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Bob Parry RIP: The Reporter Who Broke the Iran-Contra Story

January 30, 2018 in Blogs

By Jefferson Morley, AlterNet

An independent journalist who never got the credit he deserved.

Bob Parry, the veteran journalist who died Saturday at age 68, was a reporter’s reporter, a cheerful, dogged, independent fact-gatherer who didn’t give a damn about respectable Washington. More than any other reporter, Parry uncovered the national scandal that would become known as the Iran-contra affair. Yet he received little credit and no glory for his achievement.

I first met Parry in 1985 when I was an assistant editor at the New Republic (TNR) in search of writers who knew something about the civil wars of Central America. After Congress approved the so-called Boland Amendment in 1984, barring military aid to counterrevolutionary forces in Nicaragua, Reagan administration officials—and their apologists in the press—were open about their intention to flout the law.

Parry and fellow Associated Press reporter Brian Barger were the only journalists writing about a story I heard off the record more than once: that a National Security Council staff member named Oliver North was in charge of arranging “private” funding of the contras. In a string of well-reported AP stories in 1984 and 1985, they illuminated a secret war involving former CIA officials, mercenaries and suspected drug traffickers.

Parry was rare among Washington reporters of that era in that he did not take his cues from the White House or defer to Reagan’s popularity. While others tried to spin U.S. support for death squads as a defense of democracy, Parry penetrated the veil of official secrecy. He became a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1985 for his exclusive on the CIA's assassination manual for Nicaraguan rebels.

Perils of Access

In early 1986, I asked Parry and Barger if they would pull together their various reports into a single magazine piece. The only reason Parry listened was that I had published a New Republic cover story in 1985 on how the CIA created the contra movement. He liked the idea of publishing in TNR, then at the height of its editorial prestige, but wondered if the magazine would publish it. After all, the once-liberal magazine supported the contra cause, and senior …read more


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