R.I.P, Lawrence E. Walsh

From the Washington Post:

Lawrence E. Walsh, a New York corporate lawyer with impeccable Republican credentials who prosecuted several key players as independent counsel in the Reagan-era Iran-contra scandal, only to see the convictions overturned on appeal and many other officials pardoned, died March 19 at his home in Nichols Hills, Okla. He was 102…

In retirement, Mr. Walsh gained his greatest public profile. On Dec. 19, 1986, then-Attorney General Edwin Meese III appointed Mr. Walsh special prosecutor to launch an inquiry into what was considered at the time to be the worst government scandal since Watergate. Mr. Walsh spent nearly seven years and $39 million as the special prosecutor in the Iran-contra scandal.

With a deliberative approach to complicated details, he took on the task of investigating far-reaching evidence that the Reagan administration had illegally sold arms secretly to Iran to win the release of U.S. hostages in the Middle East and had given the proceeds to a rebel group known as the “contras,” who were fighting to overthrow the Marxist government of Nicaragua.

Congress also created a joint investigative committee that many believed would lead to Reagan’s impeachment.

The Iran-contra affair led to the dismissal of the president’s national security adviser, Navy Adm. John M. Poindexter, and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, the National Security Council staff aide accused of masterminding the scheme.

Poindexter and North were among 14 officials who were criminally charged. They also were among the 11 convicted, although their convictions were set aside by appellate court decisions. Five — including former State Department official Elliott Abrams and former defense secretary Caspar W. Weinberger — were pardoned by President George H.W. Bush on Christmas Eve 1992.

Mr. Walsh concluded that there was “no credible evidence” that Reagan broke the law but that the president set the stage for the illegal activities of others…..

In his book “Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up” (1997), Mr. Walsh maintained that the architect of the coverup was Meese, abetted by Bush, White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan, CIA Director William J. Casey, Weinberger and other top administration officials.

“What set Iran-contra apart from previous political scandals,” Mr. Walsh wrote, “was the fact that a cover-up engineered in the White House of one president and completed by his successor prevented the rule of law from being applied to the perpetrators of criminal activity of constitutional dimension.”

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48 replies
  1. 1
    Monty says:

    OT – Finally, some encouraging news.

  2. 2
    Mandalay says:

    It may be small fry in comparison, but we have our own little cover-up simmering nicely on a low boil. Le plus ca change…

    The Justice Department has not decided whether to formally investigate the conduct of CIA officers or Senate staffers in a high-profile dispute that has emerged from a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation of now-banned CIA interrogation practices, Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday.

    A CIA lawyer sent a notice known as a criminal referral to the Justice Department this year alleging that Senate staffers may have violated federal law when they printed out classified documents from a CIA-controlled facility in Virginia and took them to a secure area in the Senate.

    The CIA’s inspector general then sent a separate referral to Justice alleging that CIA officers may have broken the law when they searched the computers that the Senate team had used to access the documents.

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who us chairwoman of the Senate committee, detailed the charges and countercharges last week in an impassioned speech on the Senate floor. She accused the CIA of violating the Constitution, a federal law on computer fraud and abuse, and a presidential order that bars the CIA from conducting domestic searches.

  3. 3
    catclub says:

    “Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, the National Security Council staff aide accused of masterminding the scheme.”

    Yeah, right. I suspect Bill Casey, if he could be honest, would have to disagree.
    (Bill Casey may have been congenitally incapable of honesty.)

  4. 4
    Schlemizel says:

    @Monty:

    I saw that story earlier this week and it did lift my spirits. We are heading toward a mass extinction event the like of which we have not seen in 100 million years. Humans might make it through, after all there appears to have been a smaller extinction event 60k years ago that out common ‘Eve’ was one of very few to make it through. If a few do maybe they will get together and do it all again in 60,000 years. But that is expecting a lot. After all there were no nuclear reactors laying around 60,000 years ago – their decay should add a bit of excitement to the event.

    If, as I suspect, humans do not make it past the event it could easily be 100 million years before the cockroaches or the rats evolve into anything like an intelligent species. DO wish I had a time mchine to see how that turns out.

  5. 5
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Schlemizel: Oh, we’ll do just fine. Of course, we’ll have evolved into an aquatic species that flops around on land and lives off of bird dung, but we’ll get by.

  6. 6
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Suffern ACE: That sounds remarkably similar to my retirement plans

  7. 7
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Walsh was OUTRAGED when Poppy Bush preemptively pardoned the shitstain Caspar Weinberger, in part to prevent the flip of Weinberger to a prosecution witness in the trail of lying shitstain Poppy Bush, who was up to his former CIA director eyeballs in Iran-Contra. The “I was out of the loop” bullshit was pure mendacity on Poppy’s part.

    That man, like his warmonger deserting coward son, should not die peacefully in his bed.

  8. 8
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @catclub: Bill Casey was definitely up to his eyeballs in that. The cover story is that the rogue Lieutenant Colonel was the mastermind, but come on now.

    At least John Poindexter had the decency not to appear in uniform before the committee. North disgraced his uniform and the Marine Corps that day. Only the personal intervention of the shitty grade-Z movie star prevented his ass from being dismissed for the good of the service, which would have denied him his pension. I know a number of combat Marines who hate North’s guts for that entire affair.

  9. 9
    Napoleon says:

    @Schlemizel:

    Humans might make it through, after all there appears to have been a smaller extinction event 60k years ago that out common ‘Eve’ was one of very few to make it through.

    I actually do not think that is true, but I understand why you think that and it really because I think a poor job is done explaining what that means. All it means is that of people alive today genetic evidence points to at some time in the past (60k years or whatever) the number of active breading people at that time that are ancestors of people today are X in number. Assuming that all of those X people came from the same group, let’s call them Alpha Tribe, but Alpha Tribe is bound to be larger than the number X, if nothing else kid, old people and others that can’t or won’t reproduce. On top of that it’s entirely possible that there were many more people outside that group who just so happen do not represent actual ancestors of people alive today. If that sounds impossible, all that it could mean is that Alpha Tribe, say, learned speech or how to make fire and eventually ran all the other tribes around at the time “out of business”.

  10. 10
    Mnemosyne says:

    In one of the threads below, we were discussing who from GenX did or did not become a conservative, and now I’m wondering if “Bloom County” was one of the dividing lines. Myself, I LOOOOVVVEED “Bloom County” (still have photos of myself in my Bill the Cat t-shirt from high school) and Breathed was absolutely frickin’ scathing about Iran-Contra and especially Ollie North.

    Yes, yes, not as good as “Doonesbury,” blah blah blah. It was plenty good enough for me as a young teenager, especially since I couldn’t identify with much of the 1960s stuff in “Doonesbury.”

  11. 11
    chopper says:

    @Suffern ACE:

    an aquatic species that flops around on land and lives off of bird dung

    so we’ll all be Kardashians. great.

  12. 12
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    I don’t know about “empire”, but there definitely seems to have been some kind of acceptance among the elites that “it’s too complicated, and Uncle Reagan has such a nice smile, so let’s move on”.

    which makes this kind of on- topic, a part of the whole continuing snowball of decadence

    Michael Calderone ‏@ mlcalderone 55m
    Meet the Press considering doing some shows in front of a live audience:
    Sam Stein ‏@ samsteinhp 1h
    RT @ mlcalderone: NBC News “doubling down” on @ davidgregory as MTP expands online

  13. 13
    Tokyokie says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: When North decided to wear his uniform to the congressional hearings, his resignation from the Marines should have been refused, and he should have faced court-martial, not a civilian trial.

  14. 14
    MJ says:

    a cover-up engineered in the White House of one president and completed by his successor prevented the rule of law from being applied to the perpetrators of criminal activity of constitutional dimension.

    Echos in the current administration, LOOKING FORWARD.

  15. 15
    kindness says:

    He could safely say that Reagan didn’t know anything because Ronnie had Alzenheimers and really didn’t know anything.

  16. 16
    Trollhattan says:

    @chopper:

    Where to shall we deliver you internets, good sir?

  17. 17
    charluckles says:

    @kindness:

    “Mr. Walsh concluded that there was “no credible evidence” that Reagan broke the law but that the president set the stage for the illegal activities of others”

    This might just be parsing, but come on. Reagan didn’t break the law and Chris Christie didn’t know anything about those darn bridge closings either.

  18. 18
    Chris says:

    @catclub:

    I remember reading somewhere that Casey, during his latter years as CIA director, became as senile as Alzheimer Reagan. How far back did Iran-contra start, anyway?

    ETA: meant to address that to VDE, but it works for both of you.

  19. 19
    Hungry Joe says:

    A mass extinction could well occur, and take us with it. But no intelligent species of the future will be able to produce an industrialized civilization, even given hundreds of millions of years. Why? Because we’ve mined all the even semi-easy-to-get-to metals that became rich veins when the Earth was still molten. Once these smart-as-a-whip whatever-creatures of the year 588,000,000 C.E. get to their stone age, they’ll be stuck. Copper? Tin? Iron? Long gone, guys — we mined ’em and used ’em, and they’re rusted/worn away, their molecules scattered and irretrievable. If it’s any consolation, at least you won’t have the tools to fuck up your once-again-pristine planet.

    … Which also means no Iran-Contras in the year 588,000,000. The future looks better already.

  20. 20
    danielx says:

    So if you want to know where the Iraq War conspiracy really started, the blatant obstruction of Walsh’s Iran Contra probe is as good as any.

    Yup. That right there was the establishment of the rule that once you reach a certain height in Washington, you are to all intents and purposes immune to arrest and prosecution for acts committed under the cloak of office, and some that aren’t. Just ask The Man Who Shoots People In The Face And Walks Away – even his diet supplement of pureed babies quaffed from an Iraqi child’s skull wasn’t enough to get him busted.

    Besides, the Village doesn’t approve of Very Serious People being held to account for crimes.*

    *Unless blowjobs are involved. Then all bets are off.

  21. 21
    catclub says:

    @Chris: Not my understanding.

    My impression was that Casey died KNOWING he was taking secrets to the grave. And pretending he was too weak to be forced to testify.

    Where the truth is, I have no idea.

  22. 22
    catclub says:

    @Hungry Joe: They will mine our dumpsites for those metals and such.

  23. 23
    Eric U. says:

    @catclub: that’s why I don’t feel too guilty when I throw something away that could be recycled. We’re going to be mining the dumps someday, and I’m making sure there is something in the dump worth mining

  24. 24
    Davis X. Machina says:

    “What set Iran-contra apart from previous political scandals,” Mr. Walsh wrote, “was the fact that a cover-up engineered in the White House of one president and completed by his successor prevented the rule of law from being applied to the perpetrators of criminal activity of constitutional dimension.”

    This is why — ask any real progressive — this has to be chalked up as another massive Democratic failure.

  25. 25
    Schlemizel says:

    @Napoleon:

    The work I read about the discovery of ‘Eve’ talked about fossile evidence of a die out of humans about this time. I am not well versed enough in the actual science to know but the author, who was well veresed, was pretty convinced. Once we are all dead it really won’t matter.

  26. 26
    Hungry Joe says:

    @catclub: Not that much (relatively speaking) in dump sites; most of what we’ve manufactured is distributed all over the damn place — buildings, for example. Anyway, all that junk is exposed to the elements, and will melt away and scatter, diffused; veins lay underground for more than a billion years waiting for us to turn them into spears and girders and paper clips.

  27. 27
    Scamp Dog says:

    @Monty: I’ve read the article that post references. It looks plausible, although back in the ’70s the limits to growth study showed that things would be coming unglued by the 1990s or so, making me a bit skeptical. What the authors of this study have added in is the behavior of societal elites: left unchecked, they will try to hoover up all of their society’s surplus, leaving most people at bare subsistence level. They wind up being so insulated from their society’s problems that they block any changes to solve those problems; eventually the commoners starve to death, and the elites then starve when there’s nobody to do the work for them.

    That’s the part that scares me. I see this cluelessness in Washington and the Media Village, and especially so in the Republican party and billionaires that drive our discourse. We have plenty of smart people, and the resources to moderate the coming climate disaster and oil decline, but too many people in charge either don’t see the problem or are paid to not see it.

  28. 28
    Cervantes says:

    @Chris:

    I remember reading somewhere that Casey, during his latter years as CIA director, became as senile as Alzheimer Reagan.

    It was a farce, at best. Literally hours before he was scheduled to testify before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, it was reported that he had suffered “incapacitating seizures” — destroying his power of speech. Later, it was reported that a brain tumor had been found. He died shortly afterwards — but not before Woodward allegedly interviewed him in his hospital bed, an assertion his widow later denied.

    How far back did Iran-contra start, anyway?

    Long story — no time for it now — later if you are interested.

  29. 29
    Cervantes says:

    @catclub:

    My impression was that Casey died KNOWING he was taking secrets to the grave.

    Yes, he was not senile.

  30. 30
    TheWatcher says:

    @Schlemizel: People who say crap like this WANT humans to die off, for some deep psychological reasons unrelated to the actual evidence that the human species might actually be in peril.

    Get help, seek counseling. You have untreated anger issues…

  31. 31
    Cervantes says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    That man, like his warmonger deserting coward son, should not die peacefully in his bed.

    Lawrence Walsh has died. Various Iran-Contra villains, thugs, and crooks are still alive. One silver lining, if we are lucky: they will know what the world thinks about Walsh, and about them. It might be a stray paragraph quoted from an obituary — a stray line from a eulogy overheard on TV — even a photograph of a salute, or the subtle fragrance of a potted plant — sure, it needn’t be poetry, but somehow, somewhere, in an unguarded moment, even if it’s for the last time in their miserable lives, I hope they choke on the truth.

  32. 32
    gratuitous says:

    Dear Attorney General Holder: May I direct your attention to the work of Mr. Walsh in delving into complicated matters? I realize you think that Wall Street’s torching of the world economy and the current back-and-forth between the Senate and the CIA are just too complicated, but as Walsh demonstrated, it can be done. Prosecutions can go forward, and trials can be held. Overturned convictions on technicalities and lame-duck presidential pardons notwithstanding, Lawrence Walsh did an incredible job on Iran-contra.

    Keep an eye on what respected legal minds have to say about Walsh in the wake of his death, and ask yourself Mr. Holder: Will anyone be able to say anything comparable about you and your tenure at the Justice Department?

  33. 33
    Mnemosyne says:

    @gratuitous:

    May I direct your attention to the work of Mr. Walsh in delving into complicated matters?

    You do realize that “Independent Prosecutor” and “Attorney General of the United States” are two completely different jobs, right? Legally, Holder does not have the same powers that Walsh had.

  34. 34
    danielx says:

    @gratuitous:

    Will anyone be able to say anything comparable about you and your tenure at the Justice Department?

    No.

    This has been another edition of Simple Answers To Simple Questions.

  35. 35
    dollared says:

    It’s been several hours, and Burnsie hasn’t weighed in explaining that the coverup and pardons were the exactly correct outcomes of the Iran-Contra, based on his superior legal knowledge and unique understanding of the way the world works. Weird…..

  36. 36
    Monty says:

    @Scamp Dog: People being people, I don’t see much hope for “civilization” in the short term. Fuck zero population growth; what we need is some serious negative population growth. And double fuck Washington.

    @TheWatcher: Yeah ok. Liberal “humanists” who deify human beings aren’t much different than religious loonies who scream about how the Lord created the world for people.

    Is homo sapiens in peril? Probably not – aside from the inevitability of being on the ass-end of a sufficiently large chunk of space rock, it would take a confluence of global events to obliterate the human species.

    If you believe those silly scientists, homo sapiens existed 200,000 years before civilization; however, a sub-group of those silly scientists argue those homos didn’t become really sapient until developing the capacity for creative thinking (abstract thought and language): 100,000-50,000 years b4 civilization.

  37. 37
    AnotherBruce says:

    @SatanicPanic: Wow, you must have a good pension.

  38. 38
    James E. Powell says:

    “What set Iran-contra apart from other political scandals,” Mr. Walsh should have written, “was the fact that there was no credible evidence of oral sex.”

  39. 39
    Joey Giraud says:

    @TheWatcher:

    You’re exactly correct. Doomsayers have issues.

  40. 40
    Joey Giraud says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    I think you mean “democratic failure,” as in “the democratic system.”

    Not a failure of the Democratic Party

  41. 41
    Joey Giraud says:

    @Cervantes:

    Most of the people involved believed they were doing “the right thing.”

    They have “the truth,” and are perfectly happy knowing it.

  42. 42
    Joey Giraud says:

    @dollared:

    Balloon Juice, comfortable web home of the self-considered-expert-on-everything blowhard.

    I’m OK with that. Adds color.

  43. 43
    SteveinSC says:

    Well, I think they (the cognoscenti) felt that we had just gone through Nixon and the country couldn’t stand the unmasking of the corporate cabal that was the Ronald Reagan Animatronic Presidency. With scripts placed before him and a resonant voice, no one could be allowed to look behind the curtain. Thus, everyone let the malevolent seeds planted by the Poindexters and Abrams and McFarlands and Cheneys fester and grow into the horrors of the Iraq War and the Torture Presidency. The rot should have been excised and the wound cauterized thirty years ago, but the system failed.

  44. 44
    Cervantes says:

    @SteveinSC: I think you’re right; the Democrats, who had the House and the Senate, simply did not have the stomach for a proper accounting. Unconscionably, they feared being punished at the polls for being “mean” to Reagan.

    One thing: “we had just gone through Nixon” is OK if by “just” you mean 12 and more years earlier.

    @Joey Giraud:

    They have “the truth,” and are perfectly happy knowing it.

    Yes, that’s why I hope they accidentally hear something different.

  45. 45
    Suzan says:

    Has anyone read his book? Is it good or is there another one out there that is better? Or am I better off trying to forget it ever happened?

  46. 46
    Cervantes says:

    @Suzan:

    Has anyone read his book? Is it good or is there another one out there that is better? Or am I better off trying to forget it ever happened?

    Walsh’s book, Firewall (1997), is thorough and lawyerly — well worth reading — but … maybe a little dry for some tastes.

    Theodore Draper’s A Very Thin Line (1991) is good; Christopher Hitchens called it “one of the scholarly achievements of the decade.”

    Haynes Johnson’s Sleepwalking Through History is about the Reagan years generally but contains a good discussion of Iran-Contra.

    Will that do?

  47. 47
    Suzan says:

    @Cervantes: Perfect, thanks!

  48. 48
    Cervantes says:

    @Suzan: No, thank you, for not “trying to forget it ever happened.”

    Cheers.

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