A three-decade-old mystery has finally been solved -- who was George H.W. Bush's unidentified "alibi witness" on Oct. 19, 1980, when other witnesses allege the then-Republican vice presidential candidate took a secret flight to Paris for meetings with Iranians -- but the mystery's answer only raises new questions.
After 20 years of rejecting requests from various investigators for the identity of the "alibi witness," the U.S. government finally released enough information from Secret Service files -- in response to an appeal that I filed with the National Archives -- to ascertain the person's identity.
The person who perhaps could have verified where Bush was or wasn't on that day was Richard A. Moore, a Bush family friend best known for his role in the Watergate scandal as a special counsel to President Richard Nixon. In 1973, Moore was Nixon's point man in attacking the credibility of fired White House counsel John Dean after Dean turned whistleblower.
In 1980, Moore, who somehow managed to escape indictment for his Watergate role, and his wife, Jane Swift Moore, were living in an exclusive tree-lined neighborhood in Northwest Washington about one mile from the home of George H.W. and Barbara Bush.
According to Secret Service records that I found in the files of Bush's White House counsel C. Boyden Gray -- and which have now been more fully released -- Bush's Secret Service detail left the Bush family home at 4429 Lowell St. N.W. at 1:35 p.m. on Oct. 19, 1980, and arrived at "Moore Residence, 4917 Rockwood Pkwy." at 1:40 p.m.
By checking Washington D.C. real estate records, I discovered that Richard A. Moore owned the house at 4917 Rockwood Parkway in 1980.
If George H.W. Bush actually made the visit to Moore's house with his wife Barbara Bush on that afternoon -- rather than Barbara possibly going alone -- that would make Bush's alleged trip to Paris virtually impossible. So it would have seemed to be in Bush's interests to release this information to investigators and have then interview Moore, if Moore would confirm that Bush dropped by that day.
In the early 1990s, Moore also was Bush's ambassador to Ireland and thus presumably inclined to help both his boss and his friend. However, when investigators were trying to determine whether Bush had traveled to Paris -- and were looking for evidence to prove that he hadn't -- the Bush administration whited-out Moore's address before releasing redacted versions of the Secret Service records.
Moore died on Jan. 27, 1995. So, if George H.W. Bush's purpose in delaying release of Moore's identity was to ensure that no one could check with Moore about Bush's alibi for Oct. 19, 1980, Bush achieved his goal.
Though most of us who were examining this mystery two decades ago gave great weight to the Secret Service records seeming to place Bush in Washington, not Paris, there was the question of whether Bush, a former CIA director, might have convinced some friendly Secret Service supervisor to cook up some alibi to cover the flight to Paris.
Those suspicions deepened with the Bush administration's continued refusal to provide seemingly innocuous information, like Moore's address.
Justifying a Secret
In 1991-92, President George H.W. Bush's administration continued to insist on keeping the "Moore Residence" destination secret even after Congress authorized an investigation into the so-called October Surprise case, whether Republicans in 1980 had contacted Iranians behind President Jimmy Carter's back to frustrate his efforts to free 52 American hostages.
Carter's failure to gain release of the hostages made him look weak and inept, setting the stage for Ronald Reagan's landslide victory, an election which dramatically changed the course of the nation. The Iranians released the American hostages immediately after Reagan was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1981, further making Reagan appear to be an imposing world figure.
Though there were early rumors about a secret Republican deal with Iran, the October Surprise mystery didn't gain much traction until the exposure of secret Iran-Contra arms shipments approved by Reagan to Iran in 1985-86. Suddenly, the notion that Reagan and his Vice President George H.W. Bush would lie about covert dealings with Iran didn't seem so preposterous.
Essentially, the October Surprise question was whether Reagan's secret contacts with Iran dated back to Campaign 1980, as a growing number of witnesses -- from inside the governments of Iran, Israel, France and the United States -- were alleging.