Walters’ role was first revealed in a Wall Street Journal story published Monday. The article said she sent a message to President Reagan following her December interviews with Ghorbanifar and Khashoggi.
One of the memos was printed Tuesday in the Washington Times. In it, Ghorbanifar said that in several secret preliminary negotiations between U.S. officials–presumably headed by Lt. Col. Oliver North of the National Security Council–and “conservative” Iranians, “substantial payments financed by loans were made . . . in Iran with the hope the funds would be recovered at a later stage from arms sales. Consequently the contacts were under way for more than 18 months without any leak. The whole thing was blown up when it suddenly became an issue in the power struggle in Tehran.”
Ghorbanifar claimed that secret U.S.-Iranian contacts began almost two years ago as “a slow process of normalization of relations between the two countries to counterbalance expansion of Soviet influence in Iran and in the region. . . . The problem of hostages and the arms deal was only a byproduct of the process.”
Bagdikian said that Walters’ actions might have been justified if there had been either a risk to the hostages or national security. In an interview with National Public Radio on Monday, he pointed to a similar precedent in 1963, when television correspondent John Scali acted as a courier between the Kremlin and the White House during the Cuban missile crisis.
But, Tuesday, Bagdikian said he had revised his opinion.
“I assumed that the Ghorbanifar/Walters memo had some impact on hostages,” Bagdikian said. “But if that (the memorandum published by the Washington Times) is correct, I don’t see any justification for Barbara Walters’ action at all.”