Excerpts of testimony by Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North in response to House select committee chief counsel John W. Nields Jr.:

q). . . You were involved in two operations of great significance to the people of this country. Is that correct?

a)At least two, yes, sir.

q)And one of them involved the support of the contras during the time the Boland Amendment was in effect, and another one involved the sale of arms to Iran. Is that correct?

a)Yes. It also involved support for the Democratic outcome in the Nicaragua vote before and after the Boland Amendment was in effect.

q)And these . . . were covert operations?

a)Yes . . . .

q)And covert operations are designed to be secrets from our enemies?


That is correct.

q)But these operations were designed to be secrets from the American people?

a)I'm at a loss as to how we could announce it to the American people and not have the Soviets know about it . . . .

q). . . You believed that the Soviets were aware of our sale of arms to Iran, weren't you?

a)We came to a point in time when we were concerned about that.

q)But it was designed to be kept a secret from the American people?

a)I think what is important is that we somehow arrive at some kind of an understanding right here and now as to what a covert operation is. If we could find a way to insulate with a bubble over these hearings that are being broadcast in Moscow, and talk about covert operations to the American people without it getting into the hands of our adversaries, I'm sure we would do that. But we haven't found the way to do it.

q)But you put it somewhat differently to the Iranians with whom you were negotiating on the 8th and 9th of October in Frankfurt, Germany, didn't you? You said to them that Secretary of Defense {Caspar W.} Weinberger in our last session with the president said, "I don't think we should send one more screw" -- talking about the Hawk {missile} parts -- "until we have our Americans back from Beirut, because when the American people find out that this has happened, they'll impeach you" -- referring to the president . . . . Did you say that to the Iranians?

a)This is apparently one of the transcripts of tape recordings that I caused to be made of my discussions with the Iranians. I would like to note that, for every conversation, whenever it was possible, I asked for the assistance of our intelligence services to . . . tape-record and transcribe every single session, so that when I returned there would be no doubt as to what I said. I am the one who created these tapes, plus the seven hours of tape recordings that your committee found yesterday, because I knew where they were, and I kept trying to alert you to them, and I am the one who created those tapes so there would never be any doubt in the minds of my superiors as to what I had said or why I had said it. That is a bald-faced lie, told to the Iranians, and I will tell you right now, I'd have offered the Iranians a free trip to Disneyland if we could have gotten Americans home for it.

q). . . Did you say it?

a)I absolutely said it. I said a lot of other things to the Iranians . . . .

q). . . What did the president know about the diversion of the proceeds of Iranian arms sales to the

contras . . . ?

a). . . I never personally discussed the use of the residuals or profits from the sale of U.S. weapons to Iran for the purpose of supporting the Nicaraguan resistance with the president. I never raised it with him, and he never raised it with me during my entire tenure at the National Security Council staff. Throughout the conduct of my entire tenure at the {NSC}, I assumed that the president was aware of what I was doing and had, through my superiors, approved it. I sought approval of my superiors for every one of my actions, and it is well-documented. I assumed when I had approval to proceed from either Judge {William P.} Clark, Bud {Robert C.} McFarlane or {Rear} Adm. {John M.} Poindexter that they had indeed solicited and obtained the approval of the president.

To my recollection, Adm. Poindexter never told me that he met with the president on the issue of using residuals from the Iranian sales to support the Nicaraguan resistance or that he discussed the residuals or profits for use by the contras with the president or that he got the president's specific approval. Nor did he tell me that the president had approved such a transaction . . . . No other person with whom I was in contact with during my tenure at the White House told me that he or she ever discussed the issue of the residuals or profits with the president. In late November, two other things occurred which relate to this issue. On or about Friday, Nov. 21, I asked Adm. Poindexter directly, "Does the president know?" He told me he did not. And on Nov. 25 . . . the president . . . called me. In the course of that call, the president said to me words to the effect that "I just didn't know."

Those are the facts, as I know them. I was glad that, when you introduced this, you said that you wanted to hear the truth. I came here to tell you the truth -- the good, the bad and the ugly. I am here to tell it all, pleasant and unpleasant, and I am here to accept responsibility for that which I did. I will not accept responsibility for that which I did not do.

q). . . You wrote memoranda, did you not, seeking the president's approval for the diversion?

a)I did.

q). . . How many did you write?

a)I will estimate there may have been as many as five . . . . You may have six, and I'm not trying to dissemble at all with you.

q)And these five were written, I take it, on each occasion where there was a proposed sale of arms to the Iranians that you felt had reached sufficiently final form to seek the president's approval?


q)And the first one was in February or January of 1986. Is that correct?

a)As I recall, it was.

q). . . That's the whole reason for shredding documents, isn't it, Col. North, so that you can later say you don't remember whether you had them and you don't remember what's in them?a)No, Mr. Nields, the reason for shredding documents and the reason the government of the United States gave me a shredder -- I mean, I didn't buy it myself -- was to destroy documents that were no longer relevant, that did not apply or that should not be divulged . . . . That's why the government buys shredders by the tens and dozens and gives them to people running covert operations, not so that they can have convenient memories. I came here to tell you the truth, to tell you and this committee and the American people the truth. And I'm trying to do that, Mr. Nields, and I don't like the insinuation that I'm up here having a convenient memory lapse, like perhaps some others have had.

q)You shredded these documents on the 21st of November, 1986. Isn't that true?

a). . . I started shredding documents as early as my return from Europe in October. I have absolutely no recollection when those documents were shredded . . . . I do not deny that I engaged in shredding on Nov. 21 . . . . I engaged in shredding almost every day that I had a shredder . . . . I don't want you to have the impression that those documents that I referred to seeking approval disappeared on the 21st because I can't say that . . . . They were {already} gone by virtue of the fact that we saw those operations unraveling as early as the mid-part of October with the loss of the Hasenfus airplane and the discussion that the director of central intelligence {William J. Casey} had had with a private citizen about what he knew of a contra diversion, as you put it. And, at that point, I began to, one, recognize I would be leaving the NSC, because that was a purpose for my departure -- to offer the scapegoat . . . and, second of all, recognizing what was coming down, I didn't want some new person walking in there, opening files that would possibly expose people at risk . . . .

q). . . Are you here telling the committee that you don't remember whether on Nov. 21 there was a document in your files reflecting presidential approval of the decision?

a). . . I thought they were all gone because, by the time I was told that some point early on Nov. 21 that there would be an inquiry conducted by Mr. {Attorney General Edwin} Meese {III}, I assured Adm. Poindexter, incorrectly it seems, that all of those documents no longer existed . . . .

q)You had already shredded them?

a)I thought. That's right. So the answer to your question about Nov. 21 is: no, sir, there were no documents.

q)When did you shred them?

a). . . I started shredding documents in earnest after a discussion with Director Casey in early October when he told me that Mr. {Roy} Furmark had . . . talked to him about the use of Iran arms sales money to support the resistance. That . . . was preceded shortly by the crash or shootdown of the aircraft Mr. Hasenfus was on. And Director Casey and I had a lengthy discussion about the fact that this whole thing was coming unraveled and that things ought to be "cleaned up," and I started cleaning things up.

q)When you cleaned them up, did you or did you not shred documents that reflected the president's approval of the diversion?

a). . . I have absolutely no recollection of destroying any document which gave me an indication that the president had seen the document or that the president had specifically approved . . . .

q). . . Are you telling this committee that, when you went to shred documents relating to the diversion, you don't remember whether any of them reflected the president's approval by a check mark in the "approved" box?

a)That is correct.

q). . . Your recollection is that you received the approval {to conduct one transaction}?

a). . . The three transactions that I supervised, coordinated, managed were all approved by Adm. Poindexter. I assumed that {he} had solicited and obtained the consent of the president.

q)And you shredded documents thereafter relating to this subject matter, and I think you're telling us that you do not remember whether the documents that you shredded included one with a check mark on it?a)That is correct.

q). . . Was there a problem with the November {1985} Hawks deal?

a)There was an enormous problem . . . .

q)And one of the problems, I take it, was that you had participated . . . in putting forward a false story with respect to it?

a). . . Yes . . . . But I was concerned about the fact that there was considerable confusion about the 1985 shipments.

q). . . I take it we're on common ground that the president signed a finding in January of 1986 authorizing the sale of arms to Iran?

a)It is my recollection that he signed two of them . . . one in early January and then a follow-on was a minor modification later in January.q)Prior to the time the president had signed any such finding, the Israelis . . . had shipped, with our knowledge and approval, some 500 TOWs {missiles} to Iran in August and September of 1985, and {the Rev.} Benjamin Weir was released. Then, in November of 1986, the Israelis shipped 18 Hawk missiles, also with our knowledge and approval, and . . . we did the transportation . . . . Were you aware at the time of the September . . . TOW transactions?a) . . . It is my recollection now that I was aware that some kind of a transaction was going to take place, that I had been briefed on this by representatives of the Israeli government, in general terms, that . . . . I then asked the director of central intelligence and another intelligence agency for increased collection of sensitive intelligence . . . . As a consequence of that sensitive intelligence, I was aware that there was, indeed, a transaction occurring, although I did not know, I don't believe, the specific details of it until somewhat later. I did make the arrangements in September to position certain of our assets to receive Rev. Weir . . . . I went to meet with him carrying a letter from the president. So he did have specific foreknowledge that he would be released.q). . . I'd like to return to the Hawk transaction. Sometime in mid-November of 1986, were you asked to prepare summaries of the United States government's involvement in arms sales to Iran?a)My recollection . . . is that I was asked . . . to prepare a chronology of the

facts . . . . q)I'd like to refer you to a paragraph . . . . The statement: "We were assured at the time that the Israelis were going to 'try oil-drilling parts' as an incentive," is false, isn't it?a)There is much of what is in that paragraph that is false . . . because we were {then} making an effort to disassociate ourselves with the earlier Israeli shipments.q). . . Who decided to put these false statements in this chronology?a). . . Mr. McFarlane knew that that version was wrong. And I came to believe that there were good and sufficient reasons. My reason . . . was principally the concern for the safety of the hostages and the Iranian second channel. I believed that, if the proper version, showing U.S. complicity and U.S. support and U.S. activity in the November '85 Hawk shipment, came to be known to the Iranians, that the American hostages could be killed and that the second channel could go the same way. I was also concerned that there may well have been, in that transaction, such a clear indication that the original decision had been based solely on arms for hostages, that it could, in turn, be an enormous international embarrassment for the administration and the president, and could well work a domestic disaster, as we now see before us . . . .

q)Was it Mr. McFarlane who made the decision to put the chronologies out in this form, or was it some other person?a). . . I don't know who the ultimate decisionmaker was.q). . . By putting out this false version of the facts, you were committing, were you not, the entire administration to telling a false story?a). . . I'm not trying to pass the buck here. OK? I did a lot of things, and I want to stand up and say that I'm proud of them. I don't want you to think, counsel, that I went about this all on my own. I realized, there's a lot of folks around that think there's a loose cannon on the gundeck of state at the NSC. That wasn't what I heard while I worked there . . . . People used to walk up to me and tell me what a great job I was doing, and the fact is there were many many people, to include the former assistant to the president for national security affairs, the current national security adviser, the attorney general of the United States of America, the director of central intelligence, all of whom knew that to be wrong.q). . . Mr. McFarlane has testified that he gave you instructions not to solicit money from foreign countries or private sources. Did he give you those instructions?

a)I never carried out a single act, not one, Mr. Nields, in which I did not have authority from my superiors. I haven't in the 23 years that I have been in the uniformed services of the United States of America ever violated an order, not one.

q). . . Did Mr. McFarlane give you those instructions?

a)No . . . . .

q)And I take it that it was your understanding from what you've just said that, quite to the contrary, you were authorized to seek money from foreign countries?

a)I was authorized to do everything that I did . . . . I was authorized to have a meeting, in this particular case in specific, by Mr. McFarlane for the purpose of talking to the man about a suggestion that had been made to him by others and to encourage that process along, and I did so. I had already provided to Mr. McFarlane a card with the address of an account, an offshore account which would support the Nicaraguan resistance. And thank God somebody put money into that account and the Nicaraguan resistance didn't die, as perhaps others intended . . . . I get the sense that somehow or another we've tried to create the impression that Oliver North picked up his hat and wandered around Washington and foreign capitals begging for money. I didn't do that. I didn't have to do it, because others were more willing to put up the money than the Congress because they saw well what was happening to us in Central America and the devastating consequences of a contra wipeout and an American walkaway and write-off to what was going to happen to this country and to democracy elsewhere in the world. I didn't have to wander around and beg . . . .

q). . . Who else in the government was aware of the fact that you and others at the NSC were approaching third countries for the purpose of raising money for the contras?a)Well, the person most closely aware of it outside the NSC that I know of . . . was Director Casey, who I had many conversations with regarding this . . . ones that weren't going to be recorded or transmitted.q). . . In addition to raising money from third countries, I take it you also raised some money from private individuals?

a)I want to be very clear about that. Not because of Boland, but because I understood that there were regulations against government officials soliciting, I do not recall ever asking a single, solitary American citizen for money. I want to make that very clear. You may have found someone who said that I did, but I sure don't remember it.

q). . . Was the president aware of your U.S. operation to raise funds for the contras from private contributions?a)Well, I think that that PROF note {internal office-system memorandum} right there indicates that I believed he was. But I didn't ever walk in and . . . say to him, "Mr. President, this is what I -- " . . . . I didn't do that. And the fact is that I assumed . . . I'm sending my boss what I thought was going to be a very private note that would never see the light of day anywhere else, and I said to him what I felt, and I was asking him for guidance.q)And he certainly didn't tell you to stop?a)Why would he? We were conducting a covert operation to support the Nicaraguan resistance, to carry out the president of the United States' publicly articulated foreign policy. Why should he tell me to stop? We weren't breaking any laws. We were simply trying to keep an operation covert.