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THE IRAN-CONTRA HEARINGS : Excerpts: You Can Be Sure if Any Israeli's Caught, Something's Done

May 14, 1987|From Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON Following are excerpts from testimony Wednesday by Robert C. McFarlane, President Reagan's former national security adviser, to the congressional committees investigating the Iran-contra affair:

Private Fund Raising

(Sen. Warren B. Rudman (R-N.H.) asked McFarlane whether he had informed Reagan of the possibility that White House aide Lt. Col. Oliver L. North was helping to raise private donations for Nicaragua's contras.)

Answer: I remember that I was periodically concerned about the almost certain temptation to raise money that would come up whenever Ollie would go out and talk to groups throughout the country. . . . And so I would mention occasionally that Ollie was doing quite a lot of speaking around the country, and that it was clear there was a lot of sentiment in support of the contras. But that (fund raising) was proscrib1701063712do that, and that I was telling the staff not to.

Question: . . . Did you ever give the President any cause for alarm in his mind, as the President, that the people working for him might be doing things that were proscribed by Congress?

A: No, sir. The President, in fact, would often provide his own views on that subject, generically. And there's no doubt in my mind that he had a far more liberal interpretation of that than I did.

(In answer to Rudman's question, McFarlane said he had been familiar with a plan to use agents of the Drug Enforcement Agency to free two hostages for $1 million each.)

Q: You approved it?

A: The attorney general (Edwin Meese III) approved it.

Q: And the attorney general approved it, you both approved it?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: To your knowledge, was a finding (a presidential order for a covert activity) ever signed for this activity?

A: No, sir.

Q: Or congressional committees--House or Senate intelligence committees--ever notified of this activity?

A: No, sir.

Q: Should they have been?

A: No, sir. . . . It is more than passing strange to me that we cannot aspire to a policy which is more effective to deal with terrorism. . . . Terrorists know that whenever they commit terrorism against Israel, something, somehow, somewhere is going to happen. Now it may not always be arms, it may not be preemptive attack; it may be negotiation, it may be bribing. But you can be goddamn sure if any Israeli's caught, he's going to have his government going after the people who did it.

'Shredding Party'

(Sen. George J. Mitchell (D-Me.) asked about events shortly after the diversion of Iran arms sale profits to the contras became public last November.)

Q: Now, what did you understand Col. North to mean when he said to you: "There's going to be a shredding party?"

A: Well, I think the obvious point: that there was going to be the destruction of some documents.

Q: And you didn't try to persuade Col. North not to have a shredding party, even though you're close to him, he's your former subordinate . . . ? Isn't that correct?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: And you didn't tell the attorney general of the United States about it, did you . . . ?

A: No, sir. On your last question, Sen. Mitchell, the response that I gave Col. North was simply: "Ollie, look. You have acted under instruction at all times, and I am confident that you have nothing to worry about. Let it all happen . . . and I'll back you up."

Q: But you didn't try to persuade him not to destroy the documents, did you?

A: No, sir, I didn't. But I think it is worth noting, at least, that if his reason for saying that to me was his sense of obligation to me, to protect me, for me to disarm him of any notion that he had to protect me might have eliminated that impulse.

(Rep. Peter W. Rodino Jr. (D-N.J.) returned to the "shredding party.")

Q: Did you say that you did not, if I recall, in any way advise Col. North that that was not the proper thing to do, that that was illegal? Is that right?

A: That's right, and I deserve responsibility, and I ought to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and sent away.

Q: Well, it's not the intention of this--

A: I'm sorry, I don't mean to be frivolous about it, but--

Q: It's not the intention of this member to try to decide guilt or innocence or whether or not you committed a crime.

A: I believe that in everything I have said here I have been truthful. I have said that I believe because I was in charge, if things happened that were illegal, whether or not I knew about them, I am responsible. And that isn't just a kind of a brush-off acceptance of the captain-of-the-ship role. I intend to mean by that the full limit of law and punishment of it. . . . And I don't know what else I can tell you to make clear that there is nothing that North did for which I don't feel responsible.

(Sen. William S. Cohen ( R-Me. ) asked about North's relations with the late CIA Director William J . Casey.)

Q: Can I ask you a question as to whether you ever suspected that Oliver North was taking instructions not from you, but from (Casey)?

A: Yes, sir. . . . I became aware in the fall of '85 that Ollie had more contact than I had realized with the director. And he mentioned, and I think it was entirely off-hand and intended comically, at one point, to say that the director had volunteered a million dollars. And he laughed, and I think it probably was comic. But it was expressive of a relationship that surprised me.

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