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Oliver L. North
Born October 7, 1943 (1943-10-07) (age 66)
In Iraq, December 2007.
Nickname Ollie
Place of birth San Antonio, Texas
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1968–1990
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Unit 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines
3rd Battalion 8th Marines
2nd Marine Division
Commands held Marine Corps Northern Training Area, Okinawa
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Silver Star
Bronze Star
Purple Heart(2)*

Presidential Service Badge

Other work correspondent with the Fox News Channel
United States Senate candidate

Oliver Laurence North (born October 7, 1943) is a retired United States Marine Corps officer best known for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. Currently, he is a political commentator, host of War Stories with Oliver North on Fox News Channel, and a New York Times best-selling author.

North was at the center of national attention during the Iran-Contra affair, a political scandal of the late 1980s. North was a National Security Council member involved in the clandestine sale of weapons to Iran, which served to encourage the release of U.S. hostages from Lebanon. North formulated the second part of the plan: diverting proceeds from the arms sales to aid terrorist groups in Nicaragua known as the Contras. North was charged with several felonies and convicted of three, but the convictions were later vacated, and the underlying charges dismissed on a technicality: the limited immunity agreement granted for his pre-trial public Congressional testimony about the affair.[1]


Early life and career

North was born in San Antonio, Texas,[2] grew up in Philmont, New York, and graduated from Ockawamick High School in 1961. He attended State University of New York at Brockport in Brockport, New York, for two years. While there, he spent a summer at the United States Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class and Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, and gained an appointment to the United States Naval Academy in 1963. He received his commission as Second Lieutenant in 1968 (he missed a year due to injuries from an auto accident). One of North's classmates at the Academy was former Secretary of the Navy and current U.S. Senator Jim Webb. North beat Webb in a championship boxing match at Annapolis.

North married Betsy North (née Stuart), whom he met while attending the United States Naval Academy, on November 13, 1968 (after North was commissioned and finished the Basic School at Quantico, Virginia). Over the ensuing years they had four children.

North served as a Platoon Commander in Company K, 3rd Battalion 3rd Marines, in the Vietnam War where, during combat service, he was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Heart medals.[3] North then became an instructor at The Basic School in Quantico. In 1970, North returned to Vietnam to testify at the trial of Corporal Randy Herrod, a former Marine under his command who had been charged with a mass killing of Vietnamese civilians. North was promoted to Captain in 1971 and served as commanding officer of the Marine Corps Northern Training Area in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

After Okinawa, North was also assigned to Marine Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, for four years, was promoted to Major, and then served two years as operations officer of 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, commanded by then Lt. Col. John Southy Grinalds, 2nd Marine Division in Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was through Lt. Col. Grinalds that North developed a deep personal commitment to the Christian faith. He next attended the Command and Staff Course at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and graduated in 1981.

After Newport, North began his now-famous assignment to the National Security Council (NSC) in Washington, D.C., where he served as the deputy director for political-military affairs[4] from 1981 until his reassignment in 1986. In 1983, North received his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel,[5] which would be his last.

During his tenure at the NSC, North managed a number of highly sensitive missions. This included leading the hunt for those responsible for the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 U.S. Marines, an effort that included North arranging a midair interception of an EgyptAir jet carrying those responsible for the Achille Lauro hijacking. Also while at the NSC, he helped plan the U.S. invasion of Grenada and the 1986 bombing of Libya.[4]

During his trial, Oliver North spent his last two years in the Corps reassigned to Headquarters Marine Corps in Arlington, Virginia.

Iran-Contra affair

Oliver North

North came into the public spotlight as a result of his participation in the Iran-Contra affair, a political scandal of the late 1980s, in which he claimed partial responsibility for the sale of weapons via intermediaries to Iran, with the profits being channeled to the Contras in Nicaragua. He was reportedly responsible for the establishment of a covert network used for the purposes of aiding the Contras. U.S. funding of the Contras by appropriated funds spent by intelligence agencies had been prohibited by the Boland Amendment. Funding was facilitated through Palmer National Bank of Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1983* by Harvey McLean, Jr., a businessman from Shreveport, Louisiana. It was initially funded with $2.8 million dollars to McLean from Herman K. Beebe. North supposedly used this bank during the Iran-Contra scandal by funneling money from his shell organization, the "National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty", through Palmer National Bank to the Contras.

According to the National Security Archive, in an August 23, 1986 e-mail to John Poindexter, Oliver North described a meeting with a representative of Panamanian President Manuel Noriega: "You will recall that over the years Manuel Noriega in Panama and I have developed a fairly good relationship", North writes before explaining Noriega's proposal. If U.S. officials can "help clean up his image" and lift the ban on arms sales to the Panamanian Defense Force, Noriega will "'take care of' the Sandinista leadership for us."[citation needed]

North tells Poindexter that Noriega can assist with sabotage against the Sandinistas, and supposedly suggests paying Noriega a million dollars cash; from "Project Democracy" funds raised from the sale of U.S. arms to Iran—for the Panamanian leader's help in destroying Nicaraguan economic installations.[6]

In November 1986, as the sale of weapons was made public, North was fired by President Ronald Reagan, and in July 1987 he was summoned to testify before televised hearings of a joint Congressional committee formed to investigate Iran-Contra. The image of North taking the oath became iconic, and similar photographs made the cover of Time and Newsweek, and helped define him in the eyes of the public.[citation needed] During the hearings, North admitted that he had lied to Congress, for which he was later charged among other things. He defended his actions by stating that he believed in the goal of aiding the Contras, whom he saw as freedom fighters, and said that he viewed the Iran-Contra scheme as a "neat idea".[7]

North was tried in 1988 in relation to his activities while at the National Security Council. He was indicted on sixteen felony counts and on May 4, 1989, he was initially convicted of three: accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents (by his secretary, Fawn Hall, on his instructions). He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell on July 5, 1989, to a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines, and 1,200 hours community service.

However, on July 20, 1990, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),[8] North's convictions were vacated, after the appeals court found that witnesses in his trial might have been impermissibly affected by his immunized congressional testimony.[9]

Because North had been granted limited immunity for his Congressional testimony, the law prohibited the independent counsel (or any prosecutor) from using that testimony as part of a criminal case against him. To prepare for the expected defense challenge that North's testimony had been used, the prosecution team had, before North's congressional testimony had been given, listed and isolated all its evidence;[citation needed] further, the individual members of the prosecution team had isolated themselves from news reports and discussion of North's testimony. While the defense could show no specific instance where any part of North's congressional testimony was used in his trial, the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judge had made an insufficient examination of the issue, and ordered North's convictions reversed. The Supreme Court declined to review the case. After further hearings on the immunity issue, Judge Gesell dismissed all charges against North on September 16, 1991, on the motion of the independent counsel.

Allegations of involvement with drug trafficking

During the early and mid 1980s, Lt. Col. North was alleged to participate in organizing the transportation of cocaine and marijuana from the various sites in Central and South America into the United States as a means of funding the Contra rebels. Congressional records show North was tasked with finding funding "outside the CIA" after the Boland Amendment cut off funding for the Contras in October, 1984.[10]

On February 10, 1986, Robert Owen, North’s liaison with the Contras, wrote North regarding a plane being used to carry humanitarian aid to the Contras that was previously used to transport drugs. The plane belonged to the Miami-based company Vortex, which is run by Michael Palmer, one of the largest marijuana traffickers in the United States. Despite Palmer's long history of drug smuggling, Palmer receives over $300,000 from the Nicaraguan Humanitarian Aid Office (NHAO)—an office overseen by Oliver North, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Elliott Abrams, and CIA officer Alan Fiers — to ferry supplies to the Contras.[11]

During Manuel Noriega’s trial in 1991, pilot Floyd Carlton testified that his smuggling operation was flying weapons to the Contras at the same time he was flying drugs to the United States. When Carlton's lawyer asked about Oliver North's knowledge of these flights, federal prosecutors vehemently objected, and U.S. judge William Hoeveler became angry. "Just stay away from it", the judge snapped, refusing to allow any more questions on the topic.[12]

Investigations into Lt. Col North's involvement have not been limited to the United States. One notable example is the second report of the Costa Rican Legislative Assembly's Commission on Narcotics Trafficking, which examined the explosion of cocaine trafficking in that country during the 1980s. After studying the involvement of Contras and U.S. officials with illegal arms running and drug trafficking, the commission recommended that former ambassador Lewis Tambs, CIA station chief Joseph F. Fernandez, and Lt. Col. Oliver North be forever denied entry in Costa Rica, a recommendation adopted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.[13]

North has consistently denied any involvement with drug trafficking, stating on Fox's Hannity and Colmes, "...nobody in the government of the United States, going all the way back to the earliest days of this under Jimmy Carter, ever had anything to do with running drugs to support the Nicaraguan resistance."[14] Despite North's claims, Senator John Kerry's 1988 Subcommittee on Terrorism, Narcotics and International Operations found numerous references to drug trafficking within Mr. North's own notebooks (that North and the White House had substantially edited and censored). The Subcommittee reviewed 2,848 pages of spiral-bound notes taken by Mr. North between September, 1984 through November 1986 and concluded: "In reviewing these note-books, the Committee staff found a number of references to narcotics, terrorism and related matters which appeared relevant and material to the Subcommittee's inquiry.... the Notebooks do contain numerous reference to drugs, terrorism, and to the attempts of the Committee itself to investigate what North was doing in connection with his secret support of the Contras." Pages 145–147 of the Subcommittee's report directly quote 15 North notebook entries related to drug trafficking. An entry from July 12, 1985 states "$14 million to finance came from drugs".[15]

Shredding government documents

North admitted shredding government documents related to his Contra and Iranian activities, at William Casey's suggestion, when the Iran Contra scandal became public. He testified that Robert McFarlane had asked him to alter official records to delete references to direct assistance to the contras and that he'd helped.[16]

Later life and career

Oliver North signing one of his books


In 1994, North unsuccessfully ran for the Senate as the Republican candidate in Virginia. Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia endorsed Marshall Coleman, a Republican who ran as an independent, instead of North. On the eve of the election, former first lady Nancy Reagan told a reporter that North had lied to her husband when discussing Iran-Contra with the former president, effectively eviscerating him. North lost by a 46% to 43% margin to incumbent Democrat Charles Robb,[17] a son-in-law of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Coleman received 11%. North's candidacy was documented in the 1996 film A Perfect Candidate.[18]

Oliver North pictured with Clinton Township, Franklin County, Ohio Assistant Fire Chief John Harris and Lieutenant Douglas Brown at a public speaking event.

In his failed bid to unseat Robb, North raised $20.3 million in a single year through nationwide direct mail solicitations, telemarketing, fundraising events, and contributions from major donors. About $16 million of that amount was from direct mail alone. This was the biggest accumulation of direct mail funds for a statewide campaign to that date, and it made North the top direct mail political fundraiser in the country in 1994.[19]

Books and media

North has written several best-selling books including Under Fire, One More Mission, War Stories — Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mission Compromised, The Jericho Sanction, and The Assassins.

His latest book, American Heroes, was released nationally in the U.S. on May 6, 2008. In this book, North addresses issues of defense against global terrorism, Jihad, and radical Islam from his perspective as a military officer and national security advisor and current Middle East war correspondent.[20] North is also a syndicated columnist.[21][citation needed]

From 1995 to 2003, North was host of his own nationally-syndicated radio program known as the Oliver North Radio Show or Common Sense Radio. He also served as co-host of Equal Time on MSNBC for a couple of years starting in 1999. North is currently the host of the television show War Stories with Oliver North, and a regular commentator on Hannity, both on the Fox News Channel. North appeared as himself on many television shows including the sitcom Wings and three episodes of the TV military drama JAG in 1995, 1996 and 2002.[22] In addition, he regularly speaks at both public and private events.


In 1990, North founded the Freedom Alliance, a 501(c)(3) foundation " advance the American heritage of freedom by honoring and encouraging military service, defending the sovereignty of the United States and promoting a strong national defense." The foundation's primary activities include providing support for wounded combat soldiers, and scholarships for the sons and daughters of service members killed in action.[23] Beginning in 2003, Sean Hannity has raised over $10 million for the Freedom Alliance Scholarship Fund through Freedom Concerts and donations from the Sean Hannity Show and its listeners. All of the net proceeds from the Freedom Concerts are donated to the fund.[24]

Pictures of North in the NSA buildings with former British Intelligence Officer John P. Lawrence were flashed around the world, when the two former colleagues were asked to help the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Although raised a Roman Catholic, he has long attended Protestant evangelical services with his family[25].

North is a board member in the National Rifle Association, and appeared at their national conventions in 2007[26] and 2008.[27]

In 1995, Sliders, a Fox channel produced television show (rights were later bought by Sci-Fi Channel), aired three episodes exploring alternate dimensions where Oliver North had been elected President of the United States. The episodes were: Summer of Love (S1E03), and Exodus parts 1 and 2 (S3E17, S3E18).[28]

North's role in the Contra scandal was echoed in the story of "Colonel Oliver Southern," in the 2005 film about Soviet arms dealer Yuri Orlov entitled Lord of War.

In 2008, American Dad!, an animated TV show produced by Seth McFarlane, aired an episode that had the Iran-Contra affair as the main storyline called "Stanny Slickers II: The Legend of Ollie's Gold" in which the main character, Stan Smith, looks for a crate full of gold that Ollie North had to hide before the Iran-Contra affair blew up.

Political and historical legacy

North's critics argue that in a democracy and a nation of laws, one cannot act above the law. Some point out that his activities substantially contributed to an attempted overthrow of a government which had won elections after the Junta of National Reconstruction collapsed and opposition parties boycotted the election with concerns over fairness, and to terrorism in Nicaragua, and that they aided Iran, a nation that has been militarily hostile to the United States since 1979.[citation needed] They note that along with other Reagan administration players, North has been banned from Central America's leading democracy, Costa Rica, for drug running.[29]

North's supporters argue that Nicaragua was anything but sovereign at the time, being supported by thousands of Cuban and East Bloc military advisers, and importing hundreds of millions of dollars a year in Soviet armament[citation needed] to support the Ortega government.

After a withdrawal of US military support and with both sides facing international pressure to bring an end to the conflict the Contras agreed to negotiations with the FSLN. This had the short term effect of allowing opposition candidate Violeta Chamorro to win a landslide victory over Daniel Ortega.[30] The long term effect was to allow the FSLN to survive and regroup, eventually establishing complete dominance over the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government following the 2006 election of Ortega.

In October 2006, North revisited Nicaragua in the run-up to the nation's presidential elections. Claiming he was invited in a private capacity to Nicaragua by friends, he warned against his old foe, Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega's possible return to power. During his visit, he expressed support for the PLC candidate, Jose Rizo, rather than the United States government's preferred candidate, Eduardo Montealegre, a dissident PLC candidate. Ortega won Nicaragua's presidency without the need of a runoff with 38% of the vote. This percentage was enough to win the presidency outright, due to a change in electoral law which lowered the percentage required to avoid a runoff election from 45% to 35% (with a 5% margin of victory).[31]


  1. ^ Johnson, David (July 21, 1990). "NORTH CONVICTION REVERSED IN PART; REVIEW IS ORDERED". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Official biography on
  3. ^ NY Times: Washington Talk, July 7, 1987
  4. ^ a b Time Magazine: Washington's Cowboys
  5. ^ "Oliver North". Speaker Line-Up 2002. The Bakersfield Business Conference. Retrieved 2008-12-23. 
  6. ^ The Oliver North File
  7. ^ A Perfect Candidate (1996)
  8. ^ New York Times
  9. ^ Walsh Iran / Contra Report - Chapter 2 United States v. Oliver L. North
  10. ^ FBI 302 report by agents Bruce A. Burroughs and Don A. Allen, May 5, 1992, file 245B-SF-96287.
  11. ^ Deposits arranged by… Oliver North: Kerry Report, 47-48.
  12. ^ DEA records concerning DIACSA are reprinted in the Kerry Report, 342-61
  13. ^ CR Assy 2-Segundo Informe de la Comision sobre el Narcotrafico Asamblea Legislative, August 1989.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Drugs, Law Enforcement And Foreign Policy: Report By The Committee On Foreign Relations, U.s. Senate, DIANE Publishing Company, (2004) ISBN 0788129848
  16. ^ Hostile Witnesses (Page Three)- The Washington Post
  17. ^ Statistics Of The Congressional Election Of November 8, 1994
  18. ^ IMDb: A Perfect candidate
  19. ^ "Ollie, Inc.: how Oliver North raised over $20 million in a losing U.S. Senate race". Retrieved 2007-09-24. 
  20. ^ author Oliver North & editor Chuck Holton's American Heroes Book blog
  21. ^ Oliver North's column
  22. ^ Internet Movie Database: Oliver north
  23. ^ the Freedom Alliance Website
  24. ^
  25. ^ London Review of Books: Robert Fisk writes about Oliver North’s contributions to the ordeal of the Middle East
  26. ^ Bolton, Oliver North among speakers at NRA conference
  28. ^ Sliders Episode Guide
  29. ^ Censored News: Oliver North & Co. Banned from Costa Rica
  30. ^ "Turnover in Nicaragua; NICARAGUAN OPPOSITION ROUTS SANDINISTAS; U.S. PLEDGES AID, TIED TO ORDERLY TURNOVER". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. February 27, 1990. 
  31. ^ Group: Sandinista Leader Ortega Wins Nicaragua Presidency


  • Ben Jr. Bradlee (1998). Guts and Glory: The Rise and Fall of Oliver North. Donald I. Fine, Inc. ISBN 1556110537. 

External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Maurice A. Dawkins
Republican Party nominee for United States Senate from Virginia (class 1)
1994 (lost)
Succeeded by
George Felix Allen

American broadcast news analysts

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