Bobby Ray Inman and South Africa

[Home to]          [Back to Arms Embargo Against Apartheid South Africa]

In December 1993 President Clinton nominated Admiral Bobby Ray Inman to be Secretary of Defense.  Inman served in a series of senior intelligence positions including Director of Navel Intelligence (1974-76), Vice Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (1976-77), Director of the National Security Agency (1977-81) and Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (1981-1982). In the early 1980s Inman, then a private businessman, was named to the shadow board International Signal and Control. These boards are required for U.S. defense companies wholly or partly owned by foreigners and are supposed to guarantee that no U.S. secrets get into foreign hands.

In 1991 James Guerin, founder and chairman of International Signal and Control (ISC), pleaded guilty to selling arms to apartheid South Africa and agreed to testify against others. Ten American, seven South Africans and three South African companies were charged in the case. This case was one of the most significant U.S. violations of the of U.S. export laws and the mandatory U.N. arms embargo. 

In April 1992, prior to Guerin's sentencing, Inman, wrote the judge that between 1975 and 1978 Guerin "voluntarily provided the U.S. government with information obtained during his foreign travels which was of substantial value, particular that related to the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons."  Several defendants in the ISC case claimed the U.S. government knew of their sales to South Africa and that they provided information on South Africa's defense, including its nuclear weapons program. Guerin was sentenced to 15 years in jail. Guerin could have received up to 61 years.

In January 1994 Inman withdrew his nomination for Secretary of Defense.  In response to his withdrawal I wrote this letter that appeared in the New York Times. - Richard Knight


South Africa Link

To the Editor:

The withdrawal of Bobby Ray Inman's nomination for Secretary of Defense brought to public attention the case of International Signal and Control, a defense and technology company.  James Guerin, the company's founder, was recently sentenced to jail for illegal arms sales to South Africa, as you report in "Inman Faced Scrutiny on Jailed Arms Dealer" (news article, Jan. 20).

As one who has followed International Signal and Control for years, I believe there are many unanswered questions in this case involving our own Government, its intelligence agencies and United States implementation of the United Nations arms embargo against South Africa.

Ties between International Signal and South Africa go back to the 1970's.  In February 1976 the Department of State granted approval of a contract for the study of maritime command and control systems with Barlow Comminations of South Africa.  In January 1978, because of United States support for the 1977 United Nations arms embargo resolution, the State Department revoked the contract.  Yet it appears International Signal continued its involvement in this project.

According to the indictment of Mr. Guerin, International Signal sold South Africa inertial and land navigation systems and gyroscopes for aircraft, missiles and helicopters.  International Signal also made millions of dollars in other illegal sales to South Africa including military-related technology and land mines.  Did United States intelligence agencies allow International Signal to continue its illegal operations for intelligence on South Africa's nuclear and other military programs, or to support South Africa's military for other reasons?

Mr. Inman has acknowledged that as director of Naval Intelligence in the mid-70's, he knew of the first International Signal contract and was aware of later information supplied by the company on South Africa's nuclear program.  Most likely, these ties had some bearing on Mr. Inman's appointment as a director on the International Signal shadow board.  Such boards protect United States interests and secrets.  Did Mr. Inman ask questions about large contracts going to small companies and countries like South Africa and Panama?

The central question, as with the Iran-contra scandal, is how to establish effective procedures to prevent United States intelligence agencies, or people working with them, from subverting laws established by Congress.  If directors on shadow boards such as that of International Signal are just "window dressing," Congress should tighten the system and make directors accountable.

Congress should also examine the role of intelligence agencies in this case.  Company officials say they continued providing Information to the Central Intelligence Agency into the 80's, while illegal sales occurred.

Mr. Inman says the United States Government never gave Mr. Guerin permission to violate the arms embargo against Smith Africa.  Did the C.I.A. know of these violations of the embargo?  If the C.I.A. was aware and took no steps to stop the illegal said, it was effectively a partner of International Signal in arming apartheid South Africa.

New York, Jan. 21, 1994
The writer is a research associate for the Africa Fund, a nonprofit human rights organization.

Posted on

[Home to]          [Back to Arms Embargo Against South Africa]