When Bush was CIA director in 1976, he appointed Shackley to a top clandestine job, associate deputy director for operations, laying the foundation for Shackley's possible rise to director and cementing Shackley's loyalty to Bush. When Shackley had a falling out with Carter's CIA Director Turner in 1979, Shackley quit the agency. Privately, Shackley believed that Turner had devastated the agency by pushing out hundreds of covert officers, many of them Shackley's former subordinates.
By early 1980, the Republicans were complaining that they were being kept in the dark about progress on the Iran hostage negotiations. George Cave, then a top CIA specialist on Iran, told me that the "Democrats never briefed the Republicans" on sensitive developments, creating suspicions among the Republicans that Carter might time a hostage release for maximum benefit in the election, a so-called "October Surprise."
So, the Republicans sought out their own sources of information regarding the hostage crisis. Bush's ally Shackley began monitoring Carter's progress on negotiations through his contacts with Iranians in Europe, Cave said. "Ted, I know, had a couple of contacts in Germany," said Cave. "I know he talked to them. I don't know how far it went. ... Ted was very active on that thing in the winter/spring of 1980."
Author David Corn also got wind of the Shackley-Bush connection when he was researching his biography of Shackley, Blond Ghost. "Within the spook world the belief spread that Shackley was close to Bush," Corn wrote. "Rafael Quintero [an anti-Castro Cuban with close ties to the CIA] was saying that Shackley met with Bush every week. He told one associate that should Reagan and Bush triumph, Shackley was considered a potential DCI," the abbreviation for CIA director.
Some of the legendary CIA officers from an even earlier generation, those who had helped overthrow Iran's elected government in 1953 and put the Shah on the Peacock Throne, also injected themselves into the hostage crisis.
Carter, a "Utopian"
Miles Copeland, one of the agency's old Middle East hands, claimed in his memoir, The Game Player, that he and his CIA chums pondered their own hostage rescue plan while organizing an informal support group for the Bush campaign, called "Spooks for Bush."
In the 1990 interview, Copeland told me that "the way we saw Washington at that time was that the struggle was really not between the Left and the Right, the liberals and the conservatives, as between the Utopians and the realists, the pragmatists. Carter was a Utopian. He believed, honestly, that you must do the right thing and take your chance on the consequences. He told me that. He literally believed that." Copeland's deep Southern accent spit out the words with a mixture of amazement and disgust.
Copeland's contacts at the time included CIA veteran Archibald Roosevelt and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger -- both of whom were close to David Rockefeller whose Chase Manhattan Bank handled billions of dollars in the Shah's accounts, a fortune that the Iranian mullahs wanted to lay their hands on.
"There were many of us -- myself along with Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller, Archie Roosevelt in the CIA at the time -- we believed very strongly that we were showing a kind of weakness, which people in Iran and elsewhere in the world hold in great contempt," Copeland said. As Copeland and his friends contemplated what to do regarding the hostage crisis, he reached out to other of his old CIA buddies.
According to The Game Player, Copeland turned to ex-CIA counter-intelligence chief James Angleton. The famed spy hunter "brought to lunch a Mossad chap who confided that his service had identified at least half of the [hostage-holding] "students,' even to the extent of having their home addresses in Tehran," Copeland wrote. "He gave me a rundown on what sort of kids they were. Most of them, he said, were just that, kids."
One of the young Israeli intelligence agents assigned to the task of figuring out who was who in the new Iranian power structure was Ari Ben-Menashe, who was born in Iran but emigrated to Israel as a teen-ager. Not only did he speak fluent Farsi, but he had school friends who were rising within the new revolutionary bureaucracy.
In his memoir, Profits of War, Ben-Menashe offered his own depiction of Copeland's initiative. Though Copeland was generally regarded as a CIA "Arabist" who had opposed Israeli interests in the past, he was admired for his analytical skills, Ben-Menashe wrote.
"A meeting between Miles Copeland and Israeli intelligence officers was held at a Georgetown house in Washington, D.C.," Ben-Menashe wrote...
"The Israelis were happy to deal with any initiative but Carter's. David Kimche, chief of Tevel, the foreign relations unit of Mossad, was the senior Israeli at the meeting. ... The Israelis and the Copeland group came up with a two-pronged plan to use quiet diplomacy with the Iranians and to draw up a scheme for military action against Iran that would not jeopardize the lives of the hostages."
In late February 1980, Seyeed Mehdi Kashani, an Iranian emissary, arrived in Israel to discuss Iran's growing desperation for spare parts for its U.S.-supplied air force, Ben-Menashe wrote.