U.S. Secretary of Defense Designate
Born September 25, 1943 (age 63)
Wichita, Kansas, USA
Profession President of Texas A&M University
Robert Michael Gates (born September 25, 1943) is the president of Texas A&M University, as well as a former Director of Central Intelligence. He is currently the nominee for the office of United States Secretary of Defense. Gates served for 26 years in the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council. Under President George H.W. Bush, he served as Director of Central Intelligence. After leaving the CIA, he wrote his memoirs, became president of Texas A&M University, and was a member of several corporate boards. Gates served as a member of the bipartisan commission headed by James A. Baker III, the Iraq Study Group, that has studied the Iraq campaign.
In the wake of the 2006 midterm election result, President George W. Bush announced his nomination of Gates to succeed the resigning Donald Rumsfeld as U.S. Secretary of Defense on November 8, 2006. Gates has stated in a letter to students that he will continue as President of Texas A&M until completion of the confirmation process. Gates will now face confirmation first in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and if approved, by a majority vote in the Senate.
1.1 Childhood and education
1.2 Intelligence career
1.3 Involvement in the Iran-Contra Scandal
1.4 Career after leaving the CIA
1.5 Director of National Intelligence
1.6 Secretary of Defense Nomination
2 Awards and decorations
6 Further reading
Childhood and education
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Gates attained the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America and is a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from Wichita East High School in 1961. Gates received his bachelor's degree from the College of William and Mary in 1965, his master's degree in history from Indiana University in 1966, and his Ph.D. in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University in 1974.
While at Indiana University, Gates was recruited to join the Central Intelligence Agency. However, the CIA offered no exemption from the draft during the Vietnam War. Before joining the CIA full-time as an intelligence analyst, he spent two years in the Air Force. During one posting, at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, he delivered intelligence briefings to ICBM missile crews. 
Gates left the CIA in 1974 to serve on the National Security Council staff but returned to the CIA in late 1979. He was named the Director of the DCI/DDCI Executive Staff in 1981, Deputy Director for Intelligence in 1982, and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from April 18, 1986, to March 20, 1989. He was nominated to become the Director of Central Intelligence in early 1987, but withdrew the nomination after it became clear the Senate would reject it due to controversy about his role in the Iran-Contra affair. Senate members later questioned the nomination for the additional reason that Gates allegedly passed intelligence to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war.
Gates was Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from March until August of 1989, and was Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser from August 1989 until November 1991.
He was nominated (for the second time) for the position of Director of Central Intelligence by President Bush on May 14, 1991, confirmed by the Senate on November 5, and sworn in on November 6, becoming the only career officer in the CIA's history (as of 2005) to rise from entry-level employee to Director. Deputy Directors during his tenure were Richard J. Kerr (from November 6, 1991, until March 2, 1992) and Adm. William O. Studeman (from April 9, 1992, through the remainder of Dr. Gates’ tenure). He served until 1993.
During his 26-year career as an intelligence professional, he spent almost nine years on the National Security Council, serving four Presidents of both major political parties.
In 1996, his memoirs were published under the title From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War.
Gates has been highly decorated for his service: he was the recipient of the National Security Medal and the Presidential Citizens Medal, was twice awarded the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and three times received the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.
Involvement in the Iran-Contra Scandal
Owing to his senior status in the CIA, Gates was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran-Contra Affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment of Gates for his Iran-Contra activities or his responses to official inquiries.
Gates was an early subject of Independent Counsel's investigation, but the investigation of Gates intensified in the spring of 1991 as part of a larger inquiry into the Iran/contra activities of CIA officials. This investigation received an additional impetus in May 1991, when President George H.W. Bush nominated Gates to be Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). The chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) requested in a letter to the Independent Counsel on May 15, 1991, any information that would “significantly bear on the fitness” of Gates for the CIA post.
Gates consistently testified that he first heard on October 1, 1986, from Charles E. Allen, the national intelligence officer who was closest to the Iran initiative, that proceeds from the Iran arms sales may have been diverted to support the Contras. Other evidence proves, however, that Gates received a report on the diversion during the summer of 1986 from DDI Richard Kerr. The issue was whether Independent Counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates was deliberately not telling the truth when he later claimed not to have remembered any reference to the diversion before meeting with Allen in October.
Grand Jury secrecy rules hampered Independent Counsel's response. Nevertheless, in order to answer questions about Gates' prior testimony, Independent Counsel accelerated his investigation of Gates in the summer of 1991. This investigation was substantially completed by September 3, 1991, at which time Independent Counsel determined that Gates' Iran-Contra activities and testimony did not warrant prosecution.
Independent Counsel made this decision subject to developments that could have warranted reopening his inquiry, including testimony by Clair E. George, the CIA's former deputy director for operations. At the time Independent Counsel reached this decision, the possibility remained that George could have provided information warranting reconsideration of Gates's status in the investigation. George refused to cooperate with Independent Counsel and was indicted on September 19, 1991. George subpoenaed Gates to testify as a defense witness at George's first trial in the summer of 1992, but Gates was never called.
Career after leaving the CIA
After retiring from the CIA in 1993 Gates worked as an academic and lecturer. He evaluated student theses for the International Studies Program of the University of Washington. He lectured at Harvard, Yale, Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, Indiana, Louisiana State, Oklahoma, and the College of William and Mary. Gates served as a member of the Board of Visitors of the University of Oklahoma International Programs Center and a trustee of the endowment fund for the College of William and Mary, his alma mater which in 1998 conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. He is the author of From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, published in 1996. He has published numerous articles on government and foreign policy and is a frequent contributor to the op-ed page of The New York Times.
Gates became the 22nd President of Texas A&M University on August 1, 2002 following a tenure as Interim Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M from 1999 to 2001. He has served as a member of the board of trustees of Fidelity Investments, and on the board of directors of NACCO Industries, Inc., Brinker International, Inc. and Parker Drilling Company, Inc. He also served as President of the National Eagle Scout Association during the mid-2000s.
Director of National Intelligence
In February 2005, Gates wrote in a message posted on his school's website that "There seems to be a growing number of rumors in the media and around campus that I am leaving Texas A&M to become the new director of national intelligence ('Intelligence Czar') in Washington, D.C." The message said that "To put the rumors to rest, I was indeed asked to take the position, wrestled with perhaps the most difficult -- and close -- decision of my life, and last week declined the position."
Gates committed to remain as President of Texas A&M University through the summer of 2007; President George W. Bush offered the position of United States Director of National Intelligence (DNI) to John Negroponte, who accepted.
Gates said in a 2005 discussion with the university's Academy for Future International Leaders that he had tentatively decided to accept the DNI position out of a sense of duty and had written an email that would be sent to students during the press conference to announce his decision, explaining that he was leaving to serve the U.S. once again. Gates, however, took the weekend to consider what his final decision should be, and ultimately decided that he was unwilling to return to Washington, D.C. in any capacity simply because he "had nothing to look forward to in D.C. and plenty to look forward to at A&M."
Secretary of Defense Nomination
Gates accepts the President's nomination, November 8, 2006. This section documents a current event.
Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.
On November 8, 2006, George W. Bush nominated Gates to serve as Secretary of Defense in the wake of Donald Rumsfeld's resignation. Gates will now face confirmation first in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and if approved, by a general vote in the United States Senate.
Awards and decorations
Gates' awards and decorations include:
National Security Medal
Presidential Citizens Medal
National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal (twice)
Distinguished Intelligence Medal (three separate times)
Distinguished Eagle Scout Award
"Speaking to you all again is a bit like being Larry King's newest wife-- I know what I'm supposed to do here, I'm just not sure how to make it interesting."
"Were we to become a top ten university and lose that spirit, those traditions, our culture, we would be nothing more than another giant education factory. A big brain with no heart. Hell, we might as well be in Austin."
^ Robert Gates, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (May 7, 1997).
^ "Bush replaces Rumsfeld to get 'fresh perspective'", CNN.com, November 8, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-11-08.
^ Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Jim Rutenberg. "Rumsfeld Resigns as Defense Secretary After Big Election Gains for Democrats", New York Times, November 8, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-11-08.
^ To the Aggie Family, Gates' first announcement, and acknowledgment to being nominated for Secretary of Defense
^ "Who Won the Cold War?" Thomas Powers, New York Review of Books, Vol. 43, no. 11 June 20, 1996
^ Although he "was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment...." Final report of the independent counsel for Iran/Contra matters
^ Gates nomination, Senate Proceedings, 1991..
^ GlobalSecurity.org. Iran-Contra Report, Chapter 16.
^ Texas A&M Press Release, July 1999. http://newsarchives.tamu.edu/stories/99/073099-8.html
^ "Bush names Negroponte intelligence chief", CNN.com, February 18, 2005. Retrieved on 2006-11-08.
Robert M. Gates: From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War. Simon & Schuster 1997, ISBN 0684834979
Author Unknown. "Biography, Dr. Robert M. Gates, President, Texas A&M University," Texas A&M University. (2003)
Center for the Study of Intelligence. "Robert Michael Gates," Directors & Deputy Directors of Central Intelligence. (2004)
Material on Gates, from The Literature of Intelligence: A Bibliography of Materials, with Essays, Reviews, and Comments, by J. Ransom Clark
Brett Nauman. "Gates passes on intelligence czar post," The Bryan-College Station Eagle. (February 1, 2005)
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Robert GatesRobert Gates, From the Shadows: The Ultimate Insider's Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold War, Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (May 7, 1997).
Robert Gates, US Intelligence and the End of the Cold War, 1999, CIA
Robert Gates, Frontline The Gulf War: An Oral History: Interview with Robert Gates, Deputy National Security Advisor, 2001, PBS.org
Writings and Speeches
William H. Webster Director of Central Intelligence
November 6, 1991 - January 20, 1993 Succeeded by:
R. James Woolsey
Ray Bowen President of Texas A&M University
2002–Present Succeeded by: Incumbent
US INTELLIGENCE AND THE END OF THE COLD WAR
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY
AS PREPARED FOR DELIVERY
SPEAKER: FORMER DCI ROBERT GATES
FRIDAY, 19 NOVEMBER 1999
DR. ROBERT GATES:
In CIA's 52 year history, there have been 18 Directors. Just three of us have been career intelligence officers - Bill Colby is gone. I would like to recognize and pay tribute tonight to the Dean, if I may use that honorific title, to the Dean of all of the CIA Directors. One of the greatest DCIs of all times and a true American hero of the Cold War, Dick Helms.
I've been asked this evening to evaluate the role of US intelligence during the Cold War. This is, I suppose, a little bit like asking the barber whether you need a haircut. Because even if I claim to be objective, most listeners would be skeptical. But I will try to be balanced, providing some observations on failures and shortcomings as well as successes.
Many of you will remember that President Kennedy on a visit to CIA headquarters many years ago told his audience of intelligence professionals that "your failures will be trumpeted and your successes unknown." Little did he realize how exactly he had it right.
There are few people in the world with access to newspapers or to television who are not aware of CIA's failures - both real and imagined. But it seems to me it's been more than secrecy that has distorted the public view of CIA and its record.
I suspect that CIA more than perhaps any institution in America has been subject to mythology and misinformation. The result of too many novels, too many television shows, too many conspiracy theorists, too many James Bond and Jack Ryan movies, at least one too many movies directed by Oliver Stone, and as we are recently learning, too much disinformation by the KGB.
With the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the Soviet Union, in recent years CIA has begun to open its historical record, it's record in the Cold War, and thereby allow independent scholars to evaluate what actually happened. What CIA actually did.
I suppose this process began a dozen or so years ago when as DDI and then as DDCI, I initiated a program with the Kennedy School at Harvard University to declassify CIA documents that could be used in case studies on the role of intelligence in US decisionmaking during key events of the Cold War. Several dozen of these Kennedy School case studies are now available publicly.
Several years later as Director, I announced that we would declassify all national intelligence estimates on the Soviet Union. Nearly all of these are now available.
With these in hand, and as my successors declassify other materials, more comprehensive and objective studies of the role of intelligence in the Cold War can be done by scholars. It seems to me that conferences such as this one play an important role in this process.
But independent of the panel discussions today and tomorrow, I've been asked to offer my views on the strengths and weaknesses, the accomplishments and failures of US intelligence during the Cold War, especially during the last 30 years or so. Here goes.
First, you must remember that CIA, like the Presidents it served, was under political attack from both conservatives and liberals from the early 1970s on, and probably long before that. Liberals generally opposed CIA's operational activities and believed it exaggerated the Soviet threat. Conservatives, on the other hand, were critical of CIA's assessments of the Soviet Union which they considered too soft and skewed by CIA's involvement in the arms control process. CIA was, again, like the Presidents it served, more or less constantly embattled during the last half of the Cold War, and yet its record in retrospect, I believe, is far better than its critics of all political hues have so far admitted.
Operationally, CIA had important successes in covert action. Perhaps the most consequential of all was Afghanistan where CIA, with its management, funneled billions of dollars in supplies and weapons to the Mujahhadin, and the resistance was thus able to fight the vaunted Soviet army to a standoff and eventually force a political decision to withdraw. Both the costs of the war and the stalemate had a significant and broad political impact domestically inside the Soviet Union.
Similarly, covert actions in Angola and even in Nicaragua produced sufficient pressure on Soviet clients to buy time for non-communist or anti-Soviet alternatives to emerge.
Throughout the Cold War, in the third world CIA worked successfully with governments friendly to the United States to combat subversion by the Soviet Union and its surrogates. We also waged a war of ideas and covert human rights campaign inside the Soviet Union itself and supported a growing opposition in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland.
CIA carried out a propaganda war against the Soviet regime itself, publicizing to the world the abuses inside the USSR and aggressions and subversion beyond its borders.
In short, after Vietnam made the use of American military forces in the third world politically impossible at home for several decades, CIA became the primary instrument of successive Presidents and acted at their direction to maintain a decade's long policy of containment of the Soviet Union - a policy based on the premise that a Soviet Union denied the opportunity to expand influence and power outside its own borders would eventually collapse from its own internal contradictions.
The Agency's clandestine successes went beyond covert action. We secretly acquired by thievery, scams and trickery an amazing array of Soviet military equipment for the US military to dissect and study that enabled the preparation of countermeasures. CIA stole Soviet weapons manuals, recruited Soviet scientists and engineers as agents who told us about weapons in research and development, and developed many often heroic agents who revealed much about Warsaw Pact plans and capabilities.
From the Berlin tunnel to the very end of the Cold War, CIA and other parts of the intelligence community developed astonishingly imaginative and advanced techniques, devices, and technical schemes on land, on sea, and undersea that, when combined with the operational skill of officers from the Agency's clandestine service, yielded extraordinary information on Soviet military operations.
The operational record, though very strong, and in fact I would argue without peer in the world, was clearly far from perfect. We failed to dislodge Qadhafi in Libya. We were duped by double agents in Cuba and East Germany. We were penetrated with devastating effect at least twice by the Soviets and suffered other counterintelligence and security failures. We never recruited a spy who gave us unique political information at a high level inside the Kremlin. And we too often failed to penetrate the inner circle of Soviet surrogate leaders in Hanoi and Tripoli, Havana, Managua, and elsewhere.
For too long our support to US military operations was not as good as it should have been, plagued by democratic rivalries and turf wars on both sides, and by a cultural gap that grew too great after Vietnam.
The Agency was criticized from time to time, and usually after the fact, about the character of the individuals and governments that we helped, or who had cooperated and worked with us. But in fact it is a sad truth that at no point in the Cold War were there very many democratic governments in the third world. That would change only after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And as a result, during the global struggle against the Soviet Union, CIA and the United States more broadly ended up with some strange and often unsavory bedfellows - folks you wouldn't want to bring home to meet mom.
But especially after the congressional investigations of the mid 1970s, foreign agents and governments were told our rules and if they didn't play by them, our policy was to walk away. The Agency's record in this respect was far from perfect, but it was far better, and we worked a lot harder at it than is usually understood.
Similarly on occasion our operations, for example in Afghanistan, had limiting and dangerous after-effects. The training and weapons we provided after the conflicts ended sometimes were put to unwelcome purposes and even used in actions hostile to US interests. We at CIA were always conscious of this possibility and indeed warned policymakers about it. For example, during the debate over whether to provide Stingers to the Mujahhadin.
All in all, CIA uniquely among the world's intelligence services, endeavored to conduct its operations according to presidential directive under the rule of law and in every way possible consistent with American values. No one can or will deny that there were lapses and failures and that the Agency paid a high price for them. But in a shadow war that ranged across the globe for nearly five decades, such failures were remarkably few and far between.
In sum, CIA in my view was remarkably successful in carrying out the operational assignments of American Presidents.
I had my differences with the clandestine service over the years and probably was regarded by some, and perhaps many of its officers, as overly critical. But then why should they be different than the analysts? But the Directorate of Operations' record of accomplishment in the Cold War had no equal and far surpassed that of its Soviet adversaries.
CIA's clandestine service was the effective hidden hand of the United States and of American Presidents in the shadow wars of the Cold War. Throughout, our operations officers tireless and courageously labored and too often died to protect the land they loved.
In the are of technical collection, CIA and the US intelligence community scientists and engineers were simply brilliant. The American people, and I would say indeed most of the West in general owe a huge debt of gratitude to the unsung technical experts of US intelligence and to those in American industry who worked with them. Those who figured out how to obtain information from a distance of hundreds or even thousands of miles, those who designed and built unique technical systems to monitor missile testing and deployments and who could make sense out of a bewildering array of squiggly lines and rows of numbers and at least at the beginning some very fuzzy satellite pictures.
If ever legends and stories of American technological genius were deserved and not yet realized, they would be about the scientists and engineers, the wizards of CIA and American intelligence who pioneered reconnaissance aircraft like the U-2 and the SR-71, photographic satellites from the KH-4 to the KH-11, an amazing array of signals intelligence satellites and people who worked brilliantly but anonymously to serve their country.
As they targeted one of the most secretive countries in the world, it is a tribute to these remarkable men and women that, beginning in the 1960s, there were virtually no further Soviet military surprises of strategic importance.
The continuing great strength and success of the analysts of CIA and the intelligence community was in describing with amazing accuracy from the mid 1960s on to the Soviet collapse the actual military strength and capabilities of the Soviet Union.
Until the end of the Cold War and beyond, liberals long argued that CIA overstated Soviet military power, and the conservatives argued just as stridently that we underestimated. But we located and we counted with remarkable accuracy the number of deployed aircraft and tanks and missiles and ships, and these numbers and capabilities would be relied upon with confidence by the executive branch, including the Defense Department, the Congress and our allies, both for military planning and for arms control negotiations.
Perhaps the intelligence community's greatest contribution during the last two-thirds of the Cold War was that there were no more strategic surprises. No more missile gaps, no more bomber gaps. And as in the 1950s, we were able to overcome these deficiencies.
Further, our detailed knowledge of Soviet forces and capabilities after the middle 1960s made it virtually impossible for the Soviets strategically to bluff or to fool us. This helped prevent miscalculations and misunderstandings that could have destroyed the world.
Similarly, CIA's work on growing Soviet internal problems stands up far better in hindsight than criticism suggests. CIA's record, literally thousands of assessments and briefings and monographs, public and classified, over a 30 year period makes clear that the Agency, from the late 1960s onward, accurately described the growing economic, political, and social weaknesses of the Soviet Union.
It accurately portrayed the futility of tinkering with the system and pointed out how Gorbachev was undermining the foundations of the old system without embracing a new one. And by 1988 and 1989 it warned of deepening crisis - the potential for a rightist coup and the possible collapse of the entire system.
It is a simple fact that thanks to American intelligence every American President from Lyndon Johnson through George Bush made policy toward the Soviet Union knowing that economic problems in the Soviet Union provided the United States with increasing leverage and advantage.
In analysis as in operations the record was not perfect. On the military side, we were occasionally surprised by technical capabilities of specific Soviet weapons. For example, the speed of the Alpha Class submarine. We would, from time to time, both over and underestimate the specific characteristics of specific Soviet weapons to the frustration of people like Jim Woolsey and other negotiators in MBFR and CFE. We were constantly revising our estimates of how many actual troops there were in the Warsaw Pact.
And perhaps further, as a reflection of our underestimates of the 1960s in terms of future Soviet strategic forces, during the mid 1980s our projections of Soviet military forces that we thought they would deploy five or ten years in the future were clearly too high. While we saw no slackening at that time in the vigor of Soviet research and development and modernization programs, the already huge Soviet deployed forces in the 1980s did not grow as quickly as we had predicted.
All that said, for a quarter of a century American Presidents made strategic decisions with confidence in our knowledge of the adversary's actual military strength - a confidence that was justified.
The Soviet military capabilities that we described were real, and those capabilities were created to a considerable degree at the cost of bringing an already fundamentally flawed economic system to its knees. It is one of history's great ironies that the Soviet military thus helped destroy the system it was created to perpetuate.
In the economic arena CIA, in its statistical analysis, overstated the size and growth rate of the Soviet economy and relatedly underestimated the burden of military expenditures on that economy and on that society. CIA's statistical analysis of the Soviet economy, while the best available, East or West - and I would have to tell you, we had clandestine reporting to the effect that even Andropov regarded our reporting on the Soviet economy as the best available to him - still in absolute terms it described a stronger and larger economy than our own interpretive analysis portrayed and that existed in reality.
Most important though, by 1987, CIA was warning policymakers of the deepening crisis in the Soviet Union and the growing likelihood of the collapse of the old order.
In late 1987, the Agency was warning about growing ethnic conflict in the USSR and arguing that ethnic conflicts and separate Soviet republics had larger implications for the Soviet Union as a whole. That the potential was growing for ethnic crises and different republics to combine and produce an overall crisis of central control in the non-Russian republics.
Other US intelligence agencies disagreed. The State Department's Intelligence Bureau especially and adamantly contending that each crisis was unique and explainable in local terms. And according to State, there would be no cumulative or contagious effects. When CIA's warning was published as an article in the National Intelligence Daily, State insisted that the article note explicitly their view that CIA's view was alarmist.
CIA carefully watched the unfolding violence and crises in the Caucasus in 1988, especially in Armenia and Azerbaijan. And our analysts understood the significance of these developments for the Soviet Union as a whole. So beginning in mid-June 1988, Bill Webster as Director and I as his Deputy began warning the National Security Advisor, Colin Powell, that Moscow was losing control.
Throughout the first months of the Bush Administration, CIA published for the government as a whole, and Bill Webster and then Deputy DCI Dick Kerr were personally providing to senior policymakers, a steady stream of assessments of the growing crisis in the Soviet Union.
One assessment in April of 1989, warned that the situation was less stable than at any time since the great purges of the 1930s, and that it was far from certain that Gorbachev could control the process he had set in motion. The assessment described in detail the growing threat from nationalism and warned that Gorbachev's policies could unleash centrifugal forces that would pull the Soviet Union apart. It warned specifically about the possibility of a conservative backlash and a possible coup attempt.
Brent Scowcroft referred to these analyses from the Soviet Union and from CIA about the Soviet Union as their gloom and doom. But the fact is this gloom and doom from the CIA had two concrete results. First, at the White House. I sent a memorandum to President Bush on July 18, 1989, based on the stream of reporting from CIA.
It said, "The odds are growing that in the next year or two there will be popular unrest, political turmoil, and/or official violence on such a scale as to affect Gorbachev's position, his program and current Western policies. We must begin to think about the possibility that that reality will include significant political instability." I concluded, "As we look out to 1990 and 1991, we should not be confident of Gorbachev remaining in power, of the continuation of reform as presently structured with or without him, or of the continued manageability of widespread turmoil and even violence. We should not be taken by surprise."
"In terms of the future, we should begin very quietly to begin some contingency planning as to possible US responses, actions and policies in the event of leadership or internal policy changes or widespread ethnic violence or repression."
With President Bush's express approval, that fall Brent and I established a top-secret, high-level contingency planning effort to prepare for the possibility of a Soviet collapse. It was chaired by Condi Rice of the NSC and her group included Dennis Ross at State, Fritz Ermarth and Bob Blackwell at CIA, and Paul Wolfowitz and Eric Edelman from the Department of Defense. This was in September of 1989.
This group commissioned a number of studies by CIA and used them in reviewing and planning US options. The work was used to good effect when the Soviet Union imploded two years later.
Thanks to this work, we knew that our first priority was the security of tens of thousands of Soviet nuclear weapons. That meant we needed Soviet command and control to remain intact and that in turn required that we should do all we could to preserve the territorial integrity of Russia.
When some in the Administration expressed a desire to see Russia come apart so that it would never again be a threat to the United States, this earlier homework would prove exceptionally important.
Second, CIA's warnings helped consolidate the judgment in the Bush Administration by the summer of 1989 to move quickly to lock in with the Gorbachev government as many accomplishments in our national interest as possible.
Preventing surprise was CIA's mission, and with respect to the Soviet collapse it fulfilled that mission more than two years ahead of time. That was two years more than Gorbachev got.
I was a policymaker then, not an intelligence officer. I believe that in the real world speculation of a Soviet internal apocalypse much before then would have been ignored if not ridiculed by American policymakers. In fact, CIA was way out on a limb that spring in Washington. Indeed, when the National Intelligence Council at that time prepared an interagency paper on Gorbachev's chances for survival, CIA was by far the most pessimistic of the US intelligence services and formally dissented predicting that unless Gorbachev changed his current policies he could not survive.
CIA has been accused in the 1980s of failing to warn of Soviet limitations and vulnerabilities and weakness, but in truth the accusations are not supported by the documents. The Agency's record of Soviet economic and social crisis is well documented, including, I suspect, most pointedly by Kay Oliver's Oval Office briefing of President Reagan in November of 1985, just before the Geneva Summit.
In that briefing, Kay concluded it by telling the President, and I quote, "We cannot foresee the time, but we can see the tendency between social aspirations and regime control eventually to confront the regime with challenges to its political control that it cannot contain." That was in 1985.
Now I have to tell you in that briefing, Fritz Ermarth who's here tonight, and I gave a briefing as part of that session with the President, gave briefings on the overall global strategic situation, and the President listened to Fritz and I politely, but he was transfixed by what Kay had to say about the internal situation, about what was happening to the Russian citizens on the ground.
My most memorable memory of that briefing was during the course of my conversation with the President, and I was sitting just a few feet from him, as I began to brief him, a minute or two into the briefing I heard this incredible noise - whrrrr - the President reached up and adjusted his hearing aid. I went on for a few minutes, and all of a sudden there was this other noise - whrrr - and the President's eyes got very wide, and he reached up and he plucked his hearing aide out of his ear and he pounded it in his hand and then he leaned over to me and whispered, "It's my KGB handler trying to reach me."
In the military arena after many a hard fought debate, CIA warned about Soviet shortcomings and the limitations of specific Soviet weapon systems. On issues ranging from the declining rate of growth and Soviet military spending in the early 1980s to problems in morale and the unreliability of Warsaw Pact allies to economic crisis, CIA described Soviet problems and vulnerabilities, often providing policymakers with analysis they did not want to hear. I know this because as DDI and DDCI and as DCI I was usually on the receiving end, along with Dick Kerr and Bill Webster.
The truth is, I suspect I'm the only CIA officer to have had two Secretaries of State, a Secretary of Defense, and the General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party all try at different times to get me fired. A dubious distinction that would have turned a lesser man's hair gray.
While CIA reminded our government of continuing Soviet interest in the third world and large sums that Moscow was still spending to support Cuba and Angola and Nicaragua and Vietnam and others well into Gorbachev's tenure, the Agency also advised them of strains in those relationships and the dissatisfaction of Soviet clients with much of the aid they received.
In conclusion, and not surprisingly, I believe that CIA and American intelligence made a critical contribution to victory in the Cold War. Because of information provided by US intelligence, President Kennedy had an accurate picture of Soviet strategic inferiority during the Cuban missile crisis. And thanks importantly to US knowledge of Soviet strategic strength and capabilities, there would never again be a similar Soviet-American nuclear confrontation.
US intelligence information and collection capabilities made possible the negotiation of all arms control agreements and the ratification of those agreements by the Senate. US intelligence over a period of nearly 50 years helped keep the Cold War "cold".
During the Cold War, CIA was the American sword in the surrogate wars of the third world. It was a source of help and sustenance for dissidents and oppositionists in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. It was the worldwide purveyor of the realities of Soviet repression and subversion. It was the gatherer of critical military information and the accurate appraiser of Soviet military strengths and weaknesses. It was the chronicler of the growing Soviet crisis at home. And by 1989, the first herald in governments East or West of potential systemic collapse.
Americans deserve to know more about this record. Two generations of the brave men and women of American intelligence and of CIA deserve acknowledgment of their sacrifices, their service, and their victories. It was, for all of us, a glorious crusade and a more complicated but freer and safer world is our legacy to our successors.
Thank you very much.
Page last updated: 04/25/2005 09:26:48.
Walsh Iran / Contra Report= Chapter 16: Robert M. Gates
Robert M. Gates was the Central Intelligence Agency's deputy director for intelligence (DDI) from 1982 to 1986. He was confirmed as the CIA's deputy director of central intelligence (DDCI) in April of 1986 and became acting director of central intelligence in December of that same year. Owing to his senior status in the CIA, Gates was close to many figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment of Gates for his Iran/contra activities or his responses to official inquiries.
Gates was an early subject of Independent Counsel's investigation, but the investigation of Gates intensified in the spring of 1991 as part of a larger inquiry into the Iran/contra activities of CIA officials. This investigation received an additional impetus in May 1991, when President Bush nominated Gates to be director of central intelligence (DCI). The chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) requested in a letter to the Independent Counsel on May 15, 1991, any information that would ``significantly bear on the fitness'' of Gates for the CIA post.
Grand Jury secrecy rules hampered Independent Counsel's response. Nevertheless, in order to answer questions about Gates' prior testimony, Independent Counsel accelerated his investigation of Gates in the summer of 1991. This investigation was substantially completed by September 3, 1991, at which time Independent Counsel determined that Gates' Iran/contra activities and testimony did not warrant prosecution.1
1 Independent Counsel made this decision subject to developments that could have warranted reopening his inquiry, including testimony by Clair E. George, the CIA's former deputy director for operations. At the time Independent Counsel reached this decision, the possibility remained that George could have provided information warranting reconsideration of Gates's status in the investigation. George refused to cooperate with Independent Counsel and was indicted on September 19, 1991. George subpoenaed Gates to testify as a defense witness at George's first trial in the summer of 1992, but Gates was never called.
Gates and the Diversion
Gates consistently testified that he first heard on October 1, 1986, from the national intelligence officer who was closest to the Iran initiative, Charles E. Allen, that proceeds from the Iran arms sales may have been diverted to support the contras.2 Other evidence proves, however, that Gates received a report on the diversion during the summer of 1986 from DDI Richard Kerr. The issue was whether Independent Counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates was deliberately not telling the truth when he later claimed not to have remembered any reference to the diversion before meeting with Allen in October.
2 See, for example, Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, p. 135 (``Q. Do you recall that in this time frame also you became initially -- well, let me not characterize it -- you became aware of what is now referred to as the diversion.[sic] A. Yes. I had a meeting with the NIO, the national intelligence officer, Charlie Allen, on the lst of October.''); Gates, SSCI Confirmation Hearing, 2/17-18/87, p. 13 (response to written interrogatory about his knowledge of the diversion).
Allen did not personally convey to Gates his concerns about the diversion until October 1, 1986.3 Allen testified, however, that he became worried during the summer of 1986 that the Iran initiative would be derailed by a pricing impasse that developed after former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane failed in his attempt to secure release of the hostages during his trip to Tehran in May 1986. Lt. Col. Oliver L. North of the NSC staff had inflated the price to the Iranians for HAWK missile spare parts that were to be delivered at the Tehran meeting by a multiple of 3.7. Manucher Ghorbanifar, who brokered the parts sale, added a 41% markup to North's price of $15 million. With another increase added by Ghorbanifar during the Tehran meeting, the Iranians were charged a total of $24.5 million for HAWK spare parts priced by the Defense Department at $3.6 million.4
3 Allen believed, however, that he sent a memorandum to Gates discussing, among other things, how much money North needed to pay Manucher Ghorbanifar from the Iran initiative. (Memorandum from Allen to the DCI, Subject: American Hostages, 11/10/86, ER 19739; Allen, Grand Jury, 1/4/88, pp. 19-21.) Independent Counsel was unable to corroborate Allen's testimony.
4 Allen, Grand Jury, 8/9/91, pp. 100-02.
In late June 1986, Mohsen Kangarlu, Ghorbanifar's channel to the Iranian government, informed the CIA through Agency annuitant George Cave that the Iranians had evidence that they were being drastically overcharged for HAWK missile spare parts. Kangarlu asked the Americans to lower the price. Led by North, the Americans first attempted to blame Ghorbanifar for the overcharges. When blaming Ghorbanifar failed to break the impasse in U.S.-Iran talks, North sought to convince the Iranians that the pricing was fair, and attempted to provide the Iranians with falsified pricing documents.5
5 Cave, Grand Jury, 8/30/91, pp. 94-99; Allen, Select Committees Deposition, 6/29/87, pp. 534-40.
A frightened and angry Ghorbanifar finally called Allen in late August 1986 to complain that the situation had become unbearable. He told Allen that he had borrowed $15 million to finance the HAWK parts transactions, and that he was now being pursued by his creditors for repayment. Ghorbanifar insisted that it was not his markup, but the U.S. Government's, that was responsible for the pricing impasse. Ghorbanifar then pleaded with Allen to do something to resolve the issue. Allen told Ghorbanifar that he would bring the matter to North's attention.6
6 Allen, Grand Jury, 8/9/91, pp. 110-13.
By this time, Allen had concluded that something was deeply wrong with the Iran initiative.7 Allen related his concerns to Cave, Duane R. Clarridge, a senior officer in the CIA's Directorate of Operations, and North. North told Allen not to believe Ghorbanifar because he was a liar. Instead, North insisted that Allen stick to the story that gathering the HAWK spares was expensive and to not break ranks with other U.S. officials on the pricing cover story.8
7 Ibid., pp. 113-15:
I had begun to think along those lines, after the 15th of August 1986, when it was clear that with White House support, Major General Secord and Mr. Hakim had established a new link or a new channel into the government of Iran. It was clear that they were dealing with Hashem Rafsanjani, Ali Hashem Rafsanjani, who was a nephew, I believe, of the current President Rafsanjani.
It was clear to me that Mr. Hakim and Major General Secord were moving to take over the control of the operation; that they were moving to exclude Mr. Ghorbanifar -- that was very clear. I was very much aware that Mr. Hakim by that time and Mr. Secord were involved in other matters, relating to the contras in Central America.
It appeared to me that Mr. Ghorbanifar's call was sort of the final indicator that something was deeply awry -- that the problem was not Mr. Ghorbanifar; the problem was the operation being directed by U.S. officials. And I then came to the analytic judgement -- based on all these indications that money was being diverted from the profits from the sale of arms to Iran to the contras in Central America.
I did not have hard proof of this. In fact, I had no direct evidence in writing from anyone. It was simply aggregating a series of indicators into a conclusion. And at that point it was at that time or shortly thereafter, I recall walking out from the building to my car late in the evening and thinking very deeply about this -- thinking of the fact that two operations were probably being combined -- that the lives of the hostages were being actually endangered by such a reckless venture; [a]nd I raised the point with Mr. Cave at the office.
8 Ibid., p. 115.
Having received no satisfaction from North or Clarridge, Allen brought his concerns to Richard Kerr, who was DDI and Allen's immediate superior. Kerr's deputy, John Helgerson, joined their meeting. Allen testified:
I went through what was occurring. I brought Mr. Kerr up to date on the initiative. I met with him occasionally to brief him orally on the White House effort and the Agency support. He had asked to be kept informed when I had something useful to say, so I worked my way through the current problem -- the fact that after the failure of the McFarlane trip to Tehran, there had been a hiatus and efforts had been made to move this process along; but the Iranians had begun to complain very strongly about the price being charged.
Then I went through the rationale of why I believed that the United States was charging excessive costs to the Iranian government for the arms and that profits from the sale of the arms were being diverted to Central America.
I made it clear I did not have direct evidence, but that when you put the indicators together, it sounded as if two separate problems or projects were being mixed together. And I pointed out to him that it made no sense to me and in fact could endanger the hostages in Lebanon.
Allen believed he also told Kerr and Helgerson that retired U.S. Air Force Major General Richard V. Secord and Albert Hakim were involved in both the Iran arms sales and the NSC's contra project. Allen related the markups alleged by Ghorbanifar, and described intelligence reports that indicated that the Iranians were upset by the high prices.9
9 Ibid., pp. 117-18.
Allen testified that this information made Kerr visibly upset. Kerr told Allen to ``stay on top of the issue'' and to ``keep him advised of any new developments.'' According to Allen, Kerr pulled him aside later that same day and expressed ``deep concern.'' Kerr believed that if Allen's story were true, the arms sales ultimately would be exposed.10
10 Ibid., pp. 118-19.
In various interviews, Kerr admitted Allen told him of his suspicions. Kerr also corroborated Allen that Helgerson was present at the meeting. Kerr's account of his reaction to Allen's information, however, differed from Allen's. Kerr said that, as a general matter, he did not find Allen credible -- that Allen was ``a person who started and put out his own fires'' -- and therefore he did not take his allegations as seriously as Allen said he did. Kerr had Helgerson there, he stated, to calm Allen down.11
11 Kerr, FBI 302, 7/31/91, pp. 4-5; see also Helgerson, FBI 302, 9/5/91, pp. 4-5.
Still, Kerr admitted that he took Allen's concerns seriously enough to bring them to Gates, who was Kerr's immediate superior. Kerr acknowledged this meeting in two interviews with the CIA's inspector general, and in an interview with the Select Committees. Kerr stated that he did not remember when this meeting took place, dating it some time between May and September 1986.12 In an interview with the inspector general on December 4, 1986, Kerr stated that Gates's response was, ``God only knows what Ollie is up to.'' A memorandum for the record written by a CIA attorney reporting Kerr's interview with the Select Committees recites that Kerr testified that when he informed Gates of Allen's concerns, ``Gates responded that he was aware that rumors were circulating that profits were being made on the sales of arms to Iran and that money from the arms sales was being made available to the Contras.'' 13
12 Gates's calendar shows frequent meetings with Kerr in late August 1986, but this is inconclusive evidence of when the meeting occurred. Dating the meeting is made even harder by the close working and personal relationship between Kerr and Gates. According to Diane Edwards, Gates's secretary, Kerr was in regular contact with Gates and was among a handful of people who would see Gates without an appointment. (Edwards, FBI 302, 8/23/91, pp. 1-2.)
13 Working Notes, Kerr, CIA IG Interview, 12/4/86; Memorandum from Pearline to the Record, Subject: Interview of Dick Kerr, 9/10/87, OCA 87-3899. Pearline stood by his notes of Kerr's Select Committees' interview. (Pearline, FBI 302, 9/12/91, p. 5.) Helgerson told the OIC that Kerr informed him shortly after speaking with Gates of their conversation. (Helgerson, FBI 302, 9/5/91, p. 5.)
Kerr told Independent Counsel that he did not recall Gates referring to other rumors of a diversion at this meeting.14 The Select Committees' report of the interview did not contain the statement that Gates was aware of ``rumors'' of a diversion, but it did state that Gates told Kerr to ``keep him informed.'' Accordingly, the evidence was clear that Gates's statements concerning his initial awareness of the diversion were wrong: Kerr brought him the information from Allen over a month earlier than Gates admitted. This would have been material because it suggested that the CIA continued to support North's activities without informing North's superiors or investigating. By October, when Gates claimed he first remembered hearing of the diversion, Casey ordered an inquiry and later made a report to Poindexter; but, by then, the Hasenfus aircraft had been shot down and Casey and Gates were beginning to cover.
14 Kerr, FBI 302, 7/31/91, p. 5. Kerr admitted that he and Gates had reviewed the incident several times since. (Ibid.)
Gates's defense was that he did not recall the Kerr meeting.15 To say the least, this was disquieting. He had been told by a very senior officer that two of President Reagan's personal priorities were in danger -- not something an ambitious deputy director of central intelligence would likely forget. Allen was acting as a whistle-blower in a difficult situation. His concern was for the safety of the hostages and the success of the efforts of the President. His information suggested serious malfeasance by Government officials involved in a clandestine and highly sensitive operation. Even though Gates may have believed Allen to be excessively concerned, could such an expression of concern be forgotten, particularly after it had been corroborated within a few weeks? Logically, Gates could ignore or forget the Allen report only if he already knew of the diversion and he knew that Casey and Poindexter knew of the diversion. Gates also was on the distribution list for highly reliable intelligence that should have informed him of the pricing dispute among Kangarlu, Ghorbanifar, and the U.S. Government, although it did not refer specifically to any diversion of funds. Gates claimed that he rarely reviewed the intelligence.16 North testified that he did not discuss the diversion with Gates or in Gates's presence. Gates also never met with Richard Secord, whom Gates was aware of only as a ``private benefactor'' (the CIA's term for non-Government donors to the contras) by July 1986.17
15 In testimony he gave before the Select Committees' report was issued, Gates made no reference to a meeting with Kerr. In two later Grand Jury appearances, however, Gates acknowledged the conflict between his recollection of events and Kerr's, but he insisted that he did not recall the meeting. (Gates, Grand Jury, 2/19/88, pp. 22-23; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, p. 140.)
16 Gates, Grand Jury, 2/19/88, pp. 13-14 (found intelligence ``confusing,'' so he stopped reading it); Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, p. 138 (intelligence showed ``a couple of Iranian arms dealers . . . lying to each other,'' so he stopped reading it).
17 North, North Trial Testimony, 4/12/89, pp. 7552-55; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 71-72, 87-88. Gates admitted that he and others were concerned about Secord's involvement in the Iran initiative because of Secord's prior contacts with unsavory individuals, but he did not link these concerns with the diversion. (Gates, SSCI Testimony, 12/4/86, pp. 80-85; Gates, Select Committees Deposition, 7/31/87, p. 13.)
Notwithstanding Independent Counsel's disbelief of Gates, Independent Counsel was not confident that Kerr's testimony, without the support of another witness to his conversation with Gates, would be enough to charge Gates with perjury or false statements for his testimony concerning the timing of his knowledge of the diversion.
Gates and North's Contra Activities
Gates maintained consistently that he was unaware that North had an operational role in supporting the contras. He testified that he believed that North's activities were limited to putting contra leaders in contact with wealthy American donors, and to giving the contras political advice.18 While sufficient circumstantial evidence exists to question the accuracy of these statements, it did not adequately establish that Gates knowingly was untruthful about his knowledge of North's activities.
18 Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 59-60; Gates, Grand Jury, 2/10/88, pp. 74-75; Gates, Select Committees Deposition, 7/31/87, p. 30; Gates, Grand Jury, 6/26/87, p. 36.
Gates first met North at meetings of the Crisis Pre-Planning Group (CPPG) beginning in 1982, when Gates was deputy director of intelligence. Gates claimed that his contacts as DDI with North were almost exclusively in the CPPG context, apart from meetings on intelligence assignments. Other than these meetings, Gates said that he had little to do with North. He was nonetheless aware of allegations that North was involved on some level with contra support.19
19 Gates, SSCI Testimony, 12/4/86, pp. 69-71; Gates, FBI 302, 5/15/87, p. 1. One disturbing evolution in Gates's description of his knowledge is the degree to which he relied on McFarlane's false assurances to Congress in 1985 that North was not involved in contra resupply. Before the Select Committees, Gates claimed that the CIA, as a whole, was aware of McFarlane's statements, and that the Agency relied on them:
I might add, you know, there's been a great deal of attention drawn to the letter that McFarlane sent to Mr. Hamilton avowing that whatever North was doing was legal and proper. The House Intelligence Committee were not the only ones who read that letter and were not the only ones who believed it. So there was a predisposition that while we didn't know or certainly from my standpoint, I think from the standpoint of others as well, that while we didn't know entirely what North was up to, the presumption was that it was proper because of that letter.
But when the Select Committees asked if he specifically was aware of McFarlane's representations at the time McFarlane made them, Gates was quick to deny that he was. (Gates, Select Committees Deposition, 7/31/87, pp. 32-33.) In his 1991 Grand Jury testimony, Gates reversed his position. (Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, p. 82.)
Notwithstanding his claims, Gates was aware of information that caused others to question the legality of North's activities. The most obvious source of concern should have been Allen's allegations, discussed above, about North's corruption of the Iran arms sales to support the contras. But other evidence -- available before October 1, 1986 -- should have alerted Gates to North's contra support role.
Gates became deputy director of central intelligence on April 18, 1986. As DDCI, Gates had at least two sources of information about North's activities: CIA personnel -- particularly Alan D. Fiers Jr. -- who had duties relating to Central America, and his regular contacts with National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter and others at the NSC.
The Cannistraro Question
In the spring and summer of 1986, Gates became involved in a debate over what role Vincent Cannistraro, a CIA officer detailed to the NSC, should play in the $100 million contra program that was expected to take effect in October 1986. There was concern that if Cannistraro replaced North, the CIA would be drawn into North's contra supply activities. Gates discussed Cannistraro's assignment with a number of CIA and NSC personnel, including Fiers, Clair E. George, and Poindexter. Gates met with Cannistraro himself in an attempt to resolve the situation. OIC's inquiry focused on whether Gates, in the course of these discussions, learned about North's role in contra operations.
By the time Gates became DDCI, Fiers was chief of the CIA's Central American Task Force (CATF). Fiers ran the CIA's support for the Nicaraguan contras and planned for the day when the CIA would again be allowed to provide lethal support to the insurgents. Fiers did not readily share information about his unit's operations in Nicaragua. This had led to complaints with the CIA's intelligence analysis directorate. 20
20 One of the protesters was Robert Vickers, the CIA's national intelligence officer for Latin America from July 1984 to November 1987. Vickers told Gates that Fiers was not keeping him informed about the contras. (Vickers, FBI 302, 4/28/87, p. 4; Kerr, FBI 302, 7/31/91, p. 6.) Vickers did not remember this meeting with Gates in his most recent interview. (Vickers, FBI 302, 5/15/91, p. 5.) Vickers also complained to Cannistraro about being cut out of the new interagency group on Nicaragua, and asked Cannistraro to assist him in getting into the group. Cannistraro brought up Vickers's concern with Gates in a meeting at Gates's office. Cannistraro told Gates that Vickers ``was very knowledgeable and was a real student of Central America,'' and he recommended that Vickers be included in meetings of the new interagency group. (Cannistraro, FBI 302, 7/24/91, p. 9.) A PROFs note from Cannistraro to Rodney McDaniel, Executive Secretary of the NSC, corroborates Cannistraro's efforts to get Vickers involved and Cannistraro's meeting with Gates. (PROFs Note from Cannistraro to McDaniel, 7/21/86, AKW 022235.)
According to both Fiers and Gates, Gates's role in the contra program increased significantly once he became DDCI. Fiers testified Gates became ``intricately involved'' in developing policy and coordinating interagency work on the contras. Fiers dealt with Gates on requests from the NSC and on structural discussions with other Executive Branch agencies about the contra program. Fiers kept Gates informed ``generally, on our state of planning and the nature of our operations.'' Fiers met with Gates regularly and weekly.21
21 Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/14/91, pp. 44-45; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 12-14.
Fiers testified that he did not lay out to Gates his extensive knowledge about North's activities.22 From two events, however, Fiers concluded that Gates too was aware of North's operational role with the contras. The first incident involved Cannistraro, who had been Fiers's predecessor as chief of CATF.
22 Fiers's knowledge of North's contra-resupply activities is discussed more fully in the Fiers chapter.
Cannistraro, then detailed to the NSC, was nominally in charge of monitoring all U.S. covert-action programs. By June 1986, North's operational activities caused Cannistraro concern.23 In mid-1986, media reports repeated earlier assertions that North was linked to contra military aid. As an important House vote on renewed contra aid approached, on June 24, 1986, a resolution of inquiry was introduced in the House to inquire about North's activities. On June 25, after the House approved a $100 million military and humanitarian aid package, Representatives Lee Hamilton and Dante Fascell wrote the President for comment on the resolution of inquiry; that night, CBS News ran a program that expressly linked North to the private contra-aid network.
23 Cannistraro, FBI 302, 9/18/90, p. 2; Cannistraro, FBI 302, 7/24/91, p. 9.
On June 26, Cannistraro suggested in a computer note to Poindexter that the new contra-aid program should be a ``regularized C[overt] A[ction] program which would normally fall under my responsibility.'' Poindexter agreed in a computer note sent to NSC Executive Secretary Rodney McDaniel that same day:
Yes, I would like to regularize it. The Vince-Ollie relationship would be the same as between Vince and Howard [Teicher, another NSC staffer] on Afghanistan. Ollie will have mixed reactions. He has wanted CIA to get back on the management of the problem and we need to lower Ollie's visibility on the issue. Talk to him about it and I will follow up when I get back.24
24 Cannistraro, FBI 302, 9/18/90, p. 3; PROFs Note from Cannistraro to McDaniel, 6/26/86, AKW 019032; PROFs Note from Poindexter to McDaniel, 6/26/86, AKW 021436.
Fiers recalled Cannistraro's move to take the contra program away from North, as well as Poindexter's concerns about North's program. The question of who would run the anticipated contra-aid program was important to Fiers and the CIA. Fiers had been planning the CIA's program ``in earnest.'' According to Fiers, Gates was intimately involved in structuring the new program, both within the CIA and the Executive Branch as a whole. Gates admitted he was aware that Poindexter had been contemplating changes in who oversaw contra issues at the NSC.25
25 Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/14/91, pp. 53-57; Gates, FBI 302, 5/15/87, pp. 4-5; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 103-04.
In the midst of the struggle over who would run the contra-aid program, Cannistraro visited Gates at his office. Cannistraro told Independent Counsel that he came to express his desire to return to the CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO).26 Gates promised to urge the directorate to take Cannistraro back. But soon Cannistraro's future became an item on the agenda for one of Gates' weekly meetings with Poindexter. On July 10, 1986, Paul Kinsinger, an aide to Gates, sent Gates a memorandum that stated:
26 Cannistraro claimed that he had long-standing differences with DO chief Clair George, which is why Cannistraro went to Gates. (Cannistraro, FBI 302, 7/24/91, p. 6; see also Gates, FBI 302, 5/15/87, p. 4; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 83-84.)
Vince Cannistraro called to say that Poindexter wanted to discuss how we are going to coordinate the Nicaragua program. Attached is a short memo to you from the Director, you may recall, that lays out the Director's views.
Vince also said that Poindexter would want to know whether Ollie North should be involved. Peggy [Donnelly, a CIA officer assigned to the DCI-DDCI executive offices] checked with the DO and they say yes.27
27 Note for ADCI, Subject: Late Item for Poindexter Meeting, 7/10/86, ER 27199-206.
The DO officer mentioned in Kinsinger's memo was Fiers. Fiers recalled that he specifically talked about Cannistraro's duties with Gates. Fiers was concerned that having Cannistraro in the management of the new program would bring a CIA officer ``into the proximity of operations that I knew to go on, that were someplace we didn't want CIA officers to be.'' Fiers recalled voicing this concern not only to Gates, but to George and Casey as well.28
28 Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/14/91, pp. 58-59.
Fiers made it clear in several meetings in Gates's office that he wanted North to stay involved in contra aid -- and have Cannistraro kept out. Fiers recalled telling Gates:
I just think I said, if Vince were to take over the Central American account, he can't be doing the same thing that Ollie is doing with the private sector people in lining up support for the resistance. That crosses over the Boland Amendment, and it's just someplace that we don't want to be. We've got to keep Vince away from that. And, I think those probably were my exact words, or very similar to that.
Fiers testified that Gates ``understood me. We all understood that to be the case, and we were going to have to keep Vince away from that.'' 29
29 Ibid., pp. 59-60.
On July 10, 1986, Gates raised the Cannistraro issue with Poindexter. Gates wrote after their meeting:
I followed up on Vince Cannistraro's assignment. Poindexter clearly wants to keep Vince indefinitely and while I told him that Clair did not have to have a final answer before the end of August, his reaction strongly suggested to me that he will keep Vince there. I also repeated our concern that should Vince take over the Central American account, that he should have nothing to do as a CIA employee with the private sector people Ollie North had been dealing with in support of the Contras.
Cannistraro remained at the NSC,30 and was not transferred.
30 Memorandum from Gates to the Record, Subject: Meeting with Adm. Poindexter, 7/11/86, ER 27195-97 (emphasis added); Gates, FBI 302, 5/15/87, pp. 4-5. See also Poindexter, Select Committees Deposition, 5/2/87, pp. 200-02 (giving his reasons for easing North out of the contra effort, and North's reluctance to leave).
Gates's explanation of these events was that he wanted to keep Cannistraro from becoming entangled with the contras for political reasons -- and not because he was concerned about North. Gates was concerned, he said, about Congress finding a CIA employee anywhere close to the situation. Gates claimed he had not considered the legality or nature of what North was doing on behalf of the contras: ``I had no concerns -- I had no reason to have concerns based on what was available to me about North's contacts with the private sector people, but I didn't think a CIA person should do it.'' 31
31 Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 79-83, 85. The information that Gates claimed to have about North consisted of ``rumors'' from various Government officials that North had put contra leaders in touch with Secord and retired U.S. Army Major General John K. Singlaub. Gates testified that at the time he did not know that North had ``hands-on'' involvement with contra resupply. (Ibid., pp. 86-89.)
Gates acknowledged that he might have raised the Cannistraro issue with Fiers, but he did not recall it. He did not recall any conversations with Fiers and he claimed not to recall any recommendation from Fiers one way or the other.32
32 Ibid., pp. 110-11. Fiers said that a ``note-taker'' usually attended his meetings with Gates. This note-taker was Kinsinger. Fiers remembers telling Kinsinger -- whom Fiers did not remember by name -- occasionally not to write down things such as disparaging comments or other matters because of their sensitivity. Fiers also would ask Kinsinger to leave the room for matters that he wanted to discuss privately with Gates. (Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/14/91, pp. 45-46.) Kinsinger kept none of his notes for the period that he served as Gates's aide. (Kinsinger, FBI 302, 7/25/91, p. 8.)
Given the accusations swirling about North's support of the contra rebels, and the prospect of a formal Congressional inquiry into North's actions, Gates must have been concerned about the nature of his activities as a threat to the planned resumption of support to the CIA. It was, however, also politically wise to keep Cannistraro away from any activities that resembled North's. Independent Counsel did not believe that provable evidence of Gates's awareness of North's operational activities would sustain a prosecution for his denials to the Select Committees or to OIC.
Sale of Enterprise Assets
North attempted to sell aircraft and a vessel, the Erria, that were owned by the Enterprise to the CIA. The proposed sales were discussed in Gates's presence at meetings with Poindexter. Gates also spoke about the aircraft with Fiers, who discouraged their purchase. These discussions must have provided some additional knowledge about North's role in contra resupply.
The Erria had carried munitions to Central America for the contras.33 Poindexter, Gates and Casey discussed the Erria at one of their weekly meetings in May 1986. Memoranda prepared for that meeting associated North with the Erria. Cannistraro recalled that discussion of the ship at a Poindexter-Gates meeting suggested Gates knew the Erria was used in support of North's contra operation.34
33 North, North Trial Testimony, 4/7/89, pp. 6883-84. North approached several CIA officers with his proposal. North asked Cannistraro to convince the CIA to purchase the ship as a floating broadcast platform. Cannistraro found out that CIA officers had considered the matter and had declined North's offer because of the ship's association with Thomas Clines. (Cannistraro, Grand Jury, 6/15/87, pp. 53-65; see also Twetten, Select Committees Deposition, 4/22/87, pp. 181-82; Haskell, FBI 302, 7/6-7/7/87, p. 10.)
34 Memorandum from Cannistraro to Poindexter, Subject: Agenda for Your Weekly Meeting . . . , 5/14/86, AKW 045227-28; Memorandum, Item . . . Poindexter May Raise With The DCI at their 8 May Meeting, 5/8/86, ER 143-5 91-0041; Gates 1986 Appointment Book, 5/15/86; DCI Schedule, 5/15/86, ER 598; Kinsinger, FBI 302, 7/25/91, p. 9; Cannistraro, FBI 302, 7/24/91, p. 10. See also Poindexter, Select Committees Deposition, 5/2/87, pp. 221-22 (recounting discussions with the CIA about its purchasing the Erria).
At a later meeting, Gates and Poindexter discussed North's proposal that the CIA buy the Enterprise's aircraft. In a computer note to Poindexter dated July 24, 1986, North complained that the CIA was unwilling to purchase the Enterprise assets and urged Poindexter to ask Casey to reconsider. Poindexter responded that he did ``tell Gates that the private effort should be phased out. Please tell Casey about this. I agree with you.'' Poindexter later elaborated that he had told Gates that the Enterprise's assets were available for purchase, and that Gates said he would check on the matter.35
35 See PROFs Note from North to Poindexter, 7/24/86, AKW 021735; PROFs Note from Poindexter to North, 7/26/86, AKW 021732; Poindexter, Select Committees Testimony, 5/2/87, pp. 187-88, 228.
North's calendar and pocket cards show that North scheduled a meeting with Gates for July 29, 1986, three days later. Gates's calendar also shows a meeting with North on July 29.36 About this time, Gates approached Fiers and asked why the Central American Task Force would not purchase North's, or ``the private benefactor's,'' aircraft. According to Fiers, Gates accepted Fiers' explanation that the aircraft were in poor condition and unduly risky for the CIA. Fiers also ``vaguely'' recalled discussing ``phasing out the private Contra aid effort'' with Gates in July 1986. Both men agreed that the private effort was a political liability for the Agency. From their discussions, Fiers -- like Cannistraro -- concluded that Gates was aware that ``North was running a private supply operation.'' 37
36 North Schedule Card, 7/29/86, AKW 002640; Gates 1986 Appointment Book (Doc. No. 258). When asked about this meeting by SSCI in his second confirmation hearings. Gates could not recall the meeting. (SSCI Confirmation Nomination of Robert M. Gates to be Director of Central Intelligence, Sen. Exec. Rpt. No. 102-19, 102d Cong., 1st Sess., p. 80 (Oct. 24, 1991). 10/19/91, p. 85.)
37 Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/14/91, pp. 68-69; Fiers, FBI 302, 8/1/91, pp. 14, 16. See also Sen. Exec. Rpt. No. 102-19, p. 80.
Gates denied discussing phasing out the private resupply effort with Poindexter. Asked about Poindexter's message to North, Gates testified that he examined his records upon reading the message and could find no evidence that such a meeting with Poindexter occurred. Gates claimed, ``If Poindexter made a comment to me like that, it would have been in the context of once the authorized program is approved there would be no point in having any of these private benefactors any longer.'' Neither did Gates recall meeting with North about the Erria during this time.38
38 Gates, Grand Jury, 2/10/88, pp. 76-77.
The evidence established that Gates was exposed to information about North's connections to the private resupply operation that would have raised concern in the minds of most reasonable persons about the propriety of a Government officer having such an operational role. Fiers and Cannistraro believed that Gates was aware of North's operational role. The question was whether there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates deliberately lied in denying knowledge of North's operational activities. A case would have depended on the testimony of Poindexter. Fiers would not testify that he supplied Gates with the details of North's activities. In the end, Independent Counsel concluded that the question was too close to justify the commitment of resources. There were stronger, equally important cases to be tried.
Obstruction of the Hasenfus Inquiries
There was conclusive evidence that in October 1986, following the Hasenfus shootdown, Clair George and Alan Fiers obstructed two congressional inquiries.39 Gates attended meetings where the CIA's response to these inquiries was discussed. None of the evidence, however, links Gates to any specific act of obstruction.
39 See George and Fiers chapters.
The background for Congress's inquiries into the Hasenfus shootdown is discussed in the Fiers and George chapters. By October 9, 1986, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (SCFR) had set a hearing on the shootdown for October 10, 1986, and the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) had set a hearing for October 14, 1986. Gates's main concern during this period was convincing Congress that the CIA had sponsored no resupply flights. He appeared before SSCI on October 8, 1986, and gave the committee brief biographies of the pilots on the downed plane. He responded to Senator Cohen when asked whether the plane was owned by a CIA proprietary:
No, sir. We didn't have anything to do with that. And while we know what is going in -- going on with the Contras, obviously as you indicate, by virtue of what we come up here and brief, I will tell you that I know from personal experience we have, I think, conscientiously tried to avoid knowing what is going on in terms of any of this private funding, and tried to stay away from it. Somebody will say something about Singlaub or something like, we will say I don't want to hear anything about it.40
40 Gates, SSCI Testimony, 10/8/86, p. 9.
To the extent that Gates spoke for others in the CIA, this was wrong. It was true that the Hasenfus plane was not owned by a CIA proprietary. But as set forth in the Fiers, George, and Fernandez chapters, several individual CIA officers had not stayed away from ``private-benefactor'' activities. There was no evidence, however, that Gates knew this as early as October 8, 1986, although he did know by then of the concern that North and Secord were diverting funds from the Iran arms sales to the contras.41
41 Gates was informed by Allen about the diversion, North, and Secord on October 1, 1986, and met with Allen and Casey about them on October 7.
The day after his SSCI testimony Gates double-checked his statements with a number of people. He met with Fiers and George at 10:10 a.m. on October 9 and was told ``that there had been no contact between -- that the Agency wasn't involved in the Hasenfus matter at all.'' Gates then had lunch with Casey and North. North had just returned from negotiations in Frankfurt with the ``Second Channel'' to the Iranian government. North briefed Gates and Casey on the progress of the negotiations. The discussion then turned to the contras. North testified at trial and before the Grand Jury that during this luncheon, Casey told him that North's Iran and contra operations were unraveling, and that he should begin to clean up both of them. North specifically recalled being told by Casey about allegations by Roy Furmark of a diversion; he did not recall telling Gates about the diversion or going into detail about the nature of his operations. North also did not recall whether Gates was there when Casey told North to clean up his operation.42
42 DDCI Appointments -- Thursday, 10/9/86, AKY 006296; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 176-77; Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/16/91, pp. 6-7; North, North Trial Testimony, 4/12/89, pp. 7552-57; North, Grand Jury, 3/8/91, pp. 30-32. Casey testified in December 1986 that the October 1986 luncheon included questions concerning a possible diversion. (Casey, HPSCI Testimony, 12/11/86, pp. 120-21; Casey, House Appropriations Subcommittee Testimony, 12/8/86, p. 102.)
In his testimony about the lunch, Gates stressed his attempt to get North to confirm that the CIA was not involved with the Hasenfus crash. Gates claimed that he was not invited to the lunch, and that he ``crashed the lunch'' because he wanted to speak with North. Gates said that Casey discussed the Furmark allegations with North and told him that the situation had to be straightened out. Gates remembered no instruction from Casey to North to start cleaning up operations, but did recall asking North directly whether any CIA personnel had been involved in the resupply network. Gates said that North told him that the CIA was ``absolutely clean.'' North made a ``cryptic comment'' about Swiss bank accounts, which Gates claimed not to have understood. Gates stated that he then left Casey's office for ten minutes, and returned to ask Casey alone about North's comment about Swiss accounts. Casey seemed not to have picked up on the comment, and Gates dropped it.43
43 Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 177-79; Gates, Grand Jury, 6/26/87, pp. 8-11; Gates, Select Committees Deposition, 7/31/87, pp. 23-29, 33-35; Gates, Grand Jury, 2/19/88, pp. 46-47; Gates, FBI 302, 5/15/87, p. 5. When confronted with Gates's account of the meeting, Casey did not dispute it. (Casey, HPSCI Testimony, 12/11/86, pp. 180-81.)
Gates changed his story in only one significant way between his early testimony and his final Grand Jury appearance: He expressly added that he left Casey and North alone together during lunch.
Gates wrote an exculpatory memo the next day. Gates wrote:
North confirmed to the DCI and to me that, based on his knowledge of the private funding efforts for the Contras, CIA is completely clean on the question of any contacts with those organizing the funding and the operations. He affirmed that a clear separation had been maintained between the private efforts and CIA assets and individuals, including proprietaries.
Gates recorded North's purportedly exculpatory statement uncritically, even though he was by then clearly aware of the possible diversion of U.S. funds through the ``private benefactors.'' Although, in testimony before SSCI, Gates admitted that his concerns about Allen's allegations were behind the questioning of North, he did not ask North whether a diversion had occurred. He was interested only in eliciting statements protective of his Agency.44
44 Memorandum from Gates to the Record, Subject: Lunch with Ollie North, 10/10/86, ER 24605; Gates, SSCI Testimony, 12/4/86, p. 20.
After his lunch with North and his post-lunch discussion with Casey, Gates met again with Casey and George at 1:45 p.m. on ``Directorate Reporting.'' Casey then briefed congressional leaders about the downed aircraft. Casey and Gates then met with George, Fiers and the CIA's congressional affairs chief, David Gries. Gates, George and Gries stated that they did not recall what occurred at this meeting. Fiers recalled that the meeting concerned whether it would be Gates or George who testified on October 10 before SCFR. Fiers testified that he, Casey and George had decided earlier on October 9 that George was to testify. As Fiers recalled it, the later meeting was to give Gries the opportunity to argue in favor of Gates testifying. The content of the next day's briefing, except for the categorical denial made in the CIA's opening statement, was not discussed.45
45 George, Grand Jury, 4/5/91, pp. 72-73; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 197-98; Gries, FBI 302, 4/9/91, pp. 4-5; Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/16/91, pp. 19-20.
The early evening meeting of Casey, Gates, George, Fiers, and Gries ended Gates's involvement with the preparation of the CIA's testimony concerning the Hasenfus crash. The only other evidence relating to Gates during this period was a meeting that took place in Casey's office around the time of George and Fiers's briefing of HPSCI on October 14, 1986. During this meeting, Fiers told George and Casey that the Hasenfus inquiries would not end until someone took responsibility for the private resupply flights. Fiers recommended that Secord take responsibility. George turned to Casey and said, ``Bill, you know Secord has other problems,'' and the conversation ended soon after. Fiers had a vague recollection of Gates being present for part of the conversation, and then leaving the room. Fiers was uncertain if Gates heard his remarks about Secord.46
46 Ibid., pp. 40-43.
At most, the evidence showed that Gates was in and around meetings where the content of George and Fiers's testimony was discussed, and that he participated in two briefings that helped lull congressional investigators into believing that the CIA was not involved in facilitating private resupply flights. The evidence shows further that Gates was aware of at least general information suggesting involvement by North and Secord with the contras, and that Gates did not disclose this information -- or argue that it should be disclosed. For Gates, the CIA's task in October 1986 was to distance the CIA from the private operation, in part by locking North into statements that cleared the CIA of wrongdoing.47
47 Indeed, according to Allen, when Allen first discussed rumors of a diversion with Gates on October 1, 1986, Gates told Allen he ``didn't want to hear about Central America'' and ``I've supported Ollie in other activities . . . but he's gone too far.'' (Allen, Grand Jury, 1/4/88, pp. 31-33.) See also Gates, SSCI Testimony, 12/4/86, pp. 18-19 (confirming that he told Allen that he ``didn't want to hear anything about funding for the Contras'').
In the end, although Gates's actions suggested an officer who was more interested in shielding his institution from criticism and in shifting the blame to the NSC than in finding out the truth, there was insufficient evidence to charge Gates with a criminal endeavor to obstruct congressional investigations into the Hasenfus shootdown.
Gates and Casey's November 1986 Testimony
The events leading up to the preparation of false testimony by Director Casey in November 1986 -- preparations that Gates nominally oversaw -- are set forth in a separate chapter of this Report. There was insufficient evidence that Gates committed a crime as he participated in the preparation of Casey's testimony, or that he was aware of critical facts indicating that some of the statements by Casey and others were false.
Independent Counsel found insufficient evidence to warrant charging Robert Gates with a crime for his role in the Iran/contra affair. Like those of many other Iran/contra figures, the statements of Gates often seemed scripted and less than candid. Nevertheless, given the complex nature of the activities and Gates's apparent lack of direct participation, a jury could find the evidence left a reasonable doubt that Gates either obstructed official inquiries or that his two demonstrably incorrect statements were deliberate lies.
November 9, 2006
Rumsfeld Resigns; Bush Vows ‘To Find Common Ground’; Focus Is on Virginia
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG and JIM RUTENBERG
WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 — Faced with the collapse of his Republican majority in Congress, President Bush responded swiftly on Wednesday by announcing the departure of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and vowing to work with Democrats “to find common ground” on the war in Iraq and domestic issues.
With Democrats having recaptured the House and control of the Senate depending on the outcome of a single unsettled contest in Virginia, Mr. Bush, sounding alternately testy and conciliatory at a White House news conference, said he was “obviously disappointed.” He portrayed the results as a cumulative “thumping” of Republicans and conceded that as head of the party, he bore some responsibility.
In Virginia, though Senator George Allen had not conceded Wednesday night, the Democrat, Jim Webb, was confident enough of victory to begin talking about transition. Mr. Allen’s defeat would mean that the Democrats would control the Senate for the first time since 2002 and would control both houses of Congress.
Just days after telling reporters that he would keep Mr. Rumsfeld on for the rest of his term, Mr. Bush said that the two had agreed “after a series of thoughtful conversations” that it was time for Mr. Rumsfeld, a magnet for criticism about management of the war, to go.
The president asked Robert M. Gates, who was director of central intelligence under Mr. Bush’s father, to take over at the Pentagon at a time when the administration is under intense pressure to develop a new approach in Iraq.
Senior White House officials said the Rumsfeld resignation had been discussed for weeks, coming as the violence intensified in Iraq and a growing number of critics — including Republicans — called for the secretary’s firing.
Several weeks ago, with the White House’s own internal polls showing Democrats making gains on antiwar sentiment, Mr. Bush and a few top aides began a series of secret meetings to discuss what he knew would be an explosive announcement.
Meanwhile, the president was holding heart-to-heart talks with Mr. Rumsfeld. As the longest-serving member of Mr. Bush’s cabinet — and a member of Mr. Bush’s father’s cabinet as well — the defense secretary had always enjoyed Mr. Bush’s unconditional public support.
The impending resignation was so closely held that the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, did not learn of it until Mr. Rumsfeld called him 45 minutes before it was announced. The White House was also wary about how the news might affect the election.
“It’s like when you get asked about the dollar,” one senior White House official said in describing why Mr. Bush gave no hint of the resignation when asked directly about it last week. “If you don’t give the same answer every time, the markets move.”
The timing of the announcement left no doubt that Mr. Bush wanted to make a dramatic demonstration of flexibility in dealing with a war that has come to define his presidency.
The White House said it had not yet determined whether to ask the departing Republican-controlled Senate to take up the Gates nomination or to wait for the new Senate, potentially in the hands of Democrats, to take it up next year. But Mr. Warner said he would like to see Mr. Gates confirmed by the end of the year, if possible.
Tuesday’s vote ripped apart the political landscape in Washington just two years after Mr. Bush won re-election and declared that he intended to expend his political capital on behalf of an ambitious agenda.
While members of both parties said the election was about the war as much as anything, Republicans opened a debate about whether they had also been undone by failing to stick closely enough to conservative principles. Republicans in the House moved toward overhauling their leadership, and presidential contenders in both parties began preparing for an almost immediate start to the 2008 campaign.
Democrats picked up at least 28 seats in the House, putting them in control of that chamber for the first time in 12 years.
By midday Wednesday, Democrats had won one of the two Senate races that had been left undecided overnight, claiming a seat in Montana from the incumbent Republican, Conrad Burns.
In Virginia, the Democrat, Mr. Webb, held a lead of less than 0.5 percent of the 2.3 million votes cast, aides to Mr. Allen suggested on Wednesday evening that he could acknowledge defeat as early as Thursday afternoon.
After spending weeks questioning Democratic approaches to the economy and national security as dangerous for the nation, Mr. Bush said he recognized “that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress” in Iraq. He said he intended to “work with the new Congress in a bipartisan way” and invited leading Democrats to meet with him at the White House beginning on Thursday.
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who is now expected to become the first female speaker of the House, said Mr. Bush had invited her to lunch, calling her “Madam Speaker-elect.”
Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who spearheaded his party’s campaign to take back the Senate, said he had received calls from Mr. Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow, and his chief political adviser, Karl Rove, as well as the president himself. Mr. Schumer said he thought it meant the White House was serious about reaching out.
“He was gracious,” the senator said of Mr. Bush. “He said, ‘You did an amazing job, congratulations.’ He said, ‘I wish you were on my team.’ And I said, ‘No you don’t, Mr. President.’ ”
In the Capitol, Ms. Pelosi vowed to use the first 100 hours of the new Congress to push through what Democrats dubbed their “Six for ’06” agenda.
That program includes calls to raise the minimum wage, repeal subsidies for oil companies and incentives for companies to send jobs overseas, cut interest rates on student loans, give the government the authority to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies for lower prescription drug prices, and expand opportunities for embryonic stem cell research. On one of those issues, the minimum wage, Mr. Bush signaled there was room for a deal, as he also did on immigration.
But Democrats made it clear that their first order of business, even before taking over in January, would be pressing the Bush White House to change course in Iraq.
Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, called for Mr. Bush to convene a bipartisan summit meeting on Iraq. Ms. Pelosi, apparently unaware that Mr. Rumsfeld’s resignation was about to be announced, called pointedly on Mr. Bush to get rid of the secretary of defense, saying it would “signal an openness to new, fresh ideas.”
As Democrats turned their attention to governing, Republicans — including Mr. Bush — grappled with their losses. Although Mr. Bush had been insisting in public that he was confident Republicans would retain control of both houses of Congress, his aides said privately on Wednesday that the president knew as early as several weeks ago that Democrats were likely to capture the House, even as he hoped for an upset.
“If you look at it race by race, it was close,” the president told reporters in the East Room of the White House. “The cumulative effect, however, was not close. It was a thumping.”
Washington has been a one-party Republican town for almost the entire six years Mr. Bush has been president. Tuesday’s election ended any talk about Republicans establishing a permanent majority in the capital and upset a power structure that extended from Congress and the White House through the network of lobbyists, interest groups and donors who have supported Republicans and their agenda for years.
“We’re going to take a two-year hiatus,” Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told reporters at a morning news briefing. Of Ms. Pelosi, he said: “My goal and job will be to make sure she never sets the record that Denny Hastert set.”
Mr. Reynolds was referring to the current speaker, Representative J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who has held the job longer than any other Republican in the nation’s history. Mr. Hastert issued a statement on Tuesday saying he would not seek the role of minority leader in the new Democratic-controlled House.
In addition to upending the balance of power between the parties in Washington, Tuesday’s election also set up a leadership scramble within the parties themselves. Two Democrats, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Representative John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania have both said they will seek the position of majority leader, to replace Ms. Pelosi if, as expected, she moves up to speaker.
And there has been speculation that Representative Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee who is widely viewed as an architect of Tuesday’s House victory, would seek the position of Democratic whip. Mr. Emanuel said Wednesday that he had not made any decision about the whip’s race but would do so “in short order.”
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Mr. Bush gathered his senior aides — Mr. Rove; Joshua B. Bolten, the White House chief of staff; and Dan Bartlett, counselor to the president — in the Oval Office before 7 a.m. Wednesday to assess the new power structure on Capitol Hill.
Although the White House had been insisting for weeks that it was not planning for a Democratic takeover, those in the room were part of a small cadre of presidential advisers, also including the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, and the domestic policy adviser, Joel D. Kaplan, who had already been doing just that.
“We got thumped, it’s time, let’s go,” Mr. Bush said, according to one person who was present at the early morning meeting. “Let’s get them on the phone. Is it too early?”
Aides to Mr. Bush said they wanted to make some fast moves to show they were nimble in the face of the new challenge and to seize at least some of the stage on a day that belonged to Democrats. At the same time, they said, they wanted to show they had heard the voters’ message that it was time for a new direction in Iraq.
And they said Mr. Gates was someone the president was comfortable with; Mr. Bush considered him for the position of director of intelligence, now held by John D. Negroponte.
Mr. Gates and the president met secretly on Sunday at Mr. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Tex.; to avoid the prying eyes of reporters and low-level White House officials who were camped out in nearby Waco, Mr. Gates met senior aides to Mr. Bush in the little town of McGregor and was then spirited into the ranch, aides said.
Mr. Gates, the president of Texas A&M University, had a difficult confirmation as director of central intelligence 15 years ago because of accusations that he had slanted intelligence. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, pledged to give Mr. Gates “a fair and fresh look,” despite voting against his confirmation in 1991.
Despite the pronouncements of bipartisanship on both sides, there were questions about how Mr. Bush would work with a party whose Senate leader, Mr. Reid, has called him “a liar,” and whose House leader, Ms. Pelosi, has called him “incompetent.”
Asked in an interview on ABC News about her comments that Mr. Bush was incompetent, Ms. Pelosi replied, “Incompetence in the implementation of a war is dangerous,” but she quickly added that it was time to move past old conflicts.
Mr. Bush, meanwhile, was asked at his news conference how he could have been so hopeful of Republican victory in the face of polls predicting such serious losses.
“I thought when it was all said and done, the American people would understand the importance of taxes and the importance of security,” the president said. “But the people have spoken, and now it’s time for us to move on.”
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