William Buckley, the CIA station chief in Beirut who died at the hands of Iranian terrorists in 1985, was brutally tortured until he revealed government secrets.
The terrible details of Buckley's death have been kept under wraps until now. We have seen the suppressed transcript of a White House meeting with an Iranian envoy in September 1986.If the envoy was telling the truth, Buckley's revelations under torture filled 400 pages recorded by his captors, and included 200 to 300 sensitive names. Buckley died alone, a gaunt shell of a man, in the stark, dingy room that had been his cell for 19 months.
The news that Buckley divulged secrets was brought to the White House by Ali Hashemi. He was sent by his uncle, Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is second in power to the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The visit was arranged by Richard Secord, a retired Air Force general experienced in covert operations, who was asked by the White House to re-establish links with revolutionary Iran.
Hashemi acknowledged that Buckley was seized by Hezbollah, a terrorist group supported by Iran. But Hashemi insisted that Iran doesn't really control Hezbollah. He implied that a radical faction, operating on its own, collaborates with the terrorists.
"Buckley gave Hezbollah a great deal of sensitive information," Hashemi reported, according to the transcript of the White House meeting. He explained delicately that "the Hezbollah was so concerned about the sensitive nature of this information that they passed it to the Iranians."
Hashemi described briefly what the terrorists had beaten out of the CIA official. "Buckley revealed 200 to 300 sensitive names of people and over 400 pages of debriefing." He also passed on some secret information about "a group of Palestinians working to gain influence within Iran" - a group headed by the Palestinian terrorist George Habash.
Buckley's capture and torture by terrorists acting under orders from inside Iran shook the CIA to its foundations. Under accepted international behavior, civilized nations simply don't kidnap one another's officials en route to the office and then torture them until they divulge their government's secrets.
On March 16, 1984, Buckley was seized by three gunmen as he headed for his office in the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. The most reliable intelligence now places his death about Oct. 4, 1985. But not until the following Dec. 5 was the CIA certain he was dead.
We broke the news on Dec. 13, 1985, reporting that Buckley was the victim of savage torture that had induced a heart attack. The CIA, paralyzed by this unprecedented capture and abuse of one of its key officials, could not decide how to respond. So CIA officials denied our story.
The following February, President Reagan admitted to us, off the record, that Buckley was dead. But it was a full year after we broke the story that his death was publicly acknowledged, and the CIA has continued to suppress the details.