Mr. NIELDS: Was the Attorney General aware in November of
1985 that 18 HAWK missiles had been shipped to Iran?
Mr. NORTH: I did not specifically address it to the Attorney General in November of 1985. I do remember discussions that included
the Attorney General subsequent to this event.
I believe there was one that Mr. McFarlane referred me to in December that I believe may well have addressed this issue because,
when he joined me in London, we talked about how to fix the problems that had been created by the September and November shipments.
One of the issues that had already come up by then was a draft
Finding prepared in concert with Mr. Sporkin, who was at the time
the general counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency. I was led to
believe, or at least came to believe, in 1985 that Mr. Sporkin had
gotten the acquiescence or support—either he or Director Casey—
of the Attorney General in that November Finding.
The November Finding specifically referred to prior actions.
Mr. NIELDS: Ratified them?
Mr. NORTH: Ratified prior actions.
Mr. NIELDS: Was that Finding ever signed?
Mr. NORTH: It is my understanding that the Finding was signed.
Mr. NIELDS: What is the basis for your understanding?
Mr. NORTH: I believe, although I do not recall specifically, but I
believe I saw a signed copy of that Finding.
Mr. NIELDS: Where?
Mr. NORTH: Admiral Poindexter's office.
Mr. NIELDS: Did you have a copy of it in your office?
Mr. NORTH: I did not. I had a draft copy.
Mr. NIELDS: When did you see the signed Finding?
Mr. NORTH: I think I may have seen a signed copy of it in early
Mr. NIELDS: Of what year?
Mr. NORTH: 1986—sorry—'5.
Mr. NIELDS: That Finding referred only to arms and hostages;
isn't that true? It didn't refer to any broader purposes?
Mr. NORTH: Exactly. And that, as I indicated a few moments ago,
I perceived to be a serious deficiency in that Finding.
Mr. NIELDS: And a serious problem therefore with exposure of
the HAWK shipment?
Mr. NORTH: Exactly. The exposure of the HAWK shipment—
again, my priorities, safety of the hostages, safety of the second
channel, the international repercussions of a—what clearly in that
initial Finding sent to the National Security Adviser by Director
Casey was nothing more than an arms for hostages swap.
I would point out that Mr. Sporkin and I worked diligently over
the course of the next few days and weeks to prepare a Finding
which addressed what I thought were the broader issues and what
I clearly believe Mr. McFarlane believed to be the broader issues
and certainly Admiral Poindexter in support of the broader issues.
Mr. NIELDS: I want to return—we will come back to these subjects in a minute, Colonel North. But I would like to return to the
chronologies and to the question of who it was in the administration that decided that the false version of the facts should be put
Did Admiral Poindexter make that decision?
Mr. NORTH: I don't know. I did not ask Admiral Poindexter if he
had run this decision up the line.
Mr. NIELDS: Do you know it went at least as far as Admiral Poindexter?
Mr. NORTH: Oh, yes. I know that he had versions—not necessarily this one, but he had versions of this chronology which reflected
that kind of language, that is correct, that I had given him.
Mr. NIELDS: And did he ask you to put that language in?
Mr. NORTH: No. As I indicated earlier, I had gotten that language from Mr. McFarlane.
Mr. NIELDS: So you got the language from McFarlane. He persuaded you it was appropriate to put it in?
Mr. NORTH: Who is "he"?
Mr. NIELDS: McFarlane.
Mr. NORTH: Yes.
Mr. NIELDS: You put it in and you sent copies of the chronology
with that false version in it to Admiral Poindexter?
Mr. NORTH: And others.
I want to point out that I got back—as I was preparing—and
there were many, many versions
Mr. NIELDS: What—
Mr. NORTH: I got back in my office handwritten notes on the
marginalia on each of the documents, many of the documents,
notes from various people that were not recognizable to me, people
making editorial changes, if you will.
Mr. NIELDS: Did you discuss the wisdom of putting out a false
version of the facts with Admiral Poindexter?
Mr. NORTH: I may have. I don't recall a specific discussion with—
again, it was—he and I knew what had transpired back in November of '85. He and I knew that this version of the document was
wrong, intentionally misleading, showing a separation between the
United States and Israel on the activity.
Mr. NIELDS: Let me put it to you this way, Colonel North. You
have indicated that there were reasons that were given to you and
that you had in your own mind why it was a good idea to put forward this false version.
There were some reasons
Mr. NORTH: I don't believe I said people gave me reasons.
I think what I told you were my reasons as I understood them.
Whether I collected that up as the wisdom of other people, I don't
Mr. NIELDS: You also said you were persuaded by Mr. McFarlane.
Mr. NORTH: Yes.
Mr. NIELDS: And I take it when he persuaded you, he gave you
Mr. NORTH: Again, I told you that I don't recall that specific discussion. I supposed there was one. I didn't willingly, you know, just
willy-nilly do this kind of thing.
Mr. NIELDS: In any event, my question to you, sir, is: There were
reasons on the other side, were there not?
Mr. NORTH: Would you give me—I don't understand your question about reasons on the other side.
Mr. NIELDS: There were reasons—well, I'll give them to you and
see if you agree.
First of all, you put some value, don't you, in the truth?
Mr. NORTH: I put great value in the truth. I came here to tell it.
Mr. NIELDS: So that was—that would be a reason not to put forward this version of the facts?
Mr. NORTH: The truth would be a reason not to put forward that
version of the facts. But, as I indicated to you a moment ago, I put
great value on the lives of the American hostages. I worked hard to
bring back as many as we could. I put great value in the possibility—that we could have ended the Iran-Iraq war.
Mr. NIELDS: We will get back to that in a minute.
Mr. SULLIVAN. Let him finish, counsel.
Mr. NORTH: —and we had established for the first time a direct
contact with people inside Iran who might be able to assist us in a
strategic reopening and who were at great risk if they were exposed.
And so, yes, I put great value in the truth. As I said, I came here
to tell it. But I also put great value on human life. And I put great
value on that second channel, who was at risk.
Mr. NIELDS: By putting out this false version of the facts, you
were committing, were you not, the entire administration to telling
a false story?
Mr. NORTH: Well, I am 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 realize there's a lot of folks around that think
there's a loose cannon on the gun deck of state at the NSC. That
wasn't what I heard while I worked there. I've only heard it since I
left. People used to walk up to me and tell me what a great job I
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.
Mr. NIELDS: We understand that, Colonel. I take it one of your
functions was to give people above you in the hierarchy advice?
Mr. NORTH: That is correct.
Mr. NIELDS: And by putting out this story, you were committing,
among other people, the President of the United States to telling a
version of the facts which wasn't true?
Mr. NORTH: Counsel, I think I have answered the question as
best I can. I am not too sure who you want to blame for committing who. If you want to blame me for committing others, that is
Mr. NIELDS: No one has suggested that, sir. My question to you is
this: Isn't it true—and I will put it that others above you, by putting out this version of the facts, were committing the President of
the United States to a false story?
Mr. NORTH: Yes. That is true.
Mr. NIELDS: Did you ever say to any of those people, "You can't
do that without asking the President"?
Mr. NORTH: No, I did not.
Mr. NIELDS: Did you ever say, "You can't do that, it is not true,
and you cannot commit the President of the United States to a
Mr. NORTH: I don't believe that I ever said that to anyone, no.
Mr. NIELDS: Did anybody else in your presence say that?
Mr. NORTH: No.
Mr. NIELDS: So none of these people, Director of Central Intelligence, two National Security Advisers, Attorney General, none of
them ever made the argument it is not true, you can't say it?
Mr. NORTH: No. And in fairness to them, I think that they had a
darned good reason for not putting the straight story out, and their
reasons might have been the same as mine. They may have been
different, and you would have to ask them. But the fact is I think
there were good and sufficient reasons at that time.
Mr. NIELDS: Did anybody ask the President?
Mr. NORTH: I did not.
Mr. NIELDS: Do you know if anyone else did?
Mr. NORTH: I do not.
Mr. NIELDS: Can there ever be good and sufficient reasons to put
out a false story about the President's activities without asking
Mr. NORTH: Counsel, I don't know that the President ever used
this version. I know that other people did. But I don't know that
the President of the United States was ever given this version. I
don't know that the President ever was—had this put before him
and said "use this". And I don't know that he's ever said that.