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October Surprise conspiracy theory

The October Surprise conspiracy theory refers to an alleged plot to influence the outcome of the 1980 United States presidential election between incumbent Jimmy Carter (D–GA) and opponent Ronald Reagan (R–CA).

One of the leading national issues during that year was the release of 52 Americans being held hostage in Iran since 4 November 1979.[1] Reagan won the election. On the day of his inauguration, in fact, 20 minutes after he concluded his inaugural address, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced the release of the hostages. The timing gave rise to an allegation that representatives of Reagan's presidential campaign had conspired with Iran to delay the release until after the election to thwart President Carter from pulling off an "October surprise".

According to the allegation, the Reagan Administration rewarded Iran for its participation in the plot by supplying Iran with weapons via Israel and by unblocking Iranian government monetary assets in U.S. banks.

After twelve years of mixed media attention, both houses of the U.S. Congress held separate inquiries and concluded that the allegations lacked supporting documentation.

Nevertheless, several individuals—most notably former Iranian President Abulhassan Banisadr,[2] former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, former Naval intelligence officer and National Security Council member Gary Sick; and former Reagan/Bush campaign and White House staffer Barbara Honegger—have stood by the allegation. There have been allegations that the 1980 Camarate air crash which killed the Portuguese Prime Minister, Francisco de Sá Carneiro, was in fact an assassination of the Defence Minister, Adelino Amaro da Costa, who had said that he had documents concerning the October surprise conspiracy theory and was planning on taking them to the United Nations General Assembly.


  • Background 1
  • Alleged chronology 2
  • Evidence 3
    • Meeting in Madrid (27–28 July 1980) 3.1
    • Meeting in Paris (19 October 1980) 3.2
  • Early allegations 4
    • Sadegh Ghotbzadeh 4.1
    • LaRouche Movement 4.2
    • 1980s media 4.3
    • Richard Brenneke 4.4
  • Media investigations (1991–1992) 5
    • Gary Sick 5.1
    • Frontline 5.2
    • Danny Casolaro 5.3
    • The Village Voice 5.4
    • Newsweek 5.5
    • The New Republic 5.6
  • Congressional investigation (1992–1993) 6
    • Senate investigation 6.1
    • House of Representatives investigation 6.2
  • Continuing allegations 7
    • Former Iranian President Banisadr 7.1
    • Russian government 7.2
    • Israeli sources 7.3
    • Palestinian sources 7.4
    • Barbara Honegger 7.5
    • Kevin Phillips 7.6
    • Ernest Backes' revelations 7.7
    • Robert Kane Pappas 7.8
  • References 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


In late 1979 a number of U.S. hostages were captured in Iran during the Iranian Revolution. The Iran hostage crisis continued into 1980, and as the November 1980 presidential election approached, there were concerns in the Republican Party camp that a resolution of the crisis could constitute an "October surprise" which might give incumbent Jimmy Carter enough of an electoral boost to be re-elected.[3] Carter's rescue attempt was first written about in a Jack Anderson article in The Washington Post in the fall of 1980.[4] After the release of the hostages on 20 January 1981, mere minutes after Republican challenger Ronald Reagan's inauguration, some charged that the Reagan campaign had made a secret deal with the Iranian government whereby the Iranians would hold the hostages until after Reagan was elected and inaugurated.[5]

The issue of an "October Surprise" was brought up during an investigation by a House of Representatives Subcommittee into how the 1980 Reagan Campaign obtained debate briefing materials of then-President Carter. During the investigation (a.k.a. Debategate), the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee obtained access to Reagan Campaign documents and discovered numerous instances of documents and memorandum referencing a monitoring effort for any such October Surprise. The Subcommittee, chaired by former U.S. Rep. Donald Albosta (D–MI) issued a comprehensive report 17 May 1984, describing each type of information that was detected and its possible source. There is a section in the report dedicated to the October Surprise issue.[6]

The allegations that the Reagan team subverted the U.S. government's attempt to resolve the hostage crisis were generally regarded as an unsupported conspiracy theory until the Iran-Contra affair was exposed in 1986, which showed that the U.S. government had made a secret deal with the Iranian government in 1985 to covertly supply Iran with arms, with the funds being used to support the Nicaraguan Contras. Investigations of the Iran-Contra affair, in which the Central Intelligence Agency played a central role, made the 1980 October Surprise allegations, in which Iran and the CIA also figured, seem less implausible, leading to more serious investigation of the claims.

Alleged chronology

  • March 1980: Jamshid Hashimi, international arms dealer, is visited by William Casey at Washington's Mayflower Hotel, who asks that a meeting be arranged with "someone in Iran who had authority to deal on the hostages".[7]
  • March 21, 1980: Jamshid Hashimi and his brother Cyrus Hashimi meet at the latter's home.[8]
  • April 1980: [10] [the Ayatollah's son] played key roles."Ahmed Khomeini, and Beheshti, Rafsanjani that he had "proof of contacts between Khomeini and the supporters of Ronald Reagan as early as the spring of 1980.... My Turn to Speak Former Iranian President Banisadr said in his 1991 book [9]
  • Last week of July 1980: At a meeting in Madrid arranged by the Hashimi brothers that includes Robert Gray, a man identified as Donald Gregg, and Mahdi Karrubi, William Casey says that if Iran could assure that American hostages were well treated until their release and were released as a "gift" to the new administration, "the Republicans would be most grateful and 'would give Iran its strength back.'"[11] Karrubi says he has "no authority to make such a commitment".
  • About 12 August 1980: Karrubi meets again with Casey, saying Khomeini has agreed to the proposal. Casey agrees the next day, naming Cyrus Hashimi as middleman to handle the arms transactions. More meetings are set for October. Cyrus Hashimi purchases a Greek ship and commences arms deliveries valued at $150 million from the Israeli port of Eilat to Bandar Abbas. According to CIA sources, Hashimi receives a $7 million commission. Casey is said to use an aide named Tom Carter in the negotiations.[12]
  • 22 September 1980: Iraq invades Iran.
  • Late September 1980: An expatriate Iranian arms dealer named Hushang Lavi claims he met with Richard V. Allen, the Reagan campaign's national security expert, Robert "Bud" McFarlane, and Lawrence Silberman, and discussed the possible exchange of F-4 parts for American hostages, but Lavi says they asserted they "were already in touch with the Iranians themselves". (Silberman, Allen, and McFarlane deny they met with Lavi, but reporter Robert Parry obtained a copy of Lavi's 1980 calendar after Lavi's death, which corroborated the Iranian's account.)[13]
  • 15–20 October: Meetings are held in Paris between emissaries of the Reagan/Bush campaign, with Mr. William Casey as "key participant", and "high-level Iranian and Israeli representatives".[14]
  • 21 October: Iran, for reasons not explained, abruptly shifts its position in secret negotiations with the Carter administration and disclaims "further interest in receiving military equipment".[15]
  • 21–23 October: Israel secretly ships F-4 fighter-aircraft tires to Iran, in violation of the U.S. arms embargo, and Iran disperses the hostages to different locations.[16]
  • 20 January 1981: Hostages are formally released into United States custody after spending 444 days in captivity. The release takes place just minutes after Ronald Reagan is sworn in as president.


Meeting in Madrid (27–28 July 1980)

A key point of dispute was an allegation made by Iranian arms dealer Jamshid Hashimi that he had arranged for William Casey to meet Ayatollah Mehdi Karrubi in Madrid on 27 and 28 July 1980, telling ABC News Nightline of the meetings in 1991.[17] Nightline discovered that Casey had visited a World War II historical conference in London around that time—a short plane ride from Madrid. Newsweek and The New Republic examined conference records and in November 1991 published front-page claims that they proved that Casey could not have visited Madrid, thereby discrediting Hashimi. Newsweek journalist Craig Unger warned prior to publication that the conference records had been misread and did not prove Casey could not have been in Madrid. He later said "They told me, essentially, to fuck off. It was the most dishonest thing that I've been through in my life in journalism."[18] PBS' Frontline soon discovered the misreading, but its reporting of this received little attention, and the Nightline producer who had arranged the Hashimi interview soon lost her job.[18] Robert Parry, who led the Frontline investigation, later wrote that "The impact of those two magazine stories cannot be overstated. They convinced most of the Washington news media and many members of Congress that the longstanding suspicions of Casey's skulduggery were false. A kind of debunking hysteria followed, with other publications joining in a stampede that trampled any careful examination of the October Surprise facts." [17]

When the House of Representatives investigated the matter in 1992, the Newsweek/New Republic version of events was soon accepted as wrong. Congressional investigators instead sought to show that Casey had been at Bohemian Grove in the U.S. on the relevant days, only flying to London on 28 July for the end of the conference there. Frontline had however already investigated this possibility, and determined that Casey had been in Bohemian Grove the following weekend. Congress' documentary evidence confirmed this, yet the investigation maintained that Casey's alibi was sound, ignoring contrary evidence and relying on the claim that an annotation of Casey's home phone number in Bohemian Grove on 2 August proved that Casey had not only not been present there at that time, but that he had been there the previous weekend.[17]

Frontline reporter Robert Parry later discovered that in 1993–1994 "senior Iranian officials had informed intermediaries close to President Clinton in 1993–94 that the House task force had gotten the story all wrong. These Iranians asserted that they indeed had collaborated with Casey and other Republicans in 1980. But the Clinton administration, at its highest levels, chose not to reopen the 'closed' investigation."[17] Parry's investigation of the House of Representatives evidence turned up a formal photograph of the 16 men who had attended Bohemian Grove on the key July dates; Casey was not among them.[17] Parry later learned of a State Department dated 4 November 1991 noted that "material potentially relevant to the October Surprise allegations [included] a cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown".[18]

Meeting in Paris (19 October 1980)

Another key point of evidence was the claim that Casey attended a meeting with Karrubi in Paris on 19 October, "an assertion supported by four French intelligence officials, including the French spy chief Alexandre de Marenches who described the meetings to his biographer."[17] The House of Representatives considered this claim disproven by de Marenches' denial when asked by Task Force investigators,[19] and by uncorroborated evidence from Larry Casey, William Casey's nephew, that he remembered his father calling William in Arlington, Virginia on the relevant date. A year earlier, Larry Casey had insisted to Frontline that he had a "vivid" memory of a dinner his parents had with William at the Jockey Club in Washington, until Jockey Club sign-in sheets and American Express receipts showed the dinner had been on 15 October.[17] Frontline's Robert Parry told the House of Representatives about the discrepancy, but it still relied on Larry Casey's evidence as disproving Casey's attendance at the meeting.[17]

  • The Newsweek and New Republic articles cited above, as reprinted in the Congressional Record
  • "Creating a Task Force to Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of Americans as Hostages by Iran in 1980 (House of Representatives)". 5 February 1992. 
  • Eighty Greatest Conspiracies of All TimeChapter from
  • The case against William Casey's Bohemian Grove alibi; see also Bohemian Grove.
  • October Surprise 'X-Files' Series (
  • Radio documentary transcript with details of the "October Surprise" allegations
  • addressing October Surprise conspiracyConspiracy Theories in American History: An EncyclopediaArticle from
  • , 1 December 1991.October Surprise interview with Gary Sick on Booknotes
  • Debunking the Debunkers of October Surprise 1MAR2013
  • The United States and Iran: The Secret History Part IV: Failure and Fate: A Failed Rescue and Iranian Double Dealing
  • U.S. House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service, "Unauthorized transfers of nonpublic information during the 1980 presidential election", U.S. Government Printing Office, 17 May 1984, p. 46 (Debategate investigation)

External links

  • Barbara Honegger (1989). October Surprise. New York: Tudor.  
  • Brian Josepher, 2009. The Complete and ExtraOrdinary History of the October Surprise.
  • `  

Further reading

  1. ^ "ABC Evening News for Friday, Oct 17, 1980: Reagan-Carter Debate". Vanderbilt Television News Archive. Retrieved 2014-09-21. 
  2. ^ Neil A. Lewis (1991-05-07). "Bani-Sadr, in U.S., Renews Charges of 1980 Deal".  
  3. ^ "John McCain and the October Surprise".  
  4. ^ Lenahan, Rod (1998). Crippled Eagle: A Historical Perspective Of U.S. Special Operations 1976–1996. Narwhal Press. p. 178,.  
  5. ^ Lewis, Neil A. (1993-01-13). "House Inquiry Finds No Evidence of Deal On Hostages in 1980". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-09-21. 
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Joseph J. Trento, Prelude to Terror: Edwin P. Wilson and the Legacy of America's Private Intelligence Network (Carroll and Graf, 2005), 202–03.
  8. ^ Trento, 203.
  9. ^ Trento, 204.
  10. ^ Trento, 209.
  11. ^ Trento, 205, quoting Gary Sick, October Surprise (1991), 84.
  12. ^ Trento, 205–207.
  13. ^ Trento, 207–208.
  14. ^ Martin, Harry V. (1995). "Bush Deal With Iranians". Free America (aka The Napa Sentinel). pp. (see also: "Pilot's full account of Bush's Paris flight"). Retrieved 2014-09-21. 
  15. ^ "Tehran Militants Said to Hand Over Custody of Captives; Government Takes Control". The New York Times. 1980-11-28. pp. A1. Retrieved 2008-12-20. 
  16. ^ a b Sick, Gary (1991-04-15). "The Election Story of the Decade". The New York Times. pp. op–ed. Retrieved 2014-09-21.  reprinted in "Creating a Task Force to Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of Americans as Hostages by Iran in 1980 (House of Representatives)". 5 February 1992. Retrieved 2014-09-21. 
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h "Where's Bill Casey".  
  18. ^ a b c  
  19. ^ a b Lee H. Hamilton; Henry J. Hyde (1993). Joint report of the Task Force to Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of American Hostages by Iran in 1980 ("October Surprise Task Force"). U.S. Government Printing Office. pp. 167–168. Retrieved 2014-09-21. 
  20. ^ a b Robert Parry (1995). "October Surprise X-Files (Part 2): The Ladies' Room Secrets".  
  21. ^ "Lost History (Part 4): Pierre Salinger & a 1980 Taboo".  
  22. ^ Peter Dale Scott (2007). The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. University of California Press. p. 106.  
  23. ^  
  24. ^  
  25. ^  
  26. ^ Lee H. Hamilton; Henry J. Hyde (1993). Joint report of the Task Force to Investigate Certain Allegations Concerning the Holding of American Hostages by Iran in 1980 ("October Surprise Task Force"). U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 720. Retrieved 2014-09-21. 
  27. ^ a b  
  28. ^ a b Persico, Joseph E. (22 December 1991). "The Case for a Conspiracy". The New York Times. p. 7.  Review of October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan by Gary Sick.
  29. ^ a b c d Barry, John (November 10, 1991). "Making Of A Myth". Newsweek. Retrieved April 5, 2015. 
  30. ^ Dreyfuss, Robert (December 2, 1980). "Strange diplomacy in Ira" (PDF). Executive Intelligence Review (New York: New Solidarity International Press Service) 7 (47): 43–44.  
  31. ^ Richard Curtiss. "Did Iran Delay Hostages Release To Ensure Reagan's Election?".   Begins with a quote from B. Honegger and J. Naureckas, In These Times, 7 July 1987.
  32. ^  
  33. ^ The Verdict is Treason,   and via google groups search Search results for "the verdict is treason" brenneke Armstrong
  34. ^ Gary Sick (1991). October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan. Crown.  
  35. ^ Frontline, 16 April 1991, The Election Held Hostage
  36. ^ Frontline, 7 April 1992, Investigating the October Surprise
  37. ^  
  38. ^ Linsalata, Phil (November–December 1991). "The Octopus File". The Columbia Journalism Review. Archived from the original on 24 August 2007. Retrieved 20 October 2008. 
  39. ^ Snepp, Frank (1992-02-25). "October Surmise". The Village Voice.  reprinted in "Overwhelming Evidence Debunks October Surprise Myth (House of Representatives - February 24, 1992)". The Congressional Record. Retrieved 2008-12-26. 
  40. ^  
  41. ^ "Making of a Myth".  
  42. ^ Steven Emerson; Jesse Furman (18 November 1991). "The Conspiracy that Wasn't".  
  43. ^ U.S. Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations; "The October Surprise: Allegations and the Circumstances Surrounding the Release of the American Hostages Held in Iran", U.S. Government Printing Office; Washington, D.C., 1992 [1]
  44. ^ search: i.e., Brenneke, (New York Times)
  45. ^ Emerson, Steve; "No October Surprise", American Journalism Review, University of Maryland, vol. 15, issue n2, ppg. 16–24, 1 March 1993 (fee)
  46. ^ a b c  
  47. ^ a b c  
  48. ^  
  49. ^ Interview with Barbara Honneger (author of October Surprise, Tudor, 1992)
  50. ^  
  51. ^ a b  
  52. ^  
  53. ^  
  54. ^ a b  
  55. ^ a b Morgan Strong (2 November 2004). "'"Arafat & the Original 'October Surprise.  
  56. ^  
  57. ^ Barbara Honneger, M.S. (6 September 2006). "The Pentagon Attack Papers: Seven Hours in September: The Clock that Broke the Lie" (PDF). Intelligensians blockering. Retrieved 2014-09-21. 
  58. ^ "October Surprise by Barbara Honegger". Retrieved 2014-09-21. 
  59. ^ Jack McKinney (3 August 1987). "A Question Never Asked Did Reagan Cut Deal With Iran To Win In '80?".  
  60. ^  , reviewed at "search inside" feature
  61. ^ See Denis Robert and Ernest Backes, Revelation$, Les Arènes publishing, 2001
  62. ^ Lucy Komisar (15 March 2002). "Explosive Revelation$".  
  63. ^ Orwell Rolls in his Grave


In his 2004 documentary Orwell Rolls in his Grave, Robert Kane Pappas presents evidence that representatives from the Ronald Reagan campaign met with representatives from Iran to ensure that the hostages would not be released until after the election. He concludes that after the congressional commission turned back any accusation of wrongdoing, the story and scandal were never reported further.[63]

Robert Kane Pappas

Banker Ernest Backes from Clearstream (Luxembourg) claimed he was in charge of the transfer of $7 million from Chase Manhattan Bank and Citibank, 16 January 1981, to pay for the liberation of the hostages. He gave copies of the files to the National French Assembly.[61][62]

Ernest Backes' revelations

Political historian Kevin Phillips has been a proponent of the idea. In his book American Dynasty, although Phillips concedes that many of the specific allegations were proven false, he also argues that in his opinion, Reagan campaign officials "probably" were involved in a scheme "akin to" the specific scheme alleged by Sick.[60]

Kevin Phillips

Barbara Honegger was a member of the 1980 Reagan-Bush campaign team and Reagan White House policy analyst. Since 1995, she's been Senior Military Affairs Journalist at the William Casey had conspired to assure that Iran would not free the U.S. hostages until Jimmy Carter had been defeated in the 1980 presidential election, and she alleges that arms sales to Iran were a part of that bargain.[58] In 1987, in the context of the Iran-Contra investigations, Honegger was reported as saying that shortly after 22 October 1980, when Iran abruptly changed the terms of its deal with Carter, a member of the Reagan campaign told her "We don't have to worry about an 'October surprise.' Dick cut a deal.", with "Dick" referring to Richard V. Allen.[59]

Barbara Honegger

[55], a veteran of the OSS and a friend of William Casey.John Shaheen Abu Sharif later revealed that the "senior Reagan advisor" was [56][54] Arafat himself told Carter of these approaches in the early 1990s.[55] In

Palestinian sources

Shamir, who was Israeli foreign minister in 1980, raised the October Surprise issue in an interview in 1993, saying that he had read Gary Sick's "interesting" book. He was asked "What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?"; "'Of course, it was,' Shamir responded without hesitation. 'It was.'"[52]

Former Israeli PM Yitzhak Shamir and former Israeli spy Ari Ben-Menashe both affirmed the allegations true, while "retired Israeli General Yehoshua Saguy, who was head of Israeli military intelligence in 1980, said Prime Minister Menachem Begin claimed American approval for Israel's secret 1980 weapons shipments to Iran. But the approval had not come from President Carter, who had angrily objected to the shipments when he learned of them."[51]

Israeli sources

In early 1993, after the House of Representatives taskforce report had been sent to print, a request for information from the Russian government was met with a 6-page report. This "stated, as fact, that Casey, George Bush and other Republicans had met secretly with Iranian officials in Europe during the 1980 presidential campaign. The Russians depicted the hostage negotiations that year as a two-way competition between the Carter White House and the Reagan campaign to outbid one another for Iran's cooperation on the hostages. The Russians asserted that the Reagan team had disrupted Carter's hostage negotiations after all, the exact opposite of the task force conclusion."[51]

Russian government

Banisadr repeated his view in 2013 in an article responding to the film Argo.[50]

"It is now very clear that there were two separate agreements, one the official agreement with Carter in Algeria, the other, a secret agreement with another party, which, it is now apparent, was Reagan. They made a deal with Reagan that the hostages should not be released until after Reagan became president. So, then in return, Reagan would give them arms. We have published documents which show that U.S. arms were shipped, via Israel, in March, about 2 months after Reagan became president."
— Former Iranian President Banisadr[49]

Abolhassan Banisadr, first elected President of Iran after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, claimed in a 17 December 1992 letter to the U.S. Congress, that he had first learned of the Republican "secret deal" in July 1980 after Reza Passendideh, a nephew of Khomeini, attended a meeting with Cyrus Hashemi and Republican lawyer Stanley Pottinger in Madrid on 2 July 1980. Though Passendideh was supposed to return with a proposal from the Carter administration, Bani-Sadr said Passendideh proffered instead a plan "from the Reagan camp". "Passendideh told me that if I do not accept this proposal, they [the Republicans] would make the same offer to my [radical Iranian] rivals. He further said that they [the Republicans] have enormous influence in the CIA.... Lastly, he told me my refusal of their offer would result in my elimination." Bani-Sadr said he resisted the threats and sought an immediate release of the American hostages. But Bani-Sadr said Khomeini, the wily Islamic leader, was playing both sides of the U.S. street.[48] Banisadr has stated elsewhere,

Former Iranian President Banisadr

Continuing allegations

In 2013 Hamilton said that knowledge of a State Department memo withheld from the inquiry might have changed the Taskforce's conclusions.[47] The memo, dated 4 November 1991, stated that "material potentially relevant to the October Surprise allegations [included] a cable from the Madrid embassy indicating that Bill Casey was in town, for purposes unknown".[47]

The House Taskforce was only authorised by Congress to operate until the end of the session (early January 1993). As evidence came into the inquiry in December 1992, following a lengthy strategy of delay from the White House, the Taskforce's chief counsel asked for a 3-month extension, which was not granted. Lee Hamilton later said he did not recall the request, but might have explained the issue of the authorization limit, which would have required Congressional approval to extend.[47]

Taskforce member Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally submitted a dissenting opinion to the report, declaring, in relation to the report's treatment of evidence for the crucial Madrid meeting, that "just because phones ring and planes fly doesn't mean that someone is there to answer the phone or is on the plane." In response Rep. Lee H. Hamilton, "fired the entire staff of the Africa subcommittee, which Dymally had chaired before his retirement from Congress which had just taken effect." Hoping to save his former staffers' jobs, Dymally agreed to withdraw his dissent, but refused to put his name to the official report.[46] At the news conference presenting the report, copies were not made available to reporters until afterwards, and Hamilton published an editorial in The New York Times declaring "case closed" on grounds of Casey's supposed alibis.[46] 10 days later Rep Henry Hyde mocked those believing the affair was true, even as he acknowledged weaknesses such as Casey's missing 1980 passport and key pages missing from Casey's calendar.[46]

The House of Representatives' 1993 report concluded "there is no credible evidence supporting any attempt by the Reagan presidential campaign—or persons associated with the campaign—to delay the release of the American hostages in Iran." The task force Chairman Lee H. Hamilton also added that the vast majority of the sources and material reviewed by the committee were "wholesale fabricators or were impeached by documentary evidence". The report also expressed the belief that several witnesses had committed perjury during their sworn statements to the committee, among them Richard Brenneke,[44] who claimed to be a CIA agent.[45]

House of Representatives investigation

The U.S. Senate's 1992 report concluded that "by any standard, the credible evidence now known falls far short of supporting the allegation of an agreement between the Reagan campaign and Iran to delay the release of the hostages."[43]

Senate investigation

Congressional investigation (1992–1993)

Steven Emerson and Jesse Furman of The New Republic, also looked into the allegations and found "the conspiracy as currently postulated is a total fabrication". They were unable to verify any of the evidence presented by Sick and supporters, finding them to be inconsistent and contradictory in nature. They also pointed out that nearly every witness of Sick had either been indicted or was under investigation by the Department of Justice. Like the Newsweek investigation they had also debunked the claims of Reagan election campaign officials being in Paris during the timeframe Sick claimed they had been, contradicting Sick's sources.[42]

The New Republic

Newsweek magazine also ran an investigation, and they said that most, if not all, of the charges made were groundless. Specifically, Newsweek found little evidence that the United States had transferred arms to Iran prior to Iran Contra, was able to account for Bill Casey's whereabouts when he was allegedly at the Madrid meeting, saying that he was at a conference in London. But his presence at this meeting was not confirmed by those in attendance, including historian Robert Dallek. Newsweek never printed a correction.[40] Newsweek also alleged that the story was being heavily pushed within the LaRouche Movement.[41]


Retired CIA analyst and counter-intelligence officer Frank Snepp of The Village Voice compiled several investigations of Sick's allegations in 1992. Snepp alleged that Sick had only interviewed half of the sources used in his book, and supposedly relied on hearsay from unreliable sources for large amounts of critical material. Snepp also discovered that in 1989, Sick had sold the rights to his book to Oliver Stone. After going through evidence presented by Richard Brenneke, Snepp asserted that Brenneke's credit card receipts showed him to be in Portland, Oregon, during the time he claimed to be in Paris observing the secret meeting.[39]

The Village Voice

In 1991, freelance writer Danny Casolaro (among others)[38] claimed to be almost ready to expose the alleged October surprise conspiracy, when he suddenly died a violent death in a hotel bathtub in Martinsburg, West Virginia, raising suspicions. He appeared to be traveling on leads for his investigation into the Inslaw Affair. His death was ruled a suicide.

Danny Casolaro

A 1991 episode of [35][36] The documentary also provided evidence of U.S. support for Israeli shipments to Iran much earlier than the 1985–86 Iran-Contra affair timeline. It included an interview with Nicholas Veliotes, who was Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs at the time of the 18 July 1981 Armenia mid-air collision, in which a transport aircraft, which was returning to Israel after delivering weapons to Iran, was downed in Armenian airspace. Veliotes said that based on his investigation of the incident "It was clear to me after my conversations with people on high that indeed we had agreed that the Israelis could transship to Iran some American-origin military equipment... It seems to have started in earnest in the period probably prior to the election of 1980, as the Israelis had identified who would become the new players in the national security area in the Reagan administration."[37]


Gary Sick

Mainstream investigation of the October Surprise allegations began in the early 1990s. In 1991 Gary Sick wrote a New York Times editorial and published a book on the subject, in 1991 and 1992 PBS's documentary series Frontline dedicated two episodes to the issue, led by Robert Parry, who had broken significant parts of the Iran-Contra affair for the Associated Press. Newsweek and The New Republic also investigated in 1991. In 1992 and 1993 two Congressional investigations concluded there was no credible evidence to support the allegations.

Media investigations (1991–1992)

For his role in the Rupp trial, Brenneke was tried for perjury. On 4 May 1991, after only five hours of deliberation, the jury found Brenneke "not guilty" on all five counts. Following the trial, jury foreman Mark Kristoff stated, "We were convinced that, yes, there was a meeting, and he was there and the other people listed in the indictment were there.... There never was a guilty vote.... It was 100 percent."[33]

Brenneke testified that he was present at only one meeting. He indicated that his participation was at the last of three, working out the details of a cash and weapons transaction. Also present at this meeting, Brenneke said, was William Casey, who was eventually appointed Reagan's CIA director. It was in that latter capacity that Casey masterminded the arms-for-hostages deal with Iran that would eventually be known as the Iran-Contra scandal. Also in attendance at the meeting, according to Brenneke, was Donald Gregg, a CIA liaison to President Carter's National Security Council. Gregg, a CIA operative since 1951, later became National Security Advisor to Vice President George H.W. Bush. A third person Brenneke identified as present was George H.W. Bush, however, a month after his Denver testimony, Brenneke wrote a letter to Judge Carrigan amending his statement. In the letter, Brenneke explained that he had no first hand knowledge of Bush being in Paris, but had been told by Rupp that Bush had been spotted on the tarmac at Le Bourget, so could have flown to Paris without himself attending the secret meetings.

On 23 September 1988, Richard Brenneke, a Portland, Oregon, property manager and arms dealer, voluntarily testified at the sentencing hearing of Heinrich Rupp. In his Denver deposition, Brenneke testified that on the night of 18 October 1980, Rupp had flown Reagan-Bush campaign director William Casey from Washington's National Airport to the Le Bourget Airfield north of Paris for a series of secret meetings. According to Brenneke, it was at these meetings—held on 19 and 20 October at the Waldorf Florida and Crillon hotels—that members of the Reagan-Bush campaign secretly negotiated an "arms-for-no-hostages" deal with representatives of the Ayatollah Khomeini.

Richard Brenneke

In October 1987, the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs wrote about the allegations, based partly on an interview with Abolhassan Banisadr, and partly on following up a July 1987 article in In These Times by Barbara Honegger and Jim Naureckas.[31] In October 1988, Abbie Hoffman and Jonathan Silvers published an extensive article on the theory in Playboy.[32]

1980s media

The first printed instance of the October Surprise conspiracy theory has been attributed to a story in the December 2, 1980 issue of Executive Intelligence Review, a periodical published by followers of Lyndon LaRouche.[29] Written by Robert Dreyfuss,[30] the article cited information gleaned from "Iranian sources" in Paris as well as "Top level intelligence sources in Reagan's inner circle" as stating that Henry Kissinger met with representatives of Mohammad Beheshti during the week of November 12, 1980.[29] The story claimed that "pro-Reagan British intelligence circles and the Kissinger faction" meeting with the Iranians six to eight weeks prior had interfered with "President Carter's efforts to secure an arms-for-hostage deal with Teheran."[29] The LaRouche movement returned the story in the September 2, 1983 issue of New Solidarity stating "The deal...fell through when the hard-line mullahs boycotted the Majlis in late October."[29]

LaRouche Movement

Iranian foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh told Iran's parliament on 18 August 1980 that "another point to consider is this fact. We know that the Republican Party of the United States in order to win the presidential election is working hard to delay the solution of the hostages crisis until after the U.S. election."[27] Ghotbzadeh also made this point to Agence France Presse on 6 September.[27][28] In 1991 Joseph Persico wrote that "Two friends of Ghotbzadeh who spoke to him frequently during this period said that he insisted repeatedly that the Republicans were in contact with elements in Iran to try to block a hostage release."[28]

Sadegh Ghotbzadeh

Early allegations

House October Surprise Task Force on condition that they did not disclose the name or interview the person. This person ultimately proved to be Richard Anthony Moore (Ambassador to Ireland 1989–1992), but he had died by the time this was disclosed.[24] John Norman Maclean, who worked at the Chicago Tribune for 30 years, told a State Department official, on a date the official recalled as 18 October 1980, that Bush was flying to Paris for hostage negotiations. Maclean had been given the information by a source he described as "in a secondary position in Republican circles ... where he would have access to information of this kind", but never published the claim due to Republican denials.[25][26]

[23] although (according to Andelman) de Marenches demanded the story be kept out of their book, as he did not want to hurt Bush's re-election chances or Casey's legacy.[20] According to Robert Parry, de Marenches "privately mocked" the published House Task Force findings,[22][21]

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