What also was unusual about the L'Enfant Plaza meeting was what Allen and Silberman did not do afterwards. Though Allen said that he and Silberman recognized the sensitivity of the approach, neither of Ronald Reagan's foreign policy advisers contacted the Carter administration or reported the offer to law enforcement.
It also defied logic that seasoned operatives like Allen and Silberman would have agreed to a meeting with an emissary from a hostile power without having done some due-diligence about who the person was and what his bona fides were.
Later, when a Senate panel conducted a brief inquiry into whether the Republicans interfered with Carter's hostage negotiations, a truculent Allen testified -- and brought along a memo that he claimed represented his contemporaneous recollections of the L'Enfant Plaza meeting.
However, the memo, dated Sept. 10, 1980, flatly contradicted the previous accounts from Allen, Silberman and McFarlane. It described a meeting arranged by Mike Butler, another Tower aide, with McFarlane only joining in later as the pair told Allen about a meeting they had had with a Mr. A.A. Mohammed, a Malaysian who operated out of Singapore.
"This afternoon, by mutual agreement, I met with Messrs. Mohammed, Butler and McFarlane. I also took Larry Silberman along to the meeting," Allen wrote in the memo.
According to the memo, Mohammed presented a scheme for returning the Shah of Iran's son to the country as "a figurehead monarch" which would be accompanied by a release of the U.S. hostages. Though skeptical of the plan, "both Larry and I indicated that we would be pleased to hear whatever additional news Mr. Mohammed might be able to turn up, and I suggested that that information be communicated via a secure channel," the memo read.
Nearly every important detail was different both in how the meeting was arranged and its contents. Gone was the proposal to release the hostages to candidate Reagan, gone was the abrupt cutoff, gone was the Iranian or Egyptian -- some guy from the "Mediterranean littoral" -- replaced by a Malaysian businessman whose comments were welcomed along with future contacts "via a secure channel." The memo didn't even mention the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, nor was McFarlane the organizer.
A reasonable conclusion might be that Allen's memo was about an entirely different meeting, which would suggest that Republican contacts with Iranian emissaries were more numerous and that Silberman was more of a regular player.
Also, Silberman, McFarlane and Butler -- when questioned by a House Task Force investigating the issue in 1992 -- disputed Allen's new version of the L'Enfant Plaza tale. They claimed no recollection of the A.A. Mohammed discussion.
For his part, Silberman denied any substantive discussion with the mysterious L'Enfant Plaza emissary but he refused to discuss the meeting in any detail. Though purportedly having arranged the meeting, McFarlare also insisted that he couldn't recall the identity of the emissary.
While the Republicans claimed fuzzy and contradictory memories, two other figures in the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel mystery -- Iranian arms dealer Houshang Lavi and Israeli intelligence officer Ari Ben-Menashe -- claimed that there was a reason the Republicans didn't want to say everything they knew: because the L'Enfant Plaza meeting fit into the larger scheme of Republican back-channel negotiations with Iran.
Lavi, who had brokered the Shah of Iran's $2 billion purchase of F-14s years earlier, told me that he had arranged the meeting not with McFarlane, but with Silberman. "Silberman wanted me to go down to Washington and talk about the American hostage situation," Lavi said.
Lavi, a chunky man of modest height and dark complexion, described the meeting as occurring at a hotel that was near the Potomac River and had an expansive lobby, both of which fit with the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel. Lavi said the meeting occurred on Oct. 2, 1980.
To support his account, Lavi supplied a lined piece of paper that read: "Oct 2, 80. Eastern Shuttle to D.C. E.Plaza Hotel. " To meet Silberman, Allen, Bob McFar. 40 page document F14 parts already paid for in rtun of hostages. Swap in Karachi. Charter 707." But there was no way to know when Lavi's note was actually written.