Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, by direction of the Committee on Rules, I call up House Resolution 585 and ask for its immediate consideration.
The Clerk read the resolution, as follows:
Resolved, That the provisions of clause 5 of rule XI requiring the adoption of one primary expense resolution for the payment from the contingent fund of the House of the expenses of the Task Force to Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of Americans as Hostages in Iran in 1980 in the second session of the One Hundred Second Congress are hereby waived, to the end that the provisions of House Resolution 258 of the One Hundred Second Congress shall be deemed to satisfy the requirements of that clause and that, notwithstanding the adjournment of the second session of the One Hundred Second Congress sine die, the task force shall be authorized to file a final report with the Clerk of the House at any time after the adjournment of the second session of the One Hundred Second Congress sine die and before noon on January 3, 1993. The expenses of the task force may not exceed the amounts listed in the first section of House Resolution 512, as recommended to be amended by the Committee on House Administration in House Report 102-930.
The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from California [Mr. Beilenson] is recognized for 1 hour.
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, for the purpose of debate only, I yield the customary 30 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. McEwen], pending which I yield myself such time as I may consume. During consideration of this resolution, all time yielded is for the purpose of debate only.
Mr. Speaker, House Resolution 585 provides for the completion of the activities of the Task Force To Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of Americans as Hostages by Iran in 1980--more familiarly/popularly known as the October Surprise Task Force.
The resolution deems that House Resolution 258 of the 102d Congress, which created the panel, serves as an expense resolution for purposes of clause 5 of rule XI until the task force files its final report.
The rule waives clause 5 of rule XI and authorizes the October Surprise Task Force to file a final report with the Clerk of the House after adjournment sine die and before January 3, 1993.
Finally, the rule adds a proviso limiting expenses to the amount approved in the first section of House Resolution 512 as amended by the House Administration Committee. This language is designed to ensure that the budget of the task force will be no higher than $1.35 million, a figure requested by the task force chairman and ranking minority member and agreed to by the Committee on House Administration.
The purpose of this resolution is to make clear that the important investigation being conducted by this task force of Foreign Affairs Committee members, and so well chaired by our distinguished colleague from Indiana [Mr. Hamilton], with the able assistance of the ranking minority member from Illinois [Mr. Hyde], may continue after we adjourn, but no later than the end of this year, laying to rest any confusion regarding the termination date of the panel.
The resolution ensures that the task force will be able to file a final report after we adjourn--but before January 3, 1993. Chairman Hamilton testified that the work of the task force is nearing completion. And, he and the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde] agreed that, having come this far, the task force should have the time and resources to complete the inquiry in an appropriate manner so that no lingering suspicions about the serious allegations, which led to the creation of the task force, will remain.
In fact, in testimony from the chairman and the ranking minority member of the task force, it appears to the Rules Committee that the work of the task force has been conducted with remarkable cooperation, and that the panel has operated responsibly and professionally.
Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to approve this resolution, thereby permitting the task force to resolve the issues that form its mandate.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, after the 1980 election, most political observers believed that the American people overwhelmingly pitched the failed Carter regime out of office because of its disastrous economic policy, the double-digit inflation, the interest rates at over 20 percent, the double-digit unemployment, losing jobs at 50,000 a week, the long lines at gas stations and the despair.
Others figured that it was the foreign policy disgraces of the Carter administration, the failed rescue of the hostages in Iran, the march of communism in Nicaragua, the support of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and Carter's support in Angola as well as a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. America was not in the same position of strength as it is today. All Mr. Carter could do then was send them a postcard saying, `For marching on Afghanistan we will not attend the Olympics.' Many felt that that was the reason the American people turned to the strength and vision of Ronald Reagan.
A few die-hard Carter supporters who could never accept that the American people did not like inflation, skyrocketing interest rates, gasoline lines and international weakness, desired to find a conspiracy behind the demise of the Carter Presidency. In the self-fulfilling fantasies of an assortment of misfits and oddballs and conspiracy theorists those people built their own new conspiracy.
A year ago almost to the day, the Rules Committee considered a resolution creating a special House task force to investigate once and for all the rumors regarding a 1980 conspiracy. The special task force would investigate those infamous October Surprise charges.
Mr. Speaker, I had a chance to look back at those committee transcripts, and last year I predicted that the main purpose of the task force was political. It would bring up old rumors and accusations, highlight baseless charges, and right in the middle of the 1992 Presidential campaign would seek to file its report. I said that we would create the investigation, and then it would disappear and we would not bear a thing until the very last minute, probably not until days before the election.
Well, we created the task force, Mr. Speaker. Noting much has been said about the baseless conspiracy charges since, except that most newspapers and responsible organizations have discarded them for the fantasy that they are.
But let us look at the calendar. Here we are on the House floor right on time. It is October. Surprise. That is the only election October Surprise around here.
The gentleman from California [Mr. Beilenson] has explained the House resolution. At a time when the public standing of this institution is at such a low, the House should never have started this investigation and never asked the American taxpayer to pay for this blatantly partisan political bill.
I would like to commend, however, the honorable chairman of the Rules Committee, Mr. Moakley, and the distinguished gentleman from New York [Mr. Solomon] for coming to a compromise that takes into account the concerns of the American taxpayer. House Resolution 585 does set a limit of $1.35 million on the expenditures of the task force.
But let us not deceive anyone about the true cost of this witch hunt. It has cost the taxpayers much more than that. Other agencies have already spent well over $700,000 to meet the needs of the task force, and the figure is going up.
Mr. Speaker, when this resolution came up I made a point of order that the resolution was not correct because it did not include a primary expense resolution. There is no question at all but what that was a violation of the House rules.
However, the Parliamentarian ruled at that time that it was only temporary and, therefore, could operate under the agreement of another House committee. Republican Bill Thomas asked Parliamentarian Bill Brown in a letter dated February 10 whether or not that was the case, and the Parliamentarian responded saying that `the expectation of a future primary expense resolution relating to the task force is logically consistent with the ruling of February 5.' In other words, they are going to act expeditiously.
Here we are a year later. We have the resolution on the floor again, and they have still not done as the Parliamentarian promised would be done immediately when I objected to the violation of the rules a year ago.
Mr. Speaker, I wish the task force haste in drawing to a close this embarrassment in our congressional history. Although the American taxpayer should not be forced to pay for it, I hope they can report once and for all and put this issue behind us.
Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Michel], the minority leader.
(Mr. MICHEL asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks, and include extraneous material.)
Mr. MICHEL. Mr. Speaker and my colleagues, I rise in opposition to this procedural gimmick that will fund the October Surprise task force for the duration of this Congress.
Now, as outraged as I am about the process, I want to focus my comments on the issue of funding an investigation of incredible allegations that Reagan and Bush campaign aides were involved in any attempt to delay the release of Americans held hostage in Iran. Let there be no mistake. We are not just talking about $1,350,000 here. The FBI estimates they have spent $415,000 to assist the task force. The Treasury Department estimates they have spent over 9,000 manhours assisting the task force at a cost of over $257,000. The Defense Department has spent $1.5 million to respond to requests of the task force. The CIA has spent $132,000, and Justice has spent $23,000. The State Department has spent $100,000 just flying task force staff around the world. That brings us to $2.4 million, and I believe these estimates are low since I asked the agencies to estimate only costs they could document.
The taxpayers will spend almost $4 million chasing wild rumors. What a waste. No wonder the majority has to hide behind procedural gimmicks to provide funding for this task force.
You will recall that the Republican substitute that I offered called for limited funding and a date certain for the task force to report. The chairman of the task force, the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Hamilton], as I recall, responded that, `If nothing is there, I will be the first to ask that it be shut down.'
The task force has already admitted publicly what most of us knew from the beginning: President Bush had absolutely no part in this so-called conspiracy.
One of the main proponents of this conspiracy theory, Mr. Gary Sick, a former national security staffer for Jimmy Carter, wrote that `At least five sources who say they were in Paris in connection with these meetings insist that George Bush was present for at least one meeting.' The task force now tells us, in effect, that Mr. Sick's sources must be lying or suffering from mass hallucination, because Mr. Bush's whereabouts for the period in question are documented, and he was not in Paris.
I see the distinguished gentleman from my home State, the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde], who served as our ranking member on the task force. Might I ask the gentleman a few questions here relating to the main allegations in this conspiracy theory?
I ask the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde]: Does not Gary Sick tell us the Carter administration was negotiating a $150 million arms-for-hostages deal with Iran? Is that not what was purported?
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. MICHEL. I am happy to yield to the gentleman from Illinois.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, that is absolutely correct. In Mr. Sick's book called `All Fall Down,' he indicates that a $150 million group of arms, weapons, was ready to be shipped to Iran in exchange for the hostages. These were weapons that the Shah had paid for earlier but were never delivered because of the difficulties with Iran. There was an embargo. Yes.
Mr. MICHEL. When were these negotiations taking place?
Mr. HYDE. If the gentleman will yield further, October 1980.
Mr. MICHEL. In the gentleman's opinion, has he seen any credible evidence to suggest the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign engaged in a conspiracy to detain American hostages held in Iran?
Mr. HYDE. Does the gentleman mean after 7 months and about $800,000 that this body has expended out of the contingency fund, have I seen any evidence that the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign engaged in a conspiracy to detain American hostages held in Iran? What that the gentleman's question?
Mr. MICHEL. That is the question.
Mr. HYDE. The answer is no.
Mr. MICHEL. I thank the gentleman. In the gentleman's opinion, he has seen any credible evidence to suggest that the meeting took place in Paris in October 1980?
Mr. HYDE. You mean, in Madrid in July 1980?
Mr. MICHEL. That would be the one.
Mr. HYDE. No. The answer to that is no.
Mr. MICHEL. As I understand it, Gary Sick says in his book `October Surprise' that one fundamental question looms above all others: Did William Casey, without the knowledge of the United States Government, travel to Paris during the period October 15 to 20, 1980, to meet with Iranian and Israeli representatives to arrange the release of the United States hostages to the Reagan-Bush forces? Again, I am quoting from his book, `the answer, it appears, is yes; everything else is of secondary importance.' I guess I would have to ask the distinguished gentleman here: Has he seen any credible evidence that Mr. Casey was in Paris in October of 1980?
Mr. HYDE. After 7 months and about $800,000 spent in investigating everyone from aardvark to zebra, the answer is no.
Mr. MICHEL. Mr. Speaker, it is obvious from what we have just heard that the task force in their thorough investigation has achieved one thing; by now they must have found out that many sources out there were lying, that statements that some journalist took as truth were actually fiction, and that this conspiracy theory is really a house of cards.
No meetings took place. George Bush had absolutely no involvement at the time, and the time has come to write the end, frankly, to this story. The time, it seems to me, has come to end this folly and to report to the American people that there was no conspiracy.
I would urge the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Hamilton], the distinguished chairman, and my friend, the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde], to orally report their findings as soon as possible and, of course, preferably before the election.
Obviously I am very much opposed to this resolution providing for the continuation of funding for the task force.
DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY,
Washington, DC, September 28, 1992.
Hon. Robert H. Michel,
Republican Leader, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Mr. Leader: Thank you for your September 22 letter requesting information on what costs the Treasury Department and related agencies have incurred for the October Surprise inquiry.
As you requested, we have prepared an estimated accounting of the cost to the Treasury Department of complying with the House of Representatives and Senate inquiries into the allegations surrounding `October Surprise.' The Treasury Department has, to date, spent $257,333 on the investigation, calculated from receipt of the first House letter in September 1991 to August 21, 1992. Because the search for documents is still in progress, the full cost of the investigation to Treasury cannot yet be determined.
We asked all offices and bureaus within Treasury to provide us with the number of hours they spent responding to House and Senate inquiries, including the cost of copying documents. We did not include copying costs under $25. Copying costs were calculated at 10 cents a page.
To compute the cost to Treasury for the hours worked, we added 18% of the annual salary for a given grade and step to the annual salary and divided that amount by 2087, the official number of hours each employee works annually. We then multiplied this hourly wage by the number of hours worked by each grade and step.
Where we did not know the step, a step three was used to calculate the salary. Where we knew positions were clerical, we used the clerical salary scale. Where we did not know otherwise, we assumed that grades 5, 6, and 7, were clerical.
We have provided the number of hours worked and the cost of those hours, along with additional costs, on the attached chart.
I hope that this information is responsive to your inquiry. Please let me know if our office can be of further assistance.
Mary C. Sophos,
Assistant Secretary (Legislative Affairs).
COSTS OF OCTOBER SURPRISE
Office Manhours Cost Copying and other costs
Deputy General Counsel 30 $1,611.00
General Counsel (Enforcement) 596.50 21,069.93
General Counsel (International Affairs) 9 304.74
Enforcement 3 130.84
OASIA 147.75 4,361.72
OFAC 208 6,266.34
Customs Service 2,193.50 69,001.43 $850
IRS 4,153.75 88,548.27 750
U.S. Secret Service 1,020 31,260.47 240
ATF 992 32,938.17
Total 9,353.50 255,493.01 1,840
Washington, DC, September 30, 1992.
Hon. Robert H. Michel,
Republican Leader, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Leader: In response to your September 22 letter, the Department of Defense incurred approximately $1,529,000.00 in expenses to respond to requests of the October Surprise Task Force. This figure includes all costs associated with time and material expended during the period October, 1991 through September, 1992.
I hope this will be of assistance to you.
Federal Bureau of Investigation,
Washington, DC, September 30, 1992.
Hon. Bob Michel,
Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Congressmen Michel: This is in response to your letter of September 22, 1992, in which you asked for costs associated with the FBI's October Surprise Task Force.
The Task Force was started on or about May 4, 1992. Normally, the FBI does not keep figures for individual investigations. However, on May 30, 1992, the tracking of certain costs was initiated. To date, those costs have been:
1 Approximately $10,000 is reimbursable as a result of Congressional Staff travel.
Extrapolating from the existing data for pre-May 30th costs, and considering a reasonable amount for space, equipment, and supplies, it is estimated that to date the FBI has incurred total costs of around $500,000 for the October Surprise Task Force Investigation.
I hope this is of some assistance.
JOHN E. COLLINGWOOD,
Inspector in Charge, Office of Public and Congressional Services.
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE--HOURS/FUNDS SPENT ON OCTOBER SURPRISE*
Labor category Hours Dollars
Professional 20 $540.18
Attorney 334 14,583.63
Paralegal 317 4,943.47
Clerical 48 559.68
Other 20 283.80
Subtotal 739 20,910.76
Cost of copying 1,000.00
Hon. Robert H. Michel,
Republican Leader, House of Representatives, Washington, DC.
Dear Congressman Michel: I am responding to your September 22, request regarding what costs the National Security Council has borne in cooperation with the October Surprise congressional investigation to date.
Total professional time expended on the congressional inquiry, including, but not limited to, identifying, producing, or making available documents and records, time spent by lawyers reviewing materials for release, and other staff time is approximately 154.2 hours. We conservatively estimate that these staff hours equate to approximately $5,760.11 of salary costs. Total nonprofessional staff time expended on the inquiry is approximately 16 hours, approximating $253.92 of salary costs. We are unable to estimate the dollar amount of other costs for supplies, long distance calls, and the like.
The NSC staff has outstanding requests from the October Surprise Task Force, which we are currently processing; therefore, we are still expending staff time and resources on the October Surprise Task Force inquiry.
If you need additional information, do not hesitate to contact Virginia Lampley at (202) 395-3055.
William F. Sittmann,
1. As requested in Mr. Michel's letter, we have estimated the cost of our response to the various inquiries of the October Surprise Task Force. We estimate that CIA's response has cost $132,000 to date.
2. As I told you in our telephone conversation, this is a very soft estimate because some of our components did not keep records of time spent on the inquiry. We have had to make rough estimates of the cost of those components' response.
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, may I inquire of my friend, the gentleman from Ohio, if the gentleman is going to yield additional time?
Mr. McEWEN. I would say, Mr. Speaker, that I have significant requests for time, and I have been in this situation before where there were no requests for time on the other side and we used our time only to discover that a significant amount of requests appeared at the very tail end.
Mr. BEILENSON. If I may say to my friend, this gentleman, insofar as he is aware, and other members of the committee on the majority side have never misled the gentleman as to further requests for time. Until this moment we did not have any further requests for time or any requests for time. I was just offering the gentleman an opportunity to proceed. We do have one gentleman here now who either will speak at this time or shortly thereafter.
Mr. McEWEN. It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that there will be only one request for time, and that there will be only one request for time on the majority side, and I will be pleased to yield to the distinguished ranking member on the Committee on Rules.
Mr. BEILENSON. At the moment that is the case, as the gentleman knows, as my friend knows.
We will be happy to proceed on our side if the gentleman would proceed first. I was simply advising the gentleman that as of now we only have one Member requesting time.
Mr. McEWEN. I am simply advising the gentleman that I am wary of these conditions, not that the gentleman from California [Mr. Beilenson] has engaged in this before, but, therefore, I am reluctant to use all of my time under those conditions.
Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman from New York [Mr. Solomon].
(Mr. SOLOMON asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Wisconsin [Mr. Roth].
Mr. ROTH. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Well, Mr. Speaker, it is October, and it is not a happy new fiscal year.
The biggest surprise though is the ongoing charade fostered by the liberals in this Congress. I just cannot believe the liberals want to spend another $2.5 million for a fishing expedition, a fishing expedition for something nobody cares about.
The American people care about keeping their jobs, helping their families, paying their bills, and living within a budget, something the liberals failed to understand.
Let us take a look at the facts of this case. The liberals' case centers around allegations of Carter Foreign Policy Director Gary Sick. His chief witnesses are a jailed South African arms dealer and Abbey Hoffman. After 7 months, $800,000, maybe the liberals should subpoena Elvis; he could probably give them the answers they need.
Let us get serious, let us stop the political games and get down to the chores that have to be done.
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, we on this side understand that our friends and colleagues on the other side are not in support of this resolution. We understand their feelings about it; we have from the very beginning, about a year or so ago.
I would like to tell our colleagues, if I may, I think it is fair to characterize it this way: The discussion between Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Hyde, and the members of the Committee on Rules a day or so ago was perhaps, if one may put it this way, a little more reasonable and helpful than some of the discussion we have had here on the floor.
What I want to do, however, if I may, Mr. Speaker, just for a moment is to remind Members who may not have
heard the introduction from our side here that what we have before us now is a resolution which provides for basically three things only.
First, it provides for the completion of the activities of this so-called October Surprise task force.
Second is, that it is designed to insure that the budget of the task force would be no higher than the $1.35 million, a figure requested by the task force chairman and by the ranking minority member, and agreed to by the Committee on House Administration.
And finally, it makes clear that the committee may continue its procedures and its investigations after we adjourn but no later than the end of the year. The intention, as expressed to the Committee on Rules a couple of days ago both by Mr. Hyde and by the distinguished chairman, the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Hamilton] was that the work of the committee would be finished by probably the middle of November, simply giving them until the end of the year to file a report.
So that is all we are doing, we are trying to bring to a conclusion and to put a limit on the amount of money this particular task force can use. Members should understand that that is what is at stake here today.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from California [Mr. Dreier].
(Mr. DREIER of California asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. DREIER of California. Mr. Speaker, there is an old wildcatter expression that I have heard from some of my friends out in California. It says, `If you drill a dry hole deep enough, you are bound to strike a lot of nothing big.' And clearly, that is exactly what we have found in this resolution.
It seems to me that with the action that has been taken by the October Surprise task force, we are going to continue to find a lot of nothing big.
I hope very much that we will defeat this resolution.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Gillmor].
(Mr. GILLMOR asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. GILLMOR. I thank the gentleman for yielding time to me.
Mr. Speaker, the expenditure called for by this resolution has to be one of the most frivolous and wasteful proposals in Congress this year. Considering some of the other expenditures that have been approved by this body, that is saying something.
This whole October Surprise investigation debacle began as a result of unsubstantiated charges made by former Carter administration officials and others, that George Bush somehow in the midst of a Presidential campaign in October 1980, snuck away to Europe to cut some kind of deal regarding hostages. The allegation was ridiculous to begin with, and was found to be completely unfounded by every responsible group that looked at it. In fact, about the only finding that the current October Surprise task force has issued is that this bologna charge, which started it all, about President Bush being in Paris was completely unfounded.
Nonetheless, this task force has met and expended through September 30 of this year more than $769,000 to investigate this. We are now asked to increase this expenditure to $1,350,000 to conclude the investigation and present a report of the task force findings.
Actually, this amount of money is only the tip of the iceberg. This does not account for the millions that are being spent by various executive agencies as a result of this investigation and to help in it. The Defense Department alone has spent over $1,500,000. The Department of State has spent over $100,000 to pay for commercial travel for the staff of this committee to glamorous cities on the Mediterranean, and in Europe, and other places. Who knows what exotic spots they may find to travel to if Congress authorizes the continual operation of this task force. In fact, the minimum additional expenditure by other agencies already is between $2.5 and $3 million. Those expenditures will also increase if this resolution passes.
I hear many Members express concern about the disrespect in which Congress is held by a large proportion of the people of this country. I have heard a number of Members, particularly on the majority side, be critical of those who supposedly bash Congress. Well, why not? When it does things like it is doing today.
Congress is not held in disrespect because of what Members say. Congress is held in disrespect because of Congress' own actions. Passing this resolution today will only further enhance the view that people already have of this body as one that is wasteful and engages in frivolous activities.
I would like to make a prediction. I would predict that after this resolution is approved and all this additional money is spent and after the task force reports, which will conveniently be after the election, it will have been found to have produced no substantial evidence to justify this wasteful expenditure. I would burg my colleagues to vote against the resolution.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman from Iowa [Mr. Leach].
Mr. LEACH. I thank the gentleman for yielding.
First, Mr. Speaker, let me just begin by paying a compliment to the chairman of our committee, the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Hamilton], who has conducted this inquiry with a great deal of fairness.
I would also bring to the attention of the House, because not everything is noted around here, Chairman Hamilton held a press conference about a month ago in which he, in effect, indicated publicly in the middle of a presidential campaign that there is no credible embarrassing evidence tying the current Republican President of the United States, George Bush, to any wrongdoing. For that I personally think Chairman Hamilton deserves not only a great deal of credit on judgment but on integrity, for acting in a nonpartisan fashion.
Now, as far as this particular inquiry is concerned, we are really at the seventh inning of an inquiry. We are constrained in what can be said because much of what has been reported is of a confidential variety. But let me just say as a member of this committee that, in looking at the evidence, the conspiratorialists in America have not only not scored a run but they have not made a hit.
As hard as it is to believe in a world where press cynicism is rampant, no credible corroborating evidence has been presented that would lead one to think of embarrassment to high-level officials of the United States of America.
I believe this House is obligated to bring this investigation to an end because irresponsible charges should not be dignified. Yet, I must say from the perspective of the minority, that the staff of the committee has been fair and responsible. I also would say that one of the interesting lessons of this endeavor could be a case study of public journalism at its most vulnerable.
Honest, decent people appear to have been manipulated or duped by discreditable, sometimes recanters, and, despite any lack of passion at the thought, I would suggest to this body that sometimes American public officials are decent, honorable, and honest, and sometimes those people that might make charges from other parts of the world may lack the same kind of integrity.
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the distinguished gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Hamilton], the chairman of the task force.
Mr. HAMILTON. I thank the distinguished gentleman from California for yielding time to me.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of House Resolution 585, a resolution that would provide for the completion of the investigation of the October Surprise Task Force.
The October Surprise Task Force was created in February, 1992, following the adoption of House Resolution 258. Since then, the task force has been hard at work.
To date, the task force has interviewed and deposed over 125 people. It has reviewed close to 30,000 documents and pursued investigative leads in several foreign countries.
The task force is in the final stages of its investigation. Approximately 50 witnesses still remain to be interviewed or deposed. Several important lines of inquiry still need to be pursued and about 5,000 documents need to be reviewed and analyzed. Additionally, some organizations and executive branch agencies still need to complete document production.
Among the 50 remaining witnesses, approximately 2 dozen critical witnesses have not yet been deposed. Several of these witness interviews were purposely put off until the final stages of the investigation to allow task force staff to complete interviews of related, but less important, witnesses and to analyze relevant documentary evidence. Other important witnesses have only just been located and are scheduled for interview later this month.
Access to documents and information to which no one has had previous access continues. For instance, nearly 75 percent of the almost 2,500 hours of Hashemi FISA electronic surveillance tapes have been fully reviewed. Also, thousands of classified intelligence and defense community documents have been read and analyzed.
Finally, the task force is still awaiting permission from the Governments of Israel and Iran to review documents and interview witnesses. Hopefully, we will receive such permission shortly. This will allow the task force to consider important evidence, much of which has never been addressed until now.
During the 7 months that the task force has been operating, I think we have addressed many of the concerns initially expressed by the minority. This has not been a political witch hunt. In fact, our interim report, released on July 1, reached only one conclusion--that then-candidate George Bush did not travel to Paris in October 1980, to participate in alleged secret meetings.
We have conducted this inquiry in a bipartisan fashion. The minority: has fully participated in every interview and deposition; has been free to pursue completely any leads they believe relevant; has requested and obtained documentary and other evidence; and there has been no disclosure of the names of people we have contacted during our investigation. There have been no leaks about any aspect of this investigation.
I know we are all concerned with keeping costs to a minimum and the task force has certainly done that. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the task force's operating budget would cost between $1.8 and $2.5 million. The actual cost of this investigation falls far below CBO's minimum cost estimate. We have worked hard to ensure that this investigation is conducted without any waste. I might add that citing estimated costs to executive branch agencies responding to task force requests is somewhat misleading. Generally, we have worked with personnel in either Congressional Affairs or FOIA offices who would be responding to requests of this nature in any case. Additionally, much of the cost was incurred by requests from the executive branch itself prior to the task force being created.
I would like to offer a final observation. The task force has been in operation since February 1992 and is in the final stages of its work. Unless the task force is allowed to complete its work, no final conclusions will be able to be reached. Such a situation is clearly in no one's interest, particularly those whose reputations have been tarnished. I would not want anyone, whether opponents or proponents of this issue, to say when we are finished that we were not thorough or complete in pursuing viable leads.
While I appreciate the perspective on the partisan nature of the debate leading to the creation of the task force, at this juncture it seems in all of our interests to see this project to its orderly conclusion on January 3, 1993, so as to put these issues to rest once and for all. I should note that while our colleague Henry Hyde might agree with you about the partisan inception of this investigation, he has stated that it has been and continues to be conducted in a fair, professional, and unusually bipartisan atmosphere. By voting for this resolution, it allows the task force to complete its final interviews, review the remaining evidence, and complete the final report by January 3, 1993.
In sum, this investigation is proceeding in a bipartisan, cooperative manner. If the House will let us pursue this investigation to its appropriate conclusion, we are likely to be able to put this matter to rest once and for all.
I urge support for House Resolution 585.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Florida [Mr. Goss], a member of the task force.
(Mr. Goss asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. GOSS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
Mr. Speaker, as a member of the committee, this gentleman is obviously constrained by what I can say, but I certainly want to echo and underscore the statements by the chairman of our Task Force and our ranking member, that fair play has been the word. I think the leadership of the Task Force has been excellent. I do not think there is any doubt there has been fair play in the conduct of the investigation.
However, the words `witch hunt' I believe does associate with some efforts by others that are going on. I think that has caused some concern, and I agree, we need to get to the basis of this.
There will always be another reported sighting of Elvis. There is no doubt about it. There will always be fantasy land inside the Beltway. There is no doubt about that. There will always be an endless supply of nonsense that we could chase down if we wanted to around here. In fact, there is already a cottage industry in this town, as most people know, that does chase rumor mongering, dissembling and even lying in trying to prove things.
The issue tonight is cost. It is a question of cost, a question of the wise use of money, of the taxpayers' dollars. Is this the best use of millions of dollars right now when dollars are precious in our country, when we are in a deficit mode. We have agencies taking money out of their other duties and diverting them to do this exercise. We are paying consultants money to do this exercise, and of course, we had these GAO costs before this thing officially started.
So what we are dealing with is are we spending the taxpayers' money wisely? Are we going to get a good return on it?
I believe the answer that is we have spent enough.
Some have suggested that we do not spell so well on this side of the aisle. Let me tell you, I am not so sure that some on the other side of the aisle add so well. We do have an additional problem. We are spending in this country more than we can afford right now. We all know that.
My view tonight is that there is not enough money, there is not enough magic, that even a Merlin could turn this dross into gold on Halloween night, and let us be sure that Halloween night is not the target.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Oklahoma [Mr. Inhofe].
Mr. INHOFE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.
I have been making notes of those points that have been made. I wanted to come up toward the last so I could cover some things that perhaps have been overlooked.
One of the significant things is something that I believe is unprecedented that was used in the investigation, and that is a House Committee using its influence to influence a Federal judge to allow someone to have leniency to come out and testify in this case. I am speaking of the chief counsel of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. R. Spencer Oliver.
I will read from the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Oliver has now used his influence to spring a convicted South African arms dealer from prison, presumably because this criminal can help the Democrats' October Surprise probe. The wonderfully-named Dirk Francois Stoffberg, a former South African Intelligence Agent turned arms dealer, was convicted last year of selling 1,000 handguns to a U.S. Customs Agent posing as an arms broker.
During his trial it was revealed that Mr. Stoffberg had threatened a Federal agent with death. Along comes Spencer Oliver, who last month wrote to U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein informing him that Mr. Stoffberg was assisting the Foreign Affairs Committee in its investigation of the October Surprise. Mr. Oliver lobbied the judge to reduce Mr. Stoffberg's sentence.
Mr. Speaker, it also has not been brought out that there have already been more, but no less than, five independent investigations of the so-called October Surprise, one by Newsweek magazine, one by New Republic magazine. None has come up with any evidence that there is any wrongdoing, and I can only conclude that this is nothing more or less than a coverup to cover up some of those things which really are corrupt and are going on today such as the post office scandal.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California [Mr. Hunter].
Mr. HUNTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. McEwen] for yielding this time to me, and I just reminded myself that this is a day that the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde] spoke of a number of months ago when he said,
It looks like this thing is all going to come to a head around the first week of October,
in what Mr. Hyde referred to as `a lucky booking.'
I say to my colleagues, The problem is you can't take the political spin off this issue, and it's a political spin at a time when we should be doing the people's work. The people's work is housing. The people's work is jobs. The people's work is the credit crunch.
We are not doing that. We are investigating this idea that somehow swamis, rug merchants and political consultants got together and held up a hostage release.
Mr. Speaker, it is no wonder America looks at this body and says, `A lot of these folks should be moved out of here. They don't care about what the real agenda of America is. They're playing political games.'
Let us move on. Let us go back to the people's work.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from California [Mr. Dornan].
Mr. DORNAN of California. Is it quiet enough for you, Mr. Speaker? It is for me. Just checking.
Mr. Speaker, if we are going back 12 years for political purposes to investigate a so-called surprise, then let us go back 10 more, the New Year's Eve, 1969, and January 1970, and investigate, spend some of this money, why the now Governor of Arkansas traveled to Moscow in the dead of night, 26 degrees below zero, to meet with the enemy in an enemy capital that was making every plane, and every bullet and every rifle that killed our men in Vietnam. Moscow, the Evil Empire, was running that war. I ask my colleagues, why don't we investigate that? Why don't we find out why the Governor of Arkansas' senior policy adviser, David Ipsham, went to Moscow the next year and went on to Hanoi?
I have got a photograph of Phan Van Dong I will be showing later tonight, and then he went on the radio, Mr. Ipsham, and told every American fighting man to throw down his weapons, to leave their planes, get off their ships, face court martial and desert that cause in the part of the cold war where we were fighting for freedom for the southern half of Vietnam.
Then go back 10 more years, to 1960, and study the Chicago surprise and the Texas surprise in November 1960 when the election was stolen from Vice President Richard Nixon.
I ask my colleagues, Why don't we fence some of this money, and keep this political game going and be fair about it?
Mr. EMERSON. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. DORNAN of California. I yield to the gentleman from Missouri.
Mr. EMERSON. Mr. Speaker, I have always been curious what President Wilson might really have known about the sinking of the Lusitania.
Mr. DORNAN of California. Nineteen hundred and sixteen, and he promised he would not take us into war. One hundred twenty-eight men were lost off the southern coast of Ireland on the Lusitania in May of 1915, and he said he would not take us to war, and he did not. That is worth investigating.
What about Colonel House? Was Colonel House running Woodrow?
Mr. Speaker, I am glad the gentleman from Missouri brought that up.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield 4 minutes to the distinguished gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde].
(Mr. Hyde asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I want to preface my remarks by saying there is no one in any parliamentary body in the world I would rather serve with in any capacity than the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Hamilton]. He is doing a very professional and very objective job as chairman of this difficult task force, and I have absolutely no criticism, but only praise, of the manner in which this is being conducted.
I only entreat my friend to look at the matter from our perspective. Some of the most serious, heinous, egregious charges have been floating around this country from sources hardly friendly to the Republican administration and about people who are dead and cannot defend themselves, and we Republicans have been sitting here listening to these charges made in the press, in books, on talk shows, against Bill Casey who is dead, against many other people, against the now President, then Vice President, George Bush, then candidate George Bush.
We do not characterize our task force as engaging in a witch hunt, but I do not know how I would characterize what the GAO did for months before that unbeknownst to the majority looking into this.
When we talk about the expenses in this search for the Emerald City of Oz, for the smoking gun that we have not found, and we add up the cost, it is going to go far beyond what we are talking about here and months and months of interviewing people to no end.
Now the gentleman said that the minority leader, and possibly myself, came awfully close to violating the rules. I want the gentleman to know I looked at the rules, I have discussed it with counsel at great length, and I think characterizing the totality of the evidence thus far as amounting to zero in terms of substantiating these charges is not a breach of the rules, and I did it with much soul searching and much review of counsel.
Additionally, Mr. Speaker, on this September 23 I said the same thing in the Committee on House Administration in a colloquy with the gentleman from Connecticut [Mr. Gejdenson] while seated right next to the gentleman from Indiana.
So, I do not think we violated any rules.
But I can only say this: There are lots of places to spend the millions of dollars that are going to be spent on this thus far fruitless search. There is no credible evidence that we have found. But when this story is told, and I do look forward, I really look forward, to the final report, we are going to hear a story that is incredible. We are going to hear about lying, about deception, about manipulation of the media and by the media, and it will make fascinating proportions, and I only hope that the movie that Mr. Sick intends to make out of his fantasy will include some of the ideas with suggestions in the scenario that we will provide.
Mr. HAMILTON. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?
Mr. HYDE. I yield to the gentleman from Indiana.
Mr. HAMILTON. Mr. Speaker, I just want to thank the gentleman from Illinois [Mr. Hyde] for the very gracious comments he made about me and return them.
We both have recognized that this has been an extremely difficult and volatile matter to get into. I have enjoyed my relationship with him. He has conducted himself in a highly professional manner. Our personal relationship has been excellent, and so has the relationships between our staffs, and I am grateful to him for that.
I also recognize that it came for him during a very difficult time personally, and so it was all the more difficult, and he has my accommodation and my praise.
Mr. HYDE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Indiana [Mr. Hamilton], and I promise not to use that in the campaign, but I certainly appreciate everything he has said.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.
Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying to my colleagues from the Committee on Rules that my reticence at us having so many requests and their not having so many may have left an impression that I was skeptical. I apologize for that. The gentleman from California, as I have said publicly and privately many times, is the most fair individual with whom I have had the privilege of serving both on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Committee on Rules, and the mere fact that I have time here is his generosity in yielding me 5 minutes.
Mr. Speaker, on February 5 I rose when this resolution was before us and made a point of order against consideration on the grounds that the report did not include a total amount of funds to be funded as required under House rule XI, clause 5(a). At that time the Chair overruled my point of order on the grounds that the resolution was not a primary expense resolution, but just interim funding.
The following day in a letter from the gentleman from California [Mr. Thomas] to the Parliamentarian, Bill Brown, the Parliamentarian responded by saying that it would be deemed for the moment that the expectation of a future primary expense resolution relating to the task force is logically consistent with the ruling of yesterday.
In other words, the fact is it was only temporary and immediately the majority would come to the floor with a request for a funding resolution.
Mr. Speaker, here we are in October, 72 hours before adjourning. We have before us a rule that does not do that. In other words, my point of order made in February was absolutely correct and it was a partisan ruling to insinuate otherwise. We have proof of the pudding as to here we are. This is an exercise not in legislation, not in legislative activity. This is a partisan political act that has been an embarrassment from day one. We now say that they can go until even after sine die, that they can make the report. Hopefully by the end of this 102d Congress this additional chapter to the embarrassment to our country will be drawn to a close and we can begin the 103d Congress on a new sheet.
Mr. Speaker, I regret that we have come here, and I urge my colleagues to vote no on the resolution.
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, in concluding I do want to say again that we at the Committee on Rules believe that the task force should have the time and the resources to complete the inquiry in an appropriate manner so that no lingering suspicions about the serious allegations which have led to the creation of the task force in the first instance will remain.
To reiterate also that which I said a little bit earlier, the resolution simply provides for the completion of the activities of the task force no later than the end of this year, but after we do adjourn, which hopefully will be in the next 3 or 4 days, and to ensure that the budget of the task force will not be any higher than $1.35 million, apparently an amount that both the majority and the minority Members have agreed upon.
Mr. BEILENSON. Mr. Speaker, I have no further requests for time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.
The previous question was ordered.
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. McNulty). The question is on the resolution.
The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that the ayes appeared to have it.
Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, I demand a recorded vote.
A recorded vote was ordered.
The vote was taken by electronic device, and there were--ayes 221, noes 181, not voting 30, as follows:
Messrs. APPLEGATE, CAMPBELL of Colorado, and CLEMENT changed their vote from `aye' to `no.'
Ms. SLAUGHTER changed her vote from `no' to `aye.'
So the resolution was agreed to.
The result of the vote was announced as above recorded.
A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.