Congressional oversight is an integral part of this constitution process in our democracy and that is why we are here. At the heart of what we do in these hearings is the proper working of 0ur system of government. Let me address several questions. First, what went wrong? Our answer to that question today must be tentative, not final. But after four months of investigation, the examination of over 100,000 documents, and the interview of hundreds of witnesses by the committees, we can begin to address that question.
These hearings will show, I believe, that many things went wrong. Significant foreign policy decisions on Iran, terrorism, Nicaragua were made in secret. For months, some individuals, in and out of government, went to great lengths to conceal activities from the Congress, from appropriate officials in the executive branch and from the American people.
This excessive secrecy led policy astray. A small number of officials made policy outside the democratic process.
Secret policies, different from stated policies, cast doubt on our political process and our credibility in the eyes of Americans and friends and allies around the world.
Some officials apparently did not understand how our democracy works. Their conduct demonstrated a fundamental distrust and disrespect for democratic principles and the orderly processes of constitutional government. Apparently, we had one policy in public and another policy in private. We said one thing to our friends and allies, and we did another. Where the law required notice to the Congress, efforts were made to circumvent the law. When Congress inquired, it was not always told the truth.
Where Congress prohibited the involvement of government agencies, private individuals and enterprises were recruited and directed by government officials to perform prohibited activities. Where complex decisions should have involved the expertise of many in government, a few officials relied on outsiders and even foreigners to formulate and execute American policy.
High officials did not ask the questions they should have asked Activities were undertaken without authority. Checks and balances were ignored. Important meetings occurred without adequate preparation. Established procedures were circumvented. Accurate records were not kept, and legal questions were not addressed.
Secondly, what should you look for in these hearings? These hearings will have three phases. In phase one, we will examine the policy of support for the Contras. Reasonable people may differ about the wisdom of this policy, and our hearings will not address the merits of the issue. Our concern here begins in 1984 when Congress and the President enacted the Boland Amendment. This law prohibited any agency engaged in intelligence activities from spending money indirect or indirect support of the Contras.
These hearings will be devoted to finding out what was done during the period that the Boland Amendment was in effect supply the Contras. By whom was it done and at whose direction? What funds were raised? Who raised them? Where did they come from, and how were they spent? What was the involvement of high officials, and what did they know about the Contra supply operation? In phase two, we will examine the series of secret arms sales to Iran. We will try to find out how this policy began, why it continued, how it became an exchange of arms for hostages, and what happened to the proceeds from the sales. We will want to know who was involved, what they did, at whose direction they acted, and whom they kept informed.
In phase three, we will try to assess responsibility. Who was responsible for devising these policies and supervising their execution? Did high officials abdicate responsibilities? Were high officials misinformed and misled? What was the extent of the President's knowledge and involvement?
The final question is what do we hope to achieve in these hearings? We are here to investigate and to inform, not to prosecute. We will follow the facts where they lead.
We do not seek radical change. We seek to restore the established and constitutional ways of doing the Nation's business. We seek to show that these misdeeds are not the way we do business in this country.
These joint hearings are a part, and only a part, of the process of discovering the truth about these events. Others have investigated, and we build upon their work.
As we have better understood these events, changes have already been made in the way we conduct our Nation's business. More changes will be made. Our constitutional process is working, and the purpose of these hearings is to contribute to the self-cleansing process of our democracy.
We have no desire to prolong these hearings. We, too, want to get back to the work on other important matters on the congressional agenda, but we do have a constitutional responsibility to fulfill. We want to carry out that responsibility carefully, fairly, and faithfully.
Our system of government is effective only if it enjoys respect and trust, and this inquiry will achieve its purpose if we can contribute to rebuilding that respect and trust.