On of the bigger roadblocks on the path to a better, more cohesive anti-terror response, was the civil service, according to the report. Usually the saving angels in most scandals, in this case the civil service often stymied initiatives to reform counterterror management, such as the Gore report (see, e.g., PDF-100). Here is a reason that honestly never occurred to me:
Through most of President Reagan’s second term, the coordination of counterterrorism was overseen by a high-level interagency committee chaired by the deputy national security adviser. But the Reagan administration closed with a major scandal that cast a cloud over the notion that the White House should guide counterterrorism.
President Reagan was concerned because Hezbollah was taking Americans hostage and periodically killing them. He was also constrained by a bill he signed into law that made it illegal to ship military aid to anticommunist Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua, whom he strongly supported. His national security adviser, Robert McFarlane, and McFarlane’s deputy, Admiral John Poindexter, thought the hostage problem might be solved […] if the United States quietly negotiated with Iran about exchanging hostages for modest quantities of arms. […] A staffer for McFarlane and Poindexter, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, developed a scheme to trade U.S. arms for hostages and divert the proceeds to the Contras to get around U.S. law. […]This was not COINTELPRO, either. Nor was it Operation Mockingbird; both of those programs began long ago and were allegedly snuffed out in the 1970's as a result of the Church Committee (in reality, replaced by slicker methods) arguably made it harder to fight terror since the best informed civil servants also knew the dangers of such powerful tools, and skepticism that they would be used against terror suspects.
When the facts were revealed in 1986 and 1987, it appeared to be the 1970s all over again: a massive abuse of covert action. Now, instead of stories about poisoned cigars and Mafia hit men, Americans heard testimony about a secret visit to Tehran by McFarlane, using an assumed name and bearing a chocolate cake decorated with icing depicting a key. An investigation by a special counsel resulted in the indictment of McFarlane, Poindexter, North, and ten others, including several high-ranking officers from the CIA’s Clandestine Service. The investigations spotlighted the importance of accountability and official responsibility for faithful execution of laws. For the story of 9/11, the significance of the Iran-Contra affair was that it made parts of the bureaucracy reflexively skeptical about any operating directive from the White House. [PDF-117—emphasis added—JMR]