Profiles » Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson National Security Council, General Counsel
During the eight years of the Reagan Administration, Paul Thompson served in a number of roles on the National Security Council staff. He was a Navy commander assigned to the staff in 1983, served as military assistant to National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, and ultimately became NSC general counsel in 1985.
Thompson was not actively involved in the arms sales to Iran or the coordination of aid to the Contras. However, Walsh wrote in his final report that there was evidence Thompson had obstructed justice, committed perjury, and made false statements before Congress. Ultimately, much of the evidence was inconclusive, and Independent Counsel decided not to prosecute him because substantial time had passed before Thompson’s role became clear, because Thompson had played a small part in the overall Affairs, and because there were other pressing cases against more important government officials.
However, in the report, Walsh notes that they investigated whether or not Thompson had lied when he claimed not to know either the cargo or destination of flights to Iran that were carrying missiles. Although Thompson passed messages from NSC staff member Oliver North to McFarlane regarding these shipments (to the point where McFarlane was surprised by how much he knew), Walsh could not disprove Thompson's assertions.
More damningly, Walsh notes that Thompson had been given three presidential Findings about the sale of arms to Iran by National Security Adviser John Poindexter in January 1986. When he brought the Findings back to Poindexter the following November, he pointed out the one that retroactively authorized CIA involvements in the November 1985 arms sales and said, “They'll have a field day with this.” As Poindexter recalled, the Finding made the sales appear to be an arms-for-hostage deal, so he ripped it up and threw it out in front of Thompson. Although it is not clear that Thompson encouraged Poindexter to rip up the paper, he lied when he claimed not to know about the December 1985 Finding or about the destruction of any documents. Because he lied, it took Walsh until North’s trial to discover the destruction of this Finding. Thus, while he was never charged, Thompson seriously impeded the criminal investigations.