by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

Substantial questions of conflict of interest should be raised in connection with the July 20, 1990, decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington to void the three-count convic­tion of former White House aide Oliver North on charges stemming from the Iran-contra scan­dal. Judge Laurence H. Silberman, a member of the three judge panel that threw out the convic­tions, has ties to at least one of North’s co-conspirators, and participated in activities that closely paralleled and possibly even initiated North’s arms-for-hostages dealings.

Silberman’s vote proved decisive in the court’s 2-1 ruling to throw out North’s convic­tions.

A key Iran-contra figure linked to Silberman is Robert McFarlane, former-President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, and North’s former boss. In the fall of 1980, Silberman and McFarlane took part in a controversial meeting to discuss the possible release of the 52 American hostages being held in Teheran in exchange for U.S. military equipment. Silberman, at the time, was a top advisor to the Reagan-Bush presidential campaign. McFarlane was on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Also present at the meeting was Richard Allen, Silberman’s immediate superior and chief foreign policy analyst for the Republican campaign, and another man who claimed to be a representative of the Iranian government.

The four men met in the lobby of the L’Enfant Hotel in Washington, D.C., shortly before the 1980 presidential election. Significant details remain sketchy, however. “All I can remember was that there was discussion about somehow releasing the hostages to the Reagan campaign or under the auspices of the Reagan campaign … humiliate Carter and influence our election,” Silberman told the San Jose Mercury News.”

In 1988, Houshang Lavi, an Iranian-born arms dealer, stepped forward claiming to be the “emissary” who met with Silberman, McFarlane, and Allen. Silberman does not deny knowing Lavi, but in an interview in Newsday, he stated that he was “sure” that Lavi was not the emissary at L’Enfant Plaza. After being confronted with Lavi’s notes from the meeting, however, Silber­man downgraded his disclaimer to being “virtually certain.”

As we now know, both Allen and McFarlane went on to become President Reagan’s National Security Advisor, and interestingly enough, Silberman went on to become the Reagan­/Bush transition team’s liaison to the CIA during the period between the election and the inaugu­ration before being appointed to the federal judiciary by President Reagan in 1985.

At this point, Judge Silberman, who made North’s acquittal possible, isn’t returning phone calls, and independent counsel Lawrence Walsh has refused comment on the matter. And so, it seems, has the press.


SOURCE: RANDOM LENGTHS, PO Box 731, San Pedro, CA 90733, DATE: 8/16/90

TITLE: “North Verdict Tainted”


COMMENTS: Investigative author David Armstrong, former editor of Random Lengths and now editor of The Texas Observer, notes that the conflict of interest issue in Oliver North’s acquittal was not covered at all in the mainstream media and suggests that the lack of coverage was not accidental on the part of the media. “This cannot be regarded as a simple oversight, however, since many publications – including the Washington Post and the San Jose Mercury News – had carried stories detailing Silberman’s involvement in the October Surprise negotia­tions on previous occasions. Reporters at both the Los Angeles and New York Times were also aware of Silberman’s involvement in these meetings. There can be no doubt about the fact that the decision to not cover this aspect of the story was deliberate.” Armstrong suggests that “The primary beneficiaries of this cover-up are the military-industrial complex and status quo politi­cians. The media’s failure to expose Silberman’s conflict of interest, leads the public to believe that the decision to overturn North’s conviction was based on sound legal principle. The overall message is that `everything’s OK, the system’s working perfectly.’ Whatever problems exist are the results of the excesses of a few miscreants who have been identified and brought to justice. The systemic nature of the problem is never revealed. The corporate media have willingly perpetuated this fraud.” According to Armstrong, “Wider exposure of this story would allow the general public to see that the government’s handling of the entire Iran-contra scandal – from the Congressional `investigation’ to the Special Prosecutor’s `criminal prosecution’ – has been a complete whitewash. There is little chance that the corporate media will do anything to rectify the situation, however, since it has been a party to this farce from the beginning.”