NSC System Broke Down in Iran-Contra Affair, Report Says With PM-Tower Report Rdp Bjt
Feb. 27, 1987
WASHINGTON (AP) _ National Security Council officials might have realized the Iran arms initiative was doomed if they only had performed the policy reviews that the NSC did best, the Tower commission report says.
The report said Thursday the Iran initiative ''was never subjected to a rigorous review,'' even though ''the most powerful features'' of the NSC system were providing comprehensive analyses, alternatives, and follow-up studies.
The commission primarily blamed President Reagan for the breakdown, saying that ''had the president chosen to drive the NSC system, the outcome could well have been different.''
But the investigating board also was harsh on Donald Regan, White House chief of staff, and top NSC officials.
Regan, ''more than almost any chief of staff of recent memory,'' asserted personal control over the White House staff and should have kept watch over the program, the report said.
NSC executives, knowing the president relied heavily on aides, should have analyzed the arms sales and been willing to urge Reagan ''not to proceed on a highly questionable course of action, even in the face of his strong conviction to the contrary.''
Reagan ''did not force his policy to undergo the most critical review of which the NSC participants and the process were capable,'' the report said.
NSC officials, it added, ''were too involved in the initiative, both as advocates and as implementors.''
The report also blamed fired NSC aide Oliver L. North for conducting the operation ''outside the orbit of the U.S. government'' without ''critical reviews of any kind.''
There were plenty of chances for comprehensive reviews that might have stopped the arms program, the commission said.
One would have been after the initial hostage release in September 1985. During the next 10 months, no hostages were let go despite recurring promises that all the captives would be released, and despite four intervening arms shipments.
Another opportunity came after a November 1985 arms shipment from Israel to Iran, which apparently was rejected because obsolete missile parts were included.
And, the report said, there could have been a review in the aftermath of the rejection when, in January 1986, the U.S. government decided to transfer arms directly to Iran.
''It does not appear that any of the NSC principals called for more frequent consideration of the Iran initiative ... in the presence of the president,'' according to the report. ''The intelligence questions do not appear to have been raised, and legal considerations, while raised, were not pressed. No one seemed to have complained about the informality of the process.
''No one called for a thorough re-examination once the initiative did not meet expectations or the manner of execution changed. While one or another of the NSC principals suspected that something was amiss, none vigorously pursued the issue.''