Debunked: "There Exists a Shadowy Government" — Daniel Inouye

Mick West

Staff member
The false quote is attributed to Senator Daniel Inouye

"There exists a shadowy government with its own Air Force, its own Navy, its own fundraising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of national interest, free from all checks and balances, and free from the law itself."

This is often accompanied by a video clip of Inouye saying the words of this quote, but skipping the words "there exists", because he never said them. The bulk of the quote is accurate in the sense that they were words he said, but it's false because the addition of "there exists" totally changes the meaning of the sentence.

To understand what Inouye was referring to, you have to look at the full context. Inouye is presenting the closing remarks on day 40 of the Iran-Contra hearings, Aug 3 1987 (over 30 years ago). He's remarking upon two different vision of government that were apparent during the hearings. The first vision, the failed one that led to the conviction of Oliver North, is a secretive and unaccountable one. The second vision, the one that (he says) we have and must strive to defend, is the nation of laws and accountability.

I'd recommend you read the full speech at the link, but here's the relevant context, and you can focus in on the two highlighted paragraphs where Inouye describes the two visions.

Obviously, these hearings have been about issues much more profound than who did what or knew what in the Iran-contra affair. They have presented two visions of government, much as the Constitutional Convention was presented with different views of the relationship between government and its citizens 2000 years ago.

One vision was described in the testimony of Admiral Poindexter, Lieutenant Colonel North, General Secord, and Mr. Hakim: That of a secret government, directed principally by NSC staffers, accountable to not a single elected official, including apparently the President himself -- a shadowy government with its own air force, its own navy, its own fund-raising mechanism, and the ability to pursue its own ideas of the national interest, free from all checks and balances and free from the law itself.

It is an elitist vision of government that trusts no one, not the people, not the Congress, and not the Cabinet.

It is a vision of a government operated by persons convinced they have a monopoly on truth.

Albert Hakim, a businessman who admitted he was in it for the money, could boast to us that he was more competent to manage the Iran initiative than the Secretary of State.

Richard Secord could tell us he was more capable of running intelligence activities than the CIA.

Oliver North could describe, with enthusiasm, Director Casey’s plan for a private, off-the-shelf organization that would conduct covert operations forbidden to the CIA with funds generated from the sale of U.S. arms.

John Poindexter could say that this all sounded like a good idea, maintain that Congress had no meaningful role in foreign policy, and act secure in the belief that the President would have approved the diversion of funds.

I believe these hearings will be remembered longest not for the facts they elicited, but for the extraordinary and extraordinarily frightening views of government they exposed.

Fortunately, our hearings were able to present another vision of government: One that is accountable to the people; a legitimate, not secret, government, in which “trust is the coin of the realm,” as Secretary of State George Shultz said. This is the balanced government that our founding fathers contemplated in our Constitution.

In describing their motives for riding roughshod over the constitutional restraints built into our form of government, Admiral Poindexter and Lieutenant Colonel North used almost the identical words: “This is a dangerous world,” they said. That, my fellow citizens, is an excuse for autocracy, not for policy.

Because no times were more dangerous than when our country was born, when revolution was our midwife. Our system of government has withstood the tests and tensions of civil conflict, depression and two world wars, times hardly less challenging than our own present.

Indeed, as our greatest military leaders, such as Washington, Marshall, and Eisenhower have recognized, our form of government is what gives us strength. It must be safeguarded, particularly when times are dangerous and the temptation of arrogate power is the greatest.

Vigilance abroad does not require us to abandon our ideals or the rule of law at home. On the contrary, without our principles and without our ideals, we have little that is special or worthy to defend.

History records that almost 200 years ago, in September of 1787, as the Constitutional Convention was finishing its business, a bystander asked Benjamin Franklin: “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Dr. Franklin replied: “A republic, if you can keep it.”

By allowing the sunlight on this unseemly affair, and by showing what happens when foreign policy is conceived and executed by cabal and not by lawful consensus, we have tried to make our contribution to “keeping it.”

My fellow Americans, out of this experience, may we all better understand and appreciate our Constitution, strive harder to preserve it, and make a fresh start at restoring the trust between the branches of government. For, in America, as 200 years ago, the people still rule.
Content from External Source
The full four hours of the day 40 proceedings can be viewed on C-Span, with Inouye's closing statement starting at 3h44m28s
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