A Last Chance
By early 1991, we were finishing up the PBS documentary, "The Election Held Hostage," as President George H.W. Bush was basking in the afterglow of his Persian Gulf victory and looking forward to a cakewalk to his reelection.
However, on April 15, 1991, former National Security Council staffer Gary Sick wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which Sick, who had been a skeptic about the October Surprise suspicions, weighed in with a conclusion that new evidence of Republican treachery had tipped the balance for him.
The next day, April 16, "Frontline" aired our documentary, which recounted much of the new evidence but did so without reaching any hard-and-fast conclusions. [A DVD copy of the documentary is now available as a gift premium for donations to Consortiumnews.com. Click here for details.]
The combination of factors -- Sick's op-ed, the PBS program, and the emergence of new witnesses, especially Ben-Menashe -- created interest among some Democratic investigators in Congress although most Republicans were adamant against conducting any serious investigation.
It soon became clear to me that a major counterattack was coming. Ben-Menashe was an especially inviting target because he not only threatened the interests of Republican power, but he represented a potential disaster for Israel. According to Ben-Menashe's account, Israel's Likud government had participated in a clandestine scheme to ensure the defeat of President Carter.
In other words, Israel had brazenly interfered with the electoral process of its crucial ally, the United States, to push out one president and put in another.
Ben-Menashe also was beginning to collaborate with investigative journalist Seymour Hersh on Hersh's book, The Samson Option, examining Israel's most sensitive secret, its advanced nuclear weapons program.
Ben-Menashe was updating some of the nuclear-bomb secrets that nuclear technician Mordecai Vanunu had first revealed in 1986, a set of disclosures that had prompted Israeli intelligence to lure Vanunu from London to Rome, where he was kidnapped, returned to Israel and locked away for 18 years.
When I had traveled to Israel to question officials about Ben-Menashe, some had acknowledged his intelligence role but seethed that he was a "traitor" who should be treated without mercy.
For his part, after his acquittal, Ben-Menashe moved to Australia where he began work on his memoir, to be entitled Profits of War. However, the renewed interest in the October Surprise issue in spring 1991 prompted an invitation from staff investigators at the House Foreign Affairs Committee for Ben-Menashe to fly to Washington for a debriefing.
Ben-Menashe agreed to be interviewed and was preparing for a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles to Washington in May 1991. I had some more questions that I wanted to put to him, so Ben-Menashe suggested that I meet him at Dulles Airport when he arrived.
However, shortly before Ben-Menashe's scheduled trip, I received a phone call from an old CIA source with a curious warning. He said there was a plan afoot to intercept Ben-Menashe when he reached Los Angeles and put him on a plane to Israel where he would be imprisoned.
Not sure what to do, I contacted the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff, which agreed to make some inquiries. I soon got a call back telling me that Bush administration officials had given only vague responses, suggesting that the warning that I had received might be true.
I called Ben-Menashe in Australia, recommending that he postpone his flight. He later told me he was only minutes from departing for the airport.
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