The Reagan-era Iran-Contra affair lit up the political skies over Washington for well over a year in the late 1980s. The biggest scandal since Watergate, it dominated the news starting in late 1986, when word broke about the administration’s illegal backing of Contra rebels in Nicaragua and illicit sales of high-tech weapons to the Islamic Republic of Iran. When President Ronald Reagan acknowledged that the two operations were connected it raised the stakes even higher, including rumblings for impeachment.
The scandal eventually blew over, in large part thanks to dramatic world events such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union. But the Constitutional issues it raised about presidential authority and the role of Congress in foreign policy, as well as its lessons about the practical limits of legal accountability when it comes to national security affairs and holders of high public office remain deeply relevant.
Over the years, the National Security Archive became the most authoritative independent source of documentation and analysis of the affair. The following books, major declassified document compilations, and Web postings are gathered together to provide interested readers with a wide assortment of useful primary and secondary materials.