WASHINGTON — The following are excerpts of the briefing , conducted Tuesday by Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III at the White House, on the Iran arms sale .
Meese (opening statement): What is involved is . . . the United States providing the arms to Israel and Israel in turn transferring the arms, in effect selling the arms, to representatives of Iran. Certain monies which were received in the transaction between representatives of Israel and representatives of Iran were taken and made available to the forces in Central America, which are opposing the Sandinista government there.
In essence, the way in which the transactions occurred was that a certain amount of money was negotiated by representatives outside of the United States with Iran for arms. This amount of money was then transferred to representatives as best we know that can be described as representatives of Israel.
Funds Transferred to CIA
They, in turn, transferred to the CIA, which was the agent for the United States government under a finding prepared by the President, signed by the President in January of 1986--and, incidentally, all of these transactions that I'm referring to took place between January, 1986, and the present time.
They transferred to the CIA the exact amount of the money that was owed to the United States government for the weapons that were involved plus any costs of transportation that might be involved.
This money was then repaid by the CIA to the Department of Defense under the normal procedures, and all governmental funds and all governmental property was accounted for and statements of that have been verified by us up to the present time.
The money, the difference, between the money owed to the United States government and the money received from representatives of Iran was then deposited in bank accounts which were under the control of representatives of the forces in Central America.
Question: How much money was involved?
Answer: We don't know the exact amount yet. Our estimate is that it is somewhere between $10 (million) and $30 million. . . .
Q: Why wasn't the President told?
A: The President was told as soon as we found out about it. . . .
Q: Can you tell us who is running national security policy? Can you clear up for the American people is Secretary (of State George P.) Shultz staying? Who is the new national security adviser, and what are you recommending in terms of possibly restructuring the White House staff?
A: In answer to your questions, in order: At the present time, upon Adm. (John M.) Poindexter actually leaving his post, Al (Alton G.) Keel Jr., his deputy, will be the acting assistant to the President for national security affairs. The President has not yet selected a replacement, but he will do so as soon as possible.
Secretary Shultz is remaining in his position as secretary of state. . . . The President will be appointing a small commission which will look into the procedures and role of the NSC staff and will make specific recommendations to him as far as the process for the future. . . .
Q: Who in the NSC was aware that this extra amount of money was being transferred to the so-called contras , or under their control? Did Adm. Poindexter specifically know who else knew, and did the CIA know? Was CIA Director (William J.) Casey aware of this?
A: The only person in the United States government that knew precisely about this, the only person, was Lt. Col. (Oliver L.) North. Adm. Poindexter did know that something of this nature was occurring, but he did not look into it further.
Q: What about CIA Director Casey?
A: CIA Director Casey, Secretary of State Shultz, Secretary of Defense (Caspar W.) Weinberger, myself, the other members of the NSC, none of us knew.
Q: You said Poindexter knew. Do you mean he approved of it?
A: No. Adm. Poindexter knew generally that something of this nature was happening. He did not know the details. . . .
Q: Did he try to stop it, sir?
A: He did not try to stop it.
Q: Let me ask you this: In the course of your investigation, did you satisfy yourself that you know exactly how many shipments of arms went from the United States or Israel to Iran, and exactly what they contained? There is quite a bit of controversy over that.
A: We are fairly sure that we know of the shipments of arms because we have some control. We know what was shipped out of DOD (Department of Defense) stocks. We only know at this time what the United States participated in. We don't know of any other arms sales that may have been made, but we do know those the United States participated in.
Q: Have you established in your investigation whether anyone in the United States government gave a wink, a nod, an accord, or any kind of approval for shipments which Israel or any other third country may have made?
A: Well, all of the shipments in which the United States equipment was involved were made by, to Israel. . . .
Q: . . . Did what Col. North do, is that a crime? Will he be prosecuted?