Remarks at a Meeting With the President's Special Review Board for the National Security Council

 

December 1, 1986

 

The President. Well, Senator Tower, Secretary Muskie, General Scowcroft, I'm grateful to all of you for agreeing to serve on this Board. I know it'll take a lot of your time, but your experience and expertise in this inquiry are extremely important in evaluating the National Security Council's staff operations and providing recommendations on how it should operate.

 

The purpose of your undertaking is to review past implementation of administration policies and to conduct a comprehensive study of the future role and procedures of the National Security Council's staff in foreign and national security policy. I would like you to focus on that staff and, one, develop policy; two, coordinate with other agencies; and, three, implement the President's policies; and, four, oversee the implementation of these policies by others. I hope that you would take particular care to look into the question of whether and under what circumstances the National Security Council staff was and should be directly involved in the operational aspects of sensitive diplomatic, military, or intelligence missions, such as the Achille Lauro, the TWA hijacking, and Grenada and Iran.

 

In addition, I have directed the National Security Council staff not to participate in the actual operations associated with such activities pending the outcome of the report by the Special Review Board. You'll have the full cooperation of all agencies of the executive branch and the White House staff in carrying out your assignment. And I want to assure you and the American people that I want all the facts to come out about learning of a possible transfer of funds from the sale of arms to Iran to those fighting the Sandinista government. We acted to learn the facts, and we'll continue to share the actions we take and the information we obtain with the American people and the Congress.

 

The appointment of this Board and the stature of its membership are a demonstration of a commitment to learn how this happened and how it can be prevented in the future. The Department of Justice investigation is continuing with my full support and cooperation. And if they determine an independent counsel is called for, I would welcome that appointment. If we're to maintain confidence in our government's foreign policy apparatus, there must be a full and complete airing of all the facts. And I am determined to get all the facts out and take whatever action is necessary. The work of this Board and the Department of Justice investigation will do just that. Just as soon as your findings and recommendations are complete, they will be shared with the American people and the Congress. So, with that, I say, go to it!

 

Reporter. Mr. President, when the Attorney General said you were not fully informed and you said you were not fully informed, did that mean that you never knew anything about contra funding with Iran sales money?

 

The President. Helen [Helen Thomas, United Press International], I've answered that question. I'm not going to take -- we have a meeting now to go into, but I answered that question a couple of times.

 

Q. Well, does that mean that you had no knowledge at all?

 

The President. That's what I said.

 

Q. Mr. President, are you willing to call Congress back in for a special session?

 

The President. That is under discussion, and there's been no decisions yet. But we want to work with the Congress.

 

Note: The President spoke at 11:08 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House.