Excerpts of former national security adviser John M. Poindexter's testimony yesterday to the Iran-contra committees. He is questioned first by chief counsel Arthur L. Liman:

Admiral, in saying that you are complying with the letter and spirit of the law when you mean that the law doesn't apply and that you are supporting the contras, you do not consider that to be misleading Congress?

. . . The only thing I admit to, Mr. Liman, is withholding information from the Congress . . . . I have not said that we weren't helping the contras. We clearly were helping the contras, but we were also trying very hard to stay within the letter and spirit of Boland by keeping the other departments that were covered by the Boland Amendment out of the issue.

. . . In saying that you are complying with the letter and spirit of Boland, what you mean is that the NSC was doing the support without the CIA?

That was my understanding.

And did the president understand that?

I think he did understand that . . . in a general way. He understands that the the contras were being supported and that . . . we were involved . . . generally in coordinating the effort. He was aware of the contributions from country two {Saudi Arabia}, and he himself felt personally, as . . . related to me, that it was entirely appropriate for private individuals to support the contras. And he was aware of . . . the status of the contras in the field. The kinds of things that he was briefed on, I think, would have made that clear.

Liman asked Poindexter about a letter that he wrote to Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) in the summer of 1986 regarding Col. Oliver L. North's activities in support of the contras.

Did you rely on Chairman Hamilton to rely upon your word as expressed in that letter . . . ?

I intended to withhold information from Chairman Hamilton, which I did, and which I have admitted to yesterday. I wanted to withhold information on the NSC operational activities in support of the contras from most everybody.

Liman then began reading from the letter, which opposed passage of House Resolution 485 regarding improper activities by the National Security Council staff in support of the contras.

Yes, we opposed it quite vigorously.

Now, you went on to say, "Last fall, in an effort to cooperate with Chairman {Michael D.} Barnes {D-Md.}, my predecessor, Robert C. McFarlane, met with members of your committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. While I did not participate in these discussions, I understand that information on the specific issues raised in House Resolution 485 was provided to your committee, and that this information made it clear that the actions of the National Security Council staff were in compliance with both the spirit and letter of the law regarding support of the Nicaraguan resistance. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on House Resolution 485. I have forwarded similar letters to Chairman {Dante B.} Fascell {D-Fla.} and Chairman {Les} Aspin {D-Wis.}, and sincerely hope this matter can finally be put to rest." Did you write that letter, sir?

I didn't write it, but I signed it. My staff prepared it for me.

When you signed that letter, did you agree with the statements in it?

Yes, and I still do. I think it's an accurate letter. It doesn't tell everything. It withholds information, but it is accurate.

. . . Is one of the facts that it withholds that you felt that Boland did not apply to the NSC staff?

It withholds that information, yes.

Liman asked whether Reagan had designated the National Security Council to support the contras.

You've testified that one of your duties was to implement presidential policies on national security?

Thats' correct.

Did that include National Security Directive 159 . . . ? That's the directive that says if any agency other than the CIA is to undertake certain covert operations, that the president should designate the agency . . . . Were you familiar with that provision?

Yes. In fact, as I recall, I participated in the drafting of that

NSDD . . . .

Did the president of the United States ever designate the NSC to undertake the activities in support of the contras that you have testified the NSC was doing?

Let me make this clear. As I testified yesterday, the word "covert action" is not a statutory term. I would not necessarily have characterized the NSC support for the contra activity as a covert action . . . .

Can you answer the question now? Did the president designate the NSC to conduct the activities in support of the contras that you described in your testimony yesterday?

. . . In effect, he did . . . .

When we're talking about the president of the United States, I think we would both agree that we shouldn't talk about what he did "in effect." Did the president ever designate in words, in substance of words, the NSC to conduct the activities in support of the contras that you described yesterday?

I would not characterize it that way at all. As I said, if you take the totality of the president's actions, that was clearly his intent.

. . . Now to come back to the question I asked before. Did you ever ask the opinion of the attorney general on whether the Boland amendment applied to the NSC?

Not in any sort of formal way.

Even informally?

I can't recall . . . .

. . . Did you ever seek the opinion of Mr. Fielding or Mr. Wallison as to whether the NSC was covered by the Boland Amendment?

I personally did not. I am not sure about the rest of my staff . . . .

Liman asked Poindexter about a note from an aide saying that Lt. Col. Oliver L. North gave incorrect and misleading comments to the House intelligence committee.

. . . Is it a fact, sir, that in response to this note . . . that you had a two-word response, "Well done"?

I responded by forwarding a copy of {the} . . . note to me to Colonel North, and I did tell him, "Well done." Well done meant that I was pleased that the session was a success, and that Chairman Hamilton seemed satisfied. Our objective here all along was to withhold information. There's no question about that.

Liman asked about a conversation Poindexter had with Kenneth E. deGraffenreid, former special assistant to the president for intelligence affairs, about documents relating to North that surfaced after a transport plane carrying arms for the contras was shot down over Nicaragua.

Now, do you remember that after the Hasenfus plane went down that Mr. deGraffenreid of the NSC came to you with documents or talked to you about some documents?

Yes . . . . Mr. deGraffenreid . . . came to me and indicated his concern about Colonel North's exposure . . . . Mr. deGraffenreid asked me if I recalled that there were some memoranda . . . that Colonel North had prepared to give Mr. McFarlane updates on the logistics and supply situation for the contras and . . . the financing status. But I couldn't remember much about the memos. Mr. deGraffenreid indicated his concern about the existence of those. I . . . told him that . . . I frankly remember the memos very well, that they probably did reveal too much, and that he should go talk to Colonel North about them. The . . . clear implication, both from my end of it and from Mr. deGraffenreid's end of it, was that we would probably be better off without those memos.

Liman asked Poindexter about a spiral notebook that North had on Nov. 21, 1986, the weekend he shredded numerous documents.

On the 21st, did Oliver North come into your office with his spiral notebook?

That's correct . . . .

And did he tell you he had in that spiral notebook some notes that indicated that you knew that it was Hawk shipments, that the president had approved it?

That is correct. He came in sometime middle to late afternoon with one of his old spiral notebooks, and said that he had just pulled these out of his files and gone back through to try to reconstruct what had happened in November of '85 . . . .

Did you reach a conclusion as to what Oliver North was going to do with his notebooks?

Yes . . . . From . . . something he said, and I don't recall exactly what it was, but I recall, as he left the room, that I had the impression that he was going to destroy that notebook . . . .

Did you tell him not to?

I didn't tell him not to.

. . . Are you saying that you gave no thought to why North was going to destroy a notebook that now recorded the fact that it was Hawks?

Mr. Liman, you're trying to imply something different about the Hawk shipments. In my mind, there was nothing different between the TOW shipments and the Hawk shipments. We had already acknowledged that there had been TOW shipments made, and on the 13th of November in a press backgrounder, I acknowleged that the U.S. had acquiesced to a TOW shipment. We were not trying to conceal that. Later on, Mr. McFarlane . . . indicated that the president hadn't approved that until after the fact. I accepted Mr. McFarlane's memory of the situation, but . . . this idea that I see being generated that somehow we were trying to cover up the Hawk shipment for some peculiar reason escapes me.

Didn't the attorney general, on the 20th of November, tell you that the only problem that he saw with the transactions related to the Hawk shipment?

I don't recall his limiting it to Hawks. I think he had some concern also about the TOW shipments because he recognized that there was a difficulty with the Arms Export Control Act . . . in terms of a reporting requirement {to Congress}.

Is it a fact that the attorney general didn't ask you whether you had told the president?

I do not recall his asking me whether I had told the president or his asking me whether I had approved it.

Now, did you also speak that day or the following day to {then-White House chief of staff} Don Regan?

The following day, I was en route to the White House office in my car and Ed Meese called me on the car phone just about the time we were to pull through the southwest gate, and he asked if I would meet with him over at his office. He said he was en route to the office and he'd be there in about five minutes. I told him that I would. We diverted, went over to his office. Ed came in. He said that he thought that the time had come that I should submit my letter of resignation. I said, fine. I was prepared to do that as I had told him yesterday. He indicated a sense of regret. He said that he did not feel, at that point, that Col. North had done anything illegal. We talked about Col. North also being transferred back to the Defense Department. I departed, went back to the White House, walked down the corridor to Don's office. He was tied up in a meeting. I left word I'd like to see him when he finished. I went back to my office, sat down to eat my breakfast, and a few minutes later, Don Regan came in and I told him that I was going to resign.

Liman asked what Regan and the president asked about the contra funds diversion.

Did Don Regan ever ask you what you knew about the diversion?

I don't recall his doing that.

. . . Now, on the 25th of November you submitted your resignation to the president.

I did.

And do you recall what the president said?

It was a very short conversation. As I recall, when I came into the Oval Office at 9:30 for my normal morning meeting, the vice president was there, the chief of staff Don Regan; Ed Meese was there, and, of course, the president. I sat down and . . . I said, "Mr. President, I assume that you are aware of the paper that Ed Meese has found that reveals a plan to transfer funds to the contras. I was generally aware of that plan, and I would like to submit my resignation, to give you the necessary latitude to do whatever you need to do." And the president . . . said that he had great regret and that this was in the tradition of a naval officer, of accepting responsibility. And I shook hands with everybody and left the office. That was the last time I saw the president.

. . . Did you make any contemporaneous record of your notes or any other place at the time that you decided to give the president deniability that you were not going to tell the president?

No, I did not write that down.

So that you created a situation where it would be only your word to corroborate that of our commander in chief.

That is correct.