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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/17/10

The Tricky October Surprise Report

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Dymally's Dissent

That was the hostile climate facing the House October Surprise Task Force (and a smaller inquiry by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee).

So, it was much easier for Congress to go through the motions of investigating rather than to get into a street fight with then-President George H.W. Bush, who lashed out against the inquiry during two news conferences (but never testified under oath).

In a recent interview, Dymally told me that there was never a "consultative" process between the task force members and the lead investigators about the inquiry. Mostly, he said, a couple of members might show up for a closed meeting and get "a slight briefing" from Barcella.

"My sense is that they wanted to say, "let's forget this whole thing,' say it never happened and move on," Dymally said, noting that the task force held no significant public hearings at which key witnesses could present their claims about Republican-Iranian contacts.

Another problem, Dymally said, was that the Republicans and their allies were determined to block any serious investigation while "there was no constituency that was interested in this, other than its historical aspect."

Dymally emerged as the only task force member who actively challenged some of the irrational arguments that Barcella and his team were adopting in their efforts to counter evidence of a Republican-Iranian deal.

Dymally credited his staff aide, the late Marwan Burgan, for drawing his attention to some of these anomalies, such as a task force claim that since Reagan adviser Richard Allen wrote down Casey's home phone number on one day that was proof that Casey must have been at home (even though Allen had no recollection or record of reaching Casey that day.)

Another strange piece of evidence put forth by the task force was an airline schedule showing a flight from San Francisco to London on another day, supposedly to prove that Casey must have been onboard (even though real documentary evidence for that day placed Casey on the East Coast, not the West Coast.)

As the task force closed in on its finding of Reagan's innocence, Dymally filed a dissent, arguing that "just because phones ring and planes fly doesn't mean that someone is there to answer the phone or is on the plane."

The dissent letter reportedly infuriated Barcella who enlisted Hamilton to pressure Dymally into withdrawing it. In an interview with me back in 1993, Dymally said the day his dissent was submitted, he received a call from Hamilton warning him that if the dissent was not withdrawn, "I will have to come down hard on you."

The next day, Hamilton, who was taking over the House Foreign Affairs Committee, fired the staff of the Africa subcommittee that Dymally, who was retiring from Congress, had headed. The firings were billed as routine, and Hamilton told me back then that "the two things came along at the same time, but they were not connected in my mind."

Hamilton said his warning to Dymally had referred to a toughly worded response that Hamilton would have fired off to Dymally if the dissent had stood. However, hoping to salvage the jobs of some of his staff, Dymally agreed to withdraw the dissent but still refused to sign the report.

Dymally's refusal was noted briefly on page 244 under that subhead, "Office Space and Equipment," while the claim of the unanimous vote on Dec. 10, 1992, got top billing right at the front of the report.

The Republicans and their allies celebrated the outcome, with task force vice chairman Henry Hyde holding forth in a House speech ridiculing anyone who ever held suspicions about the October Surprise case.

Hamilton wrote a New York Times op-ed, declaring "case closed" and insisting that the key to the debunking was establishing ironclad alibis for Bill Casey's whereabouts.

Recently, when I asked Dymally why he was raising this topic again now three decades after the October Surprise events and 17 years since the task force report was issued he replied, "History has to be recorded accurately."

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Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at It's also available at

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