Elliott Abrams

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Elliott Abrams
Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy
In office
February 2, 2005[1] – January 2009
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
National Security Council Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs
In office
December 2, 2002[2] – February 1, 2005
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
National Security Council Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations
In office
June 25, 2001 [3] – December 1, 2002
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Succeeded byAnthony Banbury (acting director)[4]
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs
In office
July 17, 1985 – January 20, 1989
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byLanghorne A. Motley
Succeeded byBernard William Aronson
Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs
In office
December 12, 1981 – July 17, 1985
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byPatricia M. Derian
Succeeded byRichard Schifter
Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations
In office
May 7, 1981[5] – December 1, 1981
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byRichard Lee McCall, Jr
Succeeded byGregory J. Newell
Personal details
Born(1948-01-24) January 24, 1948 (age 64)
New York City
NationalityAmerican
Spouse(s)Rachel Decter
RelationsNorman Podhoretz
Midge Decter
ChildrenThree
Alma materHarvard, B.A.
London School of Economics, M.Sc.
Harvard Law School, J.D.
OccupationLawyer
ReligionJudaism
 
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Elliott Abrams
Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy
In office
February 2, 2005[1] – January 2009
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
National Security Council Senior Director for Near East and North African Affairs
In office
December 2, 2002[2] – February 1, 2005
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
National Security Council Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations
In office
June 25, 2001 [3] – December 1, 2002
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Succeeded byAnthony Banbury (acting director)[4]
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs
In office
July 17, 1985 – January 20, 1989
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byLanghorne A. Motley
Succeeded byBernard William Aronson
Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs
In office
December 12, 1981 – July 17, 1985
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byPatricia M. Derian
Succeeded byRichard Schifter
Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations
In office
May 7, 1981[5] – December 1, 1981
PresidentRonald Reagan
Preceded byRichard Lee McCall, Jr
Succeeded byGregory J. Newell
Personal details
Born(1948-01-24) January 24, 1948 (age 64)
New York City
NationalityAmerican
Spouse(s)Rachel Decter
RelationsNorman Podhoretz
Midge Decter
ChildrenThree
Alma materHarvard, B.A.
London School of Economics, M.Sc.
Harvard Law School, J.D.
OccupationLawyer
ReligionJudaism

Elliott Abrams (born January 24, 1948) is an American attorney and conservative policy analyst who served in foreign policy positions for two Republican U.S. Presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. While serving for Reagan and in the State Department, Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz, and retired U.S. Marine Corps officer Oliver North were integral players in the Iran-Contra affair. Abrams held many roles within the affair, some official and unofficial. This included working with CIA operations that got the U.S. on board with the illegal shipment of arms and supplies.[6] He is currently a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.[7] Additionally, Abrams holds positions on the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG), Center for Security Policy & National Secretary Advisory Council, Committee for a Free Lebanon, and the Project for the New American Century.[8] He also was the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington in 1996. Abrams is a current member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. He teaches foreign policy at Georgetown University with a blog called “Pressure Points” that is about the U.S. foreign policy and human rights.[6]

During the Reagan administration, Abrams gained notoriety for his involvement in controversial foreign policy decisions regarding Nicaragua and El Salvador. During Bush's first term, he served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director on the National Security Council for Near East and North African Affairs. At the start of Bush's second term, Abrams was promoted to be his Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy, in charge of promoting Bush's strategy of advancing democracy abroad. His appointment by Bush was controversial due to his conviction in 1991 on two misdemeanor counts of unlawfully withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra Affair investigation.

Contents

Early years

Abrams was born into a Jewish family in New York. His father was an immigration lawyer. He attended Harvard College in the late 1960s and was a roommate of Steven Kelman, founder of the Young People's Socialist League campus chapter. Together they penned an article on the 1969 Harvard strike for The New Leader, “The Contented Revolutionists.”.[9] Abrams received his bachelor of arts from Harvard College in 1969, a master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics in 1970, and his J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1973.

He practiced law in New York in the summers for his father, and then at Breed, Abbott and Morgan from 1973 to 1975 and with Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard and McPherson from 1979 to 1981.

Abrams worked as an assistant counsel on the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1975, then worked as a staffer on Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson’s brief campaign for the 1976 Democratic Party presidential nomination. From 1977 through 1979, he served as special counsel and ultimately as chief of staff for the then-new senator Daniel Moynihan.

Through Senator Moynihan, Abrams was introduced to Rachel Decter, the stepdaughter of Moynihan’s friend Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary. They were married in 1980. The couple has three children: Jacob, Sarah, and Joseph.[10]

Assistant Secretary of State, 1980s

Abrams first came to national prominence when he served as Reagan's Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs in the early 1980s and later as Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs. His nomination to Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 17, 1981.[11] Abrams was Reagan's second choice for the position; his first nominee, Ernest W. Lefever, had been rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 5, 1981.[11]

During this time, Abrams clashed regularly with church groups and human rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch.[12][13] and Amnesty International, over the Reagan administration's foreign policies. They accused him of covering up atrocities committed by the military forces of US-backed governments, such as those in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala, and the rebel Contras in Nicaragua.

El Salvador

In early 1982, when reports of the El Mozote massacre of civilians by the military in El Salvador began appearing in U.S. media, Abrams told a Senate committee that the reports of hundreds of deaths at El Mozote "were not credible," and that "it appears to be an incident that is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the guerrillas."[14] The massacre had come at a time when the Reagan administration was attempting to bolster the human rights image of the Salvadoran military. Abrams implied that reports of a massacre were simply FMLN propaganda and denounced U.S. investigative reports of the massacre as misleading. In March 1993, the Salvadoran Truth Commission reported that 5,000 civilians were “deliberately and systematically” executed in El Mozote in December 1981 by forces affiliated with the Salvadoran state.[15] Also in 1993, documentation emerged suggesting that some Reagan administration officials could have known about El Mozote and other human rights violations from the beginning.[16] However, in July 1993, an investigation commissioned by Clinton secretary of state Warren Christopher into the State department’s "activities and conduct" with regard to human rights in El Salvador during the Reagan years found that, despite the department's mistakes handling El Mozote, its personnel “performed creditably and occasionally with personal bravery in advancing human rights in El Salvador.”[17] Abrams himself claimed that Washington’s policy in El Salvador was a ”fabulous achievement.”[18]

Nicaragua

When Congress shut down funding for the Contras' efforts to overthrow Nicaragua's Sandinista government with the 1982 Boland Amendment, members of the Reagan administration began looking for other avenues for funding the group.[19] Congress opened a couple of such avenues when it modified the Boland Amendment for fiscal year 1986 by approving $27 million in direct aid to the Contras and allowing the administration to legally solicit funds for the Contras from foreign governments.[20] Neither the direct aid, nor any foreign contributions, could be used to purchase weapons.[20] Guided by the new provisions of the modified Boland Amendment, Abrams flew to London in August 1986 and met secretly with Bruneian defense minister General Ibnu to solicit a $10-million contribution from the Sultan of Brunei.[21][22] Ultimately, the Contras never received this money because a clerical error in Oliver North's office (a mistyped account number) sent the Bruneian money to the wrong Swiss bank account.[22]

Iran-Contra affair

During investigation of the Iran-Contra Affair, Lawrence Walsh, the Independent Counsel tasked with investigating the case, prepared multiple felony counts against Abrams but never indicted him.[22] Instead, Abrams entered into a plea agreement with Walsh. Abrams pled guilty to two misdemeanors of withholding information from Congress.[23] He was sentenced to a $50 fine, probation for two years, and 100 hours of community service. However, Abrams was pardoned by President George H. W. Bush, in December 1992 (as he was leaving office following his loss in that year in the U.S. presidential election). On February 5, 1997, the D.C. Court of Appeals publicly censured Abrams for giving false testimony on three occasions before congressional committees. Although a majority of the court voted to impose a public censure, three judges in the majority would have imposed a suspension of six months, and a fourth judge would have followed the recommendation of the Board on Professional Responsibility that Abrams be suspended for a year.

Special Assistant to President Bush

President George W. Bush appointed Abrams to the post of special assistant to the president and senior director for democracy, human rights, and international operations at the National Security Council on June 25, 2001.[24] Abrams was appointed special assistant to the President and the NSC’s senior director for Near East and North African Affairs on December 2, 2002.[25] Some human rights groups and commentators considered his White House appointment controversial due to his conviction in the Iran-Contra Affair investigation and his role in overseeing the Reagan administration’s foreign policy in Latin America.[26][27]

2002 Venezuelan coup

The Observer has claimed that Abrams had advance knowledge of, and "gave a nod to," the Venezuelan coup attempt of 2002 against Hugo Chávez.[28] However, a review by the State Department’s inspector general made the following conclusion: “Our government’s opposition to the use of undemocratic or unconstitutional means to remove President Chávez was repeated over and over again during the relevant period by key policymakers and spokespersons in Washington and by our representatives in Caracas in both public and private forums. And, far from working to foment his overthrow, the United States alerted President Chávez to coup plots and warned him of an assassination threat that was deemed to be credible.”[29] Yet the U.S. government gave tacit approval to the coup initially, refusing to condemn the coup until after the president installed by the coup had already been forced to resign by the people.[30]

Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy

On February 2, 2005, President George W. Bush appointed Abrams deputy national security adviser for Global Democracy Strategy.[31] In his new position, Abrams became responsible for overseeing the National Security Council’s directorate of Democracy, Human Rights, and International Organization Affairs and its directorate of Near East and North African Affairs.[31]

Abrams accompanied Condoleezza Rice as a primary adviser on her visits to the Middle East in late July 2006 in the course of discussions relating to the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.[32]

Affiliation history

Institutional affiliations

Editorial affiliations

Public service

Books

Government

Religion

Notes

  1. ^ Personnel Announcement, February 2, 2005
  2. ^ Statement by the Press Secretary December 2, 2002
  3. ^ Statement by the Press Secretary June 28, 2001
  4. ^ Anthony Banbury, UN World Food Program CGI Asia 2008 Program Participants, Clinton Global Initiative
  5. ^ Office of the Historian
  6. ^ a b "Elliott Abrams". http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Abrams_Elliott. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "Elliott Abrams Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies". The Cfr Think Tank Experts. Council on Foreign Relations. 2009. http://www.cfr.org/bios/1567/elliott_abrams.html. 
  8. ^ Wedel, J.R. (2009). Shadow Elite. New York: Basic Books. 
  9. ^ Steven Kelman (2006). "This Boy’s Politics". The New Leader 89 (1/2): 21–23. 
  10. ^ Elliott Abrams - Undue Process, p. 80.
  11. ^ a b Bite, Vita (November 24, 1982). "Human Rights and U.S. Foreign Policy: Issue Brief IB81125". Congressiokal Researce Service Major Issues System (Library of Congress): 5–6. http://digital.library.unt.edu/govdocs/crs//data/1982/upl-meta-crs-8859/IB81125_1982Nov24.pdf?PHPSESSID=59cb7309244ccd0ecddc8ba98158d482. 
  12. ^ Dobbs, Michael (May 27, 2003). "Back in Political Forefront: Iran-Contra Figure Plays Key Role on Mideast". Washington Post. p. A01.  According to the Washington Post article, in a 1984 appearance on the program Nightline, Abrams clashed with Aryeh Neier, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.
  13. ^ Neier, Aryeh (November 2, 2006). The Attack on Human Rights Watch. 53. The New York Review of Books. http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19500. 
  14. ^ Danner, Mark (December 3, 1993). "The Truth of El Mozote". The New Yorker. pp. 4, 50–50. http://www.markdanner.com/articles/show/the_truth_of_el_mozote. 
  15. ^ Whitfield, Teresa (1994). Paying the Price: Ignacio Ellacuría and the Murdered Jesuits of El Salvador. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. p. 389. ISBN 1-56639-253-5. http://books.google.com/?id=qv9o4qoOnFEC&pg=PA389&lpg=PA389. 
  16. ^ Krauss, Clifford (March 21, 1993). "How U.S. Actions Helped Hide Salvador Human Rights Abuses". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1993/03/21/world/how-us-actions-helped-hide-salvador-human-rights-abuses.html. 
  17. ^ Whitfield, Teresa (1994-11-09). Paying the Price. Temple University Press. pp. 389–390. ISBN 978-1-56639-253-2. http://books.google.com/?id=qv9o4qoOnFEC&pg=PA389&lpg=PA389. 
  18. ^ Corn, David (June 1, 2001). "Elliott Abrams: It’s Back!". The Nation. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20010702/corn. 
  19. ^ National Security Council internal memorandum, "Options and Legislative Strategy for Renewing Aid to the Nicaraguan Resistance". January 31, 1985. Declassified under FOIA
  20. ^ a b Special to the New York Times (July 10, 1987). "Iran-Contra Hearings; Boland Amendments: What They Provided". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1987/07/10/world/iran-contra-hearings-boland-amendments-what-they-provided.html. 
  21. ^ Abrams, Elliott (1993). Undue Process: A Story of How Political Differences Are Turned into Crimes. The Free Press. pp. 89. ISBN 0-02-900167-6. 
  22. ^ a b c Walsh, Lawrence E. (August 4, 1993). "Final Report of the Independent Counsel For Iran/Contra Matters Vol. I: Investigations and Prosecutions". Chapter 25. U. S. Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia. http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/chap_25.htm. 
  23. ^ Walsh, Lawrence E. (August 4, 1993). "Final Report of the Independent Counsel For Iran/Contra Matters Vol. I: Investigations and Prosecutions". Summary of Prosecutions. U. S. Court of Appeal for the District of Columbia. http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/summpros.htm. 
  24. ^ Press release (June 28, 2001). "Statement by the Press Secretary". The White House. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2001/06/20010628-12.html. 
  25. ^ Press release (December 2, 2002). "Statement by the Press Secretary". The White House. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/12/20021202-14.html. 
  26. ^ Cooper, Linda; Hodge, Jim (August 10, 2001,). "Appointees Spark Controversy". National Catholic Reporter. http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2001c/081001/081001f.htm. 
  27. ^ "Editorial: Appointments Insult Human Rights Cause". National Catholic Reporter. August 1, 2001. http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2001c/081001/081001s.htm. 
  28. ^ Vulliamy, Ed (April 21, 2002). "Venezuela coup linked to Bush team". London: The Observer. http://observer.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,688071,00.html. 
  29. ^ Broadcasting Board of Governors Office of Inspector General (July 2002). "A Review of U.S. Policy Toward Venezuela November 2001 - April 2002". U. S. Department of State. p. 37. http://oig.state.gov/documents/organization/13682.pdf. 
  30. ^ Marquis, Christopher (April 17, 2002). "U.S. Cautioned Leader of Plot Against Chávez". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/17/world/us-cautioned-leader-of-plot-against-chavez.html. 
  31. ^ a b Press Release (February 2, 2005). "Personnel Announcement". The White House. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2005/02/20050202-10.html. 
  32. ^ Cooper, Helene (August 10, 2006). "Rice’s Hurdles on Middle East Begin at Home". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/10/washington/10rice.html. 
  33. ^ International Advisory Board of NGO Monitor

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Richard Lee McCall, Jr.
Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs
May 7, 1981 – December 1, 1981
Succeeded by
Gregory J. Newell
Preceded by
Patricia M. Derian
Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs
December 12, 1981 – July 17, 1985
Succeeded by
Richard Schifter
Preceded by
Langhorne A. Motley
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs
July 17, 1985 – January 20, 1989
Succeeded by
Bernard W. Aronson