UNDUE PROCESS: A Story of How Political Differences Are Turned Into Crimes by Elliott Abrams

UNDUE PROCESS: A Story of How Political Differences Are Turned Into Crimes

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A victim's damning, if querulously overstated, case against the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC), which, in its pursuit of Iran-contra malefactors, seems to be as concerned with scalps as with justice. Brimming with resentment, Abrams offers a one-sided first-person version of his bruising encounter with the OIC. Appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs in 1985, Abrams became heir to a number of ongoing initiatives, one of which involved toppling Nicaragua's Sandinistas. He left office with the Reagan Administration and heard nothing from Lawrence Walsh (head of the OIC) or his subordinates until the summer of 1991, a few months before the statute of limitations would have precluded any indictments. In the meantime, the convictions of high-profile principals like Oliver North had been reversed on appeal, and, Abrams argues, the heat was on the OIC to justify its existence. Special prosecutors eventually apprised the author that they could charge him with a welter of felonies. Caught on some inconsistencies in his testimony to Congress and faced with the prospect of a seven-figure legal-defense bill, Abrams decided to plead guilty to a couple of misdemeanors that amounted to withholding information from lawmakers (e.g., on a $10-million contribution from the Sultan of Brunei that never reached the contras). In recounting his ordeal, Abrams makes some valid points--notably on the OIC's lack of accountability, its predilection for encouraging lower-echelon targets to rat out their superiors, and its Kafkaesque capacity to criminalize policy/political differences between the executive and legislative branches of government--but he does so with an air of injured, ""why-me?"" innocence that promises to irritate his supporters and to confirm the suspicions of partisan adversaries. While there's no question that Abrams suffered much at the heavy hands of the OIC, his cause is not well served with vintage whine.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1992
Page count: 250pp
Publisher: Free Press/Macmillan