Tower panel comes down hard on Reagan, advisers
The presidentially appointed Tower Commission looking into the Iran-contra scandal has rendered its harsh judgment: President Reagan was in effect conducting an arms-for-American-hostages policy in his covert arms dealings with Iran, despite his public assertions to the contrary. This was directly at odds with official US policy of not negotiating with terrorists or supplying Iran with weapons.Skip to next paragraph
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Following an intensive investigation of the scandal, the three-man commission issued a report yesterday that detailed sweeping evidence of mismanagement within the White House, ranging from presidential detachment and ignorance of facts to massive disregard of the National Security Council (NSC) process by aides and subordinates.
It was not the commission's charge to assess the criminal liability of aides engaged in the Iran-contra affair. But it strongly criticized virtually every high official of the administration who was involved in Iran policy - from the White House chief of staff and NSC aides to the secretaries of state and defense and the director of central intelligence.
With his authority already weakened by the months-old crisis, the President faces a growing challenge of rejuvenating his leadership in the remaining months in office. Bipartisan concern grows in Washington that, unless something is done to revive presidential authority - and reengage the President in the affairs of state - the United States will tread water at home and abroad in the two years ahead.
Among the commission's findings:
The President ``did not seem to be aware'' of how his Iran policy was being carried out or of the consequences of that policy. He did not force his policy to undergo critical assessment or insist upon accountability and performance review. ``With such a complex, high-risk operation and so much at stake, the President should have ensured that the NSC system did not fail him,'' the report states.
NSC aides, knowing of Mr. Reagan's style of delegating tasks, failed to engage the President in critical decisions that were basically his responsibility. Among others, former national-security adviser John Poindexter failed to ensure that an orderly NSC process was observed.
Donald Regan, who ``more than any chief of staff of recent memory'' has ``asserted personal control over the White House staff and sought to extend the control to the national-security adviser,'' failed to insist that an orderly process was observed or ensure that plans were made for handling public disclosure of the operation. ``He must bear primary responsibility for the chaos that descended upon the White House when such disclosure did occur,'' the report says.
Secretary of State George Shultz and Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger ``distanced themselves from the march of events'' and failed to give the President their continued advice about the program. ``They protected the record as to their own positions on this issue,'' the commission says, and were not ``energetic'' in trying to protect Reagan from the effects of his policy.
Former CIA Director William Casey, who received information about the possible diversion of funds to the contras, did not act promptly to raise the issue with the President.