Excerpts from the opening statement by Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North:Icame to the National Security Council six years ago to work in the administration of a great president . . . . I did not engage in fantasy that I was the president or vice president or Cabinet member or even director of the National Security Council. I was simply a staff member with a demonstrated ability to get the job done . . . . I readily admit that I was action-oriented, that I took pride in the fact that I was counted upon as a man who got the job done . . . . There were occasions when my superiors, confronted with accomplishing goals or difficult tasks, would simply say, "Fix it, Ollie" or "Take care of it" . . . .

There were many problems. I believed that we worked as hard as we could to solve them, and sometimes we succeeded, and sometimes we failed, but at least we tried . . . . I, for one, will never regret having tried.

I believe that this is a strange process that you are putting me and others through. Apparently, the president has chosen not to assert his prerogatives, and you have been permitted to make the rules. You called before you the officials of the executive branch. You put them under oath for what must be collectively thousands of hours of testimony. You dissect that testimony to find inconsistencies and declare some to be truthful and others to be liars. You make the rulings as to what is proper and what is not proper. You put the testimony which you think is helpful to your goals up before the people and leave others out.

It's sort of like a baseball game in which you are both the player and the umpire. It's a game in which you call the balls and strikes and where you determine who is out and who is safe. And in the end, you determine the score and declare yourselves the winner. From where I sit, it is not the fairest process. One thing is, I think, for certain -- that you will not investigate yourselves in this matter . . . .

I believe it is inevitable that the Congress will, in the end, blame the executive branch, but I suggest to you that it is the Congress which must accept at least some of the blame in the Nicaraguan freedom fighters' matter. Plain and simple, the Congress is to blame because of the fickle, vacillating, unpredictable, on-again off-again policy toward the . . . contras . . . .

I believe that these hearings, perhaps unintentionally so, have revealed matters of great secrecy in the operation of our government. And sources and methods of intelligence activities have clearly

been revealed to the detriment of our security . . . .

I'm angry at what some have attempted to do to me and my family. I believe that these committee hearings will show that you have struck some blows. But I am going to walk from here with my head high and my shoulders straight because I am proud of what we accomplished. I am proud of the efforts that we made, and I am proud of the fight that we fought. I am proud of serving the administration of a great president. I am not ashamed of anything in my professional or personal conduct . . . .

Excerpts from testimony by North in response to House chief minority counsel George Van Cleve:

. . . You've admitted before this committee that you lied to representatives of the Iranians in order to try and release the hostages. Is that correct?

I lied every time I met the Iranians.

And you've admitted that you lied to {retired Air Force major} Gen. {Richard V.} Secord with respect to conversations that you supposedly had with the president? Is that correct?

In order to encourage him to stay with the project, yes.

And you've admitted that you lied to the Congress. Is that correct?

I have.

And you admitted that you lied in creating false chronologies of these events. Is that correct?

That is true.

And you've admitted that you created false documents that were intended to mislead investigators with respect to a gift that was made to you. Is that correct?

No.

. . . You certainly have admitted that the documents themselves were completely false . . . . were intended to create a record of an event that never occurred. Is that correct?

That is correct.

Can you assure this committee that you are not here now lying to protect your commander in chief?

I am not lying to protect anybody, counsel. I came here to tell the truth. I told you that I was going to tell it to you -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Some of it has been ugly for me . . . . I took an oath when I arrived here before this committee to tell the truth, and I have done so, painful though it may be for me and for others. I have told you the truth, counsel, as best I am able.

The following is in response to Senate select committee chief counsel Arthur L. Liman:

. . . Is it fair to say that {Tuesday} Nov. 25, 1986, was one of the worst days in your life?

. . . I have had many worse days than that. Most of those were days when young Marines died, and there have been days since then that are worse in some respects . . . . It was a difficult day.

On the preceding day, you had offered your resignation to {Rear} Adm. {John M.} Poindexter?

My recollection is that I first tendered it on Friday before I met with the attorney general {Edwin Meese III}. We had talked about it several times prior to that. And I retransmitted it . . . either Sunday or Monday.

And you retransmitted it the preceding day in a PROF note {internal office-system memorandum} that expressed your prayer that the president is not further damaged by what has transpired?

I don't recall the exact words . . . . It was a deeply personal communication between myself and a man for whom I had, and still have, a great deal of respect, Adm. Poindexter.

And then on the 25th, you learned from the press conference that you had been fired. Is that fair to say?

I believe that the words that were used was that I had been dismissed.

And you learned at that press conference that you were the subject of a criminal investigation that was being initiated for an action, the diversion, which had been approved by your superior, Adm. Poindexter, and had been described in some five memoranda that you sent to Adm. Poindexter for approval by the president. Is that fair to say?

. . . I don't want to characterize anyone's reasons for doing . . . what they did.

But you learned that you are the subject of a criminal investigation in that press conference.

That is correct.

And you learned that it was a criminal investigation relating to . . . what we call the diversion, the use of the profits of the Iranian arms sale to support the contras . . . . Correct?

That is correct.

And that was action that you took that had been authorized. Correct?

It was action that I took that I believed I had the full authority to take. That is correct.

It had actually been authorized by Adm. Poindexter. Is that not so?

Yes.

He had communicated his approval to you. Correct?

Yes . . . . Actions that I took, all of them, to include the use of residual funds from the sale of arms to Iran to support the Nicaraguan resistance and other activities were approved, all of them.

Is it also so that for some months you had been telling friends . . . that you were going to be the fall guy?

. . . I may well have {said} . . . that, if this whole thing came down to creating a political controversy or embarrassment . . . I would be the person who would be dismissed or reassigned or fired or blamed or fingered or whatever one wants to use as a description, that I was willing to serve in that capacity. All of that assumed that this was not going to be a matter of criminal behavior, but rather one of deniability . . . for political purposes. And when I say "political purposes," I'm speaking of not only domestic but the international ramifications. That is one of the essences of plausible deniability in a covert operation.

Are you saying that you were prepared to take the rap for political purposes, but not for criminal purposes?

Precisely.

. . . For whom were you going to be the scapegoat?

For whoever necessary. For the administration, for the president, for however high up the chain that they needed someone . . . .

. . . When the plan {for North to take the blame} changed was when you had . . . the criminal investigation announced?

. . . When I heard the words "criminal investigation" or "criminal behavior" . . . my mindset changed considerably . . . . There was probably not another person on the planet Earth as shocked as I was to hear that someone thought it was criminal. And I can tell you that that shock was compounded when I heard later that there was to be an independent counsel and further compounded when I was the only name in the appointment order for that independent counsel . . . .

. . . Did you ask . . . {Adm. Poindexter}, "Why did you not discuss this {diversion of arms-sale profits} with the president?"

No.

Why not?

First . . . I'm not in the habit of questioning my superiors. If he deemed it not to be necessary to ask the president, I saluted smartly and charged up the hill. That's what lieutenant colonels are supposed to do . . . . I don't believe that what we did, even under those circumstances, is wrong or illegal . . . . I still think it was a good idea.

And have you wondered why, if it was a good idea, that the president . . . dismissed you because of it?

. . . This lieutenant colonel is not going to challenge a decision of the commander in chief, for whom I still work . . . . If the commander in chief tells this lieutenant colonel to go stand in the corner and sit on his head, I will do so. And if the commander in chief decides to dismiss me from the NSC {National Security Council} staff, this lieutenant colonel will proudly salute, and say, "Thank you for the opportunity to have served" and go. And I am not going to criticize his decision, no matter how he relieves me . . . .

. . . Did you discuss with director {of central intelligence William J.} Casey that . . . use of the {arms-sale} proceeds {to aid the contras} was a matter that could be a political bombshell?

. . . We discussed that very clearly toward the end of my tenure . . . once he was aware . . . there was outside intelligence on it . . . .

. . . In November of 1986, after the Iranian venture had been publicized . . . . did you discuss the diversion with director Casey?

Oh, sure . . . . {He} agreed with my assessment that the time had come for someone to take the hit or the fall. He, quite frankly, did not think that I was senior enough to do that . . . .

Did he suggest who else could take the hit?

. . . Adm. Poindexter.

. . . When did you do your shredding before the 25th {last November} . . . the last preceding day in which you did shredding that was out of the ordinary?

. . . as late as the morning of the 25th.

And the attorney general, when you met with him on the 23rd, asked you to preserve every single document?

No.

Did you, when you returned from your meeting . . . on the 23rd, go to your office and {shred} documents that day?

. . . I know I shredded documents after that . . . .

. . . Do you remember shredding documents during the lunch hour on the 22nd when the representatives of the attorney general's office had left for their lunch?

I remember shredding documents while they were in there reading documents.

Shredding them in their presence?

. . . They were sitting in my office, and the shredder was right outside, and I walked out and shredded documents . . . . they were sitting in my office reading, and I'd finish a document and . . . . I'd walk up, and I'd go out and shred it. They could hear it. The shredder was right outside the door.

. . . Did anyone say to you, "Colonel, what are you doing?"?

No, and I didn't think anything of it either . . . . I didn't think I'd done anything wrong.

. . . Weren't you going through your files to get rid of embarrassing documents?

. . . No. Documents that would compromise the national security . . . documents that would put lives at risk, documents that would demonstrate a covert action and the U.S. direction and control and relationship to it, yes. Embarrassing?

No . . . .

Do you deny that one of the reasons that you were shredding documents that Saturday was to avoid the political embarrassment of having these documents be seen by the attorney general's staff?

I do not deny that.

. . Do you remember . . . telling your secretary . . . that you were leaving a document that the Justice Department could have fun with?

. . . I don't recall the conversation, nor do I recall the thought. I'm not denying that I said it. Those were . . . difficult times.

. . . Are you saying that you do not believe that it was wrong to misrepresent facts to the Congress . . . ?

I have admitted that, but I didn't think it was criminal.

. . . You just chose the word "wrong." Are you saying that it wasn't wrong to misrepresent facts to the attorney general . . . ?

I have testified as to what I believed to be right and wrong before . . . and you have had that . . . .

. . . Would it have made a difference . . . in your actions if you felt that the attorney general was conducting this inquiry at the request

of the president or . . . the admi- ral? . . . .

No . . . . I don't know that the admiral told me that this was being done at the request of the president. He may well have . . . . If the admiral had told me that the president had asked the attorney general to conduct a fact-finding inquiry into . . . what I had done and that I should tell . . . everything, then I would have done so . . . . If the admiral had told me not to shred, I wouldn't have shredded.

. . . Did you tell the admiral that you were going to shred?

I told the admiral that I was cleaning up my files . . . . I shredded. I was never told not to . . . . I shredded because I thought it was the right thing to do . . . .

. . . Was the Boland amendment the subject of some discussion at the White House?

. . . The whole issue of the many different Boland proscriptions and amendments . . . were for a protracted period . . . the subject of discussion.

. . . You understood that the president signed this and that this was now the law . . . ?

Indeed.

. . . You were given a task of keeping the body and soul of the contras together, correct? . . . . Whose words are {those}?

As . . . relayed to me . . . the words of the president.

. . . The Tower board report says . . . . "The president told the board . . . he did not know that the NSC staff was engaged in helping the contras" . . . . Does that . . . surprise you?

Yes.

. . . Are you saying that you thought you found a legal way of circumventing Boland or . . . a way of complying . . . ?

I think we found a legal way of complying . . . .

. . . Did you believe that you found a way of complying . . . when you were recommending to your superiors that they solicit money from the current donors?

. . . Absolutely. I see nothing . . . that in any way deters, prevents, stops or prohibits . . . anyone . . . in the executive branch from going to a current donor or a future donor . . . . If it had prohibited it, I wouldn't have recommended it.

. . . Is what you are telling us today that when you helped in . . . the letter saying that we are complying with the letter and spirit of Boland, what we are saying is that Boland doesn't apply to us and so we're complying with its letter and spirit?

Exactly.

That is what you think is a fair reading of that letter?

. . . I have admitted that the letters are misleading, evasive and wrong.

. . . At the time {the president} was settling {for a law permitting restricted solicitations of humanitarian aid} . . . the NSC was conducting its operation as if Boland did not apply to it and as if it could do whatever solicitation it wanted . . . . Correct?

Certainly.

If you did not feel that that was the {president's} policy . . . you would never have participated in the diversion of the . . . money from Iran. Right?

That's correct.

. . . Ever hear {McFarlane} say "Boland does not apply to the NSC"?

I don't recall him saying that.

You did hear Mr. Casey say

that . . . .

At length.

. . . We understand each other, I've read enough of what you've written. . ..

Let me just say . . . I think it's important for everybody to understand. I don't believe that people . . . like Mr. McFarlane or Adm. Poindexter would have ever placed me in jeopardy of a criminal prosecution. I . . . don't think the president would have done that. I don't think anybody intended that Ollie North have to endure having his name be the only one appear on the appointment order for an independent counsel. I think we all saw -- I certainly did -- that what we were doing was within the . . . the law . . . .

. . . When you had to, in order to protect this operation and your superiors, engage in deception of Congress . . . of other members of the executive branch, it is particularly painful for you in view of the honor code that you subscribed to at Annapolis, isn't that so?

That is correct.