Ari Ben-Menashe

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Several spooky sources contributed to the October Surprise story line, according to which the 1980 Reagan-Bush presidential campaign made a deal with the Iranians to delay the release of American hostages until after the November elections, to help assure the defeat of Jimmy Carter. A key figure in that story, and one whose usefulness as a source has been attacked and defended, was former Israeli intelligence operative Ari Ben-Menashe42 Ben-Menashe is a source used by Harry Martin.

One journalist who took Ben-Menashe's allegations more seriously than most was Craig Unger, author of an October 1991 Esquire article titled "October Surprise." Following several attacks on the Surprise theory, Unger wrote a long, interesting article called "The Trouble with Ari," which appeared in The Village Voice in July 1992. There, more clearly than in his Esquire piece, Unger explains the dilemma a source of this kind poses for the journalist. After reminding readers that some of Ben-Menashe's claims can be corroborated and that he was "the guy who started talking about the clandestine American arms pipeline to Iraq's Saddam Hussein. . . long before the story started breaking in the press this spring," Unger writes:

Ari has put five or six dozen journalists from all over the world through roughly the same paces. His seduction begins with a display of his mastery of the trade craft of the legendary Israeli intelligence services. A roll of quarters handy for furtive phone calls, he navigates the back channels that tie the spooks at Langley to their counterparts in Tel Aviv. His astute analysis and mind-boggling revelations can stir even the most jaded old hand of the Middle East. . . But trust him at your own risk....

"Listen to him, trust him, print his story verbatim--then sit around and watch your career go up in flames.

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