If the American hostages could be freed in early October, the way would be cleared for Israel to sell a wider array of military hardware to Iran, which was then under pressure from the Iraqi invasion, Ben-Menashe said. That, of course, would have been bad news for the Reagan campaign, which feared that a resolution of the crisis before the November election -- the so-called October Surprise -- might give President Carter a major boost toward reelection.
Ben-Menashe said Omshei did most of the talking at the L'Enfant Plaza meeting, telling Allen, Silberman and McFarlane that the hostages would be delivered to a U.S. Air Force plane in Karachi, Pakistan, fitting with Lavi's' notation about "rtun of hostages. Swap in Karachi." Ben-Menashe said McFarlane nodded at the news and said, cryptically, "I'll report to my superiors."
However, by the time Ben-Menashe returned to Israel a couple of days later, he said he discovered that the planned release of the American hostages had fallen through because of Republican opposition, according to his memoir, Profits of War .
The Republicans wanted a release of the hostages only after the Nov. 4 election, Ben-Menashe wrote, with the final details of the delayed release to be arranged in Paris between a delegation of Republicans, led by GOP vice presidential nominee George H.W. Bush, and a delegation of Iranians, led by cleric Mehdi Karrubi, a top aide to Ayatollah Khomeini.
Ben-Menashe and other October Surprise witnesses have claimed that the Paris meeting did occur and, according to Ben-Menashe, it established the outlines for a resolution of the crisis that would have the hostages released after the U.S. presidential election. Ben-Menashe said Israel took on the role of middleman for supplying weapons that Iran needed for its war with Iraq.
Ben-Menashe's version later was backed up by a confidential Russian government report derived from Soviet-era intelligence files. The Russian Report was sent to the House Task Force in early 1993, but the report was apparently never given to the Task Force chairman, Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, who told me years later that he never saw it. [See Consortiumnews.com's " Key October Surprise Evidence Hidden ."]
With the Russian Report brushed aside and other evidence implicating the Republicans downplayed or hidden, the House Task Force turned the page on the complex October Surprise issue by concluding that there was "no credible evidence" to prove that the Reagan campaign had sabotaged Carter's hostage negotiations. [For more on that cover-up, see Robert Parry's America's Stolen Narrative. ]
Regarding the curious L'Enfant Plaza meeting, the Task Force simply accepted Allen's memo about the Malaysian fellow as the final answer. [See Parry's
On Nov. 4, 1980, with Carter unable to free the hostages and Americans feeling humiliated by the year-long standoff with Iran, Ronald Reagan won the presidency in a landslide.
For his loyal service to the campaign, the neoconservative Silberman was put in charge of the transition team's intelligence section. The team prepared a report attacking the CIA's analytical division for noting growing weaknesses in the Soviet Union. Though that analysis turned out to be true, it was despised by the neocons because it undercut their case for a costly expansion of the Pentagon's budget.
So, Silberman's transition team accused the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence of "an abject failure" to foresee a supposedly massive Soviet buildup of strategic weapons and "the wholesale failure" to comprehend the sophistication of Soviet propaganda.
"These failures are of such enormity," the transition report said, "that they cannot help but suggest to any objective observer that the agency itself is compromised to an unprecedented extent and that its paralysis is attributable to causes more sinister than incompetence."
In other words, Silberman's transition team was implying that CIA analysts who didn't toe the neoconservative line must be Soviet agents. Even anti-Soviet hardliners like the CIA's Robert Gates recognized the impact that the incoming administration's hostility had on the CIA analysts.
"That the Reaganites saw their arrival as a hostile takeover was apparent in the most extraordinary transition period of my career," Gates wrote in his memoir, From the Shadows . "The reaction inside the Agency to this litany of failure and incompetence" from the transition team "was a mix of resentment and anger, dread and personal insecurity."
Amid rumors that the transition team wanted to purge several hundred top analysts, career officials feared for their jobs, especially those considered responsible for assessing the Soviet Union as a declining power rapidly falling behind the West in technology and economics.