Iran-Contra Affair: The Diversion Scandal
Eugene Hasenfus of Marinette, Wisconsin was captured when his cargo plane suffered damaging missile blows. Hasenfus’ outdated cargo plane was knocked from the sky as a result of Nicaraguan surface to air missiles. After notifying the office of the United States Vice-President, informants in both El Salvador and Costa Rica would scramble to assess and control a seemingly uncomplicated situation. While United States officials prepared to limit their damages, the Nicaraguan captors televised Hasenfus’ explanation of illegal actions by the United States and specifically the Reagan Administration in support of the rebel Contras.
President Ronald Reagan strongly opposed the Sandinista government of Nicaragua in 1979, suggesting its communist nature as the reason for a necessary opposition. While the workings of the Iran-Contra affair were entirely covert, there was a time when Reagan openly supported Nicaraguan rebel factions. The president was understood to strongly oppose the Sandinista regime as evident by the termination of Nicaraguan aid and the support of the Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance. At one point, Regan goes on to state his readiness "to accept the idea of overt aid to the anti-Sandinista guerrillas in Nicaragua." Reagan went on to address Congress and compel them to take action in Nicaragua as a function of United States foreign policy. A joint session of Congress however was unconvinced as Reagan’s support of anti-Sandinista groups would not prevail. The Democratic majority of the House of Representatives would succeed in their doubt of anti-Sandinista efforts, actualized by specific legislation. Representative Edward P. Boland introduced the “Boland Ammendment” for the Fiscal Year 1983 Defense Appropriations budget, stating that in its passage, the CIA could not finance the overthrowing of the Nicaraguan government in any way.
Reagan continued to press for money in support of the Contras, while Democrats in the House of Representatives contemplated complete termination of Contra support. Eventually there was a concession on both parties, creating a limit of twenty-four million dollars of Contra aid for the 1984 Fiscal year. This amount, while generous, is significantly less than the Administration’s aims, hence the opportunity for future additional funding from Congress.
The Reagan Administration was by now committed to supporting the Contras, but limited in their abilities due to the Congressional restriction of aid. In review of the Boland Amendments, using funds available to the CIA, Department of Defense, or any other government intelligence agency was strictly forbidden. The Reagan Administration, in hopes of evading the constraints of the Boland Amendment, utilized the National Security Council (NSC) because of its non-intelligence status. But it was the use of “third-country” or “private” funds that allowed the Administration covert curtailing of the Boland Amendment. It...