"William Casey, in 1980, met three times with representatives of the Iranian leadership," the Russian report said. "The meetings took place in Madrid and Paris."
At the Paris meeting in October 1980, "R[obert] Gates, at that time a staffer of the National Security Council in the administration of Jimmy Carter, and former CIA Director George Bush also took part," the report said.
"In Madrid and Paris, the representatives of Ronald Reagan and the Iranian leadership discussed the question of possibly delaying the release of 52 hostages from the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran."
(The Russian report had been requested by Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Indiana, as part of the 1992 task force investigation of the October Surprise case. It arrived on Jan. 11, 1993, just two days before the task force was to release its own report rejecting the October Surprise suspicions.
(According to Hamilton and task force chief counsel Lawrence Barcella, the startling Russian report may never have been shown to Hamilton, until I sent him a copy this spring. In recent interviews, Hamilton told me, "I don't recall seeing it," and Barcella said in an e-mail that he didn't "recall whether I showed [Hamilton] the Russian report or not."[See Consortiumnews.com's "Key October Surprise Evidence Hidden."])
Despite the alleged Paris agreement, the Reagan-Bush campaign remained nervous about the possibility that Carter might still arrange a pre-election hostage release.
The Reagan-Bush campaign maintained a 24-hour Operations Center, which monitored press wires and reports, gave daily press briefings and maintained telephone and telefax contact with the candidate's plane, according to a secret draft report of the House task force, which added:
"Many of the staff members were former CIA employees who had previously worked on the Bush campaign or were otherwise loyal to George Bush."
Bush and Shackley took personal responsibility for making sure the Republican campaign was not caught off guard.
According to Richard Allen's handwritten notes for Oct. 27, 1980, Bush called Allen at 2:12 p.m. as Bush was heading off to campaign in Pittsburgh. Bush had gotten an unsettling message from former Texas Gov. John Connally, the ex-Democrat who had switched to the Republican Party during the Nixon administration. Connally said his oil contacts in the Middle East were buzzing with rumors that Carter had achieved the long-elusive breakthrough on the hostages.
Bush ordered Allen to find out what he could about Connally's tip. Allen was to pass on any new details to two of Bush's aides. According to the notes, Allen was to relay the information to "Ted Shacklee [sic] via Jennifer."
In a "secret" 1992 deposition to the House October Surprise task force, Allen said the Jennifer was Jennifer Fitzgerald, Bush's longtime assistant including during his year as director of the CIA. Allen testified that "Shacklee" was Theodore Shackley, the famous CIA covert operations specialist, the "blond ghost." [To see Allen's notes, click here.]
Yet, despite the last-minute GOP worries, Carter failed to get the hostages out. The coincidence that the anniversary of the hostage-taking fell on Election Day 1980 further damaged Carter's hopes as Americans were forced to relive the humiliations of the previous year.
Reagan romped to victory in a landslide, winning 44 states and bringing with him a Republican Senate. Among the Democrat casualties were key figures in efforts to rein in the powers of the imperial presidency and of the CIA including Frank Church of Idaho, Birch Bayh of Indiana and George McGovern of South Dakota.
In retrospect, some of Carter's negotiators felt they should have been much more attentive to the possibility of Republican sabotage. "Looking back, the Carter administration appears to have been far too trusting and particularly blind to the intrigue swirling around it," said former NSC official Gary Sick.