These days, Reagan is mostly remembered for the Iran-Contra scandal. Here’s the story as told by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training: “One of the biggest foreign policy scandals of the last half-century was the Iran-Contra affair, in which the Reagan Administration, prodded by CIA Director William Casey and NSC Advisor Oliver North, secretly arranged for an arms-for-hostage deal with one of its bitterest enemies in the Middle East. Put simply, Israel would sell weapons from the U.S. to Iran, which had been designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984 and the subject of an arms embargo, in exchange for the release of American hostages held by Hezbollah, Iran’s ally, in Lebanon.
“North and Casey then doubled down, funneling the profits from the arms sales into yet another illegal venture, a secret plan to support the Contras, the militants in Nicaragua which opposed the communist Sandinistas. This was in direct contravention of the Boland Amendments, which Congress had passed from 1982-84, specifically prohibiting U.S. support of the Contras.”
The scandal indelibly stained Reagan and his supporters for their obvious disregard for the law. I have no idea whether the illegal operation I refused to fund ever went forward. After my return to NSA, I was no longer cleared for information on that undertaking.
I used the story of my assignment and banishment as the basis for the plot in my 2020 novel, Secretocracy. But I set the story during the Trump administration because Trump was infamous for having fired intelligence budgeteers who would not do his illegal bidding. He shared with Reagan a willingness to put himself above the law. Both presidents have been roundly condemned for their illegal acts but neither was ever indicted. Maybe that will change for Trump over time.