Posted at 10:27 AM ET, 10/17/2011

Clair George’s 1992 pardon by George H. W. Bush

Clair George, “a spy’s spy,” according to the Post's Ian Shapira, died in August at the age of 81. Last week, at his memorial service, the man who was both indicted for his role in the Iran-Contra Affairs and well-loved by his colleagues, was remembered “as an apolitical agency man who was unfairly dragged into politics at the end of his career.”


Citations for former CIA Agent Clair E. George. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Shapira writes: “[Clair George] was the first high-ranking agency official to be found guilty of felony charges while carrying out official duties. Despite the public outrage about CIA actions, George remained a popular figure among agency alumni because they believe his loyalty — to them and to his country — never faltered.”

George was found guilty, but before he could be sentenced, then-president George H. W. Bush pardoned the former defense secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and five others charged in the Iran-contra scandal. Here's the text of the pardon in regards to George:

‘Criminalization of Policy Differences’

I have also decided to pardon five other individuals for their conduct related to the Iran-contra affair: Elliott Abrams, Duane Clarridge, Alan Fiers, Clair George and Robert McFarlane. First, the common denominator of their motivation -- whether their actions were right or wrong -- was patriotism. Second, they did not profit or seek to profit from their conduct. Third, each has a record of long and distinguished service to this country. And finally, all five have already paid a price -- in depleted savings, lost careers, anguished families -- grossly disproportionate to any misdeeds or errors of judgment they may have committed.

The prosecutions of the individuals I am pardoning represent what I believe is a profoundly troubling development in the political and legal climate of our country: the criminalization of policy differences. These differences should be addressed in the political arena, without the Damocles sword of criminality hanging over the heads of some of the combatants. The proper target is the president, not his subordinates; the proper forum is the voting booth, not the courtroom.

In recent years, the use of criminal processes in policy disputes has become all too common. It is my hope that the action I am taking today will begin to restore these disputes to the battleground where they properly belong.

A ‘Healing Tradition’ of Pardons

In addition, the actions of the men I am pardoning took place within the larger Cold War struggle. At home, we had a long, sometimes heated debate about how that struggle should be waged. Now the Cold War is over. When earlier wars have ended, presidents have historically used their power to pardon to put bitterness behind us and look to the future. This healing tradition reaches at least from James Madison's pardon of Lafitte's pirates after the War of 1812, to Andrew Johnson's pardon of soldiers who had fought for the Confederacy, to Harry Truman's and Jimmy Carter's pardons of those who violated the Selective Service laws in World War II and Vietnam.

In many cases, the offenses pardoned by these presidents were at least as serious as those I am pardoning today. The actions of those pardoned and the decisions to pardon them raised important issues of conscience, the rule of law, and the relationship under our Constitution between the government and the governed. Notwithstanding the seriousness of these issues and the passions they aroused, my predecessors acted because it was time for the country to move on. Today I do the same.

Some may argue that this decision will prevent full disclosure of some new key fact to the American people. That is not true. This matter has been investigated exhaustively. The Tower board, the joint congressional committee charged with investigating the Iran-contra affair, and the independent counsel have looked into every aspect of this matter. The Tower board interviewed more than 80 people and reviewed thousands of documents. The joint congressional committee interviewed more than 500 people and reviewed more than 300,000 pages of material. Lengthy committee hearings were held and broadcast on national television to millions of Americans. And as I have noted, the independent counsel investigation has gone on for more than six years, and it has cost more than $31 million.

Moreover, the independent counsel stated last September that he had completed the active phase of his investigation. He will have the opportunity to place his full assessment of the facts in the public record when he submits his final report. While no impartial person has seriously suggested that my own role in this matter is legally questionable, I have further requested that the independent counsel provide me with a copy of my sworn testimony to his office, which I am prepared to release immediately. And I understand Secretary Weinberger has requested the release of all of his notes pertaining to the Iran-contra matter.

‘Honor, Decency, Fairness’ Require

For more than 30 years in public service, I have tried to follow three precepts: honor, decency and fairness. I know, from all those years of service, that the American people believe in fairness and fair play. In granting these pardons today, I am doing what I believe honor, decency and fairness require.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, George Bush, president of the United States of America, pursuant to my power under Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, do hereby grant a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to Elliott Abrams, Duane R. Clarridge, Alan Fiers, Clair George, Robert C. McFarlane, and Caspar Weinberger for all offenses charged or prosecuted by independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh or other members of his office, or committed by these individuals and within the jurisdiction of that office.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-fourth day of December, in the year of our Lord nineteen hundred and ninety-two, and of the independence of the United States of America the two hundred and seventeenth.

By  |  10:27 AM ET, 10/17/2011

Tags:  National, Clair George, George H. W. Bush, Pardon

 
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