an Election the CIA Way
The October Surprise
"The Bushes appear to be a family that approaches a presidential election as something to be won with a CIA manual, not earned with commitment to Lincolnian precepts or popular sovereignty."
--Kevin Phillips, American Dynasty
during Ronald Reagan's presidential run, William Casey was
Reagan's campaign manager. Casey's background was in foreign intelligence.
In World War II, Casey was the head of the
Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in London (1943-45). After
the war, he directed U.S.
intelligence in Europe and had a love for covert
operations. Reagan's vice presidential nominee George
Bush also had an intelligence background--he was director of
the CIA from 1976 to 1977.
suggests that both Bush and Casey made a secret deal with
Ayatollah Khomeini's Iranian government to delay the release of American
hostages until after the 1980 presidential election.
Going into the election, the U.S. government had been
deadlocked with Iran for almost a year over the fate of
American citizens held
by that country. The impasse had become an albatross around President Carter's neck
and CIA-men, Bush and Casey were determined that the hostage
would not be resolved while Carter was in office. To
this end, Bush and Casey allegedly made a secret arrangement
Iranians to delay the hostages' release and help
thing I kept quiet about was my horror at how the hostage
situation was being discussed inside the Reagan camp.
Since my contact with my father [Ronald] was limited, most of this
was filtered through my mother [Nancy]. The phrase 'October
Surprise' kept cropping up and was soon campaign
rhetoric. The more I listened, the more I realized
that they were actually dreading the thought that the
hostages might be released--if it happened at a time they
thought would be inconvenient for their election plans."
--Patti Davis (formerly Patricia Ann Reagan), The Way
I See It
think the hostages' release...had to do with a deal, struck
before the deal-maker was in office."
--Patti Davis (formerly Patricia Ann Reagan), The Way
I See It
Iranian parliament was meeting and we had every information
from [Iranian President] Bani-Sadr and others that they were going to vote
overwhelmingly to let the hostages go. And at the last
minute on Sunday [two days before the election] for some
reason they had adjourned without voting.... The votes
were there, but the Ayatollah or somebody commanded them to
--President Carter, interviewed in The Village Voice
"The CIA Old
Boys were reeling. In the 1970s, exposure of their
dirty games and dirty tricks made the Cold Warriors look
sinister--and silly. Then, President Carter ordered a
housecleaning that left scores of CIA men out in the cold.
In 1980, the CIA men wanted back in and their champion was
former CIA director George Bush. With Bush and Ronald
Reagan in power, the old spies could resume their work with
a vengeance. The temptation was to do to Jimmy Carter
what the CIA had done to countless other world
--Robert Parry, Bush and a CIA Power Play,
February 29, 1996
Bush and a
CIA Power Play
But the pivotal October Surprise question
[is] whether Reagan's campaign director Casey and
vice presidential nominee Bush met face-to-face with Iranian
mullahs in 1980. According to one set of allegations, the
pair slipped off to Paris for such a meeting on Oct. 19,
Four French intelligence officials, including France's spy
chief Alexandre deMarenches in statements to his biographer,
placed Casey at the Paris meeting. But two other witnesses,
a pilot named Heinrich Rupp and Israeli intelligence
official Ari Ben-Menashe, also claimed to have seen Bush in
Paris that day. Ben-Menashe testified that Casey and Bush
were accompanied by active-duty CIA officers.
Rupp, who says he flew Casey from National Airport to Paris,
recalled that the flight left very late on a rainy night.
The night of Oct. 18 indeed was rainy and sign-in sheets at
the Republican headquarters showed Casey stopping at the
Operations Center for a 10-minute visit at about 11:30 p.m.
The headquarters in Arlington, Va., was only a five-minute
drive from National Airport. Casey also had no credible
alibi for his whereabouts on that day.
Bush, however, was a different story. He was under Secret
Service protection and those confidential records listed him
as taking a day off from the campaign at his home in
Washington. Yet, there were troubles with Bush's alibi. None
of the Secret Service agents could recall the two personal
trips that Bush supposedly took in the morning and afternoon
of Oct. 19.
Then, the Bush administration blocked access to one family
friend listed as receiving a visit from the Bushes in the
afternoon. The name was blacked out in the records given to
the task force, and the investigators only got the name by
promising to keep it secret and to never question the family
In a bipartisan spirit, eager to repudiate the disturbing
Bush charges, the House task force acquiesced to these
unusual terms. Amazingly, the purported alibi witness was
never interviewed. In its first public statement on July 1,
1992, the task force cleared Bush.
That decision meant the investigators found no need to
explain another curious fact. At PBS FRONTLINE, we had
discovered that on Oct. 18, 1980, a Chicago Tribune reporter
named John Maclean told a U.S. foreign service officer,
David Henderson, that a Republican source had supplied a
fascinating tip -- that Bush was flying to Paris to discuss
the hostages with Iranians.
That two strangers -- Maclean and Henderson -- would have
discussed a Bush trip to Paris at the precise time that
others would allege, years later, that Bush left the country
should have raised the task force's eyebrows. At least, the
investigators should have questioned the Bush family friend.
But they didn't. (Allen's notes for that week reveal a
meeting with Maclean, although the reporter has refused to
divulge the name of his source.)
To the task force, the possibility that former and current
CIA officers conspired with Republicans and foreign
intelligence services to unseat a President of the United
States was unthinkable. If true, it would have meant that
elements of the CIA mounted a silent coup d'etat that
undermined American democracy to put in place a President
who would unleash the spy agency.
But certainly what followed in the 1980s pleased the CIA's
hardliners. Under President Reagan's CIA director William
Casey, CIA covert operations proliferated. Dozens of
cashiered CIA officers were brought back on contract.
Billions of taxpayer dollars were poured into CIA projects.
The CIA was also spared Carter's nagging about human rights,
as CIA-trained units launched death-squad operations
throughout Central America and Africa.
A real politick Zeitgeist took hold in Washington. It
tolerated drug smuggling by CIA-connected groups, including
the Nicaraguan contras and the Afghan mujahadeen. It watched
passively as CIA associates plundered the world's banking
system, most notably through the corrupt Bank of Credit and
Commerce International (BCCI), which also had paid off a key
Iranian in the October Surprise mystery.
Bill Casey's Theft
and Reagan's Debate Performance
President Jimmy Carter and Ronald
Reagan met in a presidential debate. Many people were
impressed at how well
Reagan conducted himself in the debate. Three years later, the
facts behind Reagan's laudable performance came out.
In his 1983
book, Gambling with History, Time magazine correspondent,
Laurence Barrett, revealed that Reagan campaign aides "filched"
(i.e., stole) President Carter's briefing papers to help prepare Reagan for the 1980
debate. Chief of Staff James Baker would later say that
Reagan's campaign manager William Casey was the
did not deny the theft, he defended it. Using a twisted
analogy Reagan said, "It probably
wasn't too much different than the press rushing into print
with the Pentagon Papers."
the presidency, Reagan appointed William Casey to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Casey would later become the chief architect of the Iran-contra conspiracy.
The Ronald Reagan
Years - The Real Reagan Record
by Mark Tracy