WASHINGTON — Two assistants to retired Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord told House and Senate investigators that they shredded records last December after public disclosure of the Iran- contra affair, according to depositions released Tuesday.
But one of the office workers later changed her testimony, telling the congressional Iran-contra committees in a sworn affidavit that the shredding more likely took place in November.
The two employees' original testimony, given under oath in private on April 10, appeared to conflict with Secord's sworn testimony in public hearings last month.
Secord, the operational chief of the Iran arms shipments and the private effort to resupply Nicaragua's rebels after Congress banned official U.S. government assistance, contended that the documents had been destroyed in November. That was before the Iran-contra connection was publicly disclosed.
Investigators suggest that the dates of the shredding are important because any destruction of documents after the launching of an official Justice Department investigation might constitute obstruction of justice.
Secord was asked last month if he had in any way persuaded Shirley Napier, his administrative assistant, to change her account of the shredding. He denied doing that, and she said his only instruction to her was to tell the truth.
Joan Corbin, a secretary for Secord's firm, Stanford Technology Trading Group International, said the shredding occurred on several days in early December.
According to the transcript of her deposition, the documents destroyed included "telexes and shorthand notebooks and old phone book message pages and just a couple of Rolodex cards."
Napier said the Rolodex cards were those concerning fired White House aide Lt. Col. Oliver L. North; Rafael Quintero, a former CIA operative who helped in the resupply operation's activities in Central America, and David Walker, a British demolition expert.
Corbin said she was not told why the documents were to be destroyed.
"I guess it was after the news broke on television and the newspapers, is the only reason . . . I knew of," she said.
Later in December, the two women carried two boxes of documents out of the office and Napier said she drove them to Secord's room at a suburban Virginia hotel.
She said that North; Secord's attorney, Thomas C. Green, and North's attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., were in the room when she delivered the papers that she said included telephone records, telexes, travel receipts and copies of invoices.
The boxes of papers later were returned to the office, she said.
Napier said in her later affidavit that she believed the shredding had occurred in the period of Nov. 19-21, and that her recollection had been helped by seeing a receipt for the hotel room where she had delivered the documents to Secord.