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Tilsley

SEC Hearing Regarding Iran-Contra

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Posted (edited)

The following is a hearing of the House Select Ethics Committee to discuss the matter regarding the Iran-Contra affair and investigating whether or not if foreign policy officials within the Reagan Administration have committed any wrongdoing that includes the illegal sale of weapons. 

 

The following are required to appear before the committee:

 

  • Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, United States Marine Corp
  • Former National Security Advisor John Poindexter
  • Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger
  • CIA Director William Casey

 

All three are required to appear before the committee and present their opening statements. After opening statements, there will be a 72 hour period for debate and questioning. 

Edited by Tilsley

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The following is required to appear before the committee:

  • ((former?)) CIA Director William Casey 

 

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*All four men wave their opening statements.*

 

 

OOC: Tag us in the future when you are making subpoenas.

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OOC: Duly noted, @DMH. Thank you.

 

The chair has noted the wavier of opening statements from all four present here. We will begin a 72 hour period for debate and questioning. 

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Posted (edited)

Lt. Colonel North,

 

It is to my understanding that you were one of the three implicated in the Tower Commission report. Which of course is why you're here before this committee.

 

What is your connection with the Reagan administration or with either of the other three testifying alongside you today?

 

@DMH

Edited by Tilsley

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Thank you all for coming before the committee today. Lt. Col North... in light of the publication of the Tower Report, in what context would you say the actions were undertaken regarding this event? @DMH

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50 minutes ago, Tilsley said:

Lt. Colonel North,

 

It is to my understanding that you were one of the three implicated in the Tower Commission report. Which of course is why you're here before this committee.

 

What is your connection with the Reagan administration or with either of the other three testifying alongside you today?

 

@DMH

 

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: Congressman, I began my work with the Reagan Administration within the National Security Council (NSC) as Deputy Director for Political–Military Affairs from 1981 until being reassigned in 1986. 

 

As I assume you are all aware, the National Security Council is, in essence, the President's staff. It helps to formulate and coordinate national security policy. Some, perhaps on this committee, believe that the NSC was devoid of experienced leadership. I believe that is wrong. While at the NSC, I worked most closely with three people: Mr. Robert C. McFarlane, who is not in attendance here today, Admiral John Poindexter, and Former C.I.A. Director William Casey.

 

Admiral Poindexter is a distinguished naval officer who served in a number of important positions of responsibility. He, too, was a tireless worker with a similar record of public service, and I, too, admire him greatly and had the pleasure of working with.

 

William Casey is a renowned lawyer, a war veteran of heroic proportions, and a former chairman of the S.E.C. I understood that he is also a close personal friend and adviser to President Reagan but health-related issues compelled him to step down as Director. 

 

I did not directly associate with Defense Secretary Weinberger but did work with him on matters pertaining to the NSC.

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9 minutes ago, Conrad said:

Thank you all for coming before the committee today. Lt. Col North... in light of the publication of the Tower Report, in what context would you say the actions were undertaken regarding this event? @DMH

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: Fundamentally, I believe that our decision to aid the freedom fighters in Nicaragua was the right thing to do and continue to believe so. Our efforts to assist the Contras, in my view, came directly from our genuine desire to deliver democracy from the oppressive Sandinista Regime. Could certain steps in the process have been handled differently, yes. I would however go so far as to say the Iran-Contra plan, at the time of its inception, was a neat idea.

 

Congressman, I came here to tell you the truth, the good, the bad and the ugly. I am here to accept responsibility for that which I did. I will not accept responsibility for that which I did not do. I haven't, in the 23 years that I have been in the uniformed services of the United States of America, ever violated an order - not one. I believe that my actions were just and the cause was worth the risk. I did my duty in service of my country and I will never be ashamed of that.

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3 minutes ago, DMH said:

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: Fundamentally, I believe that our decision to aid the freedom fighters in Nicaragua was the right thing to do and continue to believe so. Our efforts to assist the Contras, in my view, came directly from our genuine desire to deliver democracy from the oppressive Sandinista Regime. Could certain steps in the process have been handled differently, yes. I would however go so far as to say the Iran-Contra plan, at the time of its inception, was a neat idea.

 

Congressman, I came here to tell you the truth, the good, the bad and the ugly. I am here to accept responsibility for that which I did. I will not accept responsibility for that which I did not do. I haven't, in the 23 years that I have been in the uniformed services of the United States of America, ever violated an order - not one. I believe that my actions were just and the cause was worth the risk. I did my duty in service of my country and I will never be ashamed of that.

 

Thank you sir. And a lead on question, with the existence of the Boland Amendment... would you say that - in your opinion - there exists a state of political war over the control of the foreign policy of the United States between the President and the Congress... has that ever crossed your mind or the mind - if you know of - anyone else in the Reagan Administration?

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2 minutes ago, Conrad said:

 

Thank you sir. And a lead on question, with the existence of the Boland Amendment... would you say that - in your opinion - there exists a state of political war over the control of the foreign policy of the United States between the President and the Congress... has that ever crossed your mind or the mind - if you know of - anyone else in the Reagan Administration?

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: I believe the Boland Amendment was fundamentally a mistake that placed the Executive Branch at odds with the Legslative Branch on the issue of Nicaragua. I would contend that the sentiment you have described has most certainly crossed the minds of many within the Reagan Administration and certainly in the minds of outside experts who see the Boland Amendment as an overreach of the Legislatuve Branch in critical matters of foreign policy.

 

I believe it is inevitable that the Congress will, in the end, blame the Executive Branch. But I suggest to you that it is the Congress which must accept at least some of the blame in the Nicaraguan freedom-fighters matter. Plain and simple, the Congress is to blame because of the fickle, vacillating, unpredictable, on-again-off-again policy toward the Nicaraguan democratic resistance, the so-called "contras."

 

I do not believe that the support of the Nicaraguan freedom fighters can be treated as the passage of a budget. I suppose if the budget doesn't get passed on time again this year, there will be inevitably another extension of a month or two. But the contras, the Nicaraguan freedom fighters, are people -- living, breathing, young men and women -- who have had to suffer a desperate struggle for liberty, with sporadic and confusing support from the United States of America. Armies need food and consistent help. They need a flow of money, of arms, clothing, and medical supplies.

 

The Congress of the United States allowed the Executive to encourage them to do battle and then abandoned them. The Congress of the United States left soldiers in the field unsupported and vulnerable to their Communist enemies. When the Executive Branch did everything possible within the law to prevent them from being wiped out by Moscow's surrogates in Havana and Managua, you then had this investigation to blame the problem on the Executive Branch. It does not make sense to me.

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1 minute ago, DMH said:

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: I believe the Boland Amendment was fundamentally a mistake that placed the Executive Branch at odds with the Legslative Branch on the issue of Nicaragua. I would contend that the sentiment you have described has most certainly crossed the minds of many within the Reagan Administration and certainly in the minds of outside experts who see the Boland Amendment as an overreach of the Legislatuve Branch in critical matters of foreign policy.

 

I believe it is inevitable that the Congress will, in the end, blame the Executive Branch. But I suggest to you that it is the Congress which must accept at least some of the blame in the Nicaraguan freedom-fighters matter. Plain and simple, the Congress is to blame because of the fickle, vacillating, unpredictable, on-again-off-again policy toward the Nicaraguan democratic resistance, the so-called "contras."

 

I do not believe that the support of the Nicaraguan freedom fighters can be treated as the passage of a budget. I suppose if the budget doesn't get passed on time again this year, there will be inevitably another extension of a month or two. But the contras, the Nicaraguan freedom fighters, are people -- living, breathing, young men and women -- who have had to suffer a desperate struggle for liberty, with sporadic and confusing support from the United States of America. Armies need food and consistent help. They need a flow of money, of arms, clothing, and medical supplies.

 

The Congress of the United States allowed the Executive to encourage them to do battle and then abandoned them. The Congress of the United States left soldiers in the field unsupported and vulnerable to their Communist enemies. When the Executive Branch did everything possible within the law to prevent them from being wiped out by Moscow's surrogates in Havana and Managua, you then had this investigation to blame the problem on the Executive Branch. It does not make sense to me.

 

So what you're saying Colonel is that the needs of the democratic peoples of Nicaragua against their oppressors outweighed a statutory provision passed by the Congress which you believe to be an overreach?

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Director Casey, 

 

The Tower Commission reports the role you should have played in this endeavor. Can you specify, for the record, what your position on the decision to arm Iran was? Can you explain the justification for that position? 

 

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Lt. Colonel North,

 

What exactly were your orders and who issued your orders to you? 

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5 minutes ago, Conrad said:

 

So what you're saying Colonel is that the needs of the democratic peoples of Nicaragua against their oppressors outweighed a statutory provision passed by the Congress which you believe to be an overreach?

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: That is my belief Congressman. The Boland Amendments, in my view, were manipulated by the Congress to exert additional control over U.S.-Central American foreign policy that extended beyond the purview of the law. I remain steadfast in my belief that the needs of the people of Nicaragua to resist a radical and oppressive regime outweighed the congressional overreach that created this entire situation.

 

9 minutes ago, MrAnderson said:

Director Casey, 

 

The Tower Commission reports the role you should have played in this endeavor. Can you specify, for the record, what your position on the decision to arm Iran was? Can you explain the justification for that position? 

 

 

Former CIA Director William Casey: I supported the decision to sell arms to Iran. I believed doing so would help the United States win the release of our former CIA Lebanese Station Chief William Buckley. Mr. Buckley sadly passed away in 1985 of what the CIA has determined was most likely a heart attack, contrary to the claims of the Islamic Jihad Organization that he had been executed. 

 

11 minutes ago, FrankP said:

Lt. Colonel North,

 

What exactly were your orders and who issued your orders to you? 

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: As a member of the NSC staff, I was tasked to develop foreign policy strategy. I was placed in charge of facilitating arms trading with the Iranian Regime in order to fund the Contra freedom fighters in Nicaragua. As I have stated prior to this hearing, my orders were given to me by high ranking members of the NSC and the Executive Branch.

 

The president himself ordered me to keep "the body and soul" of the Contras alive. Throughout the conduct of my entire tenure at the National Security Council, I assumed that the president was aware of what I was doing and had, through my superiors, approved it. To my recollection, Admiral Poindexter never told me that he met with the president on the issue of using residuals from the Iranian sales to support the Nicaraguan resistance. Or that he discussed the residuals or profits for use by the contras with the president. Or that he got the president’s specific approval. Nor did he tell me that the president had approved such a transaction. But again, I wish to reiterate throughout I believed that the president had indeed authorized such activity. The president has personally expressed to me that he was unaware of the operations I undertook.

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Lt. Colonel North,

 

Will you please clarify for me once again,, your orders came from the President of the United States and not Congress or any member of the legislative branch, is that correct? 

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18 minutes ago, DMH said:

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: That is my belief Congressman. The Boland Amendments, in my view, were manipulated by the Congress to exert additional control over U.S.-Central American foreign policy that extended beyond the purview of the law. I remain steadfast in my belief that the needs of the people of Nicaragua to resist a radical and oppressive regime outweighed the congressional overreach that created this entire situation.

 

 

Former CIA Director William Casey: I supported the decision to sell arms to Iran. I believed doing so would help the United States win the release of our former CIA Lebanese Station Chief William Buckley. Mr. Buckley sadly passed away in 1985 of what the CIA has determined was most likely a heart attack, contrary to the claims of the Islamic Jihad Organization that he had been executed. 

 

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: As a member of the NSC staff, I was tasked to develop foreign policy strategy. I was placed in charge of facilitating arms trading with the Iranian Regime in order to fund the Contra freedom fighters in Nicaragua. As I have stated prior to this hearing, my orders were given to me by high ranking members of the NSC and the Executive Branch.

 

The president himself ordered me to keep "the body and soul" of the Contras alive. Throughout the conduct of my entire tenure at the National Security Council, I assumed that the president was aware of what I was doing and had, through my superiors, approved it. To my recollection, Admiral Poindexter never told me that he met with the president on the issue of using residuals from the Iranian sales to support the Nicaraguan resistance. Or that he discussed the residuals or profits for use by the contras with the president. Or that he got the president’s specific approval. Nor did he tell me that the president had approved such a transaction. But again, I wish to reiterate throughout I believed that the president had indeed authorized such activity. The president has personally expressed to me that he was unaware of the operations I undertook.

 

Colonel I want to draw your attention to the opinion purported by Justice Jackson in the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. In order to summarise it for you, Justice Jackson suggested three philosophies of the Presidents power. These tenets are, I think, widely considered the premier view on the exercise of executive power. 

 

Quote

 

1. When the President acts pursuant to an express or implied authorization of Congress, his authority is at its maximum, for it includes all that he possesses in his own right plus all that Congress can delegate.

 

2. When the President acts in absence of either a congressional grant or denial of authority, he can only rely upon his own independent powers, but there is a zone of twilight in which he and Congress may have concurrent authority, or in which its distribution is uncertain. Therefore, congressional inertia, indifference or quiescence may sometimes, at least as a practical matter, enable, if not invite, measures on independent presidential responsibility. In this area, any actual test of power is likely to depend on the imperatives of events and the contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law.

 

3. When the President takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress, his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers minus any constitutional powers of Congress over the matter. Courts can sustain exclusive presidential control in such a case only by disabling the Congress from acting upon the subject.

 

 

I think we can conclude affirmatively that actions taken by the executive branch in this case, with power ultimately being drawn from that of the President, with or without his knowledge would fall under the third (3) point I have just expressed. 

 

You've said that the administration - or you - fundamentally disagree with the parameters of the Boland Amendment. And that the President didn't know what was going on, you didn't say that but it has been established by the Tower Commission essentially. 

 

There has been a longstanding debate over who controls foreign policy in the United States, a debate which has existed since the founding of our Republic, with many instances with the President exerting foreign policy dominance either by enhancing diplomatic relations with other countries or using, unilaterally, the United States Armed Forces as an enforcement tool to implement states foreign policy goals.

 

So then, I want to specifically state and quote the following from the third point... "his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers" the Supreme Court in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp ruled on a broad basis that While the Constitution does not explicitly say that all ability to conduct foreign policy is vested in the President, it is nonetheless given implicitly and by the fact that the executive, by its very nature, is empowered to conduct foreign affairs in a way that Congress cannot and should not. 

 

If we look at it in this aspect, Colonel, would you say that the Executive Branch relied on its own constitutional powers which have been, through a Supreme Court case, been defined and affirmed to be absolute in the execution of foreign policy, with the Supreme Court explicitly stating that the Congress cannot and should not?

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11 minutes ago, Conrad said:

 

Colonel I want to draw your attention to the opinion purported by Justice Jackson in the case of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer. In order to summarise it for you, Justice Jackson suggested three philosophies of the Presidents power. These tenets are, I think, widely considered the premier view on the exercise of executive power. 

 

 

I think we can conclude affirmatively that actions taken by the executive branch in this case, with power ultimately being drawn from that of the President, with or without his knowledge would fall under the third (3) point I have just expressed. 

 

You've said that the administration - or you - fundamentally disagree with the parameters of the Boland Amendment. And that the President didn't know what was going on, you didn't say that but it has been established by the Tower Commission essentially. 

 

There has been a longstanding debate over who controls foreign policy in the United States, a debate which has existed since the founding of our Republic, with many instances with the President exerting foreign policy dominance either by enhancing diplomatic relations with other countries or using, unilaterally, the United States Armed Forces as an enforcement tool to implement states foreign policy goals.

 

So then, I want to specifically state and quote the following from the third point... "his power is at its lowest ebb, for then he can rely only upon his own constitutional powers" the Supreme Court in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp ruled on a broad basis that While the Constitution does not explicitly say that all ability to conduct foreign policy is vested in the President, it is nonetheless given implicitly and by the fact that the executive, by its very nature, is empowered to conduct foreign affairs in a way that Congress cannot and should not. 

 

If we look at it in this aspect, Colonel, would you say that the Executive Branch relied on its own constitutional powers which have been, through a Supreme Court case, been defined and affirmed to be absolute in the execution of foreign policy, with the Supreme Court explicitly stating that the Congress cannot and should not?

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: Congressman, I'm not a constitutional expert but, assuming the case above is cited accurately, I'd come to the same conclusion. I firmly believe that Congress overreached with the passage of Boland Amendments and thus created a situation that warranted alternative courses of action in order to execute the duties of the Executive Branch.

 

19 minutes ago, FrankP said:

Lt. Colonel North,

 

Will you please clarify for me once again,, your orders came from the President of the United States and not Congress or any member of the legislative branch, is that correct? 

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: As I stated, the President told me to keep "the body and soul" of the Contras alive. He did not give me explicit orders as to the means in which I would complete the task he gave me. The decisions regarding how that task was completed was handled by higher level officials within the NSC and myself.

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Just now, DMH said:

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: Congressman, I'm not a constitutional expert but, assuming the case above is cited accurately, I'd come to the same conclusion. I firmly believe that Congress overreached with the passage of Boland Amendments and thus created a situation that warranted alternative courses of action in order to execute the duties of the Executive Branch.

 

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: As I stated, the President told me to keep "the body and soul" of the Contras alive. He did not give me explicit orders as to the means in which I would complete the task he gave me. The decisions regarding how that task was completed was handled by higher level officials within the NSC and myself.

 

The Court went onto state that "there is sufficient warrant for the broad discretion vested in the President to determine whether the enforcement of the statute will have a beneficial effect upon the reestablishment of peace in the affected countries." The President having told you to keep the "body and soul" of the Contras alive. Do you, Colonel, believe that the enforcement of the statute - the Boland Amendment - would have had a beneficial effect upon the reestablishment of peace in the affected countries?

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LT. Colonel North,

 

And then are the President's words, when he told you to "keep the body and soul of the Contras alive, what guided your actions? 

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Admiral Poindexter,

 

Did you at any point meet with the President about the sale of weapons to aid the Contras? If so, was there also any additional discussion on how the transactions were to be handled? @DMH

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17 minutes ago, Conrad said:

 

The Court went onto state that "there is sufficient warrant for the broad discretion vested in the President to determine whether the enforcement of the statute will have a beneficial effect upon the reestablishment of peace in the affected countries." The President having told you to keep the "body and soul" of the Contras alive. Do you, Colonel, believe that the enforcement of the statute - the Boland Amendment - would have had a beneficial effect upon the reestablishment of peace in the affected countries?

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: I do not believe the Boland Amendments would have been beneficial in the reestablishment of peace in Nicaragua. I believe the Boland Amendments were politically-motivated due to a desire to limit the power of the President's ability to exercise his foreign policy powers and due to the less than savory means by which the Contra have funded their operation.

 

11 minutes ago, FrankP said:

LT. Colonel North,

 

And then are the President's words, when he told you to "keep the body and soul of the Contras alive, what guided your actions? 

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: My desire to carry out the wishes of my commander-in-chief and to help freedom fighters opposing a surrogate state of Moscow in Central America. As stated before, I accept the responsibility of my actions and ultimately my actions were not in coordination with the President.

 

1 minute ago, Tilsley said:

Admiral Poindexter,

 

Did you at any point meet with the President about the sale of weapons to aid the Contras? If so, was there also any additional discussion on how the transactions were to be handled? @DMH

 

Admiral John Poindexter: I did not meet with the President regarding the sale of weapons to aid the Contras. I sought to maintain plausible deniability for the President and I wanted to provide the President that deniability to insulate him from the decision. Since this is not any sort of printed doctrine or dogma, it simply is a concept. I think it's open to interpretation. And my interpretation of it is simply and very straightforwardly that the ability of the President to deny knowing anything about it and be very truthful in that process. He didn't know anything about it.

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22 minutes ago, DMH said:

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: I do not believe the Boland Amendments would have been beneficial in the reestablishment of peace in Nicaragua. I believe the Boland Amendments were politically-motivated due to a desire to limit the power of the President's ability to exercise his foreign policy powers and due to the less than savory means by which the Contra have funded their operation.

 

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: My desire to carry out the wishes of my commander-in-chief and to help freedom fighters opposing a surrogate state of Moscow in Central America. As stated before, I accept the responsibility of my actions and ultimately my actions were not in coordination with the President.

 

 

Admiral John Poindexter: I did not meet with the President regarding the sale of weapons to aid the Contras. I sought to maintain plausible deniability for the President and I wanted to provide the President that deniability to insulate him from the decision. Since this is not any sort of printed doctrine or dogma, it simply is a concept. I think it's open to interpretation. And my interpretation of it is simply and very straightforwardly that the ability of the President to deny knowing anything about it and be very truthful in that process. He didn't know anything about it.

 

The same judgment by the Supreme Court held that in international relations, the President is the sole organ of the Federal Government by extension of that the wider executive branch. If we apply the case of Marbury v Madison, the Supreme Court determines what the constitution permits. And in later cases it determined that the President as we mentioned is the sole actor in foreign policy and has exclusive power perhaps in this regard. Furthermore... in view of the delicacy of foreign relations and of the power peculiar to the President in this regard, Congressional legislation which is to be made effective in the international field must often accord to him a degree of discretion and freedom which would not be admissible were domestic affairs alone involved.

 

Colonel, do you believe that the Boland Amendment afforded the executive branch a degree of discretion and freedom?

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2 minutes ago, Conrad said:

 

The same judgment by the Supreme Court held that in international relations, the President is the sole organ of the Federal Government by extension of that the wider executive branch. If we apply the case of Marbury v Madison, the Supreme Court determines what the constitution permits. And in later cases it determined that the President as we mentioned is the sole actor in foreign policy and has exclusive power perhaps in this regard. Furthermore... in view of the delicacy of foreign relations and of the power peculiar to the President in this regard, Congressional legislation which is to be made effective in the international field must often accord to him a degree of discretion and freedom which would not be admissible were domestic affairs alone involved.

 

Colonel, do you believe that the Boland Amendment afforded the executive branch a degree of discretion and freedom?

 

Lt. Colonel Oliver North: I do not believe the Boland Amendment afforded the executive branch a degree of discretion of freedom in the way you have described. 

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