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Iran-Contra Inquiry Turns to Schultz, Weinburger

By George Lardner Jr.
The Washington Post


Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz and former Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger have come under investigation by special prosecutors in the waning days of their inquiry into the Iran-Contra scandal.

According to sources familiar with the investigation, the two Reagan-era cabinet members have both been questioned at length in recent months about their earlier testimony on the scandal in light of handwritten notes and other records suggesting they had more extensive knowledge.

Shultz said he was informed early this year that he had become "a subject" of independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh's inquiry. According to the U.S. Attorney's Manual, that means Shultz "is a person whose conduct is within the scope of a grand jury investigation."

Weinberger did not return a reporter's phone calls, and his status was unclear, but sources said he may be under somewhat sharper scrutiny.

Both men were strenuously opposed to the administration's arms-for-hostages deals with Iran and, the sources said, nothing has come to light to suggest anything different. Lawyers for the two said the former Cabinet members were cooperating fully with Walsh's office.

"I don't know what course the independent counsel is taking," Shultz told a reporter, but added he believed his status had been changed from that of a witness because of questions "about the method of preparation of some of my testimony."

Walsh declined to comment, but he emphasized in an interview last fall that he was still pursuing the extent of official efforts to cover up the scandal, which was disclosed Nov. 25, 1986, when Attorney General Edwin Meese announced that profits from White House-directed arms sales to Iran had been diverted to help the Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

The questions for Shultz and Weinberger apparently deal primarily with the secret shipments of U.S.-made weapons to Iran by Israel in the late summer and fall of 1985. These shipments were especially sensitive for the Reagan White House because the president had not formally authorized them. When the scandal became public, the White House initially denied any knowledge of the 1985 shipments.

One of the first to testify to Congress after the disclosure, Shultz said only that he had found out informally about the 1985 shipments and had been told that one of them was "rejected" by the Iranians. He provided more details in July 1987 before congressional committees investigating the Iran-Contra scandal.

Weinberger testified in 1987 that he had opposed the arms shipments in 1985 when he heard them being discussed and was never told they had actually taken place.

Walsh's office, sources said, subsequently discovered contemporaneous notes of various meetings compiled for Shultz by two top aides and other notes jotted down by Weinberger himself. The discoveries, the sources said, raised questions about whether the former secretaries had been as forthcoming as they could have been in their testimony and about whether the papers should have been produced earlier in response to subpoenas.

Numerous witnesses have been questioned by the prosecutors and, in some cases recently, brought before a grand jury hearing the Iran-Contra evidence. The witnesses have included: Shultz's note-takers; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Colin L. Powell, a former military aide to Weinberger; and Richard L. Armitage, a former assistant secretary of defense.

Friends and associates of Shultz and Weinberger expressed exasperation at the renewed inquiry and said it was ironic that the two most vigorous opponents of the arms sales should come under questioning when "the people who did wrong" have had their convictions reversed by the courts.

"Secretary Shultz would be the first to say, of course, if he had had every scrap of handwritten paper in front of him, he might have made less sweeping statements than he did," said one friend. "But nothing sheds any doubt on the course of action he pursued. The tragedy is that some of the more disreputable people in the Iran-Contra thing, who always viewed the secretary as not one of them, are out there with their knives, saying he knew more than he did."

Another source familiar with the inquiry was less sympathetic and suggested the special prosecutor's Iran-Contra investigation might have been concluded some time ago if Shultz and Weinberger, among others, had been more candid. The issue, this source said, is "what they actually knew and what they said they knew when it was important" for investigators to find out.