Yet, even as the cover-up of the Iran-Contra operations crumbled, key figures in Washington battled to keep the even more explosive October Surprise suspicions relegated to the loony bin of conspiracy theories, not to be taken seriously by the American people.
By the time the October Surprise case was gaining traction in 1991, neoconservatives had established themselves as important gatekeepers in the U.S. news media. Controversies that threatened to put Israel and Likud in a negative light were hotly contested.
So, in fall 1991, as Congress was deliberating whether to conduct full investigations of the October Surprise issue, Steven Emerson, a journalist with close ties to Likud, produced a cover story for the neoconservative New Republic claiming to prove the allegations were a "myth."
Almost simultaneously, Newsweek published its own cover story also attacking the October Surprise allegations. The article, I was told, had been ordered up by executive editor Maynard Parker who was a close associate of Henry Kissinger and was known inside Newsweek as a big admirer of prominent neocon Elliott Abrams.
The two articles were influential in shaping Washington's conventional wisdom, but they were both based on a misreading of attendance documents at a London historical conference which William Casey had gone to in July 1980.
The two publications put Casey at the conference on one key date thus supposedly proving he could not have attended one of the Madrid meetings with Iranian emissaries. However, after the two stories appeared, follow-up interviews with conference participants, including historian Robert Dallek, conclusively showed that Casey wasn't there.
Veteran journalist Craig Unger, who had worked on the Newsweek cover story, said the magazine knew the Casey alibi was bogus but still used it. "It was the most dishonest thing that I've been through in my life in journalism," Unger later told me.
However, even though the Newsweek and New Republic stories had themselves been debunked, that didn't stop other neoconservative-dominated publications, like the Wall Street Journal, from ladling out ridicule on anyone who dared take the October Surprise case seriously.
Emerson also was a close friend of Michael Zeldin, the deputy chief counsel for the House investigative task force. Though the task force jettisoned Emerson's bogus Casey alibi, House investigators told me that Emerson frequently visited the task force's offices and advised Zeldin and others how to read the October Surprise evidence.
Subsequent examinations of Emerson's peculiar brand of journalism (which invariably toed the Likud line and often demonized Muslims) revealed that Emerson had financial ties to right-wing funders such as Richard Mellon Scaife and had hosted right-wing Israeli intelligence commander Yigal Carmon when Carmon came to Washington to lobby against Middle East peace talks.
In 1999, a study of Emerson's history by John F. Sugg for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's magazine "Extra!" quoted an Associated Press reporter who had worked with Emerson on a project as saying of Emerson and Carmon: "I have no doubt these guys are working together."
The Jerusalem Post reported that Emerson has "close ties to Israeli intelligence." And "Victor Ostrovsky, who defected from Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and has written books disclosing its secrets, calls Emerson "the horn' -- because he trumpets Mossad claims," Sugg reported.
Besides Emerson's cozy relationship with task force deputy counsel Zeldin, Zeldin's boss, chief counsel Lawrence Barcella, was a close personal friend of another influential neocon, Michael Ledeen, who was linked to the October Surprise mystery in the secret draft report prepared by Barcella's staff.
Barcella also was the person inside the task force who apparently decided to withhold the damning Russian report from task force chairman Lee Hamilton.