . . .'
Honegger would later claim that during this first interview Brenneke wrote Casey and Cyrus Hashemi into the Surprise scenario, as well as Frenchmen Robert Benes. Brenneke's own notes, however, tell a different story. `Was Cyrus Hashemi present?' he asked himself. `If so, which Iranians and Americans was he representing?'
Notwithstanding Brenneke's ignorance, Honegger hailed him at her news conference as a breakthrough source and offered to broker introductions to `Mr. X.' Among those who jumped at the invitation was the man who would become Gary Sick's closest collaborator--Martin Kilian, Washington correspondent for the Germany newsweekly Der Spiegel.
Born in Germany and trained as a historian at the University of Georgia, the 41-year-old Kilian had been at his present post for little over a year. But his discovery of the October Surprise story immediately hyped it, focusing the resources of a major international magazine on what had been a quirky sidebar.
Why Kilian became interested in the scandal is easily understood, since many of its principals operated in Der Spiegel's backyard. But how he covered it would add to its complexity, for he was always ready to swap rumors and sources with anyone. He told the Voice that he favored this `non-competitive' approach because the October Surprise was too complicated for any journalist to cover alone. Perhaps so. But for Brenneke and the other charlatans who were now orbiting the story, the ever-generous Kilian was a dream come true.
Asked if it was okay to trade information with such sources, Kilian told the Voice last Friday, `On a subject like this one, absolutely, because it makes it possible to see contradictions.'
The afternoon of Honegger's press conference, Kilian drew up a confidentiality agreement for `Mr. X,' promising not to reveal his identity. A week later, after Der Spiegel published a story parroting Honegger's theories, she encouraged a new source, a mysterious fellow named Oswald LeWinter who preferred to be called `Razine,' to contact the reporter. On September 7, Kilian took Razine's revelations to Brenneke, and soon afterward identified Brenneke to Razine. Suddenly, thanks to Kilian, there wasn't a virgin in the house.
For Honegger and Brenneke, what Razine provided was mortar with which to bind up their stories. What Razine got was a chance to play Scaramouche, for never in his initial contacts with them or Kilian did he show his face, preferring instead to communicate by phone. Gary Sick, who later embraced Razine/LeWinter as a primary source, describes him in his book as a `genius, [an] erratic man' who knew novelist Saul Bellow and played the intelligence field, working for both U.S. and Israeli spy services. Based on Brenneke's files, Kilian suspected that Razine had also once been arrested for impersonating a U.S. serviceman. Nowhere does this point appear in Sick's book, though there is reference to a drug bust against Razine.
Initially Kilian seemed dubious of his new source, and informed Brenneke (according to the latter's notes) that Razine sounded like a LaRouchie. Razine himself told Honegger paradoxically that he was out to `protect' Israel, and both she and Kilian discovered that he sympathized with Edwin Wilson, the ex-CIA agent who'd been jailed for outfitting terrorists. yet none of this apparently put anybody off. Kilian assured Brenneke that he knew a journalist who would vouch for Razine. Brenneke, for his part, remained disinclined to look a gift horse in the mouth.
The story Razine told (through Kilian to Brenneke and by phone to Honegger) put Casey, Bush, and Gregg in Paris in October 1980, and expanded the attendance list to include Hashemi Rafsanjani on the Iranian side, and Robert Benes, the very Frenchman Brenneke had named. Because of Kilian's impulse to share everything he knew, it is impossible to tell from the available documentation whether Benes sprang spontaneously from Razine's memory. But from now on, Benes would be an October Surprise staple (to be cited indirectly in Sick's book).
To judge from Brenneke's files, Razine wasted no time proving his worth. He embellished Brenneke's dual-meeting theory by positing three Paris conspirators' meetings, all at the Hotel Raphael. He also said that Bush and Casey had shown up with a $40 million wire transfer to tide the Iranians over until Reagan's inauguration. As Brenneke recalled, he and Razine agreed, after fencing politely--through Kilian--that Bank Lambert had handled the transfer, not Bank Leu as Razine had first reported.
How Razine had come to know all this never rang clear, since he kept changing his story. He initially told Honegger and Kilian that he'd read of the Casey-Gregg machinations in a report by Benes filed at CIA headquarters in November 1980 by the chief of French intelligence. Later, by Honegger's own account, he said he'd picked up the report from a `friendly foreign intelligence service.' It was a minor correction. Still somebody should have wondered.
Nor was this the only time Razine's memory shifted. Besides changing Leu to Lambert, he altered the Iranian lineup at the Paris meetings, initially including an arms procurement officer named Jalal el-Din Farsi--only to replace him later with two others. Honegger and Kilian relayed these `adjustments' to Brenneke. But nowhere in his notes does he reflect concern on their part about the source's fickleness. Instead, Kilian and Honegger continued to peddle Razine like a miracle health cure.
Brenneke, too, found uses for Razine, immediately parlaying him into added job security for himself. Shortly after first learning about Razine, he alerted his still touchy boss at the Center for Development Policy that Kilian wanted him to help exploit this new source. `[Der Spiegel] has asked me to utilize my contacts to help obtain further information and corroboration,' he told his superior by memo. The following morning, in a `Revised Proposal,' he asked to be allowed to assist Kilian with a story about 1980 arms sales. In closing he offered a more provocative thought: `Help Der Spiegel develop proof of Bush-Iranian meetings in 1980 aimed at delaying the release of the Embassy hostages.'
That cinched it. As Brenneke recorded in another note, he was immediately assured that he could keep his job through October.
Having gained this reprieve, Brenneke acted quickly to build insurance into it, seizing on an idea that boosted his value as an `October Surprise expert.' How it came to him remains obscure. What can be documented is that on September 10, three days after first interviewing Razine, Kilian told Brenneke that the new source had identified him as a participant in the October 1980 Paris meetings. In a taped memo recorded soon afterward, Brenneke paraphrased Kilian as saying: `[Razine] knows me [Brenneke] and . . . knew that the Paris meeting that I was at was the [Hotel] Florida . . .'
So astonishing was this fillip to Brenneke's story--and so sensational, if true--Kilian might have been forgiven if he'd tried to cop it as an exclusive for his own magazine. But he didn't. Instead, he handed it off to a competitor, Robert Parry, then of Newsweek.
According to court documents, Kilian also assisted Brenneke a few days later in gaining an even loftier soapbox. The opening came when the brother of Colorado representative Patricia Schroeder--a Denver lawyer named Mike Scott--began looking for help with a tough case. His client Heinrich Rupp, a self-described ex-CIA pilot, was facing sentencing for bank fraud and had begun mumbling about a Reagan frame-up aimed at discrediting him and others who'd allegedly witnesses some mysterious events in 1980. All Scott needed for a leniency plea was some supportive information. As he later explained to the judge Kilian and Parry helped him `get in contact with Mr. Brenneke and aided us in bringing this information to the court.'
In fact, Brenneke needed no introduction to Rupp. His own phone records show that he'd called Rupp's Denver number a year before, and Rupp conceded, in a private interview with Scott (a record of which the Voice has obtained), that he knew of the offshore trust that had employed Brenneke as an arms dealer. The odor of collusion thus hangs over this sudden and mutually beneficial Brenneke-Rupp reunion, whoever brokered it.
The story that Rupp later told reporters put both him and Brenneke in the midst of the action in October 1980. He would claim that he'd flown Casey to Paris on October 18 and that he'd seen Bush at the airport there. He'd also include Brenneke among the Paris conspirators.
These `recollections,' however, did not spring forth full-blown. On September 22, the day before Brenneke showed up in Denver to testify on Rupp's behalf, Scott interviewed his client and--based on notes from the lawyer's files--discovered that Rupp knew little about the October Surprise. When asked how he knew of Bush's flight to Paris, Rupp replied, `Sloganism'--hearsay to the effect that `we've got the whole government on board.' When asked if he'd recognized anybody on his own flight, he said, `Might recognize faces. No names.' And when pressed to tell his story in court, he begged off, insisting that he'd have to defer to Brenneke since he, Rupp, was sworn to official secrecy. It was the perfect prelude to a setup. Yet Scott encouraged his client to tell his story, saying that if he didn't, Brenneke would.
Brenneke did much more than that. In a closed hearing the following day, he not only seconded Rupp's allegations but embroidered his own. He said that he'd attended at least one Paris meeting at the behest of a CIA officer named `Bob Kerritt' and had helped to purchase arms to pay off the Iranians for delaying a hostage release. Insisting that French intermediaries had brokered these transactions, he identified Robert Benes as one involved.
He also tried to turn Razine and Kilian into character witnesses for himself. Claiming to have been recently contacted by the CIA, Brenneke testified that he'd been advised that a `retired' CIA officer would approach a foreign journalist to verify what he was saying. He then mentioned Kilian and Parry and said that both had recently been contacted by a CIA retiree (Razine).
Once Brenneke's statement was released several days later, Kilian must have experienced a twinge. Obviously, this wasn't how things had happened at all. Asked about his reaction, Kilian said last Friday, `I was flabbergasted. I still don't know today what he meant--I thought there would be somebody else who would contact reporters. I asked [Brenneke], `What did you mean by that?' He didn't want to talk about it.'
Later, in a TV interview, Rupp squared his own `recollections' with Brenneke's, explicitly adding Casey to his passenger list. He also said that five other unnamed VIPs had been aboard the BAC-111 he'd supposedly flown to Paris on October 18, 1980. All this jarred with what he'd told Scott just before the hearing. Yet Scott continued to vouch for Rupp's and Brenneke's credibilities in public.
He had help. Shortly after the hearing, Razine informed Honegger that Rupp had been Casey's `favorite pilot' and that Brenneke's CIA handler, Bob Kerritt, was `close to Gregg.' Kilian in turn did something that would bolster Brenneke's own ability to script the facts. On September 26, he dipped into Der Spiegel's coffers and hauled Brenneke off to Paris to help interview other sources. Gone forever was any hope of keeping the waters pure.
Brenneke's diary of the three-day junket records meetings with Robert Benes and another Frenchman, Nicholas Ignatiew, as well as a phone call to Razine. Later Gary Sick would claim that sources like these had no connection with one another. But judging from Brenneke's files and other evidence, the three individuals whom he and Kilian contacted in Paris not only knew one another but shared ties to other October Surprise `regulars.' In effect Brenneke had ushered Kilian into his own circle of rogues.
The ringleader, it appears, was Ignatiew, a Frenchman of supposedly noble Russian ancestry. Four Brenneke memos show that he and Ignatiew had been discussing weapons deals since mid 1986 and bandying about such names as John Delarocque of Demavand project and Benes. According to one of Brenneke's notes, Benes had met Ignatiew `in service' and had good `access' to `east bloc' weaponry.
What Brenneke had long sought from Ignatiew was a piece of his action. For years the Frenchman had been trying to purchase a captured Soviet T-72 tank from Iran and other brokers, and Brenneke had wanted to be cut in. Nor was he the only one. In his book, Sick describes the same deal and says that Razine once worked on it with an Iranian expatriate named Ahmed Heidari, who likewise became an October Surprise source for him. Sick says nothing of Brenneke's involvement or Ignatiew's (which he didn't know about), but his description of Razine's pursuit of the T-72 leaves little doubt that they were all on the same raft.
Another name in the Surprise lineup that traces back to the tank venture is Hamid Naqashan. Sick describes Naqashan as an Iranian procurement officer who knew of Casey's efforts to delay a hostage release. Sick doesn't mention--again he apparently doesn't know--that Naqashan was also tied up with Brenneke and Ignatiew. A July 1986 document in Brenneke's files indicates that he and Ignatiew were then in contact with Naqashan about the tank deal. More provocatively, another Brenneke memo from the same period mentions `Bob Keret,' a suspected CIA agent, who was said to have spoiled an earlier sale. Is this the same `Kerritt' Brenneke served up as his October Surprise case officer?
Had Sick known of all the linkages, he might have realized that an obscure tank deal told a lot about the genesis of the October Surprise story. Ignatiew, Brenneke, Benes, Razine, Naqashan, Heidari, even Will Northrop--all had been part of the T-72 bidding, and all would emerge as October Surprise gurus. A coincidence? Not likely. The tank deal--plus Demavand--seems to have forged a number of links in the daisy chain.
Significantly, though, Brenneke and Kilian came away from Paris largely empty-handed. Ignatiew and Benes had proved especially uninformative. If these men were October Surprise experts, they didn't reveal if first time out.
Nor even the second time. After returning home, Brenneke stayed in touch with the two Frenchmen, and tapes of his phone conversations with them (which have been reviewed by the Voice) confirm how ill-informed they were. On October 13, for instance, Brenneke called Ignatiew to say that Kilian might be willing to offer Benes money to sharpen his memory about the October Surprise (in fact it was an exaggeration). Ignatiew was incredulous. `If I had been a journalist that evening [in Paris],' he exclaimed, `I would, I think, have understood that Robert knows more or less nothing.' He then betrayed his own ignorance by asking if Benes had been present at meetings with Casey in October 1980. `Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah,' Brenneke replied, `but not for the whole time.' He also reminded Ignatiew that Bene's command of English was not sufficient for complicated discussions.
Ignatiew asked Brenneke if he wanted Benes to tell the truth. `I haven't decided,' Brenneke responded.
A few minutes later Brenneke called Benes himself and, using pidgin English, explained that certain `people' were saying that he knew of Bush's role in the 1980 Paris meetings and would pay him to confirm it. `For what?' Benes replied, surprised. `I don't know Mr. Bush.'
`They think you understand,' said Brenneke. Benes shot back: `I don't understand.'
No sooner had Brenneke hung up than he called a Boston Globe reporter to keep the pot boiling. `Robert is willing to talk,' he said disingenuously, adding that Ignatiew was likewise aware of Benes's role in October Surprise. `Nicholas still works for the French government,' he assured the reporter. `And he just flatly admitted that he was well aware of these things.'
It was all pure baloney, a smarmy effort by Brenneke to pump up two sources who obviously knew nothing. This time, it didn't work. On October 23, the Boston Globe reported that Benes was ignorant of any Paris meetings.
On top of this, once Brenneke's testimony at the Rupp hearing became public, Senate staffer Jack Blum promptly caught him out in a lie. Brenneke had testified that he'd once told Blum's subcommittee under oath about October Surprise. That, Blum advised the Justice Department, was simply not true. Though Brenneke corrected his claim, a grand jury began investigating, and in May 1989 he would up facing a perjury indictment for falsely portraying himself as a CIA contractor and for having lied about the Bush trip to Paris.
Did the indictment cost him any friends? On the contrary, Kilian and Rupp's lawyer, Mike Scott, who later represented Brenneke, immediately rallied the troops. Kilian told Honegger that Brenneke had identified Gregg as a `notetaker' in Paris and had `talked constantly' with Hushang Lavi. Honegger threw the weight of her scholarship behind Brenneke's case by finally publishing her book, and Will Northrop, Brenneke's Demavand buddy, provided a sworn statement that bolstered his friend's claims of Israeli shipments to Iran in the wake of the October Surprise meetings.
As it turned out, the statement was merely a distillation of news clips, and even the leftist Nation magazine trashed Honegger's book. But nothing seemed to discourage Kilian. Over the next few months, he grasped the torch and ran with it, pulling together a plethora of sources and demisources that kept Brenneke and the October Surprise story alive. Once Brenneke tried to graph Kilian's network, jotting a primitive wiring chart that connected the journalist to sources stretching from South Africa to Texas. It was an exaggeration perhaps. But the fact is, Kilian did have his contacts.
Start, for instance, with the ever-adaptable Hushang Lavi and Swiss journalist Frank Garbeley, and follow the dancing line to Israeli ex-agent Ahran Moshell and Roy Furmark and Richard Allen, and you have just the beginnings of Kilian's daisy chain. Loop into it a German TV freelancer named Jurgen Roth and Gary Sick, plus Razine and Northrop, and you begin to spy the entire Modigliani. Not a pretty picture.
Others crept into it over time. Gary Howard, the ex-Customs informant who was suing the government, provided back-ground on Gunther Russbacher, and acquaintance of Honegger's who claimed (falsely) to know of Brenneke's adventures.
Anybody else with such credentials might have prompted some caution. But so taken was Kilian with this source that all other considerations, including detachment, dropped away. When Stoffberg was extradited to New York for arms trafficking last year, Kilian helped find him a lawyer (the same one who represented Ben-Menashe). And when Congress began nosing around the Surprise scandal, Kilian's research helped convince House investigator R. Spencer Oliver that Stoffberg was too valuable a witness to be left in jail. On the strength of Oliver's testimonial, a judge later reduced Stoffberg's prison sentence. Needless to say, Stoffberg emerged from his cell ready to champion Kilian's views.
Kilian's firmest ally, however, was freelance journalist Jurgen Roth, who, according to Brenneke's files, routinely swapped rumors and sources with him. In mid 1989, Roth helped produce a German TV documentary that resuscitated the October Surprise scandal and several of its more dubious promoters. Bani-Sadr came across in the program as an authority on the very events that had eluded him earlier, and Hushang Lavi emerged for the first time as a self-described `participant' in the final Paris negotiations--a far cry from the know-nothing role he'd assigned himself in his earlier Playboy interview.
By far, Roth's most provocative on-camera source was an Israeli named Ahran Moshell, who claimed to be an ex-Mossad agent. Shortly after Roth interviewed him, Kilian sent Brenneke, a transcript and declared that here, finally, was firsthand proof of Bush's complicity in October Surprise. His enthusiasm seemed justified, Moshell had placed himself at a conspirators' meeting with Bush in October 1980 and seemed to know secrets no one else did. At one point, for instance, he remarked cryptically that the same deal offered to Reagan had been offered to Carter. `Even Gary Sick didn't know this,' Brenneke noted excitedly in a computer memo.
`Kilian is having Sick check a biography Razine gave Jurgen Roth,' Brenneke noted in a December memo. Later, Kilian told him that Sick had talked to former Casey aide George Cave, `who would not deny knowledge of the hostage deal,' and to Iran-contra figure Richard Secord, `who claims he knows nothing.' He also briefed Brenneke on Sick's conversations with Hushang Lavi and with another of Jurgen Roth's sources, weapons dealer William Herrmann.
As Sick later noted in his book, Herrmann claimed to have learned of the GOP hostage deal from Iranian procurement officer Ahmed Naqashan. What Sick didn't know was that this was the same Naqashan who had worked with Ignatiew and Brenneke on the Soviet tank deal in the mid 1980's. No link in the daisy chain was thus untainted.
Nor did Sick seem to realize that the Herrmann-Naqashan story had undergone revision by the time he heard it. Earlier, according to Honegger, Herrmann had told her that Naqashan had actually placed himself in Pairs with Bush and Casey in October 1980. With Sick, however, Herrmann glossed over this point. He also apparently neglected to mention--for Sick omits these details in his book--that he, Herrmann, had been jailed in Britain as a counterfeiter in 1986 and had tried to win extradition to the U.S. by casting himself to Congress as an Iran-contra expert, very much like Brenneke.
Sick would later deny debt to Brenneke, claiming that he'd listened but remained skeptical. But Brenneke's own files suggest otherwise. They show that in 1989, through Kilian and Brenneke's other allies, Sick's own perceptions began to harden. Two years before, Barbara Honegger had found Sick to be unwilling to go much beyond what he'd written in his earlier book `All Fall Down.' There, he'd complained circumspectly of Israeli interference, including illicit arms shipments to Iran, at the height of Carter's hostage negotiations. But by mid 1989, Sick was prepared to jump hard in the direction Kilian and Brenneke pointed.
That is apparent from an interview he gave to Jurgen Roth at the time, laying out the `circumstantial evidence' of a Republican end run in 1980. `There were meetings late in October in Paris,' Sick declared. `We known that arms deliveries went from Israel to Iran at the same time . . . We know that the Iranians were changing their negotiating strategies.' Expect for a hard cover, this was essentially the book Sick would write two years later.
In late 1989, Sick became involved in a more ambitious film project. A friend of Kilian's, a researcher named David Marks, persuaded producer Oliver Stone and Orion Pictures to option Sick's All Fall Down as well as Brenneke's own story and consulting services. The commissioned script focused on their October Surprise allegations and featured them as `characters.' Though the film has yet to be made, Sick reportedly reviewed one version of the script and offered suggestions--a contribution that, like the Roth interview, belies his current claim (first expressed in a New York Times op-ed piece last April) that he arrived at his conspiracy theories only recently. According to Marks, Kilian also provided `substantive' advice, though without a consultant's fee.
Sick told the Voice that he didn't like the script, but admitted that he stayed with the project anyway. When asked what he'd been paid, he declared, `It's nobody's business.'
If Kilian helped turn Sick into a believer, he turned himself into something more, an ex officio member of Brenneke's defense team. He once wrote a letter to chief attorney Rich Muller, counseling him on how to question Richard Allen should he become a witness. And Brenneke's records indicate that Kilian provided tips on other potenial witnesses, a chronology of Casey's whereabouts in October 1980, and a suggestion of how to undercut Donald Gregg's claim that he was at a beach in Delaware on the very day others would have him in Paris with Bush.
In a computer note keyed to his point, Brenneke reminds himself to check Gregg's 1980 vacation schedule and then quotes Kilian as saying that weather reports for October 19 and 20, 1980, were `overcast, approximately 55 degrees.' It was this issue--the beach weather in Delaware--that would finally trip Gregg up.
Kilian's willingness to play lawyer may have been quickened by an affinity for chief attorney Rich Muller, who was as much an October Surprise enthusiast as he. A longtime friend of Brenneke's, Muller once joked to an acquaintance that he'd taken the Brenneke case so he couldn't be called as a witness. That quip told a lot.
Back in the mid '80s, as a reserve Marine colonel, Muller (by his own account) had helped Brenneke negotiate the shoals of Demavand and had kept Pentagon counterintelligence specialists informed. In late 1985, as Brenneke's overseas contacts expanded, Muller used information from them to pinpoint a pro-Israeli leaker inside the White House itself. Later, when Honegger approached `Mr. X' for help with the October Surprise, Muller again played Brenneke's silent partner, briefing him on the drawdown of NATO weapons stocks--supposedly a symptom of illicit shipments to Iran. For anyone nursing paranoia, Muller was a prize in himself.
Less appealing, though, was his co-counsel, Mike Scott. `Mike the puppet master,' Brenneke jotted after a conversation with Kilian, and from Brenneke's own standpoint, there was something to worry about here. For one thing, he wondered, `To what exent is Mike Scott using his trial for political motives?'--after which, in the same computer note, he added the name of Scott's sister, Colorado representative Patricia Schroeder.
According to other memos, Renneke also considered Scott a leaky faucet and feared that he was slipping trial information to Parry and other journalists, particularly after Kilian told him of a tip he'd picked up from Scott.
There was something else about the lawyer that also prompted worry, a little-boy quality that mocked the solemn business he was about. Visitors to his office were startled to discover that he kept a rabbit in an adjoining room, and even more troubling was his fascination for James Bondish antics, particularly the use of childish and absurdly misleading code names for potential witnesses. In a computer list attached to Scott's letterhead, for instance, Gregg was identified as `Q in WH,' translated elsewhere in the document as `Queer in White House.'
The thing that turned nuisance to liability, however, was Scott's inability to deliver on Rupp. As Brenneke noted in a memo just before his own trial, Scott has `no idea whether Harry will talk or tell the truth if he does.'
With Rupp such a question mark, the weight of Brenneke's defense briefly shifted to another weak reed, the mysterious Razine. `We all know why we need him,' Brenneke wrote to his lawyers at one point, and indeed they did know. For by now Razine had gone the way of most other October Surprise sources, writing himself directly into the 1980 Paris meetings. This gratuitous shift in status from secondhand source to eyewitness should have given somebody pause, for the guest list for the final October Surprise bash was fast reaching Biblical proportions. But even Kilian, Razine's closest monitor, seemed incapable of counting him out. `Martin is convinced that R's knowledge of 1980 is real time knowledge,' Brenneke wrote in late November, `not something he learned after the fact.'
Having invested his trust so completely, Kilian soon took the next logical step, asking Razine to testify for Brenneke--`as [a] moral obligation.' Razine, however, was not about to get trapped. In late November Kilian told Brenneke that there last best hope was wavering, that Razine was worried about Israeli reprisals and the loss of a `CIA pension.' Even worse, said Kilian, questions were beginning to crop up about Razine's past--about his whereabouts from 1969 to 1980, about the fact that his intelligence background was nowhere mentioned in court records of a 1984 drug bust against him. Suddenly Razine didn't look like a sure thing at all.
As they say in the pulps, however, help was on the way. Within the next few days, Kilian told Brenneke that Nicholas Ignatiew was ready to pinch-hit for Razine. According to a Brenneke memo, Kilian explained that `Nicholas on camera places Bush in Paris 9/20 [sic] and probably later in Zurich.' It is not known whether Brenneke snickered when he heard this. This was the same Nicholas Ignatiew whom he had coached by phone months before, and who'd then known zero about the October Surprise.
Suddenly in a flush again, Kilian and Brenneke conferred on January 3 to sort out the bidding. Everything seemed upbeat. `Very important discussion today with Martin Kilian,' Brenneke tapped into his computer. `Write Rich Muller and Mike Scott re this.' What Brenneke outlined was the October Surprise gospel according to Kilian, a goulash of suspended doubts that put Casey, McFarlane, Pentagon official Fred Ikle, and Bush at one conspirators' meeting in Paris and Casey at several others with provision (thanks to Moshell) for a Bush side trip to Luxembourg. Sadegh Tabatabai and Ahmed Khomeini had supposedly represented the Iranians, with an unidentified Swiss and a Jordanian also attending. `Every one of Martin's sources agreed independently on [this scenario],' Brenneke wrote.
He then listed those sources: Bill Herrmann (`second hand because he got his information from Naqashan'); `unidentified source (`probably from London'); Dirk Stoffberg (`second hand, through Iranian government officials . . . and South African intelligence'); Ignatiew (`unknown how Nicholas got his information'); Rozine (`unknown whether first or second hand sources'); Moshell (`first-hand source. States he was there and was an eyewitness').
As a footnote, Brenneke credited Sick's contributions and noted (the single caveat) that Moshell was suddenly unsure of his dates. He also jotted a suggestion from Kilian that neatly accommodated all the new dates and locales being tossed around. `We need to show that the October 19/20 meeting I was at was part of a series of meetings,' he wrote. `As an isolated incident it makes no sense. It only makes sense in [the] context of [the] structure of an ongoing deal.'
Superficially, this suggestion seemed a reasonable attempt to adjust to fresh data. But there was also something mischievous about it, for deliberately or not, Kilian had just handed Brenneke's supporters new license to improvise.
They wasted no time. A few days later, according to a Brenneke note, the hitherto cautious Northrop advised Kilian that he knew of `two series of meetings' prior to the Paris sessions--one round in Frankfurt in September and another in Geneva and Frankfurt in mid October. A week later Razine picked up the thread, placing Bush in Paris on September 5 through 8.
This sudden embellishment of Razine's story again prompted hopes that he might testify. But according to Brenneke's notes, he protested to Kilian and Jurgen Roth that he was now cornered by American agents in Europe and unable to depart and that their own phones--and Brenneke's--were tapped. It was such a blatant resort to stall tactics that it's something anyone took him seriously. In fact, he'd said too much, inadvertently giving Brenneke's lawyers something to go on.
In March they acted, calling on the court to dismiss the case against Brenneke because of the `intimidation' of Razine. Kilian, Roth, and Rico Carisch all provided supporting statements, and Brenneke swore he'd known Razine for `more than 10' years--which must have surprised Kilian, since he had reason to believe the two had been introduced nearly two years before.
As it happened, it was't Brenneke but Razine himself who got caught out. On March 23 an FBI agent in Bonn called Razine, then filed a report to Washington. According to the document, Razine--identified as `Oswald LaWinter'--had admitted `that he does not personally know subject Brenneke' and `would do him more harm than good' if he testified. As for the alleged intimidation, the report continued, `he attributes the origin of that information to a `couple of hot shot journalists' for whom he decided to make life difficult. As LaWinter explained, he gave them numerous false leads.
The witness list for Brenneke's nine-day perjury trial did not include Razine or any other October Surprise `expert' except Northrop, who testified that he had seen Brenneke in Europe sometime in September 1980. According to lawyer Muller, Hushang Lavi was rejected because of his inconsistencies. Rafizadeh declined to testify unless reimbursed. Brenneke had long ago dismissed Honegger as a `ding-a-ling' and Sick stayed away for reasons of political hygiene. He explained to Northrop that for the sake of his own credibility, he had to remain `purer than Caesar's wife,' eschewing any overt contact with `spook tapes.'
As for the defendant's own credibility, at least one of his lawyers seemed doubtful. Just before the trial, as Brenneke noted in his files, Mike Scott complained to him that `everything checked out except my [Brenneke's] personal data.'
With so little to go on, the defense's case boiled down to innocence by inference. The two ex-Customs informants, Howard and Tucker, for whom Brenneke had testified, reciprocated by offering speculative testimony about his alleged CIA connections, and one other witness--myself--was subpoenaed to certify that ABC News, for whom I then worked, had never retracted any Brenneke story. Since Brenneke and I had never discussed October Surprise at all, my testimony was irrelevant to whether or not the scandal had happened.
Taking that stand himself, Brenneke swore that he'd not only attended a Paris session with Don Gregg on October 19, 1980, but had been told of Bush's presence. The government countered with testimony from Gregg and two Secret Service agents who allegedly had been with Bush throughout the disputed period. Inexplicably, however, the agents forgot to bring supporting records, and a retired TV weatherman from Portland obliterated Gregg's alibi by insisting that a photograph supposedly taken of him at a Delaware beach on the pivotal weekend showed inapplicable weather conditions. It was the very tack Kilian had discussed with Brenneke weeks before.
Not once did prosecutor Thomas O'Rourke ask Brenneke for credit card receipts that might have established his whereabouts that weekend. Nor did he manage to discredit Brenneke's weatherman (in fact conditions along the Delaware shore were variable on Sunday, October 19). Brenneke's own lawyers, by contrast, never missed a beat. On May 4 the jury handed down a not-guilty verdict on all counts, thus enabling Brenneke to walk away claiming that the October Surprise story had survived the government's best shot.
The verdict immediately kicked the daisy chain into overdrive. Reporter Bob Parry, who by his own account had been lukewarm about the October Surprise story, spent the next 10 months investigating it for PBS. Sick, assisted by Parry and Kilian, finished researching a book on it, and Brenneke began a new one of his own. His earlier book deal had collapsed after coauthor Stuart Diamond had complained of his inability to produce documentation. (Brenneke had promptly declared bankruptcy and pocketed his share of the $137,000 advance). But shortly after, the trial researcher Peggy Adler Robohm offered Brenneke her services, and he began his work anew.
All along the daisy chain, meanwhile, others whose credibility had become linked to his urged him to keep laying in insurance. `You have the way to create media investigations,' Northrop told him, `by simply telling a journalist or two something that happened, i.e., The Surprise.' Brenneke complied.
One of the most useful insurance policies he copped for himself involved a strange case of purloined computer software. Shortly before his trial, Brenneke scrawled a cryptic note to himself--`Iran Contra Mike Rechonashudo [sic].' A few weeks later, on May 17, he got a related call from Bill Hamilton, owner of a small computer company named Inslaw. Hamilton told him that back in the mid 1980s, the Justice Department had extorted some sophisticated software from Inslaw and then let it slip to Earl Brian, a confidante of both Reagan and Edwin Meese. The source for this story, said Hamilton, was Michael Riconosciuto, a technical wizard who is now doing time on drug charges. Riconosciuto had allegedly worked with Brian on a contra project. `Formerly helped contras with Reagan group,' Brenneke jotted in a memo of the conversation.
Whether Brenneke discussed October Surprise with Hamilton is not apparent from the memo. But the following day Riconosciuto wrote himself prominently into the scandal. In a three-way phone conversation with Hamilton and Jeff Steinberg of Larouche's organization, which had been sniffing around the Inslaw case and advising its principals, Riconosciuto said that he'd helped transfer $42 million to Iran as part of the October Surprise deal. He also claimed that Brian, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, had gotten the pirated software as a bonus for his work on the project.
Within the next week both Honegger and Kilian called Brenneke to say that here was new proof for his story, and over the next several months Brenneke continued to talk with Hamilton, and with freelance reporter Danny Casolaro, who was researching the Inslaw case. By fall 1990, according to Brenneke's files, Riconosciuto's `role' in October Surprise had greatly expanded. Hamilton informed Brenneke on October 19 that Riconosciuto `has told him Earl Bryant [sic] went to Iran in 1980 with Mike to deliver hostage delay payoff.' Soon afterward Kilian advised Brenneke that `Riconosciuto says he saw me [Brenneke] in Paris October 1980.'
The daisy chain went bonkers, hailing the Inslaw case as a new wedge into October Surprise, particularly after Ari Ben-Menashe and another burgeoning source, Richard Babayan, provided supporting affidavits to Hamilton. Their statements dealt only with Brian's alleged role in the software theft, not October Surprise. But no one seemed to notice. And after reporter Casolaro died mysteriously in August 1991, the word went out all along the daisy chain that a deadly cover-up was in the works. Ben-Menashe's notoriety increased, and Gary Sick embraced Babayan, who'd been convicted of fraud in Florida, as an authority on part of the October Surprise. The fact that Babayan and Ben-Menashe shared a business connection in Chile--a fact made clear in their affidavits--raised no apparent concern about collusion. And once again, Brenneke's version of the truth gained new luster.
Throughout all this martin Kilian, the journalist who'd done so much to make Brenneke what he was, continued to midwife everybody else's baby. Not until August 1991 did Der Spiegel publish a story based on his October Surprise reporting--the first in three years. But Brenneke, Sick, and Bob Parry all continued to draw on his handouts. Sick would credit Kilian with having briefed him regularly on a variety of October Surprise sources, and, based on Brenneke's own notes, Kilian did the same for him.
Shortly before Brenneke's trial, for instance, Kilian uncovered evidence that seemed to place a businessman, the late John Shaheen, in the middle of the 1980 dealings as an intermediary between Cyrus Hashemi and Casey, who'd worked with Shaheen during World War II. On September 7, according to Brenneke's files, Kilian shared the Shaheen tip with him, and according to Sick's book, the same information was passed to him. That of course was typical of Kilian. While keeping his own byline off controversial information, he always seemed willing to let others try to make it fly.
Typically, too, Kilian remained true to even the worst of the bad apples. Despite the questions surrounding Razine, he continued to tout his virtues to Brenneke, telling him in August that `'Razine was part of clean-up crew' that had covered the conspirators' tracks in Paris.
Equally generous was Kilian's attitude toward Harry Rupp, whose credibility had likewise nose-dived. `Harry's dates still messed up,' Kilian warned just before Brenneke's trial. Yet, come the following November, Kilian was still pushing Rupp as a source. `Harry now says he did National [airport] to Paris non stop with Bush, Gregg, and one or two others,' Kilian told Brenneke. Later Bob Parry sat Rupp down for a PBS interview and discovered that the pilot had suddenly remembered an even earlier Surprise episode--a series of meetings supposedly held in Madrid as a prelude to the Paris negotiations. That should have sounded alarms all along the daisy chain. It didn't. Gary Sick would later cite the Rupp interview as a prime reason for believing the Madrid meetings had happened.
As noted above, it was Kilian who had first glimpsed the `need' for earlier negotiating sessions. But only after Ben-Menashe and Jamshid Hashemi, Cyrus's brother, picked up on the Madrid theme in mid 1990 did this multimeeting theory of the conspiracy catch fire. Afterward, Sick and parry became believers, and Brenneke began rewriting his book outline to place himself in every meeting anyone could think of.
`My major contribution to the story from a research point of view,' Sick told the Voice, `was the Madrid meetings.' As Sick recalls in his book, Jamshid boasted to him of having firsthand knowledge of these meetings. Jamshid claimed that in mid 1980 he and Cyrus had twice arranged for Casey to meet secretly in Madrid with the Ayatollah Mehdi Karrubi. During the first session in late July, he said, Casey had suggested that arms might be sent to Iran through a `third country' if the hostages were released as a `gift' to a fledgling Reagan administration. Two weeks later, by Jamshid's account, Casey had returned to Madrid to firm up the arrangement, and the Israelis had then secretly dispatched $150 million in arms and spare parts to Iran, with Cyrus brokering the deal for a commission. The October sessions in Paris were icing on the cake.
When Ben-Menashe was asked about all this, he `confirmed' it, saying that he'd read about the Madrid sessions in Israeli intelligence reports. Later, reporters for ABC's Nightline discovered a hotel ledger that seemingly established Cyrus and Jamshid's presence in Madrid at the appropriate moment. They also found that Casey had been abroad at the time and that someone named `Robert Gray' had been registered in the Hashemis' hotel. Since that was the name of Casey's campaign deputy in 1980--the same Robert Gray who had written some of the most aggressive GOP strategy papers on the hostage issue--the glove seemed to fit perfectly.
And yet, there were holes in it. For one thing, as Jamshid had long ago intimated to LaRouche researchers, Madrid had been a way station in Carter's hostage negotiations in 1980. So there was ample room for confusion. In addition, as Nightline reported, much of Casey's three-day European junket in late July had been given over to a London conference. Though he could have darted off to Madrid and back, conference records admitted only a silverlike window of opportunity.
More troubling still were problems with the sources themselves, particularly Jamshid, whose memory seemed infinitely elastic. At one point, for instance, he told Sick that he'd been present for the Madrid negotiations but not the Paris ones, while in an interview with Kilian he glossed over Madrid and refused to specify whether he'd been in Paris. Anyone bothering to research, moreover, would have discovered that Jamshid had been unwilling to affirm to LaRouche interviewers only a few years before that Casey was involved.
Nor did the particulars of the Madrid deal square with what was known of the Hashemis' opportunism. In 1984 a grand jury indicted Cyrus for petty arms smuggling to Iran, including transactions during the very period when he was supposedly brokering the $150 million October Surprise shipment. Would Cyrus have bothered with such penny-ante stuff if he'd really been involved in such a bonanza? Simple logic says no.
Adding to the skeptic's brief are the FBI surveillance reports mentioned previously. Based on wiretaps of Cyrus Hashemi's business phones in late 1980, they indicate that this key `conspirator' was in New York on October 20, a date frequently associated with the Paris meetings. They also show that Cyrus took orders from Iranian, not Republican, agents in arranging subsequent weapons deliveries to Iran. Even more provocative is the newly revealed role of the Carter administration in his activities. Whereas conspiracy buffs like Jamshid and Sick argue that Cyrus helped the Republicans stave off a hostage release by smuggling arms to Iran, the wiretaps show that administration officials acquiesced in his weapons deals because of his importance to their own hostage bargaining. If the Republicans encouraged Cyrus in these ventures, weren't they then only mimicking the administration?
In late 1990 Kilian began to have his own doubts about the Hashemi story, and, according to Brenneke's files, complained that Jamshid might be an agent for Customs or even the CIA. Other sources also began to wear badly. In April 1991, In These Times published comments from Ben-Menashe that diverged from what he'd told Sick and others. The discrepancy involved that Washington get-together (reported so long ago) between Reagan campaigner Richard Allen and an Iranian emissary in early October 1980. Ben-Menashe said he'd accompanied Hushang Lavi to the meeting. But for Sick he spun a different tale, claiming that his companion was not Lavi at all, but a professor from Tehran University (an inconsistency that Sick noted). Lavi himself clouded things further by insisting that he'd handled the meeting alone--this from a man who nearly four years before had denied knowing anything about the plot.
By mid 1991, the Surprise story was beginning to fray, partly because of mounting evidence that Bush couldn't have been in Paris during the crucial period of October 19 and 20, 1980. Kilian has told the Voice that he broke with Ben-Menashe over this issue. In May he also wrote Brenneke off after discovering that a letter `certifying' Brenneke's CIA recruitment had been forged.
If Kilian was beginning to have doubts, however, he was slow to tumble to the implications. Almost better than anyone else, he knew that the daisy chain was not divisible, that the bursting of one link affected the whole. He knew that Ben-Menashe had indirect links to Brenneke and that Ignatiew and Razine's credibility hinged on Brenneke's. He also knew that Lavi, Jamshid Hashemi, and Ben-Menashe were part of a skein that could not hold if any one of them proved untrue. Yet, Der Spiegel's August 1990 story on the scandal merely recycled much of what Kilian had gotten from these sources, particularly Jamshid.
`If I had known that Jamshid was linked to Brenneke it would have raised a couple of questions,' Kilian said. `I didn't think Jamshid was linked to Brenneke. I didn't think Herrman or Ben-Menashe were linked to Brenneke. I didn't think that those sources that I used had any ties.' When appraised that Jamshid knew Will Northrop, he said, `I didn't think they knew each other.'
Kilian's ability to censor out what he didn't want to hear clearly influenced Sick, whose recent book is a study in selective reporting. Time and again the author shaves facts that prejudice his sources or pet theories. He only barely touches on Cyrus Hashemi's complicating role as a Carter hostage negotiator, and overlooks Carter's hands-off treatment of Hashemi's illicit arms deals with Iran. (Sick would have us believe that it was solely the Reagan campaign, in collusion with the Israelis, that nurtured these deals and thus undercut Carter.)
Similarly, it is only from Honegger's book that we learn of gunrunner William Herrmann's conviction as a counterfeiter. Sick likewise ignores Razine's boast to the FBI about peddling false leads, the inability of Jamshid Hashemi and Hushang Lavi to stick to a consistent story about whether they took part in the Paris and Madrid sessions, and Ben-Menashe's failure to pass a polygraph test administered by ABC News shortly before Sick's publication date.
In interviews Sick has argued that a source's propensity for lying shouldn't discredit everything he says. But he fails to acknowledge that some of his sources stood to gain, even to the point of easing a prison sentence, by lying about the Surprise.
Though Sick may not have appreciated how interconnected his sources were, he surely knew that Kilian--the man he credits in his postscript as a `kindred spirit'--had flitted among many of them like a pollen bee. His book bristles with borrowings from Kilian's interviews, and where Kilian proves wanting, Sick substitutes gleanings from other reporters.
`Let's get it clear here,' Sick said last Friday. `There was no conspiracy here. I was talking to Martin Kilian, I was talking to Bob Parry, I was talking to Craig Unger, anybody who worked on the story. And as we made a breakthrough in one place * * * [and] when we asked where Casey is, some people went out to interview Meese. Nobody was telling anyone what to do. This was a voluntary group of people working on the story which I regard as almost the best of investigative journalism.'
Indeed, the most remarkable thing about Sick's book is its derivative character. Only five of the 14 primary sources he cites for the Paris and Madrid meetings did he interview himself, thus casting doubt on his ability to judge the credibility of the lot. With few exceptions, moreover, his source list duplicates the one that Honegger used for her book two years before and that Kilian expanded with Brenneke's help. To be fair, Sick might well consider sharing with them the half-million dollars he's reportedly been promised in a second movie deal, for they provided the needed research.
The proof is in his page notes. Consider, for example, the sources he says vouched for the Madrid meetings. Besides Jamshid Hashemi and Ben-Menashe, he cites Brenneke's dubious friend Harry Rupp and Richard Babayan, the convicted defrauder whom the Inslaw documents link to Ben-Menashe. He also includes an Iranian exile who learned of the meetings only secondhand from the Hashemis, and a convicted weapons dealer, Arif Durrani, who has told the Voice that he knows nothing about any October Surprise meeting.
The same paucity of firsthand information is evident in Sick's account of the Paris sessions. Again, Ben-Menashe and the oblivious Durrani are identified as primary sources, but here Sick also relies upon Brenneke, Razine, Lavi, and Brenneke's newly tutored friend, Ignatiew. Two unnamed sources are mentioned; quite possibly they are the self-styled Israeli agent Ahran Moshell and Brennecke's pal Benes.
In addition, Sick cites Kilian as the source for speculation about the role played by Casey's friend Shaheen. He also slips weapons dealer William Herrmann into the mix, though he is careful to point out that Herrmann only learned of the October Surprise from Iranian procurement officer Nagashan. What he doesn't know, of course, is that Brenneke and his buddy Ignatiew opened lines to Naqashan in mid 1986. Nor does Sick seem aware that another of his principal sources, Iranian exile Ahmed Heidari, was involved in a business venture (the attempted tank purchase) that included Ignatiew and Brenneke, as well as Razine.
`Most of these men did not know one another,' Sick writes of his sources. `The chance that [they] are telling their versions of the truth is much higher than the chance that they are all lying in concert.'
Clearly, he has it wrong. Far from being disconnected, most of his sources spring from a group of international arms merchants and wannabes who got stung by U.S. Customs and by an undercover informant named Cyrus Hashemi in April 1986. To rule out collusion among them requires considerable charity, particularly since the October Surprise story indicts one member of the White House crowd--George Bush--who they felt had caught them out. What's more, since Brenneke's records show that none of his contacts had any original knowledge of the October Surprise, the real likelihood is that they improvised.
But if Sick misses this point, he also seems oblivious to the simple dictates of candor. Last September, the Voice exposed Brenneke as a fraud after discovering that his 1980 credit card receipts placed him nowhere near the Paris or Madrid sessions that he claimed to have witnessed first-hand. Had this evidence surfaced at his perjury trial in 1990, his defense would have collapsed. So would the credibility of at least five others--Razine, Riconosciuto, Rupp, Russbacher, and Northrop--who all claimed to have seen Brenneke in Europe in the fall of 1980. Yet Sick suggests in his book that Brenneke's whereabouts had no bearing on the accuracy of his charges.
Where Brenneke was, he says, `was not an issue in the trial. Brenneke had been accused of falsely stating that William Casey, Donald Gregg and possibly George Bush were in Paris on that particular weekend. * * * Although this case received virtually no attention in the national media, it marked the first and only time that the U.S. Government had systematically and authoritatively attempted to refute the allegations of an October Surprise * * * To my surprise and to the surprise of almost everyone who followed the trial closely, the failed.'
With this kind of intellectual flexibility, the daisy chain should long outlive the earnest souls and pretenders who created it.
Gary Sick--in researching his October Surprise book interviewed only half of the sources he cites for crucial conspirators' meetings and often relied on hearsay from journalist Martin Kilian and others. While acknowledging the unreliability of some of his sources, Sick nonetheless built them into the scaffolding of his conspiracy theory, thus erecting an edifice of compounded error. In 1989 Sick became involved in a movie deal with Brenneke and producer Oliver Stone that gave the former NSC aide a financial stake in a theory he had only begun to research. Sick said the fact that he made movie deals and how much money they earned him were `totally irrelevant to the truth' of the October Surprise story.
Cyrus Hasehemi--allegedly the Reagan campaign's secret emissary to Khomeini in 1980, simultaneously pursued private Iran arms deals of his own, with the acquiescence of the Carter administration. If, as Sick and others claim, such under-the-table trade caused the ayatollahs to stall a hostage release, then Carter's own hands-off policy toward Hashemi may have been as much to blame as any GOP counterplot.
Jamshid Hashemi--one of the few key sources Sick interviewed himself, gave a different October Surprise story to extremist Lyndon Larouche's aides in 1983, leaving unclear if Reagan campaign chief William Casey was involved in earlier machinations to delay a hostage release. Jamshid has also equivocated about his own role, denying to Sick that he participated in a Paris plotters' meeting in 1980, while refusing to clarify this issue with Kilian.
Abol Hassan Bani-Sadr--Iran's exiled president, denied to Barbara Honegger in 1988 that he had any firsthand knowledge of the October Surprise conspiracy. Later, after feeding him background to improve his memory, she cited him as a prime source for her own conspiracy theories.
Hushang Lavi--U.S.-Iranian arms dealer told a Playboy interviewer four years ago that he knew nothing of a Reagan campaign effort in October 1980 to block a pre-election hostage release. The Playboy story itself--one of the first on the October Surprise--shortchanged this admission. Recently, Lavi has placed himself at the center of the October Surprise and become a prime source for Gary Sick.
Oswald LeWinter--also known as `Mr. Razine,' the most creative October Surprise source, corroborated Brenneke, serviced both Sick and Honegger's research, and has tested Kilian's skepticism and found it wanting. Even though Kilian knew of self-serving changes in Razine's story and of an FBI report linking Razine to `false leads,' the journalist has continued to quote him to others, and even urged him to testify `as a moral obligation' at Brenneke's perjury trial.
Ari Ben-Menashe--allegedly an ex-Israeli intelligence agent, shared friends and business interests with Brenneke in the mid 1980s. Sick has relied on Ben-Menashe and another business associate of his to buttress his own October Surprise theories, even while claiming in his book `most of these men did not know each other . . .'
William Herrmann, Hamid Nagashan, Ahmed Heidari, Nicholas Ignatiew--all prominent October Surprise sources, came together in various weapons deals in the mid 1980s in which Brenneke played a peripheral role. Sick discounts collusion among them, again in the belief that they share no common ground.
Martin Kilian--Washington correspondent for Der Spiegel and Sick's closest collaborator, has nurtured October Surprise sources, even dubious ones, by trading information with them and other journalists. His own magazine has devoted only two stories to the scandal in three and a half years.
David Marks--Kilian's close friend, helping bring Sick and Brenneke together for an Oliver Stone movie project in 1989 that was to dramatize both men's conspiracy allegations by turning both into `characters,' much like ex-New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison in Stone's current film, JFK, Marks, who was rejected as a prospective investigator for Congress's October Surprise probe because of his `partisanship,' is currently helping with a PBS Frontline `investigation' of Sick's allegations.