From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

Agent of Change

Robert Gates helped win the cold war as director of the CIA, but that
assignment was a walk in the park compared with his current one:
bringing Texas A&M university’s unique but not always admired culture
into the modern era and remaking the way the world views
Aggieland—and the way Aggieland views the world.

by Paul Burka

Some may boast of the prowess bold,
Of the school they think so grand,
But there’s a spirit can ne’er be told
It’s the spirit of Aggieland.

SO BEGINS THE TEXAS A&M ALMA MATER. Like school songs everywhere, it
was not written to be controversial. But if you stop to think about the
words, you might ask yourself, If the story is so great, so unique,
then why hasn’t it been told? Why not tell it? You might wonder, too,
whether Texas A&M has paid a price for not telling it, whether the
lyrics hint at a circle-the-wagons attitude in the A&M community: that
many Aggies, past and present, don’t care what the outside world
thinks of Texas A&M, so long as the Aggie spirit remains a vibrant and
living presence on the College Station campus. And you might consider
whether a saying that Aggies have about that spirit—“From the
outside, you can’t understand it; from the inside, you can’t
explain it”—serves Texas A&M well or badly.

It so happens that Robert M. Gates, the president of Texas A&M
University, has been thinking about these exact questions for the past
four years. Don’t tell him that A&M can’t be explained. “I hate
that phrase,” he says. “I don’t think it’s accurate. Texas A&M
is a unique blending of academic excellence, tradition, and spirit.
That is explainable.”

Gates, 63, knows a thing or two about large communities with distinct
identities, long -established ways of doing things, and an aversion to
explaining themselves, having spent his entire career before coming to
A&M working for the Central Intelligence Agency, where he reached the
top of the organization chart as director of central intelligence from
1991 to 1993. It may seem a strange course to go from the nation’s
spymaster (although he came up through the intelligence-analyzing side
of the CIA, as the agency’s foremost student of the Soviet Union
during the Cold War, rather than through the covert-operations side) to
the presidency of a large state university, but Gates finds more in
common between the two places than you might think. “Both have very
strong cultures,” he said. “Both cultures are very difficult to
change. Both organizations think that no one on the outside understands
us. And both believe that only we know how to do what we do.”

We were sitting at a table in his office, on the tenth floor of Rudder
Tower, named for Earl Rudder, A&M’s greatest president, with a view
looking north over the huge campus and beyond to the rich Brazos
farmland that brought A&M to this spot 130 years ago. He has silver
hair that lies obediently on either side of his part, a round face, and
alert blue eyes—when I could see them. As we talked, Gates seldom
made visual contact, preferring to fix his gaze on the distant panorama
afforded by a picture window. His line of sight was a full ninety
degrees to the right of where I was sitting. I have since mused about
his body language, trying to guess at its meaning. Was it an old habit,
a way of making sure that he wasn’t giving away any clues that could
be “read” by a potential adversary? Was it a form of gamesmanship?
Or was it his way of focusing, of shutting out extraneous stimuli to
concentrate on his answers?

We had just returned from the photo shoot for the cover of this issue.
>From the steps of a columned administration building on the east side

of the campus, we could barely make out in the distance the memorial to
the victims of the 1999 Bonfire collapse. Surrounded by students
wearing shorts and T-shirts (except for uniformed cadets), he had stood
erect and motionless for almost half an hour in a black suit, under a
merciless sun. Offered a bottle of water, he refused. Advised to shuck
his coat, he declined. When the shoot was over, not a bead of sweat
showed on forehead nor brow, not a strand of hair had strayed from its
assigned place. Now, coat shucked at last, he wore his patriotism on
his sleeve, literally: gold cuff links with a design of the American

A man who will not compromise with the sun is a person to be reckoned
with, and that is how Bob Gates has come to be viewed at Texas A&M. As
the university’s twenty-second president, he is determined to leave
his mark on the school as few previous leaders have done. One can infer
from his CIA background that he is not easily dissuaded from his chosen
course or prone to doubting his own powers of observation. And his
chosen course is to change the way the world views Texas A&M, not to
mention the way Texas A&M views itself.

To accomplish this, Gates has created a new position, chief marketing
officer and vice president for communications, whose job will be to
oversee what Gates calls the “rebranding of Texas A&M.” Now, I
daresay that most Texans, to say nothing of most Aggies, regard A&M as
already being one of the best-branded schools in America. There is
Harvard, there is Berkeley, there is Notre Dame, and there is Texas
A&M. Some longtime Aggies have expressed skepticism to me about the
need for rebranding; one described it as “a solution looking for a
problem.” But Gates is determined to see it through. “There is a
huge opportunity cost if we don’t do it,” he said. “We need to
significantly improve the public’s knowledge and perception of the

The branding campaign is only one of the ways in which Gates is trying
to transform A&M. It is hard to come up with an area of the university
that has escaped his gaze—or his action. The administration. The
faculty. The athletics department. The Corps of Cadets. Minority
admissions. Graduate programs. A new undergraduate degree program. How
buildings ought to be utilized. How decisions get made. Even the food
service. I can’t imagine a president of the University of Texas
spending ten seconds of his term thinking about the food service. Gates
canned the top five managers at A&M and hired replacements from
Stanford. Why? He wants A&M’s students to be broadened by exposure to
different cultures, and he thinks that new kinds of food are one way to
do it. Perhaps it is not so surprising, these days, that A&M now serves
sushi, but who would have thought the day would come when campus dining
halls offered Soul Food Fridays? And coming soon are Organic Farmer’s
Market Thursdays.

All of this transformation is occurring at a university that, deep
down, has never wanted to be transformed and has always viewed change
with a narrow range of emotions bracketed by suspicion and hostility.
This article is my sixth story about Texas A&M in nine and a half
years, and while the nominal subjects have been different, all stories
about A&M have the same underlying theme: the need for the university
to evolve, as seen by its leaders, and the continuing antipathy to
change, as voiced by its present and former students. That the
resistance is based upon affection—the unimaginable degree to which
Aggies mate with their school for life and ask nothing more of it than
that it remain the same as when they were students—does not make it
less difficult to overcome. If anything, the opposite is true. Every
Aggie is a self-appointed guardian of the Aggie spirit, eternally on
the alert for signs of slippage.

The student newspaper, the Battalion, and particularly its Mail Call
column, is a forum for such concerns. “I call on all Aggies out there
to start living up to our Code of Honor and to those of us who do to
join with me in no longer tolerating those who are being bad Aggies,”
wrote one senior girl, who was upset that a male student had allowed
several friends without the proper tickets to sit with him at the first
home football game, thereby crowding other fellow Aggies, including
herself. Similar feelings were voiced in a letter from a junior girl:
“Call me old fashioned, but I believe in chivalry.… I am very
disappointed by the actions of many of the gentlemen on the Texas A&M
campus. I have been riding the bus … and every time I get on, there
are plenty of gentlemen who are seated, and not one of them has offered
me (or any girl for that matter) their seat.” Another senior girl
expressed alarm that the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
(COALS) was going to change its name to the College of AgriLife
Sciences, as part of its own rebranding effort. “As a member of the
college, I am proud of my agriculture background, and I do not support
the name change. For some time now, the COALS slogan has been,
‘Putting the ‘A’ in A&M since 1876.’ Why does the
administration now, after 130 years, want to take that ‘A’ out?”
It’s not being taken out, of course, just getting a makeover.

The historical dilemma of Texas A&M is that this love for the school,
this respect for tradition and values, is both A&M’s greatest
strength—the reason why its current capital campaign has surpassed
its $1 billion goal by some $300 million with several months to
go—and, at times, its greatest weakness. Because tradition so often
has stood in the way of change, it has occluded the perception of Texas
A&M even in its home state. Few realize what an academic powerhouse A&M
has become and what a lofty goal its leaders have set, dating back to
Gates’s predecessor, Ray Bowen: to become one of the top ten public
universities in America by 2020.

This is why Bob Gates wants to rebrand Texas A&M. One does not spend a
career in Washington, working for an agency that does its work in
secret and cannot publicly defend itself against its critics in the
executive branch, the Congress, and the media, without learning that
perception can become reality. He has never hidden his intentions. “I
am an agent of change,” he told the A&M Board of Regents when he was
interviewed for the job of president (for which his competition was
none other than former U.S. senator Phil Gramm). “If you don’t want
change, you don’t want me.”

branding,” he told me. “It means that what a company stands for
will be as important as what it sells. Visionary companies have a core
purpose beyond making money.” A co-founder of the Austin-based
advertising agency GSD&M, Spence has fashioned this pitch into a
mantra. He loves to quote from Built to Last and Good to Great, Jim
Collins’s best-selling books about corporate management, which set
out to discover what separates the most successful companies from the
rest of the pack. Steve Moore, A&M’s new chief marketing officer,
says of Spence, “He is a true believer, an evangelist.”

Spence grew up in Brownwood, played quarterback under the legendary
coach Gordon Wood, and has a rugged West Texas face under his blond
hair to show for his years outdoors in the wind. When he gets excited,
his voice gets softer, not louder, and smooth as purée. “You can’t
make up your values,” he said of branding. “They have to be real.
We discover and bring to life the values of companies.” He told a
story about how Southwest Airlines chairman Herb Kelleher, before the
company’s twenty-fifth anniversary, asked him, “What does our brand
really stand for?” and after some discussion about making it possible
for people who had never flown before to be able to afford to fly,
Kelleher came up with “to democratize the skies.” That’s all
Spence needed to know. “We took Herb out of the airline business,”
he said, “and put him in the freedom business. Southwest even has a
freedom manifesto. A flight attendant is free to sing. It helps us

Two years ago Spence gave a talk to the American Council on Education,
which bills itself as the unifying voice for higher education, in which
he volunteered to rebrand higher education. “We’ve got to get the
public to support higher ed again,” he told me. “It’s our last
hope to be a solutions machine for the world.” Gates was on the ACE
committee that decided to bring Spence onboard, and Moore ultimately
retained GSD&M to do purpose-based branding for Texas A&M. That Spence
was a teasip—he graduated from UT in 1971—who had previously done a
branding campaign for UT was no obstacle. The cultures of the two
schools are so different that their rivalry, always fierce in
athletics, does not extend to education. “He liked the process we
use,” Spence said of Gates. “Interviews with alumni, faculty,
students, administrators, parents, high school guidance counselors,
companies that hire A&M graduates—these allowed us to discover the
university’s purpose. Purpose is the North Star.”

As I listened to Spence, I found myself thinking, “Doesn’t A&M know
what its purpose is? I know what it is. It’s to make Aggies.” And I
mean that in the best sense. The university goes to extraordinary
lengths to get students to “buy in.” The process starts with Fish
Camp, three-day summer orientation sessions in East Texas at which
freshmen learn yells and Aggie traditions and, more seriously, begin
the process of feeling part of the extended Aggie family. (At a
campus-area eatery, I saw a girl wearing a blue Fish Camp T-shirt that
read “Where Else But Aggieland Can You Whip It Out and Hump It?”)
By the third day, love for the school has been instilled. One reason
for the success of Fish Camp is that it is entirely planned and run by
students. In fact, many things at A&M are student run. Students drive
the buses that shuttle other students around campus. Students run the
career fair at the business school. Once school starts, freshmen are
encouraged, both by the university and by other students, to join
student organizations, which number around eight hundred. The idea is
not just for everyone to find a niche but also to give students a
chance to develop into leaders. (A&M even offers a major in
Agricultural Leadership and Development.) All of this extracurricular
activity is known at A&M as “the other education,” and it is valued
as highly by the university as the real education.

The branding process for A&M identified six core values: integrity,
loyalty, excellence, leadership, selfless service, and respect. The
last core value addresses a longtime problem at A&M—as Moore puts it,
“respect, acceptance, and inclusion for all Aggies with respect to
race, color, gender, and religion.” All of these values point to a
core purpose: “to develop leaders of character dedicated to serving
the greater good.”

If you’re wondering where this is leading, well, so did I. If A&M
wants the world to know how good it is academically, why are most of
its core values nonacademic? Why does branding appear to have more to
do with the other education than with traditional education?

The answer, Spence explained, lies in yet another sacred text about
corporate management: Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, by
William Strauss and Neil Howe. Generation X is approaching middle age
and will soon be replaced by the Millennials—a generation born after
1981, who came of age starting in the year 2000, and who, the theory
goes, has a different set of values from the cynical, selfish Xers.
Millennials, according to Strauss and Howe, are confident, optimistic,
goal oriented, civic minded, inclusive, and patriotic.

Finally, I got it. Football coach Dennis Franchione would understand:
Rebranding is about recruiting. It’s about eradicating an image of
the university that is out-of-date but still persists—that, seen from
a distance, A&M, with its arcane rituals and its intense sense of
family, sometimes resembles a cult more than a culture. Now its core
values and its purpose statement are aligned with the values and
ambitions of the Millennials. How does a university teach leadership
and service? The best way is to find young people who already have
those traits. As Steve Moore told me, “We want to get kids who know
what they’re getting.” Sometime this fall, A&M will send out its
rebranding campaign to high school guidance counselors. And soon
afterward, the Millennials will come to realize that they are
Aggies—new, improved, thoroughly modern Aggies—waiting to be made.

BOB GATES CAME TO TEXAS A&M in 1999 as the interim dean of the George
Bush School of Government and Public Service. The A&M regents had
previously separated the school from the College of  Liberal Arts,
and Gates had taken the job at the request of Lieutenant General Brent
Scowcroft, the president of the foundation that oversees and supports
the Bush presidential library on campus. “It’s largely
honorific,” Scowcroft told Gates, who had been Scowcroft’s deputy
at the National Security Council in the George H. W. Bush
administration. “It will require a day or two a month for nine
months.” Gates smothered a sardonic laugh at that memory. “That was
classic bait and switch,” he said. “It turned out to be two weeks a
month for two years.” Gates and his wife resided, as they do now, at
one home ninety miles north of Seattle and another on remote Orcas
Island—“From the tallest mountain on Orcas, you can see
Vancouver”—and at first he was not enthusiastic about spending a
lot of time in College Station.

During his first year as dean, he stayed in the regents’ quarters, in
the Memorial Student Center, smack in the middle of campus. “I saw a
lot,” he said. The old CIA instinct to observe, to analyze, to
conclude was insuppressible. Gates attended meetings of the deans and
saw that the crucial decisions—about funding, for instance—were
made at a higher level, by vice presidents who were nonacademics.
“The deans were an asset that was not being taken advantage of,” he
said. When Ray Bowen announced his retirement, the battle to replace
him came down to Gates and Phil Gramm. The story at the time was that
Rick Perry, who had become governor in 2000, wanted the regents to
choose Gramm, but Bush 41 was influential in the eventual choice of

The moment when Gates signaled his intentions was the graduation
ceremony in December 2002. The traditional seating arrangement was for
attending faculty members to be seated almost out of sight, on the
arena floor, with the vice presidents onstage, in the front row, and
the deans seated behind them. One of Gates’ stated goals for A&M was
to “elevate the faculty,” but no one knew he meant it physically as
well as conceptually. Early arrivals at the ceremony were startled to
see that new construction had expanded the stage, allowing the faculty
to sit on the same level as the rest of the A&M leadership. The front
row was now occupied by the deans, with the vice presidents seated
behind them. Coming from a former Sovietologist, who had made a career
of noticing who was standing next to whom at Kremlin events, the
message was unmistakable: The new arrangements represented a
revolutionary transfer of power, from administrators to the faculty and
deans. When I went to A&M in 2004 to write about the university’s
growing pains as it wrestled with change, many of the people I
interviewed brought up the ceremony as the signature moment of
Gates’s presidency.

At the time, Gates and A&M faced two major problems (and a host of
smaller ones) that threatened to reverse the gains A&M had made during
the Bowen years. One was a backslide in academic performance since
1997, when the university cracked U.S. News and World Report ’s list
of the nation’s top fifty schools for the first time—and archrival
t.u. didn’t. By 2004 A&M had sunk to a six-way tie for sixty-seventh.
One of the reasons was that A&M had the worst ranking among major
universities in the percentage of small classes (fewer than 20
students) and the percentage of  big classes (more than 50). The
student-faculty ratio was an abysmal 22 to 1. All of these numbers
could be attributed to the failure to keep up with faculty hiring.
Gates had announced his intention to create more than four hundred
positions to be filled by the start of the 2007–2008 school year, a
goal that seemed impossible to meet and yet one on which the
realization of the university’s academic ambitions depended.

The second issue was diversity. For a major public university, whose
stated goal is service to the people of Texas, A&M’s number of
minority students is an embarrassment. After the Hopwood case brought
an end to affirmative action at all Texas colleges a decade ago,
A&M’s freshman class of 1996 included only 230 black students and 713
Hispanics. When the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2003 that affirmative
action admissions programs were constitutional after all, Gates had to
decide whether to use race- or ethnicity-based admissions. His decision
was no. There was an uproar from some faculty members—a Hispanic
professor wrote Gates that he was perpetuating the image of Aggieland
as “Crackerland”—but Gates didn’t budge. He invoked A&M’s
history as a land-grant college, whose mission was “to make higher
education available to all classes of students, not just a select
few.” It would seem that this argument would apply equally well to
embracing affirmative action as it does to rejecting it, but Gates did
not spend thirty years in Washington without developing good political
antennae. Doubt about the benefits of diversity still runs deep at A&M.
In a recent letter to the Battalion a senior wrote, “It never ceases
to amaze me that a man as smart and articulate as President Gates could
be duped into buying into the diversity mantra: ‘we will not tolerate
intolerance’. … As long as student leaders and administrators
continue to worship the idol that is diversity, our students will never
recognize that we are all Aggies. Only love for Aggies—not some
desire for an idealistic utopia filled with a politically correct blend
of races—will bring safety to our students, and an end to hateful

Gates didn’t need race-based admissions to get the numbers moving in
the right direction; he just needed a new admissions strategy. After he
rejected affirmative action, he eliminated legacy as a factor in
admissions for the children of  former students. (This year he
enlarged the freshman class by 850, which improves the odds for
everyone, legacies included.) One admiring faculty member who heard
Gates defend his decision told me, “It sent chills down my spine. He
asked us to put ourselves in the mind-set of a family who had never had
the opportunity to send their kid to college. Ask yourself, ‘Is
admitting legacies fair to that student? ’ If we’re going to
truly change the stereotype, we have to change our mind-set.” And
what is the stereotype? It’s what you see on TV during Aggie football
games. All male. All white. All military. All the time.

Gates has put considerable effort and resources into increasing
minority enrollment. A new admissions policy junks the old quantitative
method of assigning points for grades and test scores. Around 65
percent of the freshman class is made up of  “automatic
admits”—students who finish in the top 10 percent of their class or
score higher than 1300 on the SAT. All of the remaining applicants
receive what A&M calls a “holistic full-file review.” The objective
is to identify “students who have the propensity and capacity to
assume roles of leadership, responsibility, and service to society.”
Students are evaluated in three ways: academic achievement (grades and
test scores), personal achievement (honors, extracurricular activities,
community service), and distinguishing characteristics (educational
level of parents, family responsibility and obligations, fluency in a
second language, and overcoming adversity in the educational
environment). Reviewers never see any information about ethnicity,
although “distinguishing characteristics” is clearly a category
that generally benefits minority applicants along with first-generation
college students. The new admissions policy has continued to attract
students who are the first in their family to attend college. For
several years, including this year, these students have made up at
least a quarter of the freshman class—an astonishing number.

A&M has established scholarship programs for first-generation students
(ethnicity is not a criterion); it has opened recruiting centers in
Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Bryan, and several sites in South Texas.
Gates himself makes recruiting visits to inner-city schools. But the
yield is still small: just 256 blacks and 1,001 Hispanics among the
7,104 freshmen who entered A&M in 2005. In percentage terms, the
increase looks better: Hispanic freshman enrollment was up 45 percent
in two years, black enrollment 62 percent.

Why hasn’t A&M had more success attracting blacks or Hispanics? One
of the obstacles to attracting more minorities, everyone concedes, is
that too many Aggies haven’t gotten the memo that “respect” is a
core value. In his State of the University address last year, Gates
said, “[Our] welcoming and friendly environment makes a gigantic
university into a family, the Aggie family, where we respect each
other, look out for each other, bond together for the rest of our
lives.” Of those “who would exclude and insult some members of the
Aggie family,” he went on to say, “their behavior belies all we
believe not just about the Aggie family, but the importance of
character, integrity, and ethics here at Texas A&M.”

You will find racial prejudice on any campus, but at A&M it has the
added complexity of being part of the fear of change that goes all the
way back to the admission of women in the sixties—fear that if the
kinds of students who come here are different, A&M will be different
too. This attitude applies not only to minorities and foreign students
(one of whom was assaulted in September) but also to liberal arts
students. When the report establishing A&M’s long-term goals, known
as Vision 2020, came out during the Bowen presidency, one of its goals
was to build up the liberal arts, and Berkeley was included among the
peer institutions to which A&M was compared. Big mistake. Many former
students objected, saying that the last thing they wanted was for A&M
to be like Berkeley. (Not to worry.) And yet the reality of Texas A&M
is often very different from its image: The College of Liberal Arts
graduates more majors than agriculture, business, or engineering, the
colleges that carry out the university’s original mission.

The resistance to change is in the DNA at Texas A&M. The reason Earl
Rudder) was A&M’s greatest president is that he was able to overcome
this resistance and bring about the changes that rescued the university
from a slide into irrelevancy: the admission of women and the end of
compulsory membership in the Corps of Cadets. His decisions reversed
the trend of declining enrollment in the anti-war sixties. No other
president could have done what he did. Rudder was not only an A&M
graduate but also a war hero. On D-day he commanded a Ranger battalion
that scaled one-hundred-foot cliffs at Omaha Beach under heavy fire to
destroy German gun emplacements and help the invading forces establish
a beachhead. His unit suffered a casualty rate of more than 50 percent.

If you think this didn’t matter at Texas A&M, and if you think that
Bob Gates’ service to his country doesn’t matter, you don’t
understand this place at all. Aggies take patriotism very seriously.
The university’s seven Congressional Medal of Honor winners are
remembered in the Memorial Student Center. Even so, many Aggies of that
era believed that Rudder had destroyed the university, that the Aggie
spirit would never survive the changes, but he was untouchable.
Undoubtedly, there are Aggies today who feel the same way about some of
Gates’s changes, from committing to raise minority enrollment to
something as insignificant (on any other campus) as converting Hotard
Hall, an ancient dormitory that was regarded by its residents as a
hotbed of the Aggie spirit, into an office building. For an occasional
visitor like me, however, the wonder is not how much A&M has changed
but that, in all the ways that matter to Aggies, it has remained the
same. Name one other school where a women’s soccer game would draw an
estimated 8,500 people, as the Aggies did, against North Carolina, an
NCAA record.

TO RETURN TO TEXAS A&M two years after the turmoil of 2004 is to
encounter a different university. The faculty members I talked to then
had serious doubts whether many of the new positions could be filled.
A&M is a good place for married faculty, I was told. But Bryan-College
Station was not a good place for singles. You couldn’t go out in the
evening without running into students. Nor was it a good place for
minority faculty. The local black and Hispanic communities were poor.
Minority faculty members had to go to Houston to buy cosmetics and hair
products. Some chose to commute from Houston, Austin, or some of the
small towns in between. What I, and perhaps the faculty itself,
didn’t realize is that there are many more good professors looking
for jobs than there are good jobs. Two years later, A&M has filled 333
of the 447 positions and the student-faculty ratio is down 20 to 1. It
is on track to meet Gates’s deadline of fall 2007.

Faculty members love to grouse. There were plenty of grousers two years
ago. This time, I found none. Take sociology professor Rogelio Saenz. A
staunch supporter of affirmative action, he was highly critical of
Gates’s decision to reject it. And now? “I’m pleasantly
surprised,” he told me this fall. “This has been the most exciting
time in twenty years.” He continues to criticize the decision not to
use race as a factor in admissions—“We’ve got a long way to
go”—but he also found much to praise in new scholarships that have
been created for low-income students. Other presidents talked a good
game, he said. The difference is, “Gates has marshaled resources.”

The arrival of new faculty has done far more than just reduce the
student-faculty ratio. It has reinvigorated the university.
“There’s more energy here,” Saenz said, and this was not the only
time I heard this view expressed. One of the concerns I had about
adding a large number of faculty members in a short time was where they
would come from: major schools or, in an effort to get the numbers up
quickly, the backwaters of academia. Sociology was given six new
positions, Saenz said. One, an endowed chair, went to Joe Feagin, a
past president of the American Sociology Association, who had taught at
UT and more recently at the University of Florida. Another established
professor came from the University of Georgia. His Ph.D. was from the
University of Chicago. The other four were entry-level assistant
professors, three of whom had just received their Ph.D.’s and the
fourth had earned a postdoctoral fellowship. They came from the
University of Pennsylvania, UCLA, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. No
backwaters here. This is a stunning accomplishment. Repeat this across
65 departments, and the academic future of A&M is ensured for the next
decade. Gates has also taken steps to ensure that what A&M has built up
will not be easily taken away. He has raised the salaries of professors
who fell behind their peers during a period of tight budgets, upping
the cost to colleges that might want to steal them .

Equally surprising to me was the change that has taken place in the
Corps of Cadets. Its numbers had been dwindling for years, to the point
where the unthinkable was being thought: that the day might come when
the Corps might cease to exist. One of the biggest obstacles to
increasing the Corps’ numbers was the perception that a freshman
couldn’t be in the Corps and survive academically. The reason was a
tradition known as “Corps games,” in which upperclassmen made
freshmen who had somehow messed up do physical training instead of
attend class. The harassment could last all day. The commandant of the
Corps, Lieutenant General (ret.) John Van Alstyne, was determined to
put a stop to it but encountered a
we-had-to-do-it-now-they-have-to-do-it-too attitude from the
upperclassmen. Writing about this in 2004, I said, “The Corps is a
dying institution.” Reports of its death turned out to be greatly
exaggerated. This year, the Corps’ ranks are up from 1,700 to more
than 1,800, the number of female cadets (207) is at an all-time high,
and the grade point average of freshmen in the Corps last spring was
higher than the university’s overall average.

Many of the changes Gates has made have come in the area of governance.
And most of these are too prosaic to talk about. It is a task force
here, a committee there, a new initiative over there, but they all add
up to a better way of running the university—more businesslike, more
receptive to new ideas. He seldom rules by fiat. His style is to create
a climate in which change is encouraged and bring in a person who is
amenable to it. He did not originate the change in the name of the
College of Agriculture, but he replaced a longtime dean with a new one.
That she happened to be the first woman dean in the history of the
college was another signal to the old boys in ag that change was
coming. (I wonder if the display that greets visitors to the
college—“The Pork Hall of Fame”—is long for this world.) And
the old boys got the signal. “We have fourteen departments, and money
was always distributed according to historical allocations,” one ag
professor told me. “Now we have department reviews. I’ve been here
thirty-one years, and we’ve never moved money around. We always
worked on the principle that the only person who really likes change is
a baby with a dirty diaper. This is the new world.”

The symbolism embodied by the name change matters to Gates. As the
rearrangement of the people on the stage at graduation indicated, it is
part of his governing style. One of  his priorities was to make room
for the newly hired professors to have office space in the central part
of the campus, where they could interact with students. This required
moving mid-level administrators to the periphery of the campus. Now
these “bean counters,” as I heard them referred to, have been
relocated to a new complex across a major thoroughfare from the main
campus, behind the vet school.

Faculty and staff at other universities may regard these changes as the
norm rather than the exception. But A&M is located in a relatively
small community, far from the kind of scrutiny that occurs at UT and
other big universities, and it evolved differently from other colleges.
“This is an old university, but it’s one of the youngest
comprehensive research universities in the country,” Charles Johnson,
the dean of liberal arts, told me. A&M didn’t have faculty tenure
until the late sixties. It didn’t have a faculty senate until the
eighties. Administrators who were not academics made many of the
decisions about where money would be allocated. The administration
itself was inbred; most of the people who ran A&M were themselves
Aggies. Too often, these administrators bought into the old Aggie idea
that the heart was more important than the head. “We don’t want to
say we’re only spirit and values,” says Steve Moore.

Another newfangled Gates notion—not entirely welcome to old
hands—was that, in an era when the state’s contributions to higher
education were not as generous as they once were, the university should
be run more like a business. He brought in a new chief financial
officer, and among the operations that face revamping or elimination
are the faculty club, the purchasing department, and the nonperforming
dining halls; any peripheral service that is losing money is history.
The old-boy network may not be gone entirely, but it is endangered:
About four hundred staff positions have been eliminated since Gates
became president. “I was not brought here,” he told me, “to be
everybody’s friend.”

No area of the university is more enthusiastic about Gates than the
faculty. This attitude had already taken hold two years ago, when Marty
Loudder, then the speaker of the faculty senate, told me, “I’d walk
through hot coals for that man.” The current speaker, Doug Slack,
said Gates told him, “I will not make a decision of importance to the
faculty without consulting the faculty.” When a proposed intellectual
property rule required faculty members to get permission from the Texas
A&M System to write a book, the faculty was able to get the policy
changed. One morning, when Gates was on vacation, Slack got a call from
him. Gates had just read a book, Excellence Without a Soul, about how
Harvard’s faculty had failed the university and its students; he was
bringing back copies for Slack, the provost, and the vice presidents to
read and discuss at a retreat. “Think about what we want Texas A&M
graduates to be. How do we get them there?” Gates said. It had been
thirty years, Slack told me, since anyone had given him homework.

As far-reaching as these governance changes were, what really matters
at a university is academics. Here, too, Gates has made some important
moves. A&M has always emphasized undergraduate education; many of its
Ph.D. programs are of recent vintage. It has had trouble competing for
good graduate students because major universities typically pay for
their tuition and also provide a stipend. This has not been the case at
A&M—until now. You may ask, “So what?” The answer is that in the
academic world, a university’s reputation depends more on the quality
of its graduate students than its undergraduate students. Where those
students get hired as professors— Berkeley or Boise State—affects
that reputation. It’s strictly word of mouth. A&M didn’t provide
the money to compete for top graduate students. Now it does: Last year
the university provided $8.4 million in tuition for graduate

Of all the changes Gates has made, he believes that the elevation and
expansion of the faculty is the most important. He knows—I’m
speculating here, not paraphrasing him—that one of the greatest
threats to A&M’s academic renaissance is a return to the bad old days
(bad old decades is more like it) when the old-boy network ran the
university. There will always be tension at A&M between Old Aggies and
New Aggies. The difference is not age but outlook. Only a system of
governance that guarantees the faculty a voice in decision making can
keep A&M on the track Gates has set for it.

“Leadership in large public institutions requires a skill set
different from the private sector,” Gates told me. “A&M and the CIA
have this in common. Professionals in the organization got there before
you were there and will be there after you leave. For changes to last,
the professionals have to assimilate the changes and make them their
own. My time here is finite. I want to build something that will long
outlast me.”

AS YOU MIGHT EXPECT, Bob Gates is not a man who reveals himself. I have
been around him three times, once in 2004 and twice for this story. He
is one of the most consistent personalities I’ve ever met. He’s all
business, a man under total self-control. He doesn’t fidget. He
isn’t a backslapper. He doesn’t make small talk. He doesn’t
boast; neither does he engage in false modesty. He is a motivator, not
a cheerleader. He is always polite. He wears an air of authority as if
it were tailored by Brooks Brothers. He answers questions fully but
volunteers little. Most of his laughter comes from a finely developed
sense of irony. I would back him to the hilt in a no-limit poker game.

And that would be all that I could tell you about Gates, except that he
wrote a book—quite a good book, in fact. From the Shadows: The
Ultimate Insider’s Story of Five Presidents and How They Won the Cold
War is as compelling a history of the U.S.-Soviet rivalry as you’re
likely to read. You might get confused by CIA initials—DCI, DO,
NIE—and you may learn more about Angola than you care to know, but
Gates the personality comes through in these pages and so does the CIA.
That sense of irony appears in the form of a photograph of a poster
with a head shot of Gates talking into a microphone. “WANTED” it
reads. “Robert Gates. Director of CIA. For violation of international
law and human rights violations. CIA OFF CAMPUS.” Underneath,
Gates’s caption says “Public esteem: one of the rewards of being
head of CIA.”

Gates joined the CIA in 1966, during the Vietnam War, fresh out of
Indiana University. By 1968 he was an analyst of Soviet policy in the
Middle East and Africa. He opposed the war, as did most of his CIA
friends, and even marched in protest of U.S. activity in Cambodia.
“Popular impressions then and now about the CIA—especially as a
conservative, Cold War bureaucratic monolith—have always been wrong.
… ” He writes of the influence of the counterculture, of
experiments with marijuana by supervisors, of anti-Nixon posters and
bumper stickers that “festooned CIA office walls.” Nixon comes in
for some harsh words. Richard Helms, then the CIA director, told a
story about going into the Oval Office just as Secretary of Defense
Melvin Laird was leaving. Nixon pointed at Laird and said, “There
goes the most devious man in the United States,” to which Gates adds,
“Some accolade, considering the source.”

Gates’s motivation for writing the book, he told me, was to let the
public know how well the agency performed its duties—especially its
evaluations of Soviet military and economic strength—during the Cold
War, despite continuing attacks from the left and the right. The
majority of the book focuses on the Reagan and Bush administrations and
the climax of the Cold War. For most of this time, Gates was either
deputy director of central intelligence or, under Bush, director. He
was always a skeptic about Gorbachev, always believed he was a
Communist at heart rather than a true reformer. He also believed from
the beginning that the Soviet Union could not sustain its vast military
buildup and its foreign adventuring without risking economic collapse.
In all of this, he was proved right. Gates occasionally allows himself
an I-told-you-so, but he also owns up to his misjudgments.

What I found fascinating, though, was the early part of his career,
when we see him learning the lessons for leadership he would later put
to use, first at the CIA, then at Texas A&M. He wrote the book in 1996,
when A&M wasn’t even on his radar screen, but the lessons survive to
the present day. Of arms limitations negotiations with the Soviet
Union, he writes about senior American officials who “not only lost
sight of the forest but mistook tiny shrubs for trees.” Gates knows
the difference between shrubs and trees. He has little use for James
Schlesinger, a CIA director whose treatment of people was “crude,
demanding, arrogant, and dismissive of experience.” But he praises
another director, William Colby, who “was friendly and treated us
with courtesy” and likewise Jimmy Carter’s national security
adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, who “treated support
staff—secretaries, security people, the Situation Room staff, baggage
handlers—with respect and dignity.” This reminded me of a story by
A&M business professor Ben Welch, who told me of encountering Gates on
campus. “I’m Ben,” the professor said, to which Gates responded,
“I know you. Business. We’re lucky to have you.”

In 1974 Gates joined the National Security Council staff under Henry
Kissinger. “A common thread of our days,” Gates writes, “was the
fruitless effort to persuade the bureaucracy, and especially the State
Department, that they worked for the President and might occasionally
make time in their busy schedules to support his requirements and
implement his policies.” Now, at A&M, Gates wants everybody to be on
the same page when it comes to crucial matters like welcoming minority

Most of all, Gates saw events with a startling clarity. He developed
the ability to see what others could not. Most Americans believed that
Jimmy Carter was a weak president toward the Soviet Union whose
emphasis on human rights was, as Gates describes the prevailing
viewpoint, “naïve and counterproductive.” Not Gates. By
emphasizing human rights violations, Carter “became the first
president since Truman to directly challenge the legitimacy of  the
Soviet government in the eyes of its own people. … His approach
marked a decisive and historic turning point in the U.S.-Soviet
relationship.” This capacity for insight against the conventional
wisdom explains why he has so many initiatives going at A&M all at
once; trained during the urgency of the Cold War, he can’t see a
problem without wanting to fix it. But he was not blind to Carter’s
shortcomings, his infamous propensity to micromanage (“We sometimes
referred to him as the nation’s ‘chief grammarian,’ ” he
writes. “He even corrected CIA’s President’s Daily Brief, and
once wrote Brzezinski a special note to remind him that Mrs. Carter’s
name—Rosalynn—was spelled with two n’s”), and his inability to
resolve disagreements between advisers. Even his critics at A&M would
not accuse Bob Gates of not knowing how to make a decision.

In the late seventies, Gates served as executive assistant to
Stansfield Turner, Jimmy Carter’s choice to head the CIA. Turner was
widely disliked in the agency, and Gates has little good to say about
him. He describes Turner as an “agent of change,” but one who went
about achieving it in the wrong way. Gates writes, “His failure to
build a substantial internal constituency for his changes led to the
reversal of his initiatives very quickly after his departure.”
Nothing has engaged Gates more at Texas A&M than building internal
constituencies and trying to perpetuate his reforms. Reflecting on
Carter’s unrecognized contribution to America’s victory in the Cold
War, Gates quoted an observation by the late columnist Walter Lippmann
that applies equally to Gates’s efforts to change A&M: We must all
“plant trees we will never get to sit under.”

IN EARLY SEPTEMBER GATES went to Baghdad with, among others, James
Baker, to evaluate the situation in Iraq for President George W. Bush.
That was the second time the White House had turned to Gates. In
January 2005 Andy Card, then chief of staff for Bush, called Gates to
ask if he would take the newly created post of director of national
intelligence, or, as it was called, “Intelligence Czar.” Gates did
not want to leave A&M, nor did he want to return to Washington. And he
was well aware of the pitfalls of the job. “The DNI only has budget
authority,” he told me as we drove back to Rudder Tower in the golf
cart Gates uses to get around campus. “He decides how much money each
agency gets. What good does that do? If you’re director of NSA [the
National Security Agency] and the Secretary of Defense can fire you,
who are you going to listen to? That was one reason not to take it. I
couldn’t have hired or fired the head of a single agency.”

But there was more to it than that. Gates agonized over the decision
for seventeen days. He eventually decided, as he said in his State of
the University speech in 2005, “that if I might be able to help make
America safer in a dangerous time, then I must, and therefore had to
accept the position—and leave A&M.” He wrote an e-mail to all
Aggies, which would be sent out as the introductory press conference in
Washington began. It ended, “I … wanted you to know that this
appointment was due to no initiative of mine, that the decision was
wrenching, and that I can hardly bear the idea of leaving Aggieland.”

And then, Gates told the audience, he went for a late night walk around
campus, arriving eventually at the statue of Sul Ross, the former
governor and Texas Ranger and the only president besides Rudder to have
a statue on the campus. He described the thoughts that raced through
his mind: “ … of Ross and Rudder, of Silver Taps and Muster, of the
Corps, of the incredible students and faculty and staff here, and of
all that is under way to make A&M greater. I realized, sitting there
alone in the dark, brushing away tears, how much I had come to love
Texas A&M, all it stands for, and all it can become. And I knew at that
moment I could not leave.”

Robert M. Gates

Robert M. Gates was the Central Intelligence Agency’s deputy director
for intelligence (DDI) from 1982 to 1986. He was confirmed as the CIA’s
deputy director of central intelligence (DDCI) in April of 1986 and
became acting director of central intelligence in December of that same
year. Owing to his senior status in the CIA, Gates was close to many
figures who played significant roles in the Iran/contra affair and was
in a position to have known of their activities. The evidence developed
by Independent Counsel did not warrant indictment of Gates for his
Iran/contra activities or his responses to official inquiries.

The Investigation

Gates was an early subject of Independent Counsel’s investigation, but
the investigation of Gates intensified in the spring of 1991 as part of
a larger inquiry into the Iran/contra activities of CIA officials. This
investigation received an additional impetus in May 1991, when
President Bush nominated Gates to be director of central intelligence
(DCI). The chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on
Intelligence (SSCI) requested in a letter to the Independent Counsel on
May 15, 1991, any information that would “significantly bear on the
fitness” of Gates for the CIA post.

Grand Jury secrecy rules hampered Independent Counsel’s response.
Nevertheless, in order to answer questions about Gates’ prior
testimony, Independent Counsel accelerated his investigation of Gates
in the summer of 1991. This investigation was substantially completed
by September 3, 1991, at which time Independent Counsel determined that
Gates’ Iran/contra activities and testimony did not warrant

1 Independent Counsel made this decision subject to developments that
could have warranted reopening his inquiry, including testimony by
Clair E. George, the CIA’s former deputy director for operations. At
the time Independent Counsel reached this decision, the possibility
remained that George could have provided information warranting
reconsideration of Gates’s status in the investigation. George refused
to cooperate with Independent Counsel and was indicted on September 19,
1991. George subpoenaed Gates to testify as a defense witness at
George’s first trial in the summer of 1992, but Gates was never called.

Gates and the Diversion

Gates consistently testified that he first heard on October 1, 1986,
from the national intelligence officer who was closest to the Iran
initiative, Charles E. Allen, that proceeds from the Iran arms sales
may have been diverted to support the contras.2 Other evidence proves,
however, that Gates received a report on the diversion during the
summer of 1986 from DDI Richard Kerr. The issue was whether Independent
Counsel could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gates was
deliberately not telling the truth when he later claimed not to have
remembered any reference to the diversion before meeting with Allen in

2 See, for example, Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, p. 135 (“Q. Do you
recall that in this time frame also you became initially — well, let
me not characterize it — you became aware of what is now referred to
as the diversion.[sic] A. Yes. I had a meeting with the NIO, the
national intelligence officer, Charlie Allen, on the lst of
October.”); Gates, SSCI Confirmation Hearing, 2/17-18/87, p. 13
(response to written interrogatory about his knowledge of the

Allen did not personally convey to Gates his concerns about the
diversion until October 1, 1986.3 Allen testified, however, that he
became worried during the summer of 1986 that the Iran initiative would
be derailed by a pricing impasse that developed after former National
Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane failed in his attempt to secure
release of the hostages during his trip to Tehran in May 1986. Lt. Col.
Oliver L. North of the NSC staff had inflated the price to the Iranians
for HAWK missile spare parts that were to be delivered at the Tehran
meeting by a multiple of 3.7. Manucher Ghorbanifar, who brokered the
parts sale, added a 41% markup to North’s price of $15 million. With
another increase added by Ghorbanifar during the Tehran meeting, the
Iranians were charged a total of $24.5 million for HAWK spare parts
priced by the Defense Department at $3.6 million.4

3 Allen believed, however, that he sent a memorandum to Gates
discussing, among other things, how much money North needed to pay
Manucher Ghorbanifar from the Iran initiative. (Memorandum from Allen
to the DCI, Subject: American Hostages, 11/10/86, ER 19739; Allen,
Grand Jury, 1/4/88, pp. 19-21.) Independent Counsel was unable to
corroborate Allen’s testimony.

4 Allen, Grand Jury, 8/9/91, pp. 100-02.

In late June 1986, Mohsen Kangarlu, Ghorbanifar’s channel to the
Iranian government, informed the CIA through Agency annuitant George
Cave that the Iranians had evidence that they were being drastically
overcharged for HAWK missile spare parts. Kangarlu asked the Americans
to lower the price. Led by North, the Americans first attempted to
blame Ghorbanifar for the overcharges. When blaming Ghorbanifar failed
to break the impasse in U.S.-Iran talks, North sought to convince the
Iranians that the pricing was fair, and attempted to provide the
Iranians with falsified pricing documents.5

5 Cave, Grand Jury, 8/30/91, pp. 94-99; Allen, Select Committees
Deposition, 6/29/87, pp. 534-40.

A frightened and angry Ghorbanifar finally called Allen in late August
1986 to complain that the situation had become unbearable. He told
Allen that he had borrowed $15 million to finance the HAWK parts
transactions, and that he was now being pursued by his creditors for
repayment. Ghorbanifar insisted that it was not his markup, but the
U.S. Government’s, that was responsible for the pricing impasse.
Ghorbanifar then pleaded with Allen to do something to resolve the
issue. Allen told Ghorbanifar that he would bring the matter to North’s

6 Allen, Grand Jury, 8/9/91, pp. 110-13.

By this time, Allen had concluded that something was deeply wrong with
the Iran initiative.7 Allen related his concerns to Cave, Duane R.
Clarridge, a senior officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, and
North. North told Allen not to believe Ghorbanifar because he was a
liar. Instead, North insisted that Allen stick to the story that
gathering the HAWK spares was expensive and to not break ranks with
other U.S. officials on the pricing cover story.8

7 Ibid., pp. 113-15:

I had begun to think along those lines, after the 15th of August 1986,
when it was clear that with White House support, Major General Secord
and Mr. Hakim had established a new link or a new channel into the
government of Iran. It was clear that they were dealing with Hashem
Rafsanjani, Ali Hashem Rafsanjani, who was a nephew, I believe, of the
current President Rafsanjani.

It was clear to me that Mr. Hakim and Major General Secord were moving
to take over the control of the operation; that they were moving to
exclude Mr. Ghorbanifar — that was very clear. I was very much aware
that Mr. Hakim by that time and Mr. Secord were involved in other
matters, relating to the contras in Central America.

It appeared to me that Mr. Ghorbanifar’s call was sort of the final
indicator that something was deeply awry — that the problem was not
Mr. Ghorbanifar; the problem was the operation being directed by U.S.
officials. And I then came to the analytic judgement — based on all
these indications that money was being diverted from the profits from
the sale of arms to Iran to the contras in Central America.

I did not have hard proof of this. In fact, I had no direct evidence in
writing from anyone. It was simply aggregating a series of indicators
into a conclusion. And at that point it was at that time or shortly
thereafter, I recall walking out from the building to my car late in
the evening and thinking very deeply about this — thinking of the fact
that two operations were probably being combined — that the lives of
the hostages were being actually endangered by such a reckless venture;
[a]nd I raised the point with Mr. Cave at the office.

8 Ibid., p. 115.

Having received no satisfaction from North or Clarridge, Allen brought
his concerns to Richard Kerr, who was DDI and Allen’s immediate
superior. Kerr’s deputy, John Helgerson, joined their meeting. Allen

I went through what was occurring. I brought Mr. Kerr up to date on the
initiative. I met with him occasionally to brief him orally on the
White House effort and the Agency support. He had asked to be kept
informed when I had something useful to say, so I worked my way through
the current problem — the fact that after the failure of the McFarlane
trip to Tehran, there had been a hiatus and efforts had been made to
move this process along; but the Iranians had begun to complain very
strongly about the price being charged.

Then I went through the rationale of why I believed that the United
States was charging excessive costs to the Iranian government for the
arms and that profits from the sale of the arms were being diverted to
Central America.

I made it clear I did not have direct evidence, but that when you put
the indicators together, it sounded as if two separate problems or
projects were being mixed together. And I pointed out to him that it
made no sense to me and in fact could endanger the hostages in Lebanon.

Allen believed he also told Kerr and Helgerson that retired U.S. Air
Force Major General Richard V. Secord and Albert Hakim were involved in
both the Iran arms sales and the NSC’s contra project. Allen related
the markups alleged by Ghorbanifar, and described intelligence reports
that indicated that the Iranians were upset by the high prices.9

9 Ibid., pp. 117-18.

Allen testified that this information made Kerr visibly upset. Kerr
told Allen to “stay on top of the issue” and to “keep him advised of
any new developments.” According to Allen, Kerr pulled him aside later
that same day and expressed “deep concern.” Kerr believed that if
Allen’s story were true, the arms sales ultimately would be exposed.10

10 Ibid., pp. 118-19.

In various interviews, Kerr admitted Allen told him of his suspicions.
Kerr also corroborated Allen that Helgerson was present at the meeting.
Kerr’s account of his reaction to Allen’s information, however,
differed from Allen’s. Kerr said that, as a general matter, he did not
find Allen credible — that Allen was “a person who started and put
out his own fires” — and therefore he did not take his allegations as
seriously as Allen said he did. Kerr had Helgerson there, he stated, to
calm Allen down.11

11 Kerr, FBI 302, 7/31/91, pp. 4-5; see also Helgerson, FBI 302,
9/5/91, pp. 4-5.

Still, Kerr admitted that he took Allen’s concerns seriously enough to
bring them to Gates, who was Kerr’s immediate superior. Kerr
acknowledged this meeting in two interviews with the CIA’s inspector
general, and in an interview with the Select Committees. Kerr stated
that he did not remember when this meeting took place, dating it some
time between May and September 1986.12 In an interview with the
inspector general on December 4, 1986, Kerr stated that Gates’s
response was, “God only knows what Ollie is up to.” A memorandum for
the record written by a CIA attorney reporting Kerr’s interview with
the Select Committees recites that Kerr testified that when he informed
Gates of Allen’s concerns, “Gates responded that he was aware that
rumors were circulating that profits were being made on the sales of
arms to Iran and that money from the arms sales was being made
available to the Contras.” 13

12 Gates’s calendar shows frequent meetings with Kerr in late August
1986, but this is inconclusive evidence of when the meeting occurred.
Dating the meeting is made even harder by the close working and
personal relationship between Kerr and Gates. According to Diane
Edwards, Gates’s secretary, Kerr was in regular contact with Gates and
was among a handful of people who would see Gates without an
appointment. (Edwards, FBI 302, 8/23/91, pp. 1-2.)

13 Working Notes, Kerr, CIA IG Interview, 12/4/86; Memorandum from
Pearline to the Record, Subject: Interview of Dick Kerr, 9/10/87, OCA
87-3899. Pearline stood by his notes of Kerr’s Select Committees’
interview. (Pearline, FBI 302, 9/12/91, p. 5.) Helgerson told the OIC
that Kerr informed him shortly after speaking with Gates of their
conversation. (Helgerson, FBI 302, 9/5/91, p. 5.)

Kerr told Independent Counsel that he did not recall Gates referring to
other rumors of a diversion at this meeting.14 The Select Committees’
report of the interview did not contain the statement that Gates was
aware of “rumors” of a diversion, but it did state that Gates told
Kerr to “keep him informed.” Accordingly, the evidence was clear that
Gates’s statements concerning his initial awareness of the diversion
were wrong: Kerr brought him the information from Allen over a month
earlier than Gates admitted. This would have been material because it
suggested that the CIA continued to support North’s activities without
informing North’s superiors or investigating. By October, when Gates
claimed he first remembered hearing of the diversion, Casey ordered an
inquiry and later made a report to Poindexter; but, by then, the
Hasenfus aircraft had been shot down and Casey and Gates were beginning
to cover.

14 Kerr, FBI 302, 7/31/91, p. 5. Kerr admitted that he and Gates had
reviewed the incident several times since. (Ibid.)

Gates’s defense was that he did not recall the Kerr meeting.15 To say
the least, this was disquieting. He had been told by a very senior
officer that two of President Reagan’s personal priorities were in
danger — not something an ambitious deputy director of central
intelligence would likely forget. Allen was acting as a whistle-blower
in a difficult situation. His concern was for the safety of the
hostages and the success of the efforts of the President. His
information suggested serious malfeasance by Government officials
involved in a clandestine and highly sensitive operation. Even though
Gates may have believed Allen to be excessively concerned, could such
an expression of concern be forgotten, particularly after it had been
corroborated within a few weeks? Logically, Gates could ignore or
forget the Allen report only if he already knew of the diversion and he
knew that Casey and Poindexter knew of the diversion. Gates also was on
the distribution list for highly reliable intelligence that should have
informed him of the pricing dispute among Kangarlu, Ghorbanifar, and
the U.S. Government, although it did not refer specifically to any
diversion of funds. Gates claimed that he rarely reviewed the
intelligence.16 North testified that he did not discuss the diversion
with Gates or in Gates’s presence. Gates also never met with Richard
Secord, whom Gates was aware of only as a “private benefactor” (the
CIA’s term for non-Government donors to the contras) by July 1986.17

15 In testimony he gave before the Select Committees’ report was
issued, Gates made no reference to a meeting with Kerr. In two later
Grand Jury appearances, however, Gates acknowledged the conflict
between his recollection of events and Kerr’s, but he insisted that he
did not recall the meeting. (Gates, Grand Jury, 2/19/88, pp. 22-23;
Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, p. 140.)

16 Gates, Grand Jury, 2/19/88, pp. 13-14 (found intelligence
“confusing,” so he stopped reading it); Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, p.
138 (intelligence showed “a couple of Iranian arms dealers . . . lying
to each other,” so he stopped reading it).

17 North, North Trial Testimony, 4/12/89, pp. 7552-55; Gates, Grand
Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 71-72, 87-88. Gates admitted that he and others were
concerned about Secord’s involvement in the Iran initiative because of
Secord’s prior contacts with unsavory individuals, but he did not link
these concerns with the diversion. (Gates, SSCI Testimony, 12/4/86, pp.
80-85; Gates, Select Committees Deposition, 7/31/87, p. 13.)

Notwithstanding Independent Counsel’s disbelief of Gates, Independent
Counsel was not confident that Kerr’s testimony, without the support of
another witness to his conversation with Gates, would be enough to
charge Gates with perjury or false statements for his testimony
concerning the timing of his knowledge of the diversion.

Gates and North’s Contra Activities

Gates maintained consistently that he was unaware that North had an
operational role in supporting the contras. He testified that he
believed that North’s activities were limited to putting contra leaders
in contact with wealthy American donors, and to giving the contras
political advice.18 While sufficient circumstantial evidence exists to
question the accuracy of these statements, it did not adequately
establish that Gates knowingly was untruthful about his knowledge of
North’s activities.

18 Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 59-60; Gates, Grand Jury, 2/10/88,
pp. 74-75; Gates, Select Committees Deposition, 7/31/87, p. 30; Gates,
Grand Jury, 6/26/87, p. 36.

Gates first met North at meetings of the Crisis Pre-Planning Group
(CPPG) beginning in 1982, when Gates was deputy director of
intelligence. Gates claimed that his contacts as DDI with North were
almost exclusively in the CPPG context, apart from meetings on
intelligence assignments. Other than these meetings, Gates said that he
had little to do with North. He was nonetheless aware of allegations
that North was involved on some level with contra support.19

19 Gates, SSCI Testimony, 12/4/86, pp. 69-71; Gates, FBI 302, 5/15/87,
p. 1. One disturbing evolution in Gates’s description of his knowledge
is the degree to which he relied on McFarlane’s false assurances to
Congress in 1985 that North was not involved in contra resupply. Before
the Select Committees, Gates claimed that the CIA, as a whole, was
aware of McFarlane’s statements, and that the Agency relied on them:

I might add, you know, there’s been a great deal of attention drawn to
the letter that McFarlane sent to Mr. Hamilton avowing that whatever
North was doing was legal and proper. The House Intelligence Committee
were not the only ones who read that letter and were not the only ones
who believed it. So there was a predisposition that while we didn’t
know or certainly from my standpoint, I think from the standpoint of
others as well, that while we didn’t know entirely what North was up
to, the presumption was that it was proper because of that letter.

But when the Select Committees asked if he specifically was aware of
McFarlane’s representations at the time McFarlane made them, Gates was
quick to deny that he was. (Gates, Select Committees Deposition,
7/31/87, pp. 32-33.) In his 1991 Grand Jury testimony, Gates reversed
his position. (Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, p. 82.)

Notwithstanding his claims, Gates was aware of information that caused
others to question the legality of North’s activities. The most obvious
source of concern should have been Allen’s allegations, discussed
above, about North’s corruption of the Iran arms sales to support the
contras. But other evidence — available before October 1, 1986 —
should have alerted Gates to North’s contra support role.

Gates became deputy director of central intelligence on April 18, 1986.
As DDCI, Gates had at least two sources of information about North’s
activities: CIA personnel — particularly Alan D. Fiers Jr. — who had
duties relating to Central America, and his regular contacts with
National Security Adviser John M. Poindexter and others at the NSC.

The Cannistraro Question

In the spring and summer of 1986, Gates became involved in a debate
over what role Vincent Cannistraro, a CIA officer detailed to the NSC,
should play in the $100 million contra program that was expected to
take effect in October 1986. There was concern that if Cannistraro
replaced North, the CIA would be drawn into North’s contra supply
activities. Gates discussed Cannistraro’s assignment with a number of
CIA and NSC personnel, including Fiers, Clair E. George, and
Poindexter. Gates met with Cannistraro himself in an attempt to resolve
the situation. OIC’s inquiry focused on whether Gates, in the course of
these discussions, learned about North’s role in contra operations.

By the time Gates became DDCI, Fiers was chief of the CIA’s Central
American Task Force (CATF). Fiers ran the CIA’s support for the
Nicaraguan contras and planned for the day when the CIA would again be
allowed to provide lethal support to the insurgents. Fiers did not
readily share information about his unit’s operations in Nicaragua.
This had led to complaints with the CIA’s intelligence analysis
directorate. 20

20 One of the protesters was Robert Vickers, the CIA’s national
intelligence officer for Latin America from July 1984 to November 1987.
Vickers told Gates that Fiers was not keeping him informed about the
contras. (Vickers, FBI 302, 4/28/87, p. 4; Kerr, FBI 302, 7/31/91, p.
6.) Vickers did not remember this meeting with Gates in his most recent
interview. (Vickers, FBI 302, 5/15/91, p. 5.) Vickers also complained
to Cannistraro about being cut out of the new interagency group on
Nicaragua, and asked Cannistraro to assist him in getting into the
group. Cannistraro brought up Vickers’s concern with Gates in a meeting
at Gates’s office. Cannistraro told Gates that Vickers “was very
knowledgeable and was a real student of Central America,” and he
recommended that Vickers be included in meetings of the new interagency
group. (Cannistraro, FBI 302, 7/24/91, p. 9.) A PROFs note from
Cannistraro to Rodney McDaniel, Executive Secretary of the NSC,
corroborates Cannistraro’s efforts to get Vickers involved and
Cannistraro’s meeting with Gates. (PROFs Note from Cannistraro to
McDaniel, 7/21/86, AKW 022235.)

According to both Fiers and Gates, Gates’s role in the contra program
increased significantly once he became DDCI. Fiers testified Gates
became “intricately involved” in developing policy and coordinating
interagency work on the contras. Fiers dealt with Gates on requests
from the NSC and on structural discussions with other Executive Branch
agencies about the contra program. Fiers kept Gates informed
“generally, on our state of planning and the nature of our
operations.” Fiers met with Gates regularly and weekly.21

21 Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/14/91, pp. 44-45; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91,
pp. 12-14.

Fiers testified that he did not lay out to Gates his extensive
knowledge about North’s activities.22 From two events, however, Fiers
concluded that Gates too was aware of North’s operational role with the
contras. The first incident involved Cannistraro, who had been Fiers’s
predecessor as chief of CATF.

22 Fiers’s knowledge of North’s contra-resupply activities is discussed
more fully in the Fiers chapter.

Cannistraro, then detailed to the NSC, was nominally in charge of
monitoring all U.S. covert-action programs. By June 1986, North’s
operational activities caused Cannistraro concern.23 In mid-1986, media
reports repeated earlier assertions that North was linked to contra
military aid. As an important House vote on renewed contra aid
approached, on June 24, 1986, a resolution of inquiry was introduced in
the House to inquire about North’s activities. On June 25, after the
House approved a $100 million military and humanitarian aid package,
Representatives Lee Hamilton and Dante Fascell wrote the President for
comment on the resolution of inquiry; that night, CBS News ran a
program that expressly linked North to the private contra-aid network.

23 Cannistraro, FBI 302, 9/18/90, p. 2; Cannistraro, FBI 302, 7/24/91,
p. 9.

On June 26, Cannistraro suggested in a computer note to Poindexter that
the new contra-aid program should be a “regularized C[overt] A[ction]
program which would normally fall under my responsibility.” Poindexter
agreed in a computer note sent to NSC Executive Secretary Rodney
McDaniel that same day:

Yes, I would like to regularize it. The Vince-Ollie relationship would
be the same as between Vince and Howard [Teicher, another NSC staffer]
on Afghanistan. Ollie will have mixed reactions. He has wanted CIA to
get back on the management of the problem and we need to lower Ollie’s
visibility on the issue. Talk to him about it and I will follow up when
I get back.24

24 Cannistraro, FBI 302, 9/18/90, p. 3; PROFs Note from Cannistraro to
McDaniel, 6/26/86, AKW 019032; PROFs Note from Poindexter to McDaniel,
6/26/86, AKW 021436.

Fiers recalled Cannistraro’s move to take the contra program away from
North, as well as Poindexter’s concerns about North’s program. The
question of who would run the anticipated contra-aid program was
important to Fiers and the CIA. Fiers had been planning the CIA’s
program “in earnest.” According to Fiers, Gates was intimately
involved in structuring the new program, both within the CIA and the
Executive Branch as a whole. Gates admitted he was aware that
Poindexter had been contemplating changes in who oversaw contra issues
at the NSC.25

25 Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/14/91, pp. 53-57; Gates, FBI 302, 5/15/87, pp.
4-5; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 103-04.

In the midst of the struggle over who would run the contra-aid program,
Cannistraro visited Gates at his office. Cannistraro told Independent
Counsel that he came to express his desire to return to the CIA’s
Directorate of Operations (DO).26 Gates promised to urge the
directorate to take Cannistraro back. But soon Cannistraro’s future
became an item on the agenda for one of Gates’ weekly meetings with
Poindexter. On July 10, 1986, Paul Kinsinger, an aide to Gates, sent
Gates a memorandum that stated:

26 Cannistraro claimed that he had long-standing differences with DO
chief Clair George, which is why Cannistraro went to Gates.
(Cannistraro, FBI 302, 7/24/91, p. 6; see also Gates, FBI 302, 5/15/87,
p. 4; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 83-84.)

Vince Cannistraro called to say that Poindexter wanted to discuss how
we are going to coordinate the Nicaragua program. Attached is a short
memo to you from the Director, you may recall, that lays out the
Director’s views.

Vince also said that Poindexter would want to know whether Ollie North
should be involved. Peggy [Donnelly, a CIA officer assigned to the
DCI-DDCI executive offices] checked with the DO and they say yes.27

27 Note for ADCI, Subject: Late Item for Poindexter Meeting, 7/10/86,
ER 27199-206.

The DO officer mentioned in Kinsinger’s memo was Fiers. Fiers recalled
that he specifically talked about Cannistraro’s duties with Gates.
Fiers was concerned that having Cannistraro in the management of the
new program would bring a CIA officer “into the proximity of
operations that I knew to go on, that were someplace we didn’t want CIA
officers to be.” Fiers recalled voicing this concern not only to
Gates, but to George and Casey as well.28

28 Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/14/91, pp. 58-59.

Fiers made it clear in several meetings in Gates’s office that he
wanted North to stay involved in contra aid — and have Cannistraro
kept out. Fiers recalled telling Gates:

I just think I said, if Vince were to take over the Central American
account, he can’t be doing the same thing that Ollie is doing with the
private sector people in lining up support for the resistance. That
crosses over the Boland Amendment, and it’s just someplace that we
don’t want to be. We’ve got to keep Vince away from that. And, I think
those probably were my exact words, or very similar to that.

Fiers testified that Gates “understood me. We all understood that to
be the case, and we were going to have to keep Vince away from that.”

29 Ibid., pp. 59-60.

On July 10, 1986, Gates raised the Cannistraro issue with Poindexter.
Gates wrote after their meeting:

I followed up on Vince Cannistraro’s assignment. Poindexter clearly
wants to keep Vince indefinitely and while I told him that Clair did
not have to have a final answer before the end of August, his reaction
strongly suggested to me that he will keep Vince there. I also repeated
our concern that should Vince take over the Central American account,
that he should have nothing to do as a CIA employee with the private
sector people Ollie North had been dealing with in support of the

Cannistraro remained at the NSC,30 and was not transferred.

30 Memorandum from Gates to the Record, Subject: Meeting with Adm.
Poindexter, 7/11/86, ER 27195-97 (emphasis added); Gates, FBI 302,
5/15/87, pp. 4-5. See also Poindexter, Select Committees Deposition,
5/2/87, pp. 200-02 (giving his reasons for easing North out of the
contra effort, and North’s reluctance to leave).

Gates’s explanation of these events was that he wanted to keep
Cannistraro from becoming entangled with the contras for political
reasons — and not because he was concerned about North. Gates was
concerned, he said, about Congress finding a CIA employee anywhere
close to the situation. Gates claimed he had not considered the
legality or nature of what North was doing on behalf of the contras:
“I had no concerns — I had no reason to have concerns based on what
was available to me about North’s contacts with the private sector
people, but I didn’t think a CIA person should do it.” 31

31 Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 79-83, 85. The information that Gates
claimed to have about North consisted of “rumors” from various
Government officials that North had put contra leaders in touch with
Secord and retired U.S. Army Major General John K. Singlaub. Gates
testified that at the time he did not know that North had “hands-on”
involvement with contra resupply. (Ibid., pp. 86-89.)

Gates acknowledged that he might have raised the Cannistraro issue with
Fiers, but he did not recall it. He did not recall any conversations
with Fiers and he claimed not to recall any recommendation from Fiers
one way or the other.32

32 Ibid., pp. 110-11. Fiers said that a “note-taker” usually attended
his meetings with Gates. This note-taker was Kinsinger. Fiers remembers
telling Kinsinger — whom Fiers did not remember by name —
occasionally not to write down things such as disparaging comments or
other matters because of their sensitivity. Fiers also would ask
Kinsinger to leave the room for matters that he wanted to discuss
privately with Gates. (Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/14/91, pp. 45-46.)
Kinsinger kept none of his notes for the period that he served as
Gates’s aide. (Kinsinger, FBI 302, 7/25/91, p. 8.)

Given the accusations swirling about North’s support of the contra
rebels, and the prospect of a formal Congressional inquiry into North’s
actions, Gates must have been concerned about the nature of his
activities as a threat to the planned resumption of support to the CIA.
It was, however, also politically wise to keep Cannistraro away from
any activities that resembled North’s. Independent Counsel did not
believe that provable evidence of Gates’s awareness of North’s
operational activities would sustain a prosecution for his denials to
the Select Committees or to OIC.

Sale of Enterprise Assets

North attempted to sell aircraft and a vessel, the Erria, that were
owned by the Enterprise to the CIA. The proposed sales were discussed
in Gates’s presence at meetings with Poindexter. Gates also spoke about
the aircraft with Fiers, who discouraged their purchase. These
discussions must have provided some additional knowledge about North’s
role in contra resupply.

The Erria had carried munitions to Central America for the contras.33
Poindexter, Gates and Casey discussed the Erria at one of their weekly
meetings in May 1986. Memoranda prepared for that meeting associated
North with the Erria. Cannistraro recalled that discussion of the ship
at a Poindexter-Gates meeting suggested Gates knew the Erria was used
in support of North’s contra operation.34

33 North, North Trial Testimony, 4/7/89, pp. 6883-84. North approached
several CIA officers with his proposal. North asked Cannistraro to
convince the CIA to purchase the ship as a floating broadcast platform.
Cannistraro found out that CIA officers had considered the matter and
had declined North’s offer because of the ship’s association with
Thomas Clines. (Cannistraro, Grand Jury, 6/15/87, pp. 53-65; see also
Twetten, Select Committees Deposition, 4/22/87, pp. 181-82; Haskell,
FBI 302, 7/6-7/7/87, p. 10.)

34 Memorandum from Cannistraro to Poindexter, Subject: Agenda for Your
Weekly Meeting . . . , 5/14/86, AKW 045227-28; Memorandum, Item . . .
Poindexter May Raise With The DCI at their 8 May Meeting, 5/8/86, ER
143-5 91-0041; Gates 1986 Appointment Book, 5/15/86; DCI Schedule,
5/15/86, ER 598; Kinsinger, FBI 302, 7/25/91, p. 9; Cannistraro, FBI
302, 7/24/91, p. 10. See also Poindexter, Select Committees Deposition,
5/2/87, pp. 221-22 (recounting discussions with the CIA about its
purchasing the Erria).

At a later meeting, Gates and Poindexter discussed North’s proposal
that the CIA buy the Enterprise’s aircraft. In a computer note to
Poindexter dated July 24, 1986, North complained that the CIA was
unwilling to purchase the Enterprise assets and urged Poindexter to ask
Casey to reconsider. Poindexter responded that he did “tell Gates that
the private effort should be phased out. Please tell Casey about this.
I agree with you.” Poindexter later elaborated that he had told Gates
that the Enterprise’s assets were available for purchase, and that
Gates said he would check on the matter.35

35 See PROFs Note from North to Poindexter, 7/24/86, AKW 021735; PROFs
Note from Poindexter to North, 7/26/86, AKW 021732; Poindexter, Select
Committees Testimony, 5/2/87, pp. 187-88, 228.

North’s calendar and pocket cards show that North scheduled a meeting
with Gates for July 29, 1986, three days later. Gates’s calendar also
shows a meeting with North on July 29.36 About this time, Gates
approached Fiers and asked why the Central American Task Force would
not purchase North’s, or “the private benefactor’s,” aircraft.
According to Fiers, Gates accepted Fiers’ explanation that the aircraft
were in poor condition and unduly risky for the CIA. Fiers also
“vaguely” recalled discussing “phasing out the private Contra aid
effort” with Gates in July 1986. Both men agreed that the private
effort was a political liability for the Agency. From their
discussions, Fiers — like Cannistraro — concluded that Gates was
aware that “North was running a private supply operation.” 37

36 North Schedule Card, 7/29/86, AKW 002640; Gates 1986 Appointment
Book (Doc. No. 258). When asked about this meeting by SSCI in his
second confirmation hearings. Gates could not recall the meeting. (SSCI
Confirmation Nomination of Robert M. Gates to be Director of Central
Intelligence, Sen. Exec. Rpt. No. 102-19, 102d Cong., 1st Sess., p. 80
(Oct. 24, 1991). 10/19/91, p. 85.)

37 Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/14/91, pp. 68-69; Fiers, FBI 302, 8/1/91, pp.
14, 16. See also Sen. Exec. Rpt. No. 102-19, p. 80.

Gates denied discussing phasing out the private resupply effort with
Poindexter. Asked about Poindexter’s message to North, Gates testified
that he examined his records upon reading the message and could find no
evidence that such a meeting with Poindexter occurred. Gates claimed,
“If Poindexter made a comment to me like that, it would have been in
the context of once the authorized program is approved there would be
no point in having any of these private benefactors any longer.”
Neither did Gates recall meeting with North about the Erria during this

38 Gates, Grand Jury, 2/10/88, pp. 76-77.

The evidence established that Gates was exposed to information about
North’s connections to the private resupply operation that would have
raised concern in the minds of most reasonable persons about the
propriety of a Government officer having such an operational role.
Fiers and Cannistraro believed that Gates was aware of North’s
operational role. The question was whether there was proof beyond a
reasonable doubt that Gates deliberately lied in denying knowledge of
North’s operational activities. A case would have depended on the
testimony of Poindexter. Fiers would not testify that he supplied Gates
with the details of North’s activities. In the end, Independent Counsel
concluded that the question was too close to justify the commitment of
resources. There were stronger, equally important cases to be tried.

Obstruction of the Hasenfus Inquiries

There was conclusive evidence that in October 1986, following the
Hasenfus shootdown, Clair George and Alan Fiers obstructed two
congressional inquiries.39 Gates attended meetings where the CIA’s
response to these inquiries was discussed. None of the evidence,
however, links Gates to any specific act of obstruction.

39 See George and Fiers chapters.

The background for Congress’s inquiries into the Hasenfus shootdown is
discussed in the Fiers and George chapters. By October 9, 1986, the
Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (SCFR) had set a hearing on the
shootdown for October 10, 1986, and the House of Representatives
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) had set a hearing
for October 14, 1986. Gates’s main concern during this period was
convincing Congress that the CIA had sponsored no resupply flights. He
appeared before SSCI on October 8, 1986, and gave the committee brief
biographies of the pilots on the downed plane. He responded to Senator
Cohen when asked whether the plane was owned by a CIA proprietary:

No, sir. We didn’t have anything to do with that. And while we know
what is going in — going on with the Contras, obviously as you
indicate, by virtue of what we come up here and brief, I will tell you
that I know from personal experience we have, I think, conscientiously
tried to avoid knowing what is going on in terms of any of this private
funding, and tried to stay away from it. Somebody will say something
about Singlaub or something like, we will say I don’t want to hear
anything about it.40

40 Gates, SSCI Testimony, 10/8/86, p. 9.

To the extent that Gates spoke for others in the CIA, this was wrong.
It was true that the Hasenfus plane was not owned by a CIA proprietary.
But as set forth in the Fiers, George, and Fernandez chapters, several
individual CIA officers had not stayed away from “private-benefactor”
activities. There was no evidence, however, that Gates knew this as
early as October 8, 1986, although he did know by then of the concern
that North and Secord were diverting funds from the Iran arms sales to
the contras.41

41 Gates was informed by Allen about the diversion, North, and Secord
on October 1, 1986, and met with Allen and Casey about them on October

The day after his SSCI testimony Gates double-checked his statements
with a number of people. He met with Fiers and George at 10:10 a.m. on
October 9 and was told “that there had been no contact between — that
the Agency wasn’t involved in the Hasenfus matter at all.” Gates then
had lunch with Casey and North. North had just returned from
negotiations in Frankfurt with the “Second Channel” to the Iranian
government. North briefed Gates and Casey on the progress of the
negotiations. The discussion then turned to the contras. North
testified at trial and before the Grand Jury that during this luncheon,
Casey told him that North’s Iran and contra operations were unraveling,
and that he should begin to clean up both of them. North specifically
recalled being told by Casey about allegations by Roy Furmark of a
diversion; he did not recall telling Gates about the diversion or going
into detail about the nature of his operations. North also did not
recall whether Gates was there when Casey told North to clean up his

42 DDCI Appointments — Thursday, 10/9/86, AKY 006296; Gates, Grand
Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 176-77; Fiers, Grand Jury, 8/16/91, pp. 6-7; North,
North Trial Testimony, 4/12/89, pp. 7552-57; North, Grand Jury, 3/8/91,
pp. 30-32. Casey testified in December 1986 that the October 1986
luncheon included questions concerning a possible diversion. (Casey,
HPSCI Testimony, 12/11/86, pp. 120-21; Casey, House Appropriations
Subcommittee Testimony, 12/8/86, p. 102.)

In his testimony about the lunch, Gates stressed his attempt to get
North to confirm that the CIA was not involved with the Hasenfus crash.
Gates claimed that he was not invited to the lunch, and that he
“crashed the lunch” because he wanted to speak with North. Gates said
that Casey discussed the Furmark allegations with North and told him
that the situation had to be straightened out. Gates remembered no
instruction from Casey to North to start cleaning up operations, but
did recall asking North directly whether any CIA personnel had been
involved in the resupply network. Gates said that North told him that
the CIA was “absolutely clean.” North made a “cryptic comment”
about Swiss bank accounts, which Gates claimed not to have understood.
Gates stated that he then left Casey’s office for ten minutes, and
returned to ask Casey alone about North’s comment about Swiss accounts.
Casey seemed not to have picked up on the comment, and Gates dropped

43 Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91, pp. 177-79; Gates, Grand Jury, 6/26/87,
pp. 8-11; Gates, Select Committees Deposition, 7/31/87, pp. 23-29,
33-35; Gates, Grand Jury, 2/19/88, pp. 46-47; Gates, FBI 302, 5/15/87,
p. 5. When confronted with Gates’s account of the meeting, Casey did
not dispute it. (Casey, HPSCI Testimony, 12/11/86, pp. 180-81.)

Gates changed his story in only one significant way between his early
testimony and his final Grand Jury appearance: He expressly added that
he left Casey and North alone together during lunch.

Gates wrote an exculpatory memo the next day. Gates wrote:

North confirmed to the DCI and to me that, based on his knowledge of
the private funding efforts for the Contras, CIA is completely clean on
the question of any contacts with those organizing the funding and the
operations. He affirmed that a clear separation had been maintained
between the private efforts and CIA assets and individuals, including

Gates recorded North’s purportedly exculpatory statement uncritically,
even though he was by then clearly aware of the possible diversion of
U.S. funds through the “private benefactors.” Although, in testimony
before SSCI, Gates admitted that his concerns about Allen’s allegations
were behind the questioning of North, he did not ask North whether a
diversion had occurred. He was interested only in eliciting statements
protective of his Agency.44

44 Memorandum from Gates to the Record, Subject: Lunch with Ollie
North, 10/10/86, ER 24605; Gates, SSCI Testimony, 12/4/86, p. 20.

After his lunch with North and his post-lunch discussion with Casey,
Gates met again with Casey and George at 1:45 p.m. on “Directorate
Reporting.” Casey then briefed congressional leaders about the downed
aircraft. Casey and Gates then met with George, Fiers and the CIA’s
congressional affairs chief, David Gries. Gates, George and Gries
stated that they did not recall what occurred at this meeting. Fiers
recalled that the meeting concerned whether it would be Gates or George
who testified on October 10 before SCFR. Fiers testified that he, Casey
and George had decided earlier on October 9 that George was to testify.
As Fiers recalled it, the later meeting was to give Gries the
opportunity to argue in favor of Gates testifying. The content of the
next day’s briefing, except for the categorical denial made in the
CIA’s opening statement, was not discussed.45

45 George, Grand Jury, 4/5/91, pp. 72-73; Gates, Grand Jury, 5/1/91,
pp. 197-98; Gries, FBI 302, 4/9/91, pp. 4-5; Fiers, Grand Jury,
8/16/91, pp. 19-20.

The early evening meeting of Casey, Gates, George, Fiers, and Gries
ended Gates’s involvement with the preparation of the CIA’s testimony
concerning the Hasenfus crash. The only other evidence relating to
Gates during this period was a meeting that took place in Casey’s
office around the time of George and Fiers’s briefing of HPSCI on
October 14, 1986. During this meeting, Fiers told George and Casey that
the Hasenfus inquiries would not end until someone took responsibility
for the private resupply flights. Fiers recommended that Secord take
responsibility. George turned to Casey and said, “Bill, you know
Secord has other problems,” and the conversation ended soon after.
Fiers had a vague recollection of Gates being present for part of the
conversation, and then leaving the room. Fiers was uncertain if Gates
heard his remarks about Secord.46

46 Ibid., pp. 40-43.

At most, the evidence showed that Gates was in and around meetings
where the content of George and Fiers’s testimony was discussed, and
that he participated in two briefings that helped lull congressional
investigators into believing that the CIA was not involved in
facilitating private resupply flights. The evidence shows further that
Gates was aware of at least general information suggesting involvement
by North and Secord with the contras, and that Gates did not disclose
this information — or argue that it should be disclosed. For Gates,
the CIA’s task in October 1986 was to distance the CIA from the private
operation, in part by locking North into statements that cleared the
CIA of wrongdoing.47

47 Indeed, according to Allen, when Allen first discussed rumors of a
diversion with Gates on October 1, 1986, Gates told Allen he “didn’t
want to hear about Central America” and “I’ve supported Ollie in
other activities . . . but he’s gone too far.” (Allen, Grand Jury,
1/4/88, pp. 31-33.) See also Gates, SSCI Testimony, 12/4/86, pp. 18-19
(confirming that he told Allen that he “didn’t want to hear anything
about funding for the Contras”).

In the end, although Gates’s actions suggested an officer who was more
interested in shielding his institution from criticism and in shifting
the blame to the NSC than in finding out the truth, there was
insufficient evidence to charge Gates with a criminal endeavor to
obstruct congressional investigations into the Hasenfus shootdown.

Gates and Casey’s November 1986 Testimony

The events leading up to the preparation of false testimony by Director
Casey in November 1986 — preparations that Gates nominally oversaw —
are set forth in a separate chapter of this Report. There was
insufficient evidence that Gates committed a crime as he participated
in the preparation of Casey’s testimony, or that he was aware of
critical facts indicating that some of the statements by Casey and
others were false.


Independent Counsel found insufficient evidence to warrant charging
Robert Gates with a crime for his role in the Iran/contra affair. Like
those of many other Iran/contra figures, the statements of Gates often
seemed scripted and less than candid. Nevertheless, given the complex
nature of the activities and Gates’s apparent lack of direct
participation, a jury could find the evidence left a reasonable doubt
that Gates either obstructed official inquiries or that his two
demonstrably incorrect statements were deliberate lies.


[Page: S15603]

Mr. BRADLEY. Mr. President, I recently read an excellent editorial in
the Friday, October 18, 1991, edition of the New York Times on the
nomination of Robert Gates as Director of Central Intelligence. It
raises important questions that my colleagues and I should consider as
the Senate takes up Mr. Gates’ nomination next week.

I ask unanimous consent that a copy of this editorial be inserted in
the Congressional Record.

There being no objection, the editorial was ordered to be printed in
the Record as follows:


The Once and Future C.I.A.

These have not been stellar years for the Central Intelligence Agency.
Even with the distinguished outsider Judge William Webster in charge,
the once-proud agency has, at least to public perception, flunked. Who
there anticipated the fall of the Berlin wall, the aggression of Saddam
Hussein, the implosion of the Soviet Union?

Nevertheless, President Bush contends he needs an experienced insider
and has nominated Robert Gates to be Director of Central Intelligence,
a choice the Senate Intelligence Committee votes on today. There are
strong reasons to vote no.

Mr. Gates has done his best to dispel the doubts that forced him to
withdraw when he was first nominated in 1987. He has seemed contrite
and open-minded and cites his broad experience and future vision. But
senators would do well to consider at least three criteria.

Whether his past performance shows him to warrant their trust. . .
whether he has earned the confidence of agency employees . . . and
above all, whether he, an insider, is the right person to lead the
agency into uncertain times. On each count, Mr. Gates falls short.

David Boren, the committee chairman, commends Mr. Gates for
forthrightness. Yet he overlooks occasions when Mr. Gates helped skew
intelligence assessments and was demonstrably blind to illegality. The
illegality concerns the Iran-contra scandal. Mr. Gates contends he was
`out of the loop’ on decisions about what to tell Congress. And he
defends his professed ignorance on grounds of deniability–that he was
shielding the C.I.A. from involvement. These contentions defy belief.

The testimony of other puts Mr. Gates, on at least two occasions, very
much in the loop. He supervised preparation of Director William Casey’s
deceitful testimony to Congress about the scandal. And one C.I.A.
analyst, Charles Allen, says he informed Mr. Gates, before it came to
light, of three unforgettable details: Oliver North’s involvement, the
markup of prices of arms sold surreptitiously to Iran, and diversion of
the proceeds into a fund for covert operations. In a telling lapse of
his reputedly formidable memory, Mr. Gates could not recall the details
when Congress asked two months later.

The second criterion concerns intelligence estimates. Incorrect
forecasting should not be disqualifying; estimates can be wrong for the
right reasons of political expediency, that’s `cooking the books.’

The hearings have documented at least three cases of such slanting: a
May 1985 estimate on Iran, estimates of Soviet influence in the third
world, and assessments of Soviet complicity in the assassination
attempt on Pope John Paul II. Mr. Gates has responded to their
testimony but not refuted it. He evidently went to great lengths to
manipulate the process, because highly reticent career officials
testified against him in public. That electrifying development
demonstrates how little confidence Mr. Gates enjoys in the agency.

It can be argued that his experience makes him well suited to lead the
C.I.A. into the future. As a former Deputy Director and deputy national
security adviser, he knows how intelligence assessments are put
together and what policy makers need. And he knows the U.S. will not
keep spending $30 billion a year on intelligence.

But it is more reasonable to think the agency would be better off with
a director unbound by William Casey’s dark legacy–the conviction that
the agency knows best, a barely concealed contempt for Congress and a
belief that anything goes including evading the law. Reshaping the
agency wisely depends on casting off the legacy.

Thomas Polgar, a C.I.A. veteran, urged the committee to consider the
message that confirmation would send. Would officials wonder whether it
was wise for outspoken witnesses to risk their careers by testifying?
Would they say to themselves, `Serve faithfully the boss of the moment;
never mind integrity? Feel free to mislead the Senate–senators forget

By voting no, senators will vote to remember.


Military analysis

The Analyst Cometh
Why Robert Gates is the best man for Rummy’s job.
By Fred Kaplan / Nov. 8, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld’s out, Robert Gates is in, and you can call it a
belated victory for President George W. Bush’s father. The elder Bush
has long despised Rumsfeld, and it is widely suspected that the son
hired his father’s nemesis six years ago as an assertion of his own

Gates and Rumsfeld worked in the White House at the same time, back in
the mid-’70s when Gerald Ford was president, but they’re otherwise as
different in style and substance as two ambitious insiders can be. And
that’s probably why, in the wake of this week’s electoral disaster, the
president has named the one to replace the other.

Rumsfeld has always been the hard-driving ex-wrestler-aggressive,
dominating, and ideological. (Henry Kissinger, who was maneuvered out
of the White House by Rumsfeld, once called him the most ruthless man
he’d ever met-and Kissinger had met some of the 20th century’s most

Gates is more the get-along scholar-professional, fastidious, and
nonpartisan. If George W. Bush was looking for an utterly
uncontroversial figure to calm nerves, settle bureaucratic hostilities,
and re-establish credibility on Capitol Hill, he could have found no
one more suitable than Robert Gates.

And, until today, Gates has owed his key advancements to Bush 41.

When George H.W. Bush nominated Gates as director of the Central
Intelligence Agency in 1991, it was an act of extraordinary confidence.
Bush’s predecessor, Ronald Reagan, had tried to do the same thing four
years earlier, in 1987, after William Casey was felled by a brain
tumor. But the nomination was withdrawn after concerns were raised
about Gates’ role in the Iran-Contra scandal.

The withdrawal was ironic. Gates had risen through the agency’s
analytical ranks-he joined the agency as a Soviet specialist in 1966,
straight out of college-and he would have been the first CIA director
to have done so. Like many analysts, he distrusted the covert-ops
branches. Although he was Casey’s trusted chief of staff and then his
deputy director, he did not, for instance, share his boss’s enthusiasm
for the Nicaraguan contras and their war against the Sandinistas; he
saw it as a diversion from more-serious threats.

When Bush became president in 1989, he brought Gates to the White House
as deputy national security adviser under Brent Scowcroft. When the CIA
director’s job came open again two years later, Bush gave him a second
chance, and this time he got in.

Throughout his Washington career, Gates cut a deliberately low profile.
He worked in four administrations, of both parties, and stirred few
feathers in any of them. I wrote a profile of Gates in 1987, when
Reagan first tried to make him CIA director. (I was national-security
reporter for the Boston Globe at the time.) Everyone I interviewed in
the intelligence community used the same words to describe him:
“extremely professional,” “an excellent scholar,” “not an ideologue,”
“a tough taskmaster.” Some were critical. “He’s not a guy to break new
ground,” one CIA official who’d worked with him told me. “I found him
to be the perfect staff officer, an enthusiastic guy, an applauder.”

All these traits probably sum up what Bush-and both his partisans and
his critics-are looking for: a soothing conciliator who also keeps
his nose to the grindstone.

What will Gates do in the job? It’s hard to say. Since going to work at
Texas A&M in 1999-first as dean of the George Bush School of
Government and Public Service, then as the university’s president-he
hasn’t made many statements about foreign or defense policy.

Still, three facts suggest that Gates might be something other than a
caretaker in his tenure at the Pentagon.

First, Gates was tapped by President George W. Bush to be the national
intelligence director when that job was created last year. Gates
reportedly spent two weeks mulling over the offer, but he turned it
down in part because he didn’t want to go back to Washington, in part
because he realized that the post would give him little authority to
make policy or to hire and fire people. It’s a fair inference that he
wouldn’t have taken the Pentagon job, either, without assurances that
he’d have leeway to make big changes.

Second, Gates is a member of the Iraq Study Group chaired by James
Baker (Bush’s father’s closest friend and adviser). Some who have
testified before the group say that, judging from some of his remarks,
Gates (like nearly everyone on the panel) is well-aware that the
administration’s policy in Iraq is a disaster. At his press conference
this morning, President Bush said that he’ll meet with Baker’s group
early next week. With a member of the panel in charge of the Pentagon,
any changes Baker recommends now have a much better chance of being

Third, Rumsfeld’s ouster might-I emphasize might-signal a major
setback for Vice President Dick Cheney. Rumsfeld and Cheney have been
friends and allies since the mid-1970s, when they worked in the White
House together under Nixon and Ford. Cheney brought Rumsfeld into the
current administration. Especially during George W. Bush’s first term,
the two formed a pincer to cut off and beat back dissenting advice from
Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Did Cheney, who knows how to count votes, accede to Rumsfeld’s ouster?
Or did Bush make the move over Vice’s objections? Either way, Cheney’s
influence is far from finished-he still has his parallel National
Security Council inside the White House-but it looks like his network
across the river is about to be shut down. Will this also mean the end
of the duo’s outlook on the world and the policies that have
resulted-the instinctive reliance on force, secrecy, and black-bag
jobs? How Gates weighs in on this administration’s intramural
skirmishes may be one of the more intriguing questions of the remaining
two years.