Oliver North

Oliver North
Oliver North
In Iraq, December 2007.
Birth name Oliver Laurence North
Nickname Ollie
Born October 7, 1943 (1943-10-07) (age 68)
San Antonio, Texas
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1968–1990
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit 1st Battalion 3rd Marines
3rd Battalion 8th Marines
2nd Marine Division
Commands held Marine Corps Northern Training Area, Okinawa
Battles/wars Vietnam War

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 U.S. Marine Corps officer, political commentator, host of War Stories with Oliver North on Fox News Channel, a military historian, 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 staff 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 support the Contra rebel groups in Nicaragua (funding to the Contras had been prohibited under the Boland Amendment amidst widespread public opposition in the U.S. and controversies surrounding human rights abuses by the Contras). North was charged with several felonies and convicted of three, but the convictions were later vacated, and the underlying charges dismissed due to the limited immunity agreement granted for his pre-trial public Congressional testimony about the affair.[1]


Early life

North was born in San Antonio, Texas, the son of Ann Theresa (née Clancy) and Oliver Clay North, an army Major.[2][3] He 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.[4]

While at Brockport, North 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. Although a heavy underdog, North beat Webb in a championship boxing match at Annapolis.[5]

U.S. Marine Corps career

North served as a platoon leader in Vietnam where, during combat service, he was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Heart medals.[6] He then became an instructor at The Basic School in Quantico. In 1970, North returned to South Vietnam to testify at the trial of Corporal Randy Herrod, a Marine formerly 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 assigned for four years to Marine Headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. He 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 at Jacksonville, North Carolina. It was through Lt. Col. Grinalds that North developed a deep personal commitment to the Christian faith.

He attended the Command and Staff Course at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and graduated in 1981.

North began his assignment to the National Security Council (NSC) in Washington, D.C., where he served as the deputy director for political-military affairs[7] from 1981 until his reassignment in 1986. In 1983, North received his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel,[8] which would be his last.

During his tenure at the NSC, North managed a number of missions. This included leading the hunt for those responsible for the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 U.S. Marines, an effort that saw North arranging a midair interception of an EgyptAir jet carrying those responsible for the Achille Lauro hijacking. Also at the NSC, he helped plan the U.S. invasion of Grenada and the 1986 Bombing of Libya.[7]

During his trial, Oliver North spent his last two years on active duty assigned to Headquarters Marine Corps in Arlington, Virginia.

Iran-Contra affair

North's mugshot, taken on the day of his arrest

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, which aided the Contras. The Boland Amendment (to the House Appropriations Bill of 1982 and subsequent years) prohibited the appropriation of U.S. funds by intelligence agencies for this purpose at that time, thus the search for alternative funding sources. 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. and was initially funded with $2.8 million dollars by 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 August 23, 1986 e-mail to National Security Advisor John Poindexter, Oliver North described a meeting with a representative of Panamanian Dictator 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."[9][10]

North told Poindexter that Noriega could assist with sabotage against the Sandinistas and supposedly suggested that Noriega be paid one million dollars in 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.[11]

In November 1986, as the sale of weapons was made public, North was dismissed by President Ronald Reagan, and, in July 1987, he was summoned to testify before televised hearings of a joint Congressional committee that was 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 to define him in the eyes of the public.[citation needed] During the hearings, North admitted that he had lied to Congress, for which, among other things, he was later charged. 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".[12] 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 had helped.[13]

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 ordering the destruction of documents via his secretary, Fawn Hall. 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),[14] 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.[15]

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 of 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 in which 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. Consequently, North's convictions were 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 were made, most notably by the Kerry Subcomitee, that North and other senior officials created a privatized contra network that attracted drug traffickers looking for cover for their operations, then turned a blind eye to repeated reports of drug smuggling related to the contras, and actively worked with known drug smugglers such as Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to assist the contras.[16] Most Contra associates found guilty of trafficking by the Kerry Committee were involved in the supply chain (ostensibly for "humanitarian goods," though the supply chain was later found to have serviced the transport of arms), which had been set up by North. Organizations and individuals involved in the supply chain under investigation for trafficking included the company SETCO (operated by large-scale trafficker Juan Matta-Ballesteros), the fruit company Frigorificos de Puntarenas, rancher John Hull, and several Cuban Exiles; North and other US government officials were criticized by the Kerry Report for their practice of "ticket punching" for these parties, whereby people under active investigation for drug trafficking were given cover and pay by joining in the Contra supply chain. In addition to the Kerry Committee's investigation, the Costa Rican government of Nobel-Prize winner Óscar Arias conducted an investigation of Contra-related drug trafficking, and as a result of this investigation, North and several other US Government officials were permanently banned from entering Costa Rica. 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."[17]

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 stopping his campaign. North lost by a 46% to 43% margin to incumbent Democrat Charles Robb,[18] a son-in-law of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Coleman received 11%. North's candidacy was documented in the 1996 film A Perfect Candidate.[19]

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.[20]

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.[21] North is also a syndicated columnist.[22]

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 including the 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 in 1991, and three episodes of the TV military drama JAG in 1995, 1996 and 2002.[23] In addition, he regularly speaks at both public and private events.

Freedom Alliance

In 1990, North founded the Freedom Alliance, a 501(c)(3) foundation "... to 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 providing scholarships for the sons and the daughters of service members killed in action.[24] 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. The charity has been criticized by conservative-leaning blogger Debbie Schlussel for distributing too little of its funds for charitable purposes.[25] Hannity, North, and other charity spokespersons claim that all of the net proceeds from the Freedom Concerts are donated to the fund.[26]


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.

Also, in 1991, Oliver North appeared on the first season of The Jerry Springer Show.

Although raised a Roman Catholic, he has long attended Protestant evangelical services with his family.[27]

North is a board member in the NRA and had appeared at the NRA national convention in 2007[28] and 2008.[29]

Gwar, a satirical heavy metal band, formed in Richmond, Virginia in 1984, released a song titled "Ollie North" on their 1988 debut album Hell-O.

American Dad!'s season 3 episode Stanny Slickers II: The Legend of Ollie's Gold plot is related to Oliver North.


  1. ^ Johnson, David (July 21, 1990). "North Conviction Reversed In Part; Review Is Ordered". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/07/21/us/north-conviction-reversed-in-part-review-is-ordered.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved February 4, 2010. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "Obituaries". Los Angeles Times. October 20, 1999. http://articles.latimes.com/1999/oct/20/news/mn-24264/2. 
  4. ^ Official biography on OliverNorth.com
  5. ^ Real Clear Sports Top 10 Most Athletic Democrats
  6. ^ Cushman Jr, John H. (July 7, 1987). "NY Times: Washington Talk, July 7, 1987". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE5DF153BF934A35754C0A961948260&n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/C/Cushman,%20John%20H.%20Jr. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  7. ^ a b Greenwald, John (November 17, 1986). "Time Magazine: Washington's Cowboys". TIME. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,962859,00.html. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  8. ^ "Oliver North". Speaker Line-Up 2002. The Bakersfield Business Conference. http://www.bpcbakbusconf.com/2002-north.htm. Retrieved December 23, 2008. 
  9. ^ Cockburn, Alexander; St. Clair, Jeffrey (1998). Whiteout: the CIA, drugs, and the press. Verso. p. 287. ISBN 1859841392. http://books.google.com/books?id=s5qIj_h_PtkC&lpg=PA287&dq=%22take%20care%20of'%20the%20Sandinista%20leadership%20for%20us%22&pg=PA287#v=onepage&q=%22take%20care%20of'%20the%20Sandinista%20leadership%20for%20us%22&f=false. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 
  10. ^ North American Congress on Latin America (1993). NACLA report on the Americas. 27. California: NACLA. p. 31. http://books.google.com/?id=RowpAQAAIAAJ&q=%22take+care+of%27+the+Sandinista+leadership+for+us%22&dq=%22take+care+of%27+the+Sandinista+leadership+for+us%22. Retrieved November 30, 2010. 
  11. ^ "The Oliver North File". Gwu.edu. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB113/index.htm. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  12. ^ "A Perfect Candidate (1996)". Imdb.com. http://imdb.com/title/tt0117320/. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Hostile Witnesses (Page Three)". The Washington Post. August 19, 1998. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/national/longterm/irancontra/contra3.htm. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  14. ^ Shenon, Philip (July 21, 1988). "New York Times". Select.nytimes.com. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0710FA385E0C728EDDAE0894D0484D81&n=Top%2fReference%2fTimes%20Topics%2fOrganizations%2fA%2fAmerican%20Civil%20Liberties%20Union. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Walsh Iran / Contra Report – Chapter 2 United States v. Oliver L. North". Fas.org. http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/chap_02.htm. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  16. ^ Drugs, Law Enforcement And Foreign Policy: Report By The Committee On Foreign Relations, U.S. Senate, DIANE Publishing Company, (2004) ISBN 0-7881-2984-8. Google Books. August 30, 2004. http://books.google.com/books?id=9-IP6ASjCL4C&pg=PA145&dq=isbn:0788129848. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  17. ^ "The Oliver North File". Gwu.edu. http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB113/. Retrieved September 29, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Statistics Of The Congressional Election Of November 8, 1994". Clerk.house.gov. http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/1994/94Stat.htm#46. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  19. ^ IMDb: A Perfect candidate
  20. ^ "Ollie, Inc.: how Oliver North raised over $20 million in a losing U.S. Senate race". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071013164841/http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2519/is_n6_v16/ai_17195256. Retrieved September 24, 2007. 
  21. ^ Trackback URI. "author Oliver North & editor Chuck Holton's American Heroes Book blog". Americanheroesbook.com. http://www.americanheroesbook.com/about-american-heroes-the-book. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Oliver North's TownHall.com column". Townhall.com. http://www.townhall.com/Columnists/OliverNorth. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  23. ^ Internet Movie Database: Oliver north
  24. ^ the Freedom Alliance Website[dead link]
  25. ^ Watts Jr., James D. (Aug 19, 2010). "A concert with an attitude: Sean Hannity's benefit show isn't without controversy". McClatchy – Tribune Business News (Washington). 
  26. ^ https://freedomconcerts.com/[dead link]
  27. ^ "London Review of Books: Robert Fisk writes about Oliver North's contributions to the ordeal of the Middle East". Lrb.co.uk. http://www.lrb.co.uk/v10/n19/robert-fisk/robert-fisk-writes-about-oliver-norths-contributions-to-the-ordeal-of-the-middle-east. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  28. ^ "Bolton, Oliver North among speakers at NRA conference". Showmenews.com. http://www.showmenews.com/2007/Apr/20070413News013.asp. Retrieved June 23, 2011. 
  29. ^ NRA'S Annual Meetings & Exhibits 2008
  • Ben Bradlee Jr. (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

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