The hearing will please come to order. This
morning, the panel will resume the questioning of Lt. Col. North.
May the record indicate that on 8:15 a.m., on July 7, 1987, the
Select Committees of the House and Senate received a statement, the
opening statement of Colonel North. This statement, pursuant to the
rules, has been examined and determined there are no inadvertent
disclosures of classified material, further, that we are satisfied
that the statement does not exceed the bounds set forth by the court
in the grant of immunity, and although the statement obviously
exceeds ten minutes, we will not insist upon a summary of it. And
if the Colonel wishes to present his opening statement at this time,
he may do so in total.
NORTH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
NORTH: As you all know by now, my name is Oliver
North, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps. My best
friend is my wife Besty, to whom I have been married for 19 years,
and with whom I have had four wonderful children, aged 18, 16, 11
I came to the National Security Council six years ago to work
in the administration of a great president. As a staff member, I
came to understand his goals and his desires. I admired his
policies, his strength, and his abiliyt to bring our country
together. I observed the President to be a leader who cared deeply
about people, and who believed that the interests of our country
were advanced by recognizing that ours is a nation at risk and a
dangerous world, and acting accordingly. He tried, and in my
opinion succeeded, in advancing the cause of world peace by
strengthening our country, by acting to restore and sustain
democracy throughout the world, and by having the courage to take
decisive action when needed.
I also believe that we must guard against a rather perverse
side of American life, and that is the tendency to launch vicious
attacks and criticism against our elected officials. President
Reagan has made enormous contributions, and he deserves our respect
The National Security Council is, in essence, the President's
staff. It helps to formulate and coordinate national security
policy. Some, perhaps on this Committee, believe that the NSC was
devoid of experienced leadership. I believe that is wrong. While
at the NSC, I worked most closely with three people:
McFarlane, Admiral John Poindexter, and CIA Director,
William Casey. Bud McFarlane is a man who devoted nearly thiry
years of his life to public service in a number of responsible
positions. At the NSC, he worked long hours, made great
contributions, and I admire him for those efforts. Admiral
Poindexter is a distinguished naval officer who served in a number
of important positions of responsibility. He, too, was a tireless
worker with a similar record of public service, and I, too, admire
him greatly. William Casey was a reknowned lawyer, a war veteran of
heroic proportions, and a former chairman of the SEC. I understood
that he was also a close personal friend and adviser to President
There is a nearly a century of combined public service by these
three men. As a member of the NSC staff, I knew that I held a
position of responsibility. But I knew full well what my position
was. 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. Over time, I was made responsible for
managing a number of complex and sensitive covert operations that we
have discussed here to date. I reported directly to Mr. McFarlane
and to Admiral Poindexter. I coordinated directly with others,
including Director Casey. My authority to act always flowed, I
believe, from my superiors. My military training inculcated in me a
strong belief in the chain of command. And so far as I can recall,
I always acted on major matter with specific approval, after
informing my superiors of the facts, as I knew them, the risks, and
the potential benefits. 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. And I don't mean this by way of criticism, but
there were occasions when my superiors, confronted with
acocmplishing goals or difficult tasks, would simply say, "Fix it,
Ollie," or, "Take care of it."
Since graduating from the Naval Academy in 1968, I have strived
to be the best Marine officer that one can be. In combat, my goal
was always to understand the objective, follow orders, accomplish
the mission, and to keep alive the men who served under me. One of
the good things that has come from the last seven months of
worldwide noteriety has been the renewed contact that I've had with
some of the finest people in the world -- those with whom I served
in Viet Nam. Among the 50,000 or so messages of support tht have
rrived since I left the NSC are many from those who recount the
horrors we lived through, and who now relate stories
of their families and careers. After Vietnam, I worked with my
fellow officers to train good Marines to be ready in case we were
called upon elsewhere in the world, but at the same time to hope
that we never were. I honestly believed that any soldier who has
ever been to a war truly hopes he will never see one again.
My Marine Corps career was untracked in 1981, when I was
detailed to the National Security Council. I was uneasy at the
beginning, but I came to believe that it was important work, and as
years passed and responsibilities grew, I got further from that
which I loved, the Marine Corps and Marines.
During 1984, '85, and '86, there were periods of time when we
worked two days in every one. My guess is that the average workday
lasted at least 14 hours. To respond to various crises, the need
for such was frequent, and we would often go without a night's
sleep, hoping to recoup the next night or thereafter. If I had to
estimate the number of meetings and discussions and phone calls over
that five years, it would surely be in the tens of thousands. My
only real regret is that I virtually abandoned my family for work
during these years, and that work consisted of my first few years on
the staff, as the project officer for a highly classified and
compartmented National Security project, which is not a part of this
I worked hard on the political military strategy for restoring
and sustaining democracy in Central America, and in particular, El
Salvador. We sought to achieve the democratic outcome in Nicaragua
that this administration still supports, which involved keeping
the contras together in both body and soul. We made efforts to open
a new relationship with Iran, and recover our hostages. We worked
on the development of a concerted policy regarding terrorists and
terrorism and a capability for dealing in a concerted manner with
We worked on various crises, such as TWA 847, the capture of
Achille Lauro, the rescue of American students in Grenada and the
restoration of democracy on that small island, and the US raid in
Libya in response to their terrorist attacks. And, as some may be
willing to admit, there were efforts made to work with the Congress
on legislative programs.
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, and I want to tell you that 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. There is not much chance that you will conclude at the
end of these hearings that the Boland Amendments and the frequent
policy changes therefore were unwise or that your restrictions
should not have been imposed on the Executive Branch. You are not
likely to conclude that the Administration acted properly by trying
to sustain the Freedom Fighters in Nicaragua when they were
abandoned, and you are not likely to conclude by commending the
President of the United States who tried valiantly to recover our
citizens and achieve an opening that is strategically vital -- Iran.
I would not be frank with you if I did not admit that the last
several months have been difficult for me and my family. It has
been difficult to be on the front pages of every newspaper in the
land day after day, to be the lead story on national television day
after day, to be photographed thousands of times by bands of
photographers who chase us around since November just because my
name arose at the hearings. It is difficult to be caught in the
middle of a constitutional struggle between the Executive and
legislative branches over who will formulate and direct the foreign
policy of this nation. It is difficult to be vilified by people in
and out of this body, some who have proclaimed that I am guilty
of criminal conduct even before they heard me. Others have said
that I would not tell the truth when I came here to testify, and one
member asked a person testifying before this body whether he would
believe me under oath. I asked when I got here -- if you don't
believe me, why call me at all. It has been difficult to see
questions raised about my character and morality, my honesty,
because only partial evidence was provided. And, as I indicated
yesterday, I think it was insensitive of this Committee to place
before the cameras my home address at a time when my family and I
are under 24-hour armed guard by over a dozen government agents of
the Naval Investigative Service because of fear that terrorists will
seek revenge for my official acts and carry out their announced
intentions to kill me.
It is also difficult to comprehend that my work at the NSC -- all of
which was approved and carried out in the best interests of our
country -- has led to two massive parallel investigations staffed by
over 200 people. It is mind-boggling to me that one of those
investigations is criminal and that some here have attempted to
criminalize policy differences between co-equal branches of
government and the Executive's conduct of foreign affairs.
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 Nicaraguan Democratic Resistance -- the
so-called Contras. I do not believe that the support of the
Nicaraguan Freedom Fighters can be treated as the passage of a
budget. I suppose that if the budget doesn't get passed on time
again this year, it will be inevitably another extension of another
month or two.
But, the contras, the Nicaraguan freedom fighters are people --
living, breathing, young men and women who have had to suffer a
desperate struggle for liberty with sporatic and confusing support
from the United States of America.
Armies need food and consistent help. They need a flow of
money, of arms, clothing and medical supplies. The Congress of the
United States allowed the executive to encourage them, to do battle,
and then abandoned them. The Congress of the United States left
soldiers in the field unsupported and vulnerable to their communist
enemies. When the executive branch did everything possible within
the law to prevent them from being wiped out by Moscow's surrogates
in Havana and Managua, you then had this investigation to blame the
problem on the executive branch. It does not make sense to me.
In my opinion, these hearings have caused serious damage to our
national interests. Our adversaries laugh at us, and our friends
recoil in horror. I suppose it would be one thing if the
intelligence committees wanted to hear all of this in private and
thereafter pass laws which in the view of Congress make for better
policies or better functioning government. But, to hold them
publicly for the whole world to see strikes me as very harmful. Not
only does it embarrass our friends and allies with whom we have
worked, many of whom have helped us in various programs, but it must
also make them very wary of helping us again.
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.
As a result of rumor and speculation and innuendo, I have been
accused of almost every crime imaginable. Wild rumors have
abounded. Some media reports have suggested that I was guilty of
espionage for the way I handled US intelligence. Some have said
that I was guilty of treason, and suggested in front of my 11 year
old daughter, that I should be given the death penalty. Some said I
stoled 10 million dollars. Some said I was second only in power to
the President of the United States, and others that I condoned
drug-trafficking to generate funds for the contras, or that I
personally ordered assassinations, or that I was conducting my own
foreign policy. It has even been suggested that I was the personal
confidant of the President of the United States. These and many
other stories are patently untrue.
I don't mind telling you that I'm angry that what some have
attempted to do to me and my family. I believe that these committee
hearing 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. As we go through
this process I ask that you continue to please keep an open mind.
Please be open minded, and able to admit that, perhaps, your
preliminary conclusions about me were wrong. And please, also, do
not mistake my attitude for lack of respect. I am in awe of this
great institution just as I am in awe of the presidency. Both are
equal branches of government with separate areas of responsibility
under the constitution that I have taken an oath to support and
defend, and I have done so, as many of you have. And although I do
not agree with what you are doing, or the way that it is being done,
I do understand your interest in obtaining the facts and I have
taken an oath to tell the truth and helping you to do so. In
closing, Mr. Chairman, and I thank you for this opportunity, I would
just simply like to thank the tens of thousands of Americans who
have communicated their support, encouragement and prayers for me
and my family in this difficult time. Thank you, sir.
CHMN. INOUYE: Thank you very much, Colonel North. I wish the
record to show that the panel did not ammend, deleate or strike out
any word, or words -- or phrases from this opening statement.
Furthermore, we did not put on testimony words which we thought were
helpful to our goals and leave the rest out. I am certain you will
agree with me, Colonel, that every word you wanted to present to the
people of the United States was presented. Isn't that correct, sir?
NORTH: Yes, Mr. Chairman it was, and I was not
referring to my testimony but that which preceded me, sir -- about
CHMN. INOUYE: And secondly, you have suggested that these
hearings have disclosed matters of great secrecy in the operation of
our governemnt and sources and methods of intelligence activities
have clearly been revealed to the detriment of our national
security. May I, once again, advise you that according to the
director of the National Security Agency, General Odom, not a single
bit of classified material has been leaked by activities of this
joint panel. Questioning will be resumed by Mr. Van Cleve. Mr. Van
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning Colonel
NORTH: Good morning, Counsel.
Colonel North in your opening statement,
which you just gave, you testified that you graduated from the Naval
Academy in 1968. Is that correct?
NORTH: Yes, I did.
And in 1969, did you serve on active combat
duty in the Armed Forces of the United States in the Republic of
NORTH: Sixty-nine? Yes, correct.
And is it the case that, during your service
there, you were awarded a series of military citations, including
two Purple Hearts, the Bronze Star and the Silver Star?
NORTH: I was.
And the Silver Star was awarded for
"conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in battle," is that correct?
NORTH: I believe that's the way the citation reads.
Col. North, Robert McFarlane has suggested that
your Viet Nam experience affected your view of the contras in their
situation in Nicaragua. Is Mr. McFarlane correct about that?
NORTH: Counsel, I don't believe that anyone who
served in Viet Nam, who saw what happened as a consequence of our
efforts when, in my opinion, we won all the battles and then lost
the war, could ever be unaffected by that, unless they were totally
insensitive. I would also point out that we didn't lose the war in
Viet Nam. We lost the war right here in this city.
Can you tell the Committee, in your opinion,
sir, what are the similarities between the war in Nicaragua and the
war in Viet Nam?
NORTH: Well, the similarities are onl in terms of
what I would call the geostrategic similarities in that we had
invested, rightly or wrongly -- and I believe correctly, American
credibility in support of democracy in South Viet Nam. And the
abandoment of South Viet Nam in the latter days of 1974 and
culminating in the disaster that followed shortly thereafter,
created just exactly what people said it would -- the so-called
domino effect, the collapse of Viet Nam, the butchery of Cambodia,
the Communization of Laos, and a threat ot that part of the world.
Aside from the devastation of tens of thousands of people, the
deaths of hundreds of thousands -- millions in Cambodia, the only
other similarity comes when you invest that same kind of credibility
of this nation in the support of a democratic outcome in Centrl
America, and then begin to walk away from it.
It is my belief that what I saw in Viet Nam, where I saw the
army of South Viet Nam and I saw the Vietnamese Marine, one of whom
was my roommate as I was went through Basics School at Quantico, and
who gave their lives for their country, the parallel is to see that
in the CAMPESINOS, the young men and women of the Nicaraguan
resistance -- is extraordinarily profound.
Yesterday the Attorney General of the United States authorized
200,000 Nicaraguans to remain in this country as refugees from
oppression. That is but a small fraction of the refugees who have
already fled Nicaragua.
If historical precedent is an example, when a communist
takeover occurs, between 10 and 25 percent of the population will
flee that country and go to the next nearest democracy. And if that
happens throughout Central America, from the Rio Grande to the
Panama Canal you're talking about something in the vicinity of 10
million human beings. Already 10 percent of the population of
Nicaragua has fled. And so when I said yesterday that the contra,
the Nicaraguan democratic resistance, the young men and women who
fight today in the fields of Nicaragua were not a product of Ollie
North, or Director Casey, or even this government, they are a
product -- they were raised up as an Army of opposition by the
And what I see is a very distinct parallel in terms of the way
the rest of the world sees our commitment, I believe that that's the
way the President saw it, that what we have happening, not as a
parallel experience to Vietnam where our commitment increases to the
point where you have the commitment of American ground forces, but
the fact is we have made a commitment to a democratic outcome in
Central America and a majority of both Houses have consistently
reported that that's what they want. There have been differences as
to how that should be achieved, but once we made the commitment to
support the democratic resistance, we should have made that
commitment a consistent one. And as soon as we begin to back away,
the rest of the world looked at us and wondered if we had lost
heart. We cannot be seen, I believe, in the world today as walking
away and leaving failure in our wake. We must be able to
demonstrate, not only in Nicaragua, but in Afghanistan and Angola,
and elsewhere where freedom fighters have been told "We will support
you," we must be able to continue to do so. If we do not, we will
be overwhelmed. Ultimately, we will be forced to commit American
ground combat troops.
This nation cannot abide the communization of Central America.
We cannot have Soviet bases on the mainland of this hemisphere. And
what I worked very hard to achieve was an outcome of democracy in
Central America without the use of military force. There are
certainly members of this body and perhaps the rest of the Congress
who would feel that we should have used this, used military force,
American military force. My effort, and I believe what the
President has said on it, is that the worst outcome we could have
would be the consolidation of a communist client state in Nicaragua
and the spread of communism throughout the region. The
second worst outcome would be to have to use American forces,
Marines, like me, and the sons of, perhaps, many of the members of
this committee, my son, and we ought not to have to do that. We
will, if it comes to that, I am convinced. But, there is an
alternative, and the alternative is backing the democratic
resistance in Nicaragua, a consistent program of support for
democracy in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Costa Rica.
All right, sir. I need to ask you the other
side of the question. What, in your view, are the differences
between the War in Vietnam and the War in Nicaragua?
NORTH: Ten thousand miles, to start with. You're
talking about a war that is 400 and some odd miles from our borders.
You're talking about the efforts of the Soviet Union, not on the
other side of the Pacific Ocean, but right here in this hemisphere.
Hours, I mean I have flown to Nicaragua in four and a half hours.
You're -- you're not talking about a day's trip, like it used to be
to go to Vietnam. You're talking about something right next door.
That's the major difference.
I think you've already said this, but I want
the record to be clear on it. Would you agree that the United
States finally withdrew from Vietnam because the war effort lost the
support of the American people. Isn't that correct, Colonel North?
NORTH: It did.
Now, as you have said in prior testimony, in
October 1984, Congress adopted an amendment that is commonly
referred to as the Boland Amendment, one of a series of amendments,
but it's generally agreed that the October 1984 amendment was the
most restrictive form of that amendment, and I give you the date of
the amendment to sort of help you place things in time because I
want to ask you a series of questions about the Soviet military
position and the Soviet investment in Nicaragua as of the time when
the United States decided to cut off funds to the resistance, and if
you would please turn to Exhibit #212, which I believe your counsel
in what we refer to colloquially as "the big books". These are not
the subject matter books, but the large exhibit books, and it's my
earnest hope that you have been provided with a copy of Exhibit
At this point, I'l like to advise all of you
that we will have a series of votes in the United States Senate, the
first at 9:30, the second at 10:00 and the third at 10:30. This
will account for the absence of members of the Senate during this
period. Please proceed.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Colonel North, do you
have a copy of Exhibit #212 in front of you?
NORTH: I do.
This exhibit, for the record, is an
unclassified document. It's a Defense Intelligence Agency analysis,
and the title is "Nicaragua: The Military Build-up, July 1979 to 11
January, 1985". In short, it covers the period roughly from the
time you began your service on the National Security Council,
slightly prior to that, to the period about the same time when
Congress decided to cut off the funds to the resistance. Is that