WASHINGTON (Jul. 16)
President Reagan was reading “Terrorism: How the West Can Win,” the book edited by Israeli United Nations Ambassador Binyamin Netanyahu, at about the time his then-National Security Advisor considered telling the President about the diversion of Iranian arms sales profits to the Contra rebels, but decided not to.
The former Advisor, Rear Admiral John Poindexter, related the story Wednesday during his testimony before the Senate and House committees investigating the Iran-Contra affair.
Poindexter recalled the incident when asked whether he had ever come close to telling Reagan about the diversion of profits from the sale of arms to Iran to the Contras. He replied that he had approved the diversion when it was suggested to him by Lt. Col. Oliver North in January 1986.
“I thought it was a good idea” and “consistent” with the President’s policy to support the Contras, Poindexter said. He said he made a “deliberate decision” not to tell the President about the diversion to protect Reagan from any political embarrassment.
“I decided that the buck stops here, that I have the authority to do this,” he said. However, he noted, “If the President had asked me I very likely would have told him about it. But he didn’t.”
Poindexter said he considered telling Reagan when on the return flight from the May 1986 economic summit in Tokyo, Reagan asked him if there was anything the President “unilaterally” could do about supporting the Contras, despite the Congressional ban on providing funds to the anti-Sandinista group.
The President was concerned that Congress had not yet approved the $100 million in aid the Administration requested for the Contras, which was appropriated later in the year.
This discussion occurred after Reagan and Poindexter had talked about the Netanyahu book. But Poindexter did not explain the connection.
Poindexter also said that until he spoke about the diversion of funds for the Contras with Attorney General Edwin Meese III in November 1986, he believed that he and North were the only members of the government who knew about it. North has testified that he discussed the diversion with the late William Casey, then director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
After the diversion was disclosed by Meese, Poindexter was allowed to resign from the NSC and North was fired.