President Bush "didn't come clean" about his role in the arms sales to Iran, according to Iran-Contra figure Richard Secord. Bush said Friday he did level with the American people and called Secord's allegations "all speculation."
The retired Air Force major general and former National Security Council aide Howard Teicher said Thursday that Bush as vice president was fully informed and wasn't - as he has asserted - "out of the loop" on U.S. arms sales to Iran.Bush briefed President Reagan about the initiative by secure telephone on July 29 or July 30, 1986, said Secord, who handled the weapons deliveries for the Reagan White House. Reagan on July 30, 1986, approved shipping 240 Hawk anti-aircraft missile parts from Israel to Iran - reviving an arms initiative that had temporarily collapsed.
Bush, asked about Secord's allegations in an interview Friday on WBBM-AM in Chicago, responded: "What General Secord said was all speculation on his part.
"The country has spent . . . some say as high as $40 million investigating Iran-Contra," Bush added. "Clearly if I'd done anything wrong . . . you can bet that the Democrats in Congress would have had me before the bar. That is not true. I have leveled with the American people."
Teicher said he "briefed the then-vice president several times" about the Iran initiative.
One briefing was about a May 1986 trip to Tehran, where hostage negotiations hit a dead-end. The reason: Former national security adviser Robert McFarlane insisted that all U.S. hostages held in Lebanon be released at once rather than one at a time.
Israeli officials working on the hostage problem with the Reagan White House favored "sequential" trades - an arms delivery for a hostage release.
And in a July 29, 1986, meeting with Bush, Israeli government officer Amiram Nir pressed Bush to allow a resumption of that one-at-a-time approach.
"After Bush relayed the Israeli proposal to President Reagan," the all-or-nothing policy was "dumped in favor of sequential release," Secord wrote in his new book, "Honored and Betrayed."
White House aide Oliver North subsequently told Secord that Bush's briefing of Reagan was a factor in Reagan's decision to allow sequential releases, Secord said Thursday. The main factor had been the July 26, 1986, freeing of the Rev. Lawrence Jenco, which had "turned Reagan euphoric," Secord said.
Secord, who also ran North's Nicaraguan Contra resupply operation, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to congressional investigators in the Iran-Contra scandal and was placed on probation.
The comments by Secord and Teicher are the latest pieces of information disputing Bush's position that he knew little about what was going on in the Iran initiative.
"I don't think President Bush did anything wrong, but he decided to duck," said Secord. "He didn't come clean."
But White House spokeswoman Judy Smith said suggestions that Bush knew more than he has admitted about the Iran arms sales are "absolutely false. Secord is just trying to sell his book."