A letter written by the U.S. Office of the Independent Counsel before its dissolution is shedding new light on who helped cover up aspects of Iran-Contra and how senior officials are granted effective immunity. The letter, which was provided by someone who had been associated with the Independent Counsel’s investigation during the Iran-Contra aftermath, was written by Lawrence Walsh and addressed to President Bush. The three page letter was a diplomatic plea for justice. While much of the document dealt with Walsh’s attempts to investigate and prosecute Iran-Contra, it also reveals that the National Security Agency helped coverup aspects of it and forced charges against Oliver North to be dropped.

The first paragraph is simple; yet powerful in its statement of fact and its plea for intervention from the White House. “…We face the likelihood that former high officials cannot be tried for crimes related to their conduct in public office. The intelligence agencies, the Attorney General, and my office have been trying to deal with this problem without exposing intelligence secrets, and protecting government deniability of publicly known facts. It seems clear that if we continue to withhold this information we lose a much more important national value – the rule of law.” [Emphasis added] These sentiments and problems continue to be ones that challenge the United States, and much of the world, due to the increasing tension between secrecy and transparency.

The increased ability for people to hack or leak information is responsible for much of this tension, and has highlighted it in an unusual way. WikiLeaks has released and made available a lot of information, all of which has been confirmed so far, yet the release of the information doesn’t negate the government’s need for secrecy. The information is still classified, and some inside the government and military have faced concern about their security clearances due to reading publicly available documents on WikiLeaks or the New York Times. Some have even faced arrest for reading the Snowden documents. The problem that Walsh and his office faced, however, was more complex and wicked than this, and it had managed to worsen since Reagan’s administration.

Under the Reagan administration, Walsh enjoyed some level of cooperation. He worked closely with Ambassador Abshire and A.B. Culvahouse, who were competent liaisons. While Walsh didn’t always get the outcome he desired, the process was relatively unhampered. According to Walsh’s letter, however, not only was this relationship absent under the Bush administration – they were interfering with the efforts to prosecute former CIA Station Chief Joseph Fernandez (AKA Tomás Castillo, Thomas Castillo)...


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