October 17, 1986 – A day loaded with intrigue. Former U.S. Attorney Griffin Bell was flying down to Managua in an attempt to fish American pilot Eugene Hasenfus out of a tough spot. The tough spot being his capture by Sandinistas, after being shot down while piloting a transport plane loaded with arms and ammunition, heading for the Contra Rebels from “somewhere in the U.S.”.
It wasn’t so much that Hasenfus was shot down, but the swarm of Washington concern over the situation and rising questions over why a shipment of arms, which the U.S. wasn’t supposed to be doing, was exactly what it looked like the U.S. was doing. Hasenfus, captured and put in jail to await trial in the coming week, had already spoke to the Press, and the big news was his incriminating the U.S. government for allegedly given approval to the mission, even though the House and Senate voted no financial or military support to the Contras.
And so, in an effort to turn an embarrassing situation into simply a stupid one, Griffin Bell was called upon to defend Hasenfus in a Peoples Tribunal over charges that could have netted him some 30 years in a Nicaragua prison. All the while, questions were being raised as to what the buck was and where it was going to stop.
During his interview, Hasenfus told the press he wasn’t the only one involved, that there were “dozens involved in the effort, until his plane, laden with guns until his plane was shot out of the sky. Hasenfus survived by parachuting and two other Americans died. More claims were sure to come over the revelations the U.S. government was aiding the Contral rebels.
Several reports claimed it would be a “show trial”, but added it would also be a “fair trial”. But the U.S. Embassy poo-pooed that claim, saying no one got a fair trial where the Peoples Tribunals was concerned, with a conviction rate was over 90%. Griffin Bell had his work cut out for him. And the rest of the world waited.
Meanwhile, A Senate resolution meant to force President Reagan to disclose any U.S. government links to the down cargo plane wound up three votes short of passage. Republicans blamed the bills author, Democrat Tom Harkin for ‘creating mischief”.
And that’s only a tiny fraction of the news that happened on this October 17, 1986, as presented by The CBS World News Roundup.
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