Five checks for $999,999 each were used to pay for missiles shipped to Iran, avoiding a requirement that Congress be informed of million-dollar purchases, a member of the congressional Iran- contra panels said today.
Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.) told the hearings that the Central Intelligence Agency checks made out to the Defense Department were issued to cover the bulk of the 2,008 TOW anti-tank missiles shipped secretly to Iran in 1985-86.
Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger, in his second day at the witness table, reacted to Brooks' disclosure with surprise. He said he was aware only of the cumulative bill for the arms, not how the CIA paid the Defense Department for them.
Brooks asked Weinberger: "You think there's any obligation on the part of Defense Department people . . . to think something might be amiss if they get a check for $999,999 and five of them in a row?"
He added: "It looks like . . . something's a little fishy here."
Weinberger, who opposed the arms sales, replied: "It's a pretty clumsy way to operate. I did not have any knowledge of that until you mentioned it this morning, that that was the way payment was received. I have seen only the cumulative total. . . ."
Brooks, who generally praised Weinberger's conduct, said Defense Department officials should have asked, "Why are we, at least if we're not in collusion with this, why are we facilitating the evasion of the law?"
Weinberger, looking embarrassed, replied, "I did not know the reporting threshold of the CIA and I did not know that we received the payment in that form. . . ."
The secretary also said the Army, largely because of confusion over the types of TOWs transferred, had underbilled the CIA by more than $2 million, was working to get the money back and was confident that it would succeed.