WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps last month transferred Lt. Col. Oliver L. North out of the job of coordinating a yearlong classified study on the future of the corps and gave him a position involving less sensitive information, according to informed sources.
The Navy reportedly has withdrawn the 24-hour security detail provided North by the Naval Investigative Service (NIS), although the former National Security Council staff aide's personal protection has continued with privately funded guards, sources said.
These steps were taken, they said, at about the time that the Defense Department received inquiries about North's status and his access to classified material.
Immediately after North was fired from the White House staff last Nov. 25 and returned to Marine Corps supervision, the House Armed Services Committee staff was told that he would be given a non-controversial job "in personnel" on the Marine commandant's staff, according to House sources. Instead, he was assigned to plans and operations.
Last summer, after his public testimony before the House and Senate committees investigating the Iran-Contra scandal, North served as chief coordinator of "Marine 2018," a long-range plan looking at the corps' next 30 years, evaluating threats and capabilities and preparing the future roles and missions of the Marines, according to Marine sources that asked not to be identified.
North's deputy on the project was Lt. Col. Robert L. Earl, his deputy on the NSC staff. Earl also was taken off the project last month, sources said. A source at Marine Corps headquarters said last week that Earl recently was transferred to the Marine Development Center at Quantico, Va.
Earl, contacted at a Quantico office, refused to comment.
Corps Won't Comment
A spokesman for the Marine Corps refused to discuss North's past or current duties, saying: "It was not appropriate to comment on the specific assignment an individual worked on." The spokesman described "Marine 2018" as "an operations plan" and added: "Specific details are classified."
North was unavailable for comment and his attorney, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., did not return telephone calls.