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The veteran investigative reporter writes that George H. Bush, as vice president, ran a covert operations team in the early 1980s that even the CIA didn’t know about. As a former CIA director, Bush had the experience to oversee activities.

Hersh says the vice president’s team ran 35 counterterrorism, counternarcotics and assassination operations between 1981 and 1985.

He writes:

At his direction, a team of military operatives was set up that bypassed the national security establishment – including the CIA – and wasn’t answerable to congressional oversight. It was led by Vice-Admiral Arthur Moreau, a brilliant navy officer who would be known to those on the inside as ‘M’.

Hersh says this operation ended in 1985 when Admiral William Crowe, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff took exception to Bush’s secret group and arranged for Moreau’s promotion to another job.

Iran-Contra Prequel

Hersh depicts the Bush operation as a kind of prequel to the Iran-Contra scandal.

It was in 1984 that CIA director William Casey and National Security Council Staffer Oliver North started organizing a conspiracy to bypass a congressional ban on aid to counterrevolutionary forces in Central America. Their too-clever-by-half scheme was to secretly sell arms to Iran in return for the release of U.S. hostages in Lebanon and use the proceeds to fund the contra rebels fighting a leftist government in Nicaragua.

Perhaps the most startling  claim in Hersh’s story is that Bush’s secret team leaked word of the Casey-North scheme to a Lebanese magazine.

An unnamed source is quoted as saying

‘We’re going nuts. If we don’t manage this carefully, our whole structure will unravel. And so we’ – former members of Moreau’s team who were still working for Bush – ‘leaked the story to the magazine in Lebanon.’ He was referring to an article, published on 3 November 1986 by Ash-Shiraa magazine in Beirut, that described the arms for hostages agreement.

That story triggered the scandal that changed the course of Reagan’s presidency.

Is It Credible?

I thought Hersh’s last story for a German publication was weak. Relying on what seemed to be a single unnamed source, Hersh claimed that Trump launched a cruise missile attack on Syria in April 2017 without any evidence from U.S. intelligence that Syria was responsible.

Counterpunch complained Hersh’s reporting, which once appeared in the New Yorker and the London Review of Books, was being marginalized for political reasons.

But there were sound journalistic reasons to question the value of the story. The reporting was sketchy and the thesis unconvincing.

This story, published in the London Review of Books, with a wealth of corroborating references, is much stronger. It sheds new light on secret government in the 1980s.

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