By: Debra Gersh Hernandez U.S. Court of Appeals orders as full a disclosure as possible of the independent counsel's Iran-contra investigation report sp.
THE INDEPENDENT COUNSEL'S final report on the Iran-contra investigation will be made available to the public. Ruling on a motion by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Society of Professional Journalists and National Security Archive, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found it not only "appropriate" but "in the public interest that as full a disclosure as possible be made" of Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh's final report. The report has been sealed while officials named in it, including former President Reagan, commented on its findings. Those comments have not been made public. It may be a while before the report is ready for release, although portions of it have been leaked to the press. Noting that the period for comments expired Dec. 3 and inclusion of an appendix would take some time, the court said, "It will not be physically possible to release the report inclusive of the comments for some short period of time after Dec. 3, 1993." However, the three-judge panel ruled that the report would be released as soon as the appendix is complete. The court expected further deletions, if any, to be minor. A classified index, which is part of Walsh's original final report, is not covered by the order. Seven years ago, Walsh was appointed to investigate reports that the proceeds from U.S. arms sales to Iran secretly had been channeled to Nic-araguans who were fighting their communist government. The 1978 act that governs appointments of independent counsels and their investigations requires that their final reports be made public. Reagan administration officials named in the report have attempted to suppress sections of it. The report is said to be highly critical of members of that administration. Portions of the report may be withheld upon its release. RCFP executive director Jane Kirtley said she was "very pleased" with the ruling but noted that it does "leave open some wiggle room for deletions. We'll have to wait and see the final report." Kirtley added that this is "obviously a step in the right direction" and it "augurs well for the release of future reports." "It would have been an insult to the public to keep this secret. I shudder to think what might have happened" had the report not been released, said Paul McMasters, SPJ president and executive director of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.