Dems Seek Roberts' Documents on Iran-Contra Aid
Yale Law Prof and blogger Jack Balkin explains why the Administration should turn over memos from Judge John Roberts to then-Reagan aide Patrick J. Buchanan in March 1986 on the subject of aid to Nicaraguans who were fighting the leftist Sandinista government. Background from the Washington Post is here. Balkin writes:
....during his time in the Reagan Administration John Roberts offered advice on the establishment of the Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office (NHAO), an organization used by the Reagan Administration to circumvent the Boland Amendment. For those of you who don't remember, the Boland Amendment made it illegal for U.S. intelligence agencies to provide covert funding to the contras in Nicaragua.
Balkin says that to get around the amendment, Reagan approved a plan by John Poindexter and Oliver North to sell anti-tank and anti-aircraft missles to Iran, the funds from which were then provided to the contras.
The NHAO was formed within the State Department to provide what was, at least on the surface, legitimate humanitarian assistance to Nicaragua; Oliver North, however, used it to send money and supplies that the CIA couldn't send directly. Put another way, he used the NHAO as a cover for illegal covert funding for the contras in violation of federal law.
Back to where Judge John Roberts comes in:
We do not know what Roberts' role was in any of this. For example, he might simply have been asked to set up the NHAO for purely humanitarian purposes and then North infilitrated and twisted the organization for his own illegal ends. If so, there's nothing in the file on the NHAO that should be problematic for Roberts. He simply did what any good lawyer would do for his client.
On the other hand, if Roberts was asked to justify circumventing the Boland Amendment in any way, he would have been a hitherto unknown part of the Iran-Contra scandal. If that were so, it would be inappropriate for someone who had participated in fomenting a serious constitutional scandal to be rewarded with a Supreme Court appointment.
And that's why the files should be turned over.
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