I welcome this opportunity to review the contacts that I have had with Mr. Billy Carter in relationship to Libya. I believe that they will show (1) that such contacts were motivated by legitimate concerns for the national interest; (2) that they were entirely proper; and (3) that they were very limited . . . TELEPHONE CONVERSATION OF NOV. 20
These conversations occurred approximately two weeks after the seizure of the hostages.
Our intention at the time was to prevent the situation from becoming frozen, and to that end we wanted to mobilize maximum pressure possible on Iran. We wished the various groupings in Iran, and particularly the radical kidnapers, to feel internationally as isolated as possible.
While Libya was by no means central to our strategy, it was still desirable that the Libyan government, particularly its head, Col. Qaddafi, not express support for the Iranian action.
A series of diplomatic initiatives was undertaken to persuade the Libyan government to take a public position opposing the hostage-taking. In the meantime, Tripoli radio was broadcasting expressions of solidarity with Iran. . . . On Nov. 18, the U.S. charge met with Libyan officials to complain about Libya's increasingly open support for the Iranian position. The charge recommended that Mr. Ali Houderi be called in "at a fairly high level" in Washington to be given a similar message.
On the morning of Nov. 20, at 10:21 a.m., the president called me from Camp David, and in the course of a conversation pertaining to that day's forthcoming NSC [National Security Council] meeting on the Iran hostage issue mentioned to me that Mrs. Carter had asked Billy Carter if Libya could be helpful on the hostage issue, and asked me to follow up with Billy. . . . I said that I would pursue this, and at 10:50 that morning I called Billy Carter to ask if he could somehow be helpful in getting Libya to take a more constructive posture on the hostage issue. I asked if he knew Hounderi, and I said that I would be happy to meet Houderi personally to discuss the importance of Libya disassociating itself from the kidnaping. I either asked him if he could come to Washington of if he were coming to Washington anyway. I do not recall which. Later that day Billy Carter came to Washington, and I spoke to him again by telephone at 5:33 p.m. He called me back at 7:43 p.m.
In the 7:43 conversation, as I recall, Billy indicated that a meeting with Houderi could be set up for the following week. I called Secretary of State [Cyrus] Vance immediately thereafter, at 7:44 p.m. Most probably in that conversation (because of its timing) or in any case at some point prior to Nov. 27, I recall mentioning to Secretary Vance that a contact with the Libyans through Billy Carter was being explored. He replied with a remark to the effect that this might be worth it, or that there was no harm in trying, or something like that.
At this time, I had no knowledge of any payments by the Libyan government to Billy Carter, and I did not learn of them until the court documents were published on July 14, 1980. There was general knowledge that the Department of Justice was investigating his relationship with the Libyan government, but I was not aware of any formal allegations of wrong-doing. The warm reception given him in Tripoli in the course of his last trip indicated that the Libyans might be somewhat more receptive to an approach initiated by him. At that time we felt we should use any means to influence constructively the resolution of the hostage issue.
It is worth remembering, in this context, that other events made this one of the most dangerous and tense periods of the entire hostage crisis. For some days before Nov. 20, there had been mounting indications that Tehran was considering putting the American hostages on trial. . . . MEETING OF NOV. 27 AND SUBSEQUENT EVENTS
On Nov. 22, two days after the calls made on Nov. 20, the Libyan Foreign Secretarist issued a formal statement on the hostage issue which said that "in our view, the hostages should be released." This was the first official Libyan reaction to the embassy seizure and represented a substantial shift from the previous, open Libyan support for the Iranian position. On Nov. 24, the U.S. charge in Tripoli was called to the Foreign Ministry to be told that the Nov. 22 statement represented the position of the Libyan government and that Libya would continue to use its good offices to seek release of the hostages.
On Nov. 27, Ali Houderi came to my office, as prearranged. He was accompanied by Billy Carter and Henry R. Coleman. The latter was introduced to me by Billy Carter as "my associate." I had never previously met or heard of him, nor seen or talked to him since.
Initially, the conversation was social. Houderi and I talked of our various university asociations, his with New York University and mine with Columbia. After such general pleasantries, I then expressed my satisfaction at the recent statements of the Libyan government, and I stressed to him that in our view it was important for all decent, and particularly, religiously motivated, countries to condemn strongly the taking of the hostages. I expressed my satisfaction to him that this meeting was taking place, and I asked him to tell Col. Qaddafi on behalf of the President that we hoped that the colonel would exercise whatever leverage he could to influence the Iranians to release the hostages.
Houderi responded that he would convey my message to his government and that he would respond as soon as he could. His attitude was very positive. The conversation lasted from 4:29 to 4:48 p.m. (Since it was primarily exploratory, I did not make a record of it.)
I had no further conversation with Billy Carter from that time until our telephone conversation in March. He was not involved in my further dealings with the Libyans.
On Nov. 29, we received a message from Col. Qaddafi to President Carter. Col. Quaddafi expressed a desire to develop U.S.-Libyan relations and his opposition to the taking of diplomatic hostages; he noted that Libya had been making efforts in this regard even before the above-mentioned approach; he suggested that Libyan efforts may have had some effect in securing the release of the American women and blacks in Tehran; and he stated that a delegation had been sent to Tehran to meet with [Ayatollah] Khomeini and to seek the release of the hostages. This message was relayed to the U.S. charge in Tripoli and was also delivered to me at the White House.
During this same time, beginning on Nov. 20, a band of religious fanatics seized the Great Mosque in Mecca. False rummors about U.S. involvement in the attack -- reports which Ayatollah Khomeini personally endorsed -- sparked a mob assault on the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Nov. 21.
The combination of passion aroused by the mosque incident and the heightened tension in U.S, relations with Iran also touched off a number of demonstrations in Moslem countries.
On Dec. 2 a group of Libyan demonstrators, expressing solidarity with Iran, attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, and set it on fire. A vigorous U.S. protest was delivered to the Libyans the same day.
In the next several days, U.S-Libyan relations became increasingly tense.
On the morning of Dec. 6, the president, having earlier consulted with the Secretary of State on the state of U.S.-Libyan relations, instructed me to summon the Libyan representative to the White House and to bring him to his office. In the course of the meeting, which lasted from 11:02 to 11:12, the president asked Houderi to convey the following message to the Libyan government: While expressing appreciation for Libyan assistance regarding the hostages, the president expressed grave concern over the attack on our embassy. He stated that in his view the Libyan government could have prevented the attack and that it had not treated our embassy with proper concern and protection. The president stated very firmly that it was his expectation that the Libyan leaders would apologize for the attack and repair the damaage. If that issue could be put behind us, the U.S. would like to have a better relationship with Libya, since that was clearly in the interest of both countries. (A classified record of this meeting has been delivered to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.)
Two days after [Col. Muammar Qaddafi gave an interview to the New York Times in which he openly opposed the holding of the hostages] on Dec. 12, Houderi returned to Washington from Libya and contacted me to relay a personal message from Col. Qaddafi to the president. I met him in my office from 4:35 to 4:50 p.m. on the 12th. Qaddafi's message covered many of the same points in the interview, noting that he was ashamed and unhappy with what the American hostages went through in Iran. He stated that messages and a delegation had been sent to Khomeini and he offered some suggestions on ways to resolve the dispute. The message also acknowledged Libyan responsibility for the embassy attack and promised remedial steps. . . .
It is difficult to judge the extent to which the contact with Houderi, initiated through Billy Carter, and the subsequent indirect exchanges with Col. Qaddafi did or did not prompt the shift in the Libyan position on the hostage issue. It is clear, however, that a shift did take place and that this shift favored our ongoing efforts to isolate Iran and our objective of generating maximum international pressure for the release of the hostages. TELEPHONE CALL TO BILLY CARTER IN MARCH 1980
In March 1980, Stansfield Turner, the director of Central Intelligence, drew my attention to a brief intelligence report which bore on Billy Carter's commercial dealings with an oil company and Libyan efforts to exploit them. A copy of this classified report has been furnished to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I must withhold further details in this statement in order to protect intelligence sources and methods.
Recognizing that Billy Carter might be involved in activities that were potentially embarrassing to this country and to the president, I decided to phone him. I did so on the afternoon of the day on which I read the report. (We have not been able to locate in the logs the precise time of this call, though I remember it was in the afternoon.) In my conversation with Billy Carter, I said to him substantially the following: As you probably know, in the nature of my job a great deal of information flows across my desk. I have recently seen some information which seems to suggest that you are engaged in an oil deal, and that you are seeking an increased allocation from Libya for a U.S. oil company. This could be exploited politically by the Libyans, thus it could create considerable embarrassment for this country an for the president personally. I hope you will do nothing that would be embarrassing.
He responded by saying to me that he was entitled to his privacy and that I had no right to inject myself into his personal affairs; moreover, he had a right to make a living. . . .
The next day I reported to the presisdent that I had seen an intelligence report, and I summarized to him its contents. I also reported my telephone call to Billy Carter, repeating what I had said to him and his response. The president said that I had done the right thing.
I saw no other intelligence reports before or later mentioning Billy Carter. CONTACTS ON JUNE 11-12, 1980
On June 10, I received a phone call from Billy Carter asking if I could see him the next day. I made an appointment for him to come to my office at 3:30 p.m. on June 11. On that day I saw Billy Carter alone from 3:21 until 3:28, when Mr. Lloyd Cutler joined us at my invitation. The meeting continued until 3:45. At that time Billy Carter and Lloyd Cutler moved to Cutler's office. In the course of our initial conversation, Billy Carter informed me that he was being interrogated by the Department of Justice regarding his relationship with Libya, and he asked me whether, in that context, there were any national security reasons why he should not disclose his role in November 1979 in arranging my meeting with Ali Houderi on the hostage issue. I told him that I saw no reason why such information should be withheld. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
In the concluding part of my testimony let me deal with two relevant issues:
A. U.S.-Libyan Relations. I can state unequivocally that at no time was my attitude on U.S. policy toward Libya affected, in any direction, by Billy Carter's activities.
B. The Effect of Billy Carter's involvement. We may never know what motivated Col. Qaddafi to adopt a new public posture toward the hostages on Nov.22 -- two days after Billy Carter arranged a meeting with the Libyans -- and to send a delegation to Tehran several days later. But my telephone call to Billy Carter and his subsequent contact with Libyan officials may have played a part. . . .
While there was the risk that this approach would enhance Billy Carter's status in the eyes of the Libyans, our overriding objective at the time was to influence the Libyans so that they would take a position helpful to the release of the hostages. They were obviously conscious of the fact that he was the president's brother, since befor November he had twice visited Libya and been warmly received. That is precisely why he was asked to help in this connection. I also think it is right and fair for me to say that I had the distinct impression that Billy Carter was genuinely eager to help the hostages.
In brief, I believe the above shows that the relationship with Billy Carter was entirely proper; that the relationship was limited to the specific hostage matter at a time when every possible means to influence the Iranians was being mobilized; and that the subsequent telephone conversation with him in March was designed to deter him rom any activity that could cause embarrassment to the nation or the president or that could be exploited by a foreign power.