1980s |

Iran-Contra Scandal Exposed – 11/3/1986

On November 3, 1986, the world discovered through a report released by the Lebanese magazine Ash Shiraa that the United States was involved in a serious scandal – this has been selling weapons to Iran in exchange for the freedom of American hostages who were being held against their will by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon. Much to their surprise, officials outside President Ronald Reagan’s inner circle would soon come to know this when this was confirmed by U.S. intelligence sources on November 6. This clearly contradicted the stated policy of the current administration and was in violation of the U.S. arms embargo against Iran. President Reagan promised that he would never tolerate negotiations with terrorists but the arms sales were in opposition of this vow.

On November 25, Attorney General Edwin Meese exposed that the profit coming from the arms sale transaction were used to fund Nicaraguan rebels, known as the Contras, who at that time were caught up in a guerilla warfare against the leftist government of Nicaragua. His revelation made the dealings even more controversial for all the ones who were involved. The Congress went in an uproar – they believed that no such thing could happen after passing the Boland Amendment in 1982, which was intended to prevent the exploitation of federal money in overthrowing the Nicaraguan government. 

On the day that Iran-Contra scandal was exposed, Vice Admiral John Poindexter submitted his resignation which was immediately approved by President Reagan. Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, a Poindexter aide, on the other hand was fired by Reagan. Both Poindexter and North were key figures in the Iran-Contra scandal. While Reagan accepted responsibility for the incident, he however denied any knowledge of the said deal.

Lawrence Walsh was appointed as the special prosecutor in December 1986 for the investigation of the Iran-Contra scandal. This was made into a public hearing and televised in the summer of 1987. Through the investigation, the people found out that North as well as other administration officials tried to cover up the unlawful transactions with the Contras and the Iran. A total of eleven White House, State Department, and intelligence officials were also accused guilty of the illegal dealings. They were charged with the following crimes – perjury, withholding information from Congress, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. According to Walsh’s final report, Reagan and Vice President George Bush did not in any way violate laws concerning the Iran-Contra dealings.

However, he also determined that Reagan’s decision to order continued support of the Contras even when the Congress clearly banned this initiated the illegal acts of the others. The prosecutor’s report showed that there came a continued effort to deceive the Congress and the public in connection to the Iran-Contra dealing because Reagan and Bush became involved in dealings which encouraged it.

President George Bush used his power to pardon people from crimes to six of the notable figures who were involved in the Iran-Contra affair on the Christmas Eve of 1992, just after he was defeated by Bill Clinton for the presidency. Two of them, Former defense secretary Caspar Weinberger and former chief of CIA operations Duane Clarridge, were still being tried for perjury, but because of the pardon issued by Bush, were given the chance to enjoy freedom once again. 

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Mark Hinderberg


Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.