" Through the Israeli conduit, Iran in 1983 bought surface-to-surface missiles of the " Lance' class plus artillery of a total value of $135 million," the Russian report said. "In July 1983, a group of specialists from the firm, Lockheed, went to Iran on English passports to repair the navigation systems and other electronic components on American-produced planes."
In 1985, the weapons tap opened wider, into the Iran-Contra shipments.
The matter-of-fact Russian report was stunning. It also matched other information the task force had. For example, the task force had discovered that the Israelis had shipped U.S. military spares to Iran in 1981, with the secret acquiescence of senior Reagan-Bush administration officials.
Hamilton faced a quandary about what to do with the explosive Russian report, which "" if accurate "" made the task force report, which was then at the printers, not worth the paper it was being printed on.
Reputations, including Hamilton's, could have been severely damaged. During his days as House Intelligence Committee chairman in the mid-1980s, Hamilton had come under criticism for dismissing early evidence about Oliver North's secret contra-supply operations and getting blindsided by the covert military shipments to Iran in 1985-86.
If Hamilton had to renounce his own October Surprise report, he might have been left looking like the Republicans' favorite chump. He might not have built a glittering post-congressional career as a well-regarded senior statesman invited to sit on important panels like the 9/11 Commission and later a task force with former Secretary of State James Baker to recommend future strategy in the Iraq War.
So, in January 1993, Hamilton decided to bury the Russian report.
"We got the stuff from the Russians just a few days before" the task force's own report was set for release, Barcella told me in an interview in 2004. "We weren't going to be able to look into it, whether it was new information, disinformation or whatever it was."
When I asked him why he and Hamilton didn't just release the Russian report along with the task force report, Barcella responded that the Russian report was classified, precluding its disclosure to the public. Hamilton was in a strong position to get it declassified, but he chose not to.
So the extraordinary Russian report was simply boxed up and filed away with other unpublished information that the task force had collected. Barcella said he envisioned the material ending up in some vast warehouse, "like in the movie " Raiders of the Lost Ark.'"
Actually, the Russian report found an even less elegant resting place. In late 1994, I discovered the documents, including the Russian report, in boxes that had been piled up in a former Ladies Room being used for storage in an obscure office off the Rayburn House Office Building's parking garage. [To examine the key "Ladies Room" documents, click here.]
While woeful in terms of penetrating official lies in pursuit of truth, Hamilton parlayed his performance as a congressional investigator into the esteemed status of a Washington's Wise Man. He was a natural choice for the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group, someone who would do all he could to avoid ruffling the feathers of prickly Republicans.
CIA Director Leon Panetta now gazes toward the respected figure of Lee Hamilton as the kind of person who could be trusted to head a truth commission on the crimes of George W. Bush's administration.
In doing so, Panetta unwittingly confirms why so many accountability advocates favor an independent special prosecutor "" and don't trust Washington insiders to investigate their own.