It was October and the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate was faltering in the polls after the Democratic National Convention. The Republican Party’s presidential candidate began negotiating with a foreign government to cook up a scheme to embarrass the Democratic candidate. The scheme was successful and the Democratic candidate went on to lose the election to a Republican candidate who was feared by many for his unorthodox stance on several domestic and foreign issues.
If one thinks the above description is about the recent 2016 election, he or she would be wrong. In 1980, Democratic President Jimmy Carter, running for re-election under the cloud of the U.S. embassy in Tehran having been seized by radical Iranian students and 52 members of its staff being held hostage, was trying desperately to pull off an «October Surprise» to salvage his presidency. Unbeknownst to Carter, the campaign of his Republican rival, Ronald Reagan, had secretly negotiated an «arms-for-no-hostages» deal with the Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime in Iran.
In return for the shipment of embargoed military items, including spare parts for Iran’s U.S.-supplied F-14 Tomcat fighter planes and Phoenix air-to-air missiles for the planes, before the November 4 election, the Reagan team was promised by the Iranians that Tehran would hold the hostages until after the November election. Upon Reagan’s defeat of Carter, Iran held true to its promise and did not release the American hostages until noon Eastern Standard Time on January 20, 1981, the very moment Reagan raised his hand to take the presidential oath of office.
Although the media today is rife with reports of so-called «treasonous» contacts between Donald Trump advisers and officials of the Russian government, the media was not to be found anywhere in October 1980 when the Central Intelligence Agency, working with the Reagan campaign, contracted with a U.S. merchant vessel, the «SS Poet», to deliver the U.S. military contraband to Iran. In 1980, vice presidential candidate George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan’s campaign manager William Casey secretly met with Iranian government officials, reportedly in Paris, and worked out the covert «arms-for-no-hostages» plan. The Reagan team was worried that Carter would beat them to the punch because of the White House’s own secret negotiations with Iranian representatives to have the hostages freed in October, giving Carter a much-need campaign boost.
The Reagan conspirators included, in addition to Bush and Casey, Robert Gates and Donald Gregg, the CIA's moles inside the Carter National Security Council. Carter's national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, not happy with Carter's human rights stance, may have given a «wink and a nod» to the treason. The entire caper was conducted without the knowledge of Stansfield Turner, Carter's friend and U.S. Naval Academy classmate who served as CIA director.
The «SS Poet», a World War II-era U.S. merchant vessel, was at the center of the Reagan team’s treasonous plot. Little has been written about the fate of the vessel because the CIA arranged to have it sunk while outbound from the Persian Gulf after it delivered its weapons cache to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. The ship was officially listed as «lost at sea» somewhere in the mid-Atlantic after departing from Philadelphia's Girard Point marine pier #3 on October 24, 1980. The ship was ostensibly bound with a cargo of 13,500 tons of corn for Port Said, Egypt, but, in reality, had military equipment loaded in its rear number four cargo, contraband bound for Iran.
The crew of 34 U.S. citizens was declared «missing at sea» by a U.S. Coast Guard board of inquiry, which was under heavy pressure from the CIA to cover up the ship's fate in the Gulf. The Reagan team sweetened the deal with a cash payment to Iran. Gates was said to have overseen the transfer of money to an Iranian bank account at Banque Worms in Geneva.
The Coast Guard report on the «Poet's» disappearance was tainted by an individual who claimed to have been a former third assistant engineer on the vessel. A year after the «Poet» disappeared, the witness told the Coast Guard, after the Board of Inquiry had already issued its conclusion about the fate of the ship, that the vessel was not seaworthy. However, this individual later was discovered to have been an impostor, likely hired by Casey’s CIA, who never served on board the «Poet».
The CIA's cover story, dutifully echoed by the Coast Guard, was the Poet sank without a trace in three minutes and without a distress call. One of the Poet's previous trips, in the months prior to sailing to Iran, was to Israel. The vessel had been chartered by Hawaiian Eugenia Corporation, the Poet's owner and a firm with murky CIA links, to sail to Israel. There is a strong possibility that the Israelis rigged the ship with explosives that would be detonated after its delivery of weapons to Iran on behalf of the CIA and Reagan-Bush campaign plotters.
There was a feeble attempt by certain remaining pro-Carter elements within the CIA and Justice Department to investigate the involvement of a foreign power – Iran – in the 1980 election. A March 16, 1981, memo written by then-unconfirmed Associate Attorney General Rudolph Giuliani to the Acting Criminal Division chief, John Keeney, which was titled «CIA Referral – Alleged Foreign Government Interference With 1980 Presidential Election», suggests that the CIA referred to the Justice Department certain evidence that there was criminal activity involving a foreign power in the 1980 presidential election.
Keeney and Giuliani agree to draft a letter from Deputy Attorney General Edward C. Schmults to the CIA to ask for a full report on the criminal referral. The CIA report, which was never written, would have been available to Justice personnel on a strict need-to-know basis. It can be assumed that after Casey took over at the CIA, he immediately quashed the investigation of the involvement of Iran in the 1980 election.
In any case, the investigation was stopped dead in its tracks. The Attorney General at the time of the Giuliani memo was Reagan confidante William French Smith. Smith's special assistant at the time was David Hiller, who later became the publisher, president, and CEO of the Los Angeles Times. Hiller's fellow special assistant for Smith was John G. Roberts, Jr., later nominated by George W. Bush to the Supreme Court as Associate Justice, followed by his nomination to be Chief Justice.
The «Poet's» official charter to sail a cargo of corn to Port Said was oddly appended with a «war risk» clause, even though Egypt was not in a state of war. The only state of war that existed at the time was in the Gulf between Iran and Iraq. The charter also involved Universal Shipping Company, a CIA front company headquartered in Rosslyn, Virginia, along with other firms controlled by CIA weapons smuggler Edwin Wilson. Later convicted and imprisoned for smuggling weapons to Libya, Wilson, a «retired» CIA operative, contended that his weapons smuggling operations were carried out with the approval of the CIA.
There is an interesting current news peg to the story of the 1980 election and the «Poet.» The Iranian side in the «arms-for-no-hostages» conspiracy was led by the then-speaker of the Iranian parliament, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He would later become a key cog in the Iran-contra scandal that almost brought down the Reagan administration. Rafsanjani died recently at the age of 82. Considered a leading Iranian moderate, Rafsanjani traveled widely throughout the United States prior to the Iranian revolution in 1979 and he may have served as a deep cover CIA asset. With his death disappears from the scene another witness to the treachery involving the disappearance of the «SS Poet».
When the CIA wants to advance a meme that a foreign nation interfered in a U.S. election, it can coax its puppets in the media to hype the story, as seen now with the frivolous allegations about Russia and the Trump campaign. However, when the Langley boys want to bury their own chicanery and skullduggery in election interference, as is currently the case with CIA and British MI-6 involvement in the 2016 election on behalf of Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton and as was the situation in 1980 with Iran and the Reagan campaign, the media dutifully follows.