Mr. NIELDS: But I take it you did considerably more which you did not tell the committee about?

Mr. NORTH: I have admitted that here before you today, knowing full well what I told the committee then. I think—and I think we can abbreviate this in hopes we can move on so that I can finish this week. I will tell you right now, counsel, and all the members here gathered, that I misled the Congress. I misled

Mr. NIELDS: At that meeting?

Mr. NORTH: At that meeting.

Mr. NIELDS: Face to face?

Mr. NORTH: Face to face.

Mr. NIELDS: You made false statements to them about your activities in support of the Contras?

Mr. NORTH: I did. Furthermore, I did so with a purpose, and I did so with a purpose of hopefully avoiding the very kind of thing that we have before us now, and avoiding a shut-off of help for the Nicaraguan Resistance, and avoiding an elimination of the Resistance facilities in three Central American countries wherein we had promised those heads of state on my specific orders, on specific orders to me—I had gone down there and assured them of our absolute and total discretion.

Mr. NIELDS: We do

Mr. NORTH: And I am admitting to you that I participated in preparation of documents for the Congress that were erroneous, misleading, evasive, and wrong, and I did it again here when I appeared before that committee convened in the White House Situation Room, and I make no excuses for what I did. I will tell you now that I am under oath and I was not then.

Mr. NIELDS: We do live in a democracy, don't we?

Mr. NORTH: We do, sir, thank God.

Mr. NIELDS: In which it is the people, not one Marine lieutenant colonel, that get to decide the important policy decisions for the nation? [Witness confers with his attorney.]

Mr. NORTH: Yes.

Mr. NIELDS: And part of the democratic process

Mr. NORTH: And I would point out that part of that answer is that this Marine lieutenant colonel was not making all of those decisions on his own. As I indicated yesterday in my testimony, Mr. Nields, I sought approval for everything that I did.

Mr. NIELDS: But you denied Congress the facts.

Mr. NORTH: I did.

Mr. NIELDS: You denied the elected representatives of our people the facts upon which they needed to make a very important decision for this nation?

Mr. NORTH: I did because of what I have just described to you as our concerns. And I did it because we have had incredible leaks from discussions with closed committees of the Congress. I was a part of, as people now know, the coordination for the mining of the harbors in Nicaragua. When that one leaked, there were American lives at stake and it leaked from a member of one of the committees, who eventually admitted it. When there was a leak on the sensitive intelligence methods that we used to help capture the Achille Lauro terrorists, it almost wiped out that whole channel of communications. Those kinds of things are devastating. They are devastating to the national security of the United States and I desperately hope that one of the things that can derive from all of this ordeal is that we can find a better way by which we can communicate those things properly with the Congress. I am not admitting that what happened in this is proper. I am not admitting—or claiming, rather—that what I did and my role in it in communicating was proper.

Mr. NIELDS: Were you instructed to do it?

Mr. NORTH: I was not specifically instructed, no.

Mr. NIELDS: Were you generally instructed?

Mr. NORTH: Yes.

Mr. NIELDS: By whom?

Mr. NORTH: My superiors. I prepared

Mr. NIELDS: Who?

Mr. NORTH: I prepared draft answers that they signed and sent. I would also point out

Mr. NIELDS: What superior?

Mr. NORTH: Well, look who signed—I didn't sign those letters to the—to this body.

Mr. NIELDS: I am talking about the last—I'm talking about oral meeting in August of 1986.

Mr. NORTH: I went down to that oral meeting with the same kind of understanding that I had prepared those memos in 1985 and other communications.

Mr. NIELDS: Well you had a different boss, and in fairness, you ought to tell us whether he instructed you to do it, understood you did it, knew about it afterwards, or none of those.

Mr. NORTH: He did not specifically go down and say, "Ollie, lie to the committee." I told him what I had said afterwards, and he sent me a note saying, "well done". Now, I would also like to point out one other thing. I deeply believe that the President of the United States is also an elected official of this land, and by the Constitution, as I understand it, he is the person charged with making and carrying out the foreign policy of this country. I believed from the moment I was engaged in this activity in 1984 that this was in furtherance of the foreign policy established by the President. I still believe that.

Mr. NIELDS: Even

Mr. NORTH: I am not saying that what I did here was right. And I have just placed myself, as you know, counsel, in great jeopardy.

Mr. NIELDS: Even the President [Witness confers with his attorney.]

Mr. NIELDS: Even the President is elected by the people.

Mr. NORTH: I just said that.

Mr. NIELDS: And the people have the right to vote him out of office if they don't like his policies.

Mr. NORTH: That is true.

Mr. NIELDS: And they can't exercise that function if the policies of the President are hidden from them?

Mr. NORTH: Wait a second. I mean, yesterday we talked about the need for this nation, which is a country at risk in a dangerous world, having the need to conduct covert operations and secret diplomacy and carry out secret programs. I mean, we talked at some length about that, and that can certainly be the subject of great debate, and this great institution can pass laws that say no such activities can ever be conducted again. But that would be wrong, and you and I know that. The fact is that this country does need to be able to conduct those kinds of activities, and the President ought not to be in a position, in my humble opinion, of having to go out and explain to the American people on a bi-weekly basis or any other kind that I, the President, am carrying out the following secret operations. It just can't be done. No nation in the world will ever help us again, and we desperately need that kind of help if we are to survive given our adversaries. And what I am saying to you, Mr. Nields, is the American people, I think, trust that the President will indeed be conducting these kinds of activities. They trust that he will do so with a good purpose and good intent. I will also admit to you that I believe there has to be a way of consulting with the Congress. There must be. I would also point out to you, Mr. Nields, that in June of 1986, not the Tower Commission, I gave a speech before the American Bar Association on very short notice, I stood on the podium with Senator Moynihan, and I advocated the formation of a small discreet joint intelligence committee with a very professional small staff in which the administration would feel comfortable confiding in planning and conducting and funding these kinds of activities. I still believe that to be a good and thoughtful thing to do. There has to be that kind of proposal that allows the administration to talk straightforward with the Congress.

Mr. NIELDS: There came a time [Witness confers with his attorney.]

Mr. NIELDS: There came a time when one of the resupply operation's planes went down in Nicaragua?

Mr. NORTH: Yes.

Mr. NIELDS: That was early October, 1986.

Mr. NORTH: Yes.

Mr. NIELDS: If you will turn to exhibit 133. Do you have that in front of you?

Mr. NORTH: Yes.

Mr. NIELDS: It is a PROF message from Mr. Cannistraro, it relates to the plane that went down, and in the middle of the page it discusses press guidance. Do you see that?

Mr. NORTH: Yes.

Mr. NIELDS: And the statement is, press guidance was prepared which states, no USG involvement or connection but that we are generally aware of such support contracted by the Contras. Were you aware at the time that this was the press guidance for the Hasenfus plane?

Mr. NORTH: I don't believe I was aware at that immediate moment, because, as I testified earlier, I believe I was overseas at that point. My recollection is that I was. But that is not inconsistent with what we had prepared as the press line if such a—if such an eventuality occurred.

Mr. NIELDS: And then the next paragraph says, "UNO to be asked to assume responsibility for flight."

Mr. NORTH: Right.

Mr. NIELDS: And then it says, Elliott will follow up with Ollie to facilitate this.

Mr. NORTH: Yes.

Mr. NIELDS: Was Mr. Abrams aware that UNO was not responsible for the night?

Mr. NORTH: I think that the flight was certainly coordinated with people within UNO. UNO did indeed know about the flight. The flight happened to have been paid for by General Secord's operation, the airplane was paid for by his operation. The pilots were paid for by his operation. Those were not U.S. Government moneys, but those were certainly his activities, and I was the U.S. Government connection.

Mr. NIELDS: And was Elliott Abrams aware of the fact that you were the U.S. Government connection?

Mr. NORTH: You would have to ask Elliott Abrams exactly what he did know. But he called me to take care of getting the bodies home.

Mr. NIELDS: Did he ask you whether you or the NSC had any connection with the airplane?

Mr. NORTH: Counsel, he didn't have to ask me.

Mr. NIELDS: Because he alr—

Mr. NORTH: Any more than a congressman who called me up at one point and asked me to get an airdrop to the Indians had to ask me. He knew. I didn't have to tell him. I didn't have to write a memo to him. It was known. I would guess that that is probably why Chairman Hamilton convened his group in the situation room. I have no doubt about that. And what I want you to know is I still don't think that what we did was illegal.

Mr. NIELDS: So you think

Mr. NORTH: Please. It was not right. It does not leave me with a good taste in my mouth. I want you to know lying does not come easy to me. I want you to know that it doesn't come easy to anybody, but I think we all had to weigh in the balance the difference between lives and lies. I had to do that on a number of occasions in both these operations, and it is not an easy thing to do.

Mr. NIELDS: So you are telling us that you believe some Congressman knew of your connection, you have said that Izvestia knew of your connection, you said the Cubans knew of your connection, the Sandinistas


Mr. NIELDS: I haven't finished the question yet—the Sandinistas knew of your connection, but exhibit 134 contains the administration's statement to the American people, it is a newspaper article about this flight; Washington Post, top left-hand column, "Top Reagan administration officials yesterday flatly denied any U.S. Government connection with the transport plane that the Sandinista Government said it shot down in Nicaragua with three Americans and a man of Latin origin aboard." And the next exhibit, the committees have already heard, it is Elliott Abrams' statements on Evans and Novak absolutely guaranteeing that there was no U.S. Government connection, and particularly no NSC connection. [Witness conferring with counsel.]

Mr. NIELDS: Now the American people, I take it, in this country where we trust our government officials believed those statements.

Mr. NORTH: Is that a question?

Mr. NIELDS: Yes.

Mr. NORTH: Well, I don't know. I cannot speak for the American people. I have never pretended to speak for the American people. But, I [Counsel conferring with witness.]

Mr. NIELDS: Colonel North, I have only one more question.

Mr. NORTH: Wait, wait—I am still trying to answer the last one. I am getting help here. I guess my problem is, counsel, that while I well recognize that there may well be a lot of American people who want to know, I was trying to weigh, and I am sure that others like Mr. McFarlane and Admiral Poindexter and Director Casey and Elliott Abrams and the Chief of the Central American Task Force and others were trying to weigh in their souls what would happen to those, for example, whom I had sent money to or enticed into this activity or published pamphlets in Managua, or ran radio broadcasts or blew things up or flew airplanes if the American Government stood up and announced it and that is, after all, the essence of deniability and I was that deniable link and I was supposed to be dropped like a hot rock when it all came down. And I was willing to serve in that capacity. I was not willing to become the victim of a criminal prosecution.