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EDITORIAL The Speaker and the CIA OCTOBER 14, 1988 VOLUME 80, No. 20 FEATURES Dukakis Fails to Reach Out By James Ridgeway Who Is George Bush? By Dave Denison El Paso’s Secret Subway By Debbie Nathan On the Border By Mary Lenz 11 Staying the Course By G. K. Sprinkle 12 DEPARTMENTS Political Intelligence 14 Books and the Culture Burdens of Empire By Richard Ryan 17 Home to West Texas By James Hoggard 19 Afterword Fred Hears From His Bank By Tom McClellan 23 b iE TEXAS server AN ACT OF GROSS irresponsibility” was the immediate response of the editorial writers at the Wall Street Journal. “A savage blow to the Nicaraguan civic opposition the legal political opposition and especially to the 38 Nicaraguans who were arrested in a peaceful protest at Nandaime last July 10 and who are now facing trial,” was the way The Washington Post described it. The New York Times was more restrained: “Speaker Wright .. . apparently made no effort to convey and press his views privately with the intelligence committees or Administration.” In the rush to deliver an editorial verdict on House Speaker Jim Wright’s alleged indiscretion in stating that the CIA is underwriting anti-government demonstrations in Nicaragua, something, it seems, is missing. Editorial writers are so preoccupied with admonishing Jim Wright for telling the truth that no one has commented on the duplicitous role of the press in disseminating a Department of State lie. The Washington Times is a newspaper owned by News World Communications, Inc., the media arm of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church. It is the capital’s Moonie newspaper, a paper with a fixed editorial and reportorial agenda, edited by one of the extreme right’s most dedicated ideologues, Arnaud de Borchgrave. That a Washington Times reporter asked the question that led to Jim Wright’s statement on CIA activity in Nicaragua is something less than a coincidence. And Peter La Barbera’s question was as much an indictment of the Speaker as it was a question. Reporters and elected officials accustomed to dealing with the press generally know what follows when a question is prefaced with “several sources have suggested” or “I would like to confirm. . .” What La Barbera asked of Wright was if the Speaker had characterized a July 10 disturbance in Nicaragua, which involved some 10,000, as a CIA provocation? And if Wright had also suggested to several sources that he would not be as helpful as he might be in getting the protest organizers out of jail because the disturbance was provoked by the CIA? Wright denied both allegations and said that any sources who made such claims “were not present or were not listening” when Wright discussed the July 10 Nicaraguan disturbance. The denial was followed by the Speaker’s statement that the CIA has “deliberately done things to provoke an overreaction on the part of the government in Nicaragua.” Roy Gutman, of Newsday’s Washington bureau, tracked’ down La Barbera’s sources and the trail wends its way through the editorial office of the Washington Times and into Elliot Abrams’ office at the Department of State. Several days before Wright took the CIA to task he had met with the contra leadership. The House Democratic Whip and Chief Deputy Whip also attended the meeting where Wright, according to an aide, warned the contras about attempts to disrupt the Central American peace talks. Unhappy with what they heard from the Democratic leadership, the contra directors met with Dan Wattenberg in Elliot Abrams’ State Department office where they were advised, according to Newsday, to take their case to the Washington Times. \(Wattenberg is the son of conservative syndicated week, Washington Times reporter La Barbera asked his question. What the Speaker of the House told contra leaders was said in the presence of two other Congressmen and the contra leaders themselves. Though it is not a matter of public record the meeting was closed there exists a list of elected officials who participated. What goes on behind the closed doors of Arnaud de Borchgrave’s editorial office is another question. And Assistant Secretary of State Elliot Abrams has, under oath, admitted to a Congressional committee that he lied to Congress in the past to advance the Reagan Administration’s policy agenda in Nicaragua. Who to believe? In a swearing match that now involves Wright, de Borchgrave, one of Elliot Abrams’ minions, several undisclosed sources, and whoever it is who is paid to clean up after President Reagan? The answer is evident. “Without Jim Wright, there would be no Central American peace plan,” Michael Conroy, Associate Director of the University of Texas Institute of Latin American Studies, said. According to Conroy, Wright has intervened at several critical moments, when it appeared the peace talks were on the verge of collapse. “The most important step came [in August of 1987] when Wright joined in a bipartisan effort to propose the conditions by which the U.S. would meet with the Sandinistas,” Conroy said. According to Conroy, before Wright’s intervention the Nicaraguan Government did not believe that the Reagan Administration would establish meaningful relationships with them: “I don’t think there would have been a Guatemalan Accord if Wright ‘had not intervened.” The American public, it seems, is often the last to learn of the illegal machinations of the Central Intelligence Agency. It was not until a Nicaraguan soldier shot down the CIA-chartered C-123 cargo plane carrying Eugene Hasenfus that the public and many members of Congress learned what the Nicaraguan government already knew that the CIA was routinely violating U.S. law and flying weapons into Nicaragua. The Reagan Administration’s history of illegal activity, and incidents such as the Hasenfus overflight, pose a far greater threat to the 38 protestors detained since July in Nicaragua than do the actions of the Speaker. The White House and State Department routinely disclose sensitive information to advance their own agendas. The Speaker is not a member of the House Intelligence Committee and has violated no Congressional rule. He now finds himself engaged in a public debate with unnamed sources and besieged by the Republican right in Congress. All of this for taking a calculated political risk and telling the truth. L.D. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3