Washington — The opening witness in the Iran-contra hearings, retired Major Gen. Richard V. Secord, was a key private player in the sale of arms to Iran and the private supply network for the contras. General Secord had a bright military career that ended four years ago, apparently with the taint of association with Edwin Wilson, the CIA agent convicted of illegally selling explosives to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Secord is breaking silence about his role, described as emissary, lieutenant, or righthand man to Lt. Col. Oliver North in the contra support effort and the Iran arms deal.
He refused to talk to the Tower Commission or the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the affair, and he went to court to quash successfully a subpoena by the two special congressional investigating committees for his financial records.
The Tower report stated that millions of dollars in profits from the arms sales were deposited in Swiss bank accounts controlled by Secord and others.
Secord served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs before retiring in 1983. Since then he has been a Pentagon adviser on special operations warfare.
With Iranian-American business partner Albert Hakim, Secord ran a company called Stanford Technology Trading, in Vienna, Va.
Secord led an adventurous military career after graduating from West Point in 1955. He was an adviser to the Vietnamese Air Force in 1962, and later was involved in nearly 500 combat missions in Southeast Asia. From September 1975 to July 1978, he managed all US Air Force programs in Iran and advised the commander of the Iranian Air Force.
Secord was reportedly deputy director of an unexecuted mission to Iran in 1980, during the time that Muslim fundamentalists held 52 Americans hostage. One hostage said he was told that Secord helped plan an October 1980 mission to seize strategic facilities in Iran. That was separate from the failed attempt to rescue the hostages in April 1980.
In his last Pentagon job, Secord worked with Colonel North, who by then was on the staff of the National Security Council, in lobbying for the sale of Airborne Warning and Control System planes to Saudi Arabia.
He left the military embittered, when his association with Mr. Wilson apparently ended his chances of gaining a third star, according to Joseph C. Goulden's account in ``The Death Merchant,'' a book about Wilson.
Before leaving, however, Secord won a $2 million libel and slander suit against a Wilson aide who alleged in a 1981 television interview that Secord had helped Wilson sell military equipment to Iran in the 1970s and shared in the profits.
The Wilson aide later pleaded guilty to helping Wilson ship explosives to Libya. Secord was never indicted.