The Iran Contra affair was investigated by special counsel (actually "Independent Counsel" as it was called back then) Lawrence Walsh.

I found his final report on archive.org but it's a bit too long for me to go through and figure out from the primary source if it has been released completely uncensored and when that happened. There might have been some material redacted/classified on national security grounds, at least back then. Was that actually the case though?

So, basically, what's the release history of the Walsh report?

The National Archives page on the records of the Walsh investigation has this header:

The records of Independent Counsel Walsh include security classified and otherwise sensitive information.

But that's for all the records of the investigation, not just the final report. Perhaps the report was drafted from the get go to exclude all such information...

I did find one book saying that:

Whenever Walsh's investigation produced results, it was stifled by claims of national security secrecy or classified matters. When the final report was finished, its Volume III was classified and never released.

But I'm not entirely sure of the reliability of this book (it's not an academic book). But it does offer a more concrete path to investigate (does this volume 3 exist, and was it classified?)

An academic source does confirm there was a classified vol. 3.

In addition to the unclassified Volumes I and II of this report, a brief classified report, Volume III, has been filed with the Special Division. The classified report contains references to material gathered in the investigation of Iran/contra that could not be declassified and could not be concealed by some substitute form of discussion.

Given the way this formulated, clearly the counsel segregated classified material to this volume. A comment below also says this volume was eventually released (to the public, I assume)--the question remains who decided its release. The full text of volume 3 is not available anywhere online, but a table of contents for it is. It starts with

Order granting a motion to release the Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/contra Matters, December 3, 1993

So it sounds like there might have been some litigation surrounding the release of volume 3.

  • 1
    Volume 3 was released in December 1993 (vs. August for 1 and 2). Not an answer to the rest of your question though, so a comment
    – De Novo
    Mar 23, 2019 at 19:19
  • The fact that it was successfully delayed by 4 months does certainly have an impact on this question
    – De Novo
    Mar 23, 2019 at 19:20
  • @DeNovo: I think it's almost a complete answer here. It looks like Walsh segregated the material he thought most sensitive to that volume... What's still missing is a bit of history as to whom decided to classify vol 3. and who reversed tack on that. Mar 23, 2019 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


I found a piece investigative journalism which goes in a bit more detail on this, in part contradicting some of the simpler statements. Basically, the classified appendix did exist but wasn't volume III. And the reason why there is a court order is that the publication of the whole report (as it was) was challenged in court by... the defendants.

Submitted August 5, 1993, as required by the Ethics in Government Act of 1982 (28 USC §595) to the special division of the US Court of Appeals for D.C. that appoints independent counsels under legislation passed as a result of the Watergate scandal. The report was dated December 3, 1993, when the court ordered its release subject to certain changes, but was not released until January 18, 1994. It includes three main volumes. Vol. I, 566 pages, describes the 14 cases that were prosecuted and the investigations of 17 others, and concludes with Walsh’s observations; Vol. II, 787 pages, compiles the indictments, plea agreements, and four interim reports to Congress; a 54-page Classified Appendix, including briefs on the Classified Information Procedures Act, was withheld from the public on grounds of national security. A companion Volume III, the largest at 1,150 pages, contains the responses of the defendants and other subjects of investigation, including Reagan, to Walsh’s report. Their motions, filed on December3, 1993, demanding that the Final Report remain sealed or censored, were released by the court February 8, 1994; among them was a motion by North seeking to suppress the Report — with North’s own name blacked out at his request by court officers. (See AP, “North purges name from files,” Rocky Mountain News, February 9, 1994.) Other materials from the investigation that are not contained in the Final Report, some still classified, have been deposited in the National Archives; others are held, some under seal, in the US District Courts of D.C., Maryland and Eastern Virginia (Alexandria), and the Courts of Appeals for D.C. and the Fourth Circuit.

From the AP news cited it's more clear who objected to what:

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals released hundreds of pages of previously secret court documents filed in December by former President Reagan and former Attorney General Edwin Meese III seeking to block the Jan. 18 release of the prosecutor's [Walsh's] report.


Reagan asked that the court refuse to release Walsh's report "to the public or any other entity or person" unless it was rewritten to remove "opinions, conclusions and innuendo." The sources said North made similar objections.

Walsh's Dec. 8 court filing arguing against suppression addresses Reagan's objections side-by-side with the objections of the blacked-out third party [North].

A question that remains: was the 54-page classified appendix (that was apparently attached to vol II, not III) eventually released to the public, or not?

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