Ex-CIA Official Indicted for Role in Iran-Contra
A federal grand jury Friday indicted a former top CIA official on charges of lying to Congress to cover up the Iran-Contra affair as it was unraveling in 1986.
Clair George, former deputy director of operations for the Central Intelligence Agency, was accused of lying to three congressional panels by denying knowledge of White House aide Oliver L. North’s secret network to arm Nicaraguan Contras.
The 10-count indictment accuses George of lying to the House and Senate intelligence committees and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when questioned about the resupply network North set up to evade a congressional ban on giving military aid to the rebels.
George is also accused of lying to the federal grand jury impaneled by independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh to investigate possible involvement of current and former CIA officials in a cover-up of the Iran-Contra affair.
George said the indictment “merely makes me a pawn in the continuous drama of political exploitation.”
“My conscience in this situation, as in my 33 years of CIA service, is clear. In the end, I and my service to my country will be vindicated,” George said in a statement he read in front of his house in Bethesda, Md. He declined to answer questions.
George’s defense attorney Richard Hibey said the charges “reflect complex and torturous policy differences between the Congress and executive branch. It is wrong to make him the focus of these differences and to use a criminal prosecution as a means for concluding the historical record of the Iran-Contra affair.”
If convicted of all 10 counts of perjury, false statements and obstruction, George could be sentenced to up to 50 years in prison and fined $2.5 million. There was no date set for arraignment.
George, who oversaw the CIA’s gathering of intelligence as well as covert foreign operations, is the highest-ranking agency official to be indicted.
The indictment of George, who was the No. 3 official at CIA from 1984 to 1987, also raises the possibility of new difficulty for President Bush’s nomination of Robert W. Gates to be CIA director.
Gates, who was the agency’s No. 2 official during the Iran-Contra affair, is expected to face tough questioning during his Senate confirmation hearing about his knowledge, if any, of secret arms dealings with Iran and diversion of profits to the Contras.