Mr. BROOMFIELD: Before I ask you a few questions, I want to get
a few things off my chest. As your appearance comes to a close
before this committee, I want to thank you for coming here voluntarily and for being so open and candid with this committee. As a
member of this special panel who has been listening to you for the
past three-and-a-half days, I want to tell you that your years of
dedicated service to our country is deeply appreciated.
I imagine you are more than a little bit surprised by the direction of the questioning of this panel. I understand that this committee's role was to focus on all the facts and where the system
failed and to make recommendations and possible appropriate legislation to prevent it from happening again.
Now, I want everyone to know that I am not a former prosecutor. I am not even a lawyer, but I have got some common sense,
and I am not one of those who is predicting who should or who .
shouldn't be indicted. If there is evidence of criminal wrong-doing
by individuals involved in this affair, I would hope that the committee would leave that to the special prosecutor. That is not our
I have been involved with foreign policy for more than 25 years
as a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and from
that perspective, I think a great deal of blame for this foreign
policy foul-up rests right at the doorstep of Congress. Over those
years, as everyone knows, there has been a great change in the
Constitutional role of Congress in making foreign policy. Since
Vietnam, Congress likes to boast that it has been an equal partner
with the President in shaping foreign policy. I think Congress
ought to shoulder the blame for an on-again/off-again foreign
policy in Nicaragua.
President Reagan, who still carries the burden of making foreign
policy, must deal almost daily with the 535 Secretaries of State in
the House and Senate who seldom can form a simple majority
around a single issue.
I guess what I am trying to say, General, is that the problems
you are confronting in trying to assist your country were the direct
results of Congress' inability to maintain a consistent policy line
regarding Nicaragua. If Congress had been able to get its act together, there would have been no need for the covert efforts to
bridge the gap in our policy.
I have several questions I would like to ask you. As a former
senior U.S. official with experience in covert operations, what do
you think are the proper roles of the President and Congress with
respect to such operations?
Mr. SECORD: I believe that the proper roles are well spelled out in
Hughes/Ryan. When I went into this, I wasn't very familiar with
those acts. When I dealt with the CIA in my earlier years, there
were no such acts. Given the political circumstances that exist in
our country today, I understand the necessity for the President to
notify the Congress on such serious matters as covert operations.
In this particular set of circumstances we have been talking
about with respect to Iran, hindsight was wonderful, but it seems
to me that there was a big political error on the part of the President not to at least notify the eight men, which he could have
opted to do. I think that would have been—made the Congress, like
it or not, a partner in the venture, and I think it would have been
much wiser for him to do that, especially since we were dealing
with foreigners. I don't think we should have had to worry so much
about security of eight men. I don't have a problem with how it is
spelled out now in my mind.
What I have a problem with is the continual assumption in this
country that covert operations are wrong. This is a dangerous
world we live in today, and sometimes the President, who has security responsibility for this Nation, in my opinion, has to have this
tool available. He uses it seldom, but sometimes you have to use it.
Mr. BROOMFIELD: General, what effect do you believe that these
highly publicized proceedings will have on the willingness of foreign countries and individuals to cooperate with the United States
on proper covert operations in the future?
Mr. SECORD: In my opinion, the whole world is laughing at us.
We have been hearing a lot of talk about the cleansing effect of
these kinds of hearings. I don't believe that. I don't think it does
that. I think it opens up our guts to the rest of the world, they not
only don't trust us like they used to, they also laugh at us.