An Israeli offer to supply arms to the Nicaraguan contras is one of the secret initiatives described in the memo that triggered a dispute this week over whether President Reagan had been told that profits from the Iranian arms sales were used to finance covert operations.
In a heavily edited, unclassified version of the Sept. 15, 1986, memo, Lt. Col. Oliver L. North asked then-national security adviser John M. Poindexter to brief Reagan about "initiatives" contained in a classified attachment. Next to the word "approve," are Poindexter's initials and the notation "Done."
Jim Hershberg, an analyst for the National Security Archive, a private research group, compared the heavily edited attachment released by the committees with a more complete version printed in the Tower review panel's report, which showed that one of the "initiatives" was the Israeli offer of arms to the contras. Hershberg made his research available to The Washington Post.
Computer messages between Poindexter and North indicate that Poindexter approved North's plan to have the weapons shipped by the private Iran-contra supply network headed by retired Air Force major general Richard V. Secord. The Secord operation was financed primarily with profits from the Iranian arms sales.
The controversy erupted when Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate Iran-contra panel, said Sunday on CBS News' "Face the Nation" that the memo indicated Poindexter had briefed the president on the use of "residuals," North's term for the U.S.-Iran arms proceeds.
However, there was no mention of the Iranian arms sales profits in the unclassified portions of the memo released by the committees, and sources said there were no references in either the classified sections of the memo or the accompanying attachment. Whether Poindexter, who is scheduled to appear before the committees today, will testify that he briefed Reagan as the memo indicates remains to be seen.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater on Monday called Inouye's characterization of the memo "totally inaccurate" and reiterated that Reagan had "never been briefed on diversion of funds or any excess funds" from the Iran weapons sales.
The link between Iranian arms proceeds and the "initiatives" cited in the memo was made by North. The fired National Security Council aide testified that the "initiatives" were to be financed by profits from the Iranian arms sales. He also testified that covert initiatives he did not describe were to be carried out jointly by the United States and Israel.
North's memo was prepared for a Sept. 15, 1986, meeting between Reagan and then-Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. The documents released by the committees blacked out the portion of the accompanying attachment that deals with the "initiatives" referred to in the memo.
However, a portion of the attachment was printed last February in the public report released by the Tower review panel. North said in the attachment that on Sept. 11, 1986, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin had offered "a significant quantity of captured Soviet-bloc arms for use by the Nicaraguan democratic resistance."
However, the Tower report does not identify the other covert activities or "initiatives."
A Jan. 29 Senate intelligence committee report also cites North's Sept. 15, 1986, memo and refers to the Israeli arms offer. The report says then-White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan told the panel he attended a briefing of the president an hour before the Peres meeting, where it was decided that if Peres raised the offer of arms to the contras, "the president should 'just say thanks.' "