Donald P. Gregg

Donald P. Gregg

Donald P. Gregg studied at Williams College before joining the Central Intelligence Agency in 1951. According to Webster Griffin Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin (George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography) Gregg worked at JM/WAVE in Miami where he recruited Felix Rodriguez and Luis Posada as CIA agents. It is believed that Gregg, Rodriguez and Posada were all involved in Operation 40.

Gregg then served in Burma (1964-1966), Japan (1966-1969), Vietnam (1970-1972) where he served under Ted Shackley and Thomas G. Clines in Operation Phoenix. Gregg later admitted that he had been Felix Rodriguez’s case officer in Vietnam. Gregg also served in South Korea (1973-75) and became friendly with George H. W. Bush when he was appointed director of the CIA in 1976.

In 1979 Gregg was seconded to the National Security Council, where he was in charge of intelligence activities and Asian policy affairs. In 1982, he was asked by Vice President Bush to become his national security advisor. He then retired from the CIA, and was awarded its highest decoration, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal. During his six years with Bush, Gregg traveled to 65 countries.

On 17th March, 1983, Gregg had a secret meeting with Felix Rodriguez and George H. W. Bush in the White House. As a result the National Security Council established a secret scheme to provide aid to the Contras in Nicaragua. Rodriguez agreed to run the Contra supply depot in El Salvador. In a memo written to Robert McFarlane, Gregg argued that the plan grew out of the experience of running "anti-Vietcong operations in Vietnam from 1970-1972". Gregg added that "Felix Rodriguez, who wrote the attached plan, both worked for me in Vietnam and carried out the actual operations outlined above."

On 21st December, 1984, Gregg met with Felix Rodriguez and George H. W. Bush. This led to Gregg introducing Rodriguez to Oliver North. Later, Bush wrote a note to North where he thanked him for "your dedication and tireless work with the hostage thing and with Central America."

In October, 1985, Congress agreed to vote 27 million dollars in non-lethal aid for the Contras in Nicaragua. However, members of the Ronald Reagan administration, including George Bush, decided to use this money to provide weapons to the Contras and the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.

Gene Wheaton was recruited to use National Air to transport these weapons. He agreed but began to have second thoughts when he discovered that Richard Secord was involved in the operation and in May 1986 Wheaton told William Casey, director of the CIA, about what he knew about this illegal operation. Casey refused to take any action, claiming that the agency or the government were not involved in what later became known as Irangate.

Wheaton now took his story to Daniel Sheehan, a left-wing lawyer. Wheaton told him that Thomas G. Clines and Ted Shackley had been running a top-secret assassination unit since the early 1960s. According to Wheaton, it had begun with an assassination training program for Cuban exiles and the original target had been Fidel Castro.

Wheaton also contacted Newt Royce and Mike Acoca, two journalists based in Washington. The first article on this scandal appeared in the San Francisco Examiner on 27th July, 1986. As a result of this story, Congressman Dante Facell wrote a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger, asking him if it "true that foreign money, kickback money on programs, was being used to fund foreign covert operations." Two months later, Weinberger denied that the government knew about this illegal operation.

On 5th October, 1986, a Sandinista patrol in Nicaragua shot down a C-123K cargo plane that was supplying the Contras. That night Felix Rodriguez made a telephone call to the office of George H. W. Bush. He told Bush aide, Samuel Watson, that the C-123k aircraft had gone missing.

Eugene Hasenfus, an Air America veteran, survived the crash and told his captors that he thought the CIA was behind the operation. He also provided information that several Cuban-Americans running the operation in El Salvador. This resulted in journalists being able to identify Rafael Quintero, Luis Posada and Felix Rodriguez as the Cuban-Americans mentioned by Hasenfus.

In an article in the Washington Post (11th October, 1986), the newspaper reported that George Bush and Gregg were linked to Felix Rodriguez. It gradually emerged that William Casey, Thomas G. Clines, Oliver North, Edwin Wilson and Richard Secord were also involved in this conspiracy to provide arms to the Contras.

On 12th December, 1986, Daniel Sheehan submitted to the court an affidavit detailing the Irangate scandal. He also claimed that Thomas G. Clines and Ted Shackley were running a private assassination program that had evolved from projects they ran while working for the CIA. Others named as being part of this assassination team included Rafael Quintero, Richard Secord, Felix Rodriguez and Albert Hakim. It later emerged that Gene Wheaton and Carl E. Jenkins were the two main sources for this affidavit.

Six days after the publication of Sheehan's affidavit, William Casey underwent an operation for a "brain tumor". As a result of the operation, Casey lost the power of speech and died, literally without ever talking. On 9th February, Robert McFarlane, another person involved in the Iran-Contra Scandal, took an overdose of drugs.

In November, 1986, Ronald Reagan set-up a three man commission (President's Special Review Board). The three men were John Tower, Brent Scowcroft and Edmund Muskie. The report implicated Oliver North, John Poindexter, Casper Weinberger and several others but did not mention the role played by George H. W. Bush. It also claimed that Reagan had no knowledge of what had been going on.

The House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran was also established by Congress. The most important figure on the committee was the senior Republican member, Richard Cheney. As a result George H. W. Bush was totally exonerated when the report was published on 18th November, 1987. The report did state that Reagan's administration exhibited "secrecy, deception and disdain for the law."

Oliver North and John Poindexter were indicted on multiple charges on 16th March, 1988. North, indicted on twelve counts, was found guilty by a jury of three minor counts. The convictions were vacated on appeal on the grounds that North's Fifth Amendment rights may have been violated by the indirect use of his testimony to Congress which had been given under a grant of immunity. Poindexter was also convicted of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and altering and destroying documents pertinent to the investigation. His convictions were also overturned on appeal.

When George H. W. Bush became president he set about rewarding those who had helped him in the cover-up of the Iran-Contra Scandal. Brent Scowcroft became his chief national security adviser and John Tower became Secretary of Defence. When the Senate refused to confirm Tower, Bush gave the job to Richard Cheney. Several others, including Casper Weinberger, who was indicted for lying to the Independent Counsel, and Robert McFarlane, were pardoned by Bush.

In September, 1989, President George H. W. Bush appointed Donald Gregg as his ambassador to South Korea. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigated the appointment. Senator Alan Cranston pointed out that: "You (Gregg) told the Iran-Contra committee that you and Bush never discussed the Contras, had no expertise on the issue, no responsibility for it, and the details of Watergate-sized scandal involving NSC staff and the Edwin Wilson gang was not Vice Presidential. Your testimony on that point is demonstrably false. There are at least six memos from Don Gregg to George Bush regarding detailed Contra issues." Although Cranston voted against confirmation, the rest of the committee agreed that Gregg should become ambassador to Korea.

Gregg retired from the United States government in March, 1993. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and chairman of the Korea Society.

© , September 1997 - April 2014

Primary Sources

(1) Lawrence E. Walsh, Iran-Contra Report (1993)

Donald P. Gregg in 1951 began a career of more than 30 years with the Central Intelligence Agency. That service included several overseas postings, including a tour in South Vietnam during the war. In 1979 Gregg was detailed by the CIA to the National Security Council staff, where his responsibilities included Asian affairs and intelligence matters. Following the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, the new Administration requested that Gregg remain at the NSC. Until 1982, Gregg headed the NSC's Intelligence Directorate. In August 1982, he resigned from the CIA and accepted the position of national security adviser to Vice President George Bush, holding that position until the end of the Reagan Administration. In early 1989, President Bush nominated Gregg to be U.S. ambassador to the Republic of South Korea. Gregg was confirmed by the Senate for this position on September 12, 1989, and served as ambassador until 1993.

During the Vietnam War, Gregg supervised CIA officer Felix Rodriguez and they kept in contact following the war. Gregg introduced Rodriguez to Vice President Bush in January 1985, and Rodriguez met with the Vice President again in Washington, D.C., in May 1986. He also met Vice President Bush briefly in Miami on May 20, 1986. As a teenager, Rodriguez had participated in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba and remained, following that debacle, an ardent anti-communist.

In 1985 and 1986, Rodriguez worked out of the Ilopango air base in El Salvador, where he assisted the Salvadoran Air Force in anti-guerrilla counterinsurgency tactics. In late 1985 and during 1986, Rodriguez - whose alias was ``Max Gomez'' - became increasingly involved in the contra-resupply effort that was based at Ilopango at that time. Because of Rodriguez's close association with General Juan Bustillo, who headed the Salvadoran Air Force, Rodriguez was vital to Lt. Col. Oliver L. North's contra-resupply operation by coordinating flights based at Ilopango.

Following the shootdown of the contra-resupply aircraft carrying American Eugene Hasenfus on October 5, 1986, Rodriguez became a center of public and congressional attention. Because of Rodriguez's close friendship with Gregg and his three personal meetings with Vice President Bush, questions arose whether the contra-resupply operation was being directed by Gregg through Rodriguez. Questions also arose about when the Vice President's office became aware of Rodriguez's and North's active participation in the contra-resupply operation at Ilopango.

Both Gregg and his deputy, Col. Samuel J. Watson III, were investigated for possible false testimony regarding their denial of knowledge of Rodriguez's involvement in North's contra-resupply operation. OIC obtained Watson's immunized testimony in an effort to further its investigation. Despite unresolved conflicts between documentary evidence and the testimony of the principal witnesses, OIC determined that it could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt a criminal case against Gregg.

When Gregg assumed his position as assistant to the Vice President for national security affairs in August 1982, he consciously disassociated himself from former colleagues with whom he had worked during his CIA career. The exception to that rule was Felix Rodriguez. Gregg testified: " I have made it a conscious decision really not to reach back into that part of my life to bring other people forward. Felix is the only exception I have made to that.'' Gregg lost track of Rodriguez for a period of time after Vietnam and did not see him until the early 1980s, when Rodriguez came to Washington sporadically and talked with Gregg about old times. Gregg was not certain what Rodriguez was doing at that time, and he did not inquire; however, they remained friends."

(2) Alan Cranston, United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (12th May, 1986)

You (Gregg) told the Iran-Contra committee that you and Bush never discussed the Contras, had no expertise on the issue, no responsibility for it, and the details of Watergate-sized scandal involving NSC staff and the Edwin Wilson gang was not Vice Presidential. Your testimony on that point is demonstrably false. There are at least six memos from Don Gregg to George Bush regarding detailed Contra issues.

(3) Christopher Buckley, Washington Monthly (November, 1997)

In college, I was a member of a secret society. I worked at the White House for Vice President George Bush, who, in addition to being a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Trilateral Commission, is also a member of that same secret society. My father, another member of the secret society, founded National Review magazine. The lawyer who drew up the documents incorporating NR was William Casey, who would go on to become director of the CIA under Ronald Reagan. Before he became a magazine editor, my father worked for the CIA. His immediate boss was E. Howard Hunt, who went on to Watergate fame, along with his colleague, G. Gordon Liddy. I later hired Liddy to write a column on security for the magazine that I edit. The magazine is owned by Steve Forbes, past and future presidential candidate. Forbes Inc.'s chairman is Caspar Weinberger, who worked for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. At the White House, I worked closely with Donald P. Gregg, Bush's national security adviser. Don had had a very distinguished career at the CIA for over 30 years. In Vietnam, his comrade-in-arms was Felix Rodriguez, the CIA officer who helped track down Che Guevara in Bolivia. You remember Felix. Iran-Contra? The Senate and The Washington Post, egged on by the Christic Institute and assorted people with the last name of Cockburn, tried very hard to nail Don for, among other things, helping to orchestrate the famous 1980 October Surprise - traveling in secret to Paris with George Bush to persuade the Iranians not to release the American hostages until after Reagan had been elected. Call up Christopher Hitchens at The Nation; he'll fill you in on all the details, though he's rather busy these days establishing Mother Teresa's villainy. Anyway, Don survived and became ambassador to South Korea, where previously he had been CIA station chief. I married his daughter. She worked for the CIA, too. She - well, I don't have time to get into all that. I have to review this book for you called Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes From. It's a fine, important, even invaluable book. The author is Daniel Pipes. Come to think of it, I knew his father, Richard Pipes, the eminent Russian scholar. We sort of worked together at the White House. He was Reagan's top Soviet adviser. I also worked at the White House with C. Boyden Gray. Mention the name of his father, Gordon Gray, to any serious UFOlogist and they will coo and stroke their chins and tell you that Gordon Gray was a member of the shadowy, ultra-secret group called Majestic-12 that ran the first flying-saucer cover up. Are you getting the picture? Don't you think I know the fix is in? Quick, close those curtains, I hear a black helicopter!

(4) Donald P. Gregg, testimony, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific (14th July, 2005)

My last Congressional testimony, given before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took place on February 4, 2003. I concluded that testimony by stating that the two things the Bush administration was willing to say to North Korea; "we are not going to attack you, but we won't negotiate with you; "only left the North Koreans with a stronger incentive to continue working on their nuclear weapons programs. As hard bargainers, they clearly recognized that the more powerful their nuclear programs became, the less likely that a pre-emptive U.S. attack on their scattered facilities would be launched, and the more they could demand in return for eventually closing the programs down.

Until late last week, that was the essential pattern of events that had taken place over the past 30 months, with North Korea, having further developed their nuclear programs, announcing on February 10, 2005, that it had become a nuclear power, and refusing to return to the stalled six-party talks process. Suddenly, on July 9th, the North Koreans announced that they would return to the talks, which are now slated to resume during the week of July 25th.