On This Day in 1984

On This Day
Fox Sports Radio 92.7 FM's Pryce Robertson

What happened on this day in history: The U.S. Congress passed the 2nd Boland Amendment which outlawed solicitation of 3rd-party countries to support the Contras. The amendment barred the use of funds available to CIA, defense, or intelligence agencies for “supporting, directly or indirectly, military or paramilitary operations in Nicaragua by any nation, group, organization or individual.”

During the early years of the Ronald Reagan administration, a civil war raged in Nicaragua (after Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas took control of the country). After the CIA carried out a series of acts of sabotage without Congressional intelligence committees being made aware beforehand, the Boland Amendment was passed by Congress, cutting off appropriated funding for the Contra freedom fighters. Prior to its passage, an earlier amendment proposed by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Ia.) that would have disallowed all funding for Contra efforts had failed to pass.

The Boland Amendment, proposed by Edward Boland, was a highly limited ambiguous compromise because the Democrats did not have enough votes for a comprehensive ban. The Amendment gained traction due to a widespread opposition among the American public to funding the Contras. Some of Reagan’s natl. security officials used non-appropriated money spent by the NSC to circumvent the Amendment. No court ever made a determination whether Boland covered the NSC and, because the law was a prohibition rather than a criminal statute, no one could be indicted for violating it. Opponents alleged that the White House violated the amendment. Congress later resumed aid to the Contras, totaling over $300 million. The Sandinistas were voted out of power in 1990, and voted back in later years.

Beyond restricting overt U.S. support of the Contras, the most significant effect of the Boland Amendment was the Iran-Contra Affair, during which the Reagan Administration circumvented the Amendment, without consent of Congress, in order to continue supplying arms to the Contras.