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Inside the October Surprise Cover-up

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With the Chevy Chase trip having verification problems, attention turned to the afternoon visit to a private residence. However, the Secret Service refused to release the name and address of the person visited, claiming that to do so would somehow endanger the agency's protective strategies. [For details, see Robert Parry's Secrecy & Privilege.]

A Mysterious Liaison

What the newly released records reveal, however, is that the White House was involved in keeping the name of the person secret -- and that a key Republican senator involved in the October Surprise inquiry was under intense pressure from the GOP to act more aggressively in Bush's defense.

On June 24, 1992, Rehnquist wrote a memo for the file describing a meeting that she and Gray had with Sen. Terry Sanford, D-North Carolina, chairman of the subcommittee in charge of the Senate's October Surprise inquiry, and Jeffords, the ranking Republican.

The senators complained about the "GOP thrashing Jeffords," Rehnquist wrote. "The Senators urged that we seek to stop the GOP from criticizing Sen. Jeffords' handling of the minority interests in the investigation. They said that they were irritated by the continued GOP bashing and that it wasn't doing any good."

But the pummeling appears to have softened Jeffords' readiness to ask tough questions.

Rehnquist wrote, with apparent relief, that there was "discussion concerning whether the investigators needed to see the names and addresses of private individuals whom the VP visited on a particular occasion" and the two senators "were not interested in the names and addresses of private individuals whom the VP may have visited on a particular day."

So, the White House was spared publicly having to identify Bush's alibi witness for the afternoon of Oct. 19, 1980.

In summer 1992, Republicans were suggesting that they wanted to protect the host's name because Bush may have been visiting a woman friend and that the Democrats might have been hoping to stir up a sex scandal to counter some of the salacious rumors about their own nominee, Bill Clinton.

However, when Secret Service records for Barbara Bush were released they showed her going to the same residence, deflating suggestions of a sexual liaison. The question that remained was whether George H.W. Bush actually was part of the afternoon visit or whether his wife's day trip was used as a cover for his absence from Washington.

Without questioning the afternoon host, it was impossible to verify Bush's alibi.

However, in one of the many strange alibi deals that pervaded the October Surprise investigation, the House Task Force agreed to clear Bush of taking a secret trip to Paris in exchange for the White House privately giving the name of Bush's host to a small number of the congressional investigators.

But they were barred from interviewing the alibi witness or releasing the name, which remains secret to this day.

The peculiar arrangement -- being told the name of an alibi witness but never questioning the witness -- was typical of Bush's White House imposing bizarre rules on the inquiry and the badgered investigators acquiescing.

Evidence of a Secret Trip

The House Task Force stuck with its decision to clear Bush regarding the alleged Paris trip despite subsequent evidence suggesting that Bush, indeed, had flown to Paris and had created a false record to conceal the trip.

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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 secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at
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