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Imperial Bush
A closer look at the Bush record -- from the war in Iraq to the war on the environment

2004 Campaign
Will Americans take the exit ramp off the Bush presidency in November?

Behind Colin Powell's Legend
Colin Powell's sterling reputation in Washington hides his life-long role as water-carrier for conservative ideologues.

The 2000 Campaign
Recounting the controversial presidential campaign

Media Crisis
Is the national media a danger to democracy?

The Clinton Scandals
The story behind President Clinton's impeachment

Nazi Echo
Pinochet & Other Characters

The Dark Side of Rev. Moon
Rev. Sun Myung Moon and American politics

Contra Crack
Contra drug stories uncovered

Lost History
How the American historical record has been tainted by lies and cover-ups

The October Surprise "X-Files"
The 1980 October Surprise scandal exposed

From free trade to the Kosovo crisis

Other Investigative Stories


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Richard Allen's Notes on Bush 'October Surprise' Call

Notes written in 1980 by Ronald Reagan's foreign policy adviser Richard Allen represent the first documentary evidence that then-vice presidential nominee George H.W. Bush was working with legendary CIA officer Ted Shackley to keep track of President Jimmy Carter's progress on negotiations to free 52 American hostages then held in Iran.

According to Allen's handwritten notes for Oct. 27, 1980, Bush called Allen at 2:12 p.m. as Bush was heading off to campaign in Pittsburgh. Bush had gotten an unsettling message from former Texas Gov. John Connally, the ex-Democrat who had switched to the Republican Party during the Nixon administration. Connally said his oil contacts in the Middle East were buzzing with rumors that Carter had achieved the long-elusive breakthrough on the hostages.

Bush ordered Allen to find out what he could about Connally's tip. "Geo Bush," Allen's notes began, "JBC [Connally] -- already made deal. Israelis delivered last wk spare pts. via Amsterdam. Hostages out this wk. Moderate Arabs upset. French have given spares to Iraq and know of JC [Carter] deal w/Iran. JBC [Connally] unsure what we should do. RVA [Allen] to act if true or not."

In a still "secret" 1992 deposition to the House October Surprise Task Force, Allen explained the cryptic notes as meaning Connally had heard that President Carter had ransomed the hostages' freedom with an Israeli shipment of military spare parts to Iran. Allen said Bush then instructed him, Allen, to query Connally, who was at the influential Vinson & Elkins law firm in Houston. Allen was then to pass on any new details to two of Bush's aides.

According to the notes, Allen was to relay the information to "Ted Shacklee [sic] via Jennifer." Allen said the Jennifer was Jennifer Fitzgerald, Bush's longtime assistant including during his year as director of the CIA. Allen testified that "Shacklee" was Theodore Shackley, the famous CIA covert operations specialist known inside the spy agency as the "blond ghost." [To see Allen's notes, click here.]

During the Cold War, Shackley had run many of the CIA's most controversial paramilitary operations, from Vietnam and Laos to the JMWAVE operations against Fidel Castro's Cuba. When Bush was CIA director in 1976, he appointed Shackley to a top clandestine job, associate deputy director for operations.

But Shackley's CIA career ended in 1979, after three years of battling Carter's CIA director, Stansfield Turner. Shackley believed that Turner, by cleaning out hundreds of covert officers was destroying the agency – as well as Shackley's career. After retiring, Shackley went into business with another ex-CIA man, Thomas Clines, a partner with Edwin Wilson, the rogue spy who later would go to prison over shipments of terrorist materials to Libya. Clines himself would be convicted of tax fraud in the Iran-Contra scandal, another controversy in which Shackley's pale specter would hover in the background.

But in 1980, Shackley was working to put his former boss, George Bush, into the White House and possibly securing the CIA directorship for himself. Biographer David Corn said Shackley approached Bush for a position in the campaign in August 1980, after Reagan had picked Bush as his vice presidential nominee. But other sources have said Shackley’s informal assistance to Bush’s campaign dates back earlier and was more frequent.

“Within the spook world the belief spread that Shackley was close to Bush,” Corn wrote in Blond Ghost. “Rafael Quintero [an anti-Castro Cuban with close ties to the CIA] was saying that Shackley met with Bush every week. He told one associate that should Reagan and Bush triumph, Shackley was considered a potential DCI,” director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Allen notes, however, were the first piece of documentary evidence that Bush and Shackley were working together on the Iranian hostage crisis, a relationship that makes more credible other claims of October Surprise involvement by CIA personnel who were close to Shackley during his long CIA career. For instance, Donald Gregg, a CIA officer alleged to have participated in Republican meetings with Iranians, served under Shackley's command in Vietnam.

[For the latest and most detailed account of the "October Surprise" mystery, see Robert Parry's book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq. To see Allen's notes, click here.]

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