George J. Mitchell

U.S. Senate : Legislative Records. Iran-Contra Affair, 1985-1988.

17 linear feet.

Catalog Number: M202.6.2.16

Background Note:
The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition was formed by a Senate resolution on January 6, 1987. Simultaneously the House formed the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran. These two committees were formed to investigate the secret sale of arms to Iran in return for the release of American hostages and the associated channeling of funds to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua by members of the Reagan administration, the CIA, and the National Security Council. Both committees were to complete their investigations by August 1 and their reports by October 1987. Instead, the two committees merged to become the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair, joining investigations and hearings, and sharing all evidence, which involved over 300,000 documents and 500 witnesses. The public hearings spanned forty days from May to August 1987. The Senate and House committees produced a joint report at the end of their investigations.

Senator Mitchell was the second-ranking majority party member on the Senate committee; he was designated to question Lt. Col. Oliver North, the main witness. Mitchell's performance was widely acclaimed and was a major factor leading to his election as Senate Majority Leader in 1988.

Records date from 1985 through 1988. A wide range of information is included: texts of statements, depositions, and interviews; meeting and other notes; drafts of chronologies; news clippings; rules; reports from the Congressional Research Service and other services; copies of the Oliver North indictment; copies of committee recommendations; memos on various subjects; and correspondence. Significant procedural issues included the question of granting of immunity to witnesses and the acceptance of an early deadline to finish the investigation. The investigation addressed important questions of respect for law and public policy, the balance between Congressional oversight and security, and of obstruction of justice. Key members of the joint committee included:

  • Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Chairman of the Senate Committee,
  • Senator Warren Rudman (R-NH), Vice-Chairman of the Senate Comittee;
  • Representative Lee Hamilton (D-IN), Chairman of the House Committee;
  • Representative Dante Fascell (D-FL), Vice-Chairman of the House Committee;
  • John Nields Jr., Chief Counsel of the House Committee; and
  • Arthur Liman, Chief Counsel of the Senate Committee.

Key figures involved in the Iran-Contra affair included Lt. Col. Oliver North who appeared at the center of the controversy, National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, his successor Admiral John Poindexter, and retired Air Force General Richard Secord, among others. Records were compiled primarily by Richard Arenberg, Senator Mitchell's staff liaison to the committee. Additional files on the Iran-Contra investigation can be found in the Judiciary Files series.

Access Restrictions: None.

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