15. CARTER'S COVER-UPS
Richard Nixon was driven from the White House in disgrace because of
his cover-up of Watergate. Thus, it was not surprising that, during
his campaign for the presidency, Jimmy Carter promised to run "an
open government to let our people know what our government leaders are
doing, including the president." Indeed, he was the first president
in American history to insist publicly that he will never tell a lie
or make a misleading statement.
Yet, it was only 19 months after the inauguration when the "open"
government started to close down, according to a report by investigative
columnist Jack Anderson.
In a series of columns, Anderson noted how Carter's promise of an "open"
government had deeper roots in rhetoric than in reality.
By July 2, 1979, Anderson wrote that "Carter's concern about leaks
of the 'secrets' at times has approached the paranoia of the Nixon years."
The "secrets" were minutes from Cabinet meetings secured by
Then, on September 10, 1979, Anderson asked "Has there been another
cover-up to protect White House aides so soon after Watergate?".
The cover-up accusation was made by a grand jury foreman, Ralph E.
Ulmer, who for 10 months had investigated charges that fugitive financier
Robert Vesco tried to pull strings inside the White House to fix his
legal problems. The cover-up centers around Charles Kirbo, Carter's
personal attorney, who was said to have attempted to advise a key witness
about her testimony. Kirbo is heard on a secretly recorded tape to warn
the witness that "I think it's a mistake to be too open with the
Anderson said that Ulmer tried to resign, charging the administration
with "duplicity" and "manipulation." Ulmer wrote
that the "cover-up activities are being orchestrated within the
Department of Justice under the concept that the administration must
be protected at all costs."
While the truth about the Vesco scandal and any White House involvement
has yet to come out, Anderson subsequently revealed an even more serious
charge of a Carter cover-up.
In early 1980, Anderson disclosed a stinging secret report to the House
Intelligence Committee that raises serious questions about Carter's
role in the Iranian hostage situation.
Among the most serious charges in the secret report were:
-- President Carter himself provoked the seizure of our embassy in
Tehran by letting the exiled Shah Mohammed Riza Pahlavi into the United
States, despite clear and repeated warnings that such action could
lead to the taking of American hostages.
-- The banking community, particularly David Rockefeller of Chase
Manhattan, played a key role in getting the Shah admitted. The report
suggests that Chase Manhattan deliberately set up the confrontation
so that it could keep the Iranian government from withdrawing billions
in oil revenue from its account at the bank.
-- The hostages could have been released on at least four separate
occasions "with no compromise of the U.S. position."
Despite the seriousness of these charges and the credence which Anderson
gives them, they might be dismissed as speculation if it were not for
another incident which occurred in early March, 1980.
On Sunday, March 2, CBS aired an extraordinary segment on "60
Minutes" which was produced by Don Hewitt and narrated by Mike
Wallace. It dealt with questionable U.S. relations with the ousted Shah.
The segment revealed that the Carter administration was fully aware
of the possible consequences to the American embassy if the Shah were
permitted to enter the United States. Other damaging material included
excerpts from Wallace's 1976 interview with the Shah in which they discussed
torture allegedly administered by the Iranian secret police, the SAVAK.
On March 6th, CBS News president William Leonard disclosed that the
White House and the State Department had attempted several times during
a two-week period to pressure "60 Minutes" into canceling
Leonard said he had been contacted by administration representatives
he declined to name. However, The Washington Post reported that President
Carter's news secretary, Jody Powell, and Henry Precht, who works on
the State Department's Iran desk, were among those who tried to pressure
CBS into dropping the segment.
The failure of the mass media to directly and forcefully challenge
a president who has attempted to deceive the American people with such
cover-ups qualifies this story for nomination as one of the "best
censored" stories of 1979.
Jack Anderson columns, July 2, 1979; Sept. 10, 1979; and March 24,
1980; AP, San Francisco Chronicle, March 7, 1980, "CBS Says U.S.
Prodded It To Drop a Report on Iran."