Baton Rouge Organization Brought Together Conservatives, Rebels With AM-US-Iran-Contras Rdp
Jan. 10, 1987
Baton Rouge Organization Brought Together Conservatives, Rebels With AM-US-Iran-Contras Rdp Bjt
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ Lt. Col. Oliver L. North was part of a low-profile, behind-the-scenes national organization that served to bring together wealthy conservatives and Nicaraguan rebel leaders, it was reported.
The Baton Rouge State Times, in a copyright article in Thursday's editions, said the Council for National Policy was headed for nearly four years by State Rep. Woody Jenkins.
The organization served as a forum for political conservatives to meet behind the scenes with North, Nicaraguan rebel leaders and Afghan freedom fighters, the newspaper said.
As one member described it to the newspaper, the Council was a vehicle for people who needed a way to meet others who could provide financial help. Among those who came in need was Contra leader Adolfo Calero.
The State-Times said it obtained a confidential roster for the organization showing it had a 401-member governing board as of mid-1985. The roster gives unlisted phone numbers, addresses, business or organization affiliations, and in some cases contact personnel.
Members on the list included North, the National Security Council aide who was fired by President Reagan for his role in the Iran-arms-Contra affair; fellow NSC staff member John Lenczowksi; and Faith Ryan Whittlesey, former special assistant to Reagan and now ambassador to Switzerland,.
Jenkins, a charter member of the Council for National Policy, said in late November that he knows nothing of the Iran-arms-Contra business although he knows North and regards him as a friend.
The Council for National Policy is a private organization and has drawn little national attention or public scrutiny.
The membership roster included several past and present Reagan administration officials; conservative U.S. senators and representatives; a half-dozen retired U.S. Army generals and leaders of a wide variety of conservative organizations.
The newspaper quoted a former Council staff member who was not named as saying that prospective Council members are screened by a committee, and memership in the organization is by invitation only.
The newspaper said the Council usually meets three or four times each year at posh, five-star resorts. The group has a formal policy of not discussing who attends its meetings or what is said there.
In a statement supplied on Jenkins' behalf by a spokeswoman, the conservative Louisiana Democrat said: ''It would be completely wrong to suggest that the main focus of the Council for National Policy is Central American Affairs or even foreign affairs. On the contrary, more than two thirds fo the council's attention is devoted to domestic policy issues.
''Government and opposition leaders from nations all over the world have addressed council meetings. Usually no more than two or three speakers a year address the issues of Central America.''
Jenkins, a staunch Reagan supporter, was the Council's executive director from its formation in 1981 until early 1985. He predicted when he stepped down that it would someday become so influential that ''no president, regardless of party or philosophy, will be able to ignore us.''
North has addressed the Council on more than one occassion, the newspaper said. He was at a Feb. 22-23, 1985, meeting at Rancho Las Palmas in Rancho Mirage, Calif. - at the same time a former brigadier general of the Imperial Afghan Army, Rahmatullah Safi, also spoke.
Former Council staff member Ron Aker said Stedman Fagoth, who once led Miskito Indian factions fighting the Sandinistas along the Honduran border, spoke at another Council meeting at The Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Aker is Jenkins' brother-in-law and was his administrative assistant when Jenkins was the Council's executive director. Aker also was involved with Jenkins through another organization, Friends of the Americas.
Jenkins has said Friends of the Americas supplies only humanitarian assistance to refugees near the border between Honduras and Nicaragua. He says it does not knowingly help combatants, either directly or indirectly.
Jenkins has told conservative backers that helping the refugees has strategic importance ''because soldiers will not fight if their families are dying of disease or starvation.''
Jenkins refused last May to provide information showing how much cash Friends of the Americas collects or how it is used.
When he appeared at Council meetings, North did not directly solicit funds, Aker said, but made the group aware of Contra leaders' problems in trying to overthrow the Sandinista government.
As recently as May 30, 1986, North spoke to a Council meeting in Nashville on the subject of terrorism and on his views on Central America. A Council for National Policy publication also shows North received a special achievement award ''for national defense'' from the group in 1984, the newspaper said.
A number of other administration officials are members of the Council for National Policy, according to the roster of its board of governors. The newspaper said they include Assistant Attorney General William Bradford Reynolds and former ambassador H. Eugene Douglas, who was the State Department's U.S. coordinator for refugee affairs.
Jenkins said the group represents all the elements of the conservative movement in the United States and described it as ''a network and coalition with a sense of unity based on shared values and personal friendships.''
He continued, ''It is no secret that the Council for National Policy was modeled after the Council on Foreign Relations. Despite its wrong-headed philosophy, the CFR is the most influential single private organization in America today. Our greatest challege is to have an even larger influence on public policy than has the CFR.''