GENERAL POST-WORLD WAR II

1980s

"October Surprise"

"October Surprise" refers to the unproven -- and, as far as the public record is concerned, unfounded -- accusation that Reagan campaign officials, specifically William Casey, worked to delay the release of the hostages being held in Teheran. This effort was supposedly undertaken to prevent Jimmy Carter from arranging a release in October just prior to the 1980 election.

In an interesting footnote to the October Surprise myth, Jamshid Hashemi, who first came to public attention in 1991 by "claiming to have helped Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign negotiate to delay the release of U.S. hostages in Iran until after the election,... pleaded guilty [in London in December 1998] to swindling [Reston, VA, corporation] Octagon and other businesses in Europe, Asia and the United States out of millions of dollars through a series of elaborate scams." David S. Hilzenrath, "Encounter With Global Con Artist Left Reston Firm Reeling," Washington Post, 23 Jan. 1999, E1.

Ben-Menashe, Ari. Profits of War: Inside the Secret U.S.-Israeli Arms Network. Lanham, MD: Sheridan Square Press, 1992.

Surveillant 3.1 notes that this is more "October Surprise theory." Craig Unger, "The Trouble with Ari," Village Voice, 7 Jul. 1992, 33-39, makes a negative judgment as to Ben-Menashe's truthfulness. On the other hand, NameBase seems to buy into Ben-Menashe's accusations, even the more outrageous ones (such as, "In 1981 Robert Gates helped him with his suitcase containing $56 million").

Hilzenrath, David S. "Encounter With Global Con Artist Left Reston Firm Reeling." Washington Post, 23 Jan. 1999, E1. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

In an interesting footnote to the October Surprise myth, Jamshid Hashemi, who first came to public attention in 1991 by "claiming to have helped Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign negotiate to delay the release of U.S. hostages in Iran until after the election,... pleaded guilty [in London in December 1998] to swindling [Reston, VA, corporation] Octagon and other businesses in Europe, Asia and the United States out of millions of dollars through a series of elaborate scams."

Honegger, Barbara. October Surprise. New York: Tudor, 1989.

Strong, I&NS 8.2, calls October Surprise a "classic example of ... the paranoid political conspiracy exposé.... [U]nsubstantiated hints of exotic government sponsored assassinations are part of a larger pattern involving a double standard in evidence evaluation." Honegger makes "extensive use of Richard Brenneke" and, in general, the book can "be dismissed as the work of a common conspiracy theorist gone off the deep end of history."

According to NameBase, Honegger's book "broke considerable ground on this story, which became much richer in detail over the following years.... Honegger and her loose circle of supporters (which includes the LaRouche organization) have made a definite contribution, but by now they may be victims -- either of their own success or of deliberate disinformation or both. October Surprise sources comprise a who's who of sleaze and spookery; paranoia and suspicion abound and it becomes difficult to know whom or what to believe."

Hosenball, Mark. "What October Surprise?" Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 29 Apr.-5 May 1991, 24-25.

Keying off Gary Sick's New York Times article and the PBS "Frontline" story, the author reviews some of the "evidence" and cast of characters in the October Surprise scenario. He concludes almost sadly that the facts simply are not there for the kind of plot that is the cornerstone of the accusations.

Parry, Robert. Trick or Treason: The October Surprise Mystery. New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1993.

NameBase: "Robert Parry was a reporter for the Associated Press in Washington from 1980-1987.... After three years with Newsweek, which he also found frustrating, he began reporting for the PBS Frontline show. This allowed him to trot around the globe with a cameraman in pursuit of the October Surprise story.... This book suggests that forces are at work to muddy the record when citizens get too curious."

Sick, Gary. October Surprise: America's Hostages in Iran and the Election of Ronald Reagan. New York: Random House-New York Times Books, 1991. 1992. [pb]

Surveillant 3.1 notes that a congressional examination found no proof to support the charge of Reagan campaign complicity in delaying the release of the hostages. "Sick emphasizes repeatedly that the case is weak.... Two of his major sources -- Ari Ben-Menashe and Richard J. Brenneke -- have been characterized as highly unreliable by reputable reviewers."

For Beisner, WPNWE, 3-9 Feb. 1992, Sick "puts together a strong case for the truth of the allegations." Although "[i]t is not easy to determine the credibility of Sick's allegations,... [a]t the very least he demonstrates that the alleged actions were both possible and plausible." Strong, I&NS 8.2, comments that there are many "loose ends, and Sick's honesty in pointing them out, gives his book a ring of truth."

According to NameBase. "Gary Sick spent 24 years in the navy as an analyst and served on the National Security Council staff under Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan." Barbara Honegger first proposed the October Surprise scenario in 1987. "In April 1991 the New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Sick, who was beginning to get very interested in the issue, and 'Frontline' did a show on PBS on April 16.... By late 1992, however, many observers considered some of the sources for the story to be unreliable, and almost everyone lost interest."

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