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William Casey  CIA Director

William Casey was President Reagan’s director of central intelligence from 1981 until January 1987, when he was forced to resign due to a severe brain tumor. Because of Casey’s important position and relevance to the Iran-Contra Affairs, Walsh had no choice but to pursue evidence about his role. However, Walsh did not attempt to establish guilt or innocence given that Casey would never be able to answer questions or defend himself due to the tumor, which took his life in May 1987.

In 1984 Congress had not yet banned the Central Intelligence Agency from supporting the Contras, but it was clear that the Boland Amendment would soon be passed. For that reason, NSC staff member Oliver North recalled, Casey told him the names of CIA agents he could work with in Central America, and even took him to a meeting of senior field officers in that region. North also claimed that Casey suggested he maintain secret accounts to funnel foreign funds to the Contras, in order to maintain control over their arms purchases. North said Casey even gave him a ledger to record money in those accounts, and then told him to destroy it in 1986 as details about the Affairs were being exposed. However, no independent evidence existed to back up those claims.

Casey was a strong supporter of the arms sales to Iran, in part because of his desire to win the release of former CIA Lebanese Station Chief William Buckley. National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane recalled that Casey suggested Congress not be told about the sales. More uncertain is Casey’s knowledge about the Diversion—the illegal transfer of profits from those sales to the Contras. North claimed that Casey supported that action, but there was again no independent evidence this was the case, and North only made this accusation after Casey had died. Nevertheless, Casey was confronted with some evidence of this transfer in late 1986, and it remains unclear why he did not respond.

Finally, Walsh had a number of concerns regarding Casey’s testimony before Congress on November 21, 1986:

  1. Casey hid the U.S. role in the 1985 arms shipments. He omitted the CIA’s role in collecting intelligence on Iran and Lebanon, as well as on individuals involved in the Iran initiative such as arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar.
  2. He repeatedly failed to mention President Reagan’s December 1985 Finding that retroactively authorized CIA involvement in sales to Iran (although, as Walsh noted, there was no proof Casey knew it had actually been signed).
  3. He misleadingly said that the CIA flight crew was told arms cargo was oil-drilling equipment; in reality, the agents realized what the cargo was and reported to their superiors the presence of missiles.
  4. He described the Iran initiative as a geopolitical strategy, rather than talking about the arms-for-hostages component.
  5. He provided an inadequate description of the flow of funds involved in the arms shipments, one that did not include the Enterprise.