SHOULD Oliver North lose his military pension as a consequence of his wrongdoing in the Reagan White House? It's a hot question, full of emotion. The answer, we think, is no. When Mr. North was convicted of three felonies last May, some thought his sentence -- 1,200 hours of community service and a fine -- too lenient, while others believed that any penalty at all was excessive. Not everyone understood that in addition to the sanctions imposed by the judge, Mr. North would also lose his military pension. The reason was as follows: one of the charges of which Mr. North was convicted -- destroying government documents -- carries with it a special penalty prohibiting an offender from holding "any office under the United States." That provision, it is reasonable to assume, was added to protect the security of documents by denying access to such papers to those convicted under the statute. The General Accounting Office, however, came up with a much more expansive, not to say tortured, interpretation of the law. It ruled that since a retired regular military officer is subject to recall for duty, he continues to hold an "office under the United States" even after retirement. Having been removed from that office by his conviction, the reasoning continues, Mr. North is no longer entitled to his pension. The Navy disagrees, but has complied with the GAO directive and withheld the former Marine officer's retirement pay. This is really off-the-wall reasoning. The U.S. Code lists nearly 40 offenses that carry a penalty of loss of government pension. They are all crimes like espionage, treason and sabotage. Mr. North was convicted of none of them. Other retired government employees, even congressmen and judges, retain all their pension rights after conviction of felonies. And there would be no question of losing retirement pay even if Mr. North had been convicted of murder, rape or other violent crimes. A few weeks before adjournment, Congress set out to correct this situation. Originally, a bill was introduced by Sen. Jesse Helms that would have restored Mr. North's pension alone. It was improved on the Senate floor when he agreed to amend the measure to protect all retired officers. Both Mr. North's defenders and his detractors supported the bill as a way to correct a misinterpretation of the law as applied to service men and women. The bill was passed on a 78-to-17 vote, and it should be endorsed in similar fashion by the House.