Do You Remember 1987? Oliver North’s Warning About Osama bin Laden-Fiction!
Summary of eRumor:
A forwarded email claims that Lt. Col. Oliver North, a national security aid under President Reagan, warned then-Senator Al Gore about Osama bin Laden during an Iran-Contra hearing in 1987.
Oliver North didn’t warn Al Gore (or anyone else) about Osama bin Laden in 1987.
That rumor has been circulating in a forwarded email for years. The email includes a transcript of an exchange between North and Al Gore, a senator from Tennessee at the time, during a congressional hearing on the Iran-Contra scandal.
In that exchange, Gore supposedly mocked North for installing a $60,000 home security system, and North confessed that he had done so because he had been threatened by a terrorist named Osama bin Laden:
At this point the senator tried to repeat the name, but couldn’t pronounce it, which most people back then probably couldn’t. A couple of people laughed at the attempt. Then the senator continued.
‘Why are you so afraid of this man?’ the senator asked.
‘Because, sir, he is the most evil person alive that I know of ‘
‘And what do you recommend we do about him?’ asked the senator.
‘Well, sir, if it was up to me, I would recommend that an assassin team be formed to eliminate him and his men from the face of the earth.’
The senator disagreed with this approach. And, that was all that was shown of the clip.
By the way, that senator was Al Gore.
Like many false rumors, this one contains a kernel of truth. North testified about an expensive home security system that he’d installed during a joint House-Senate hearing on the Iran-Contra investigation on July 7, 1989. However, it was committee counsel John Nields — not Gore — who questioned him about it. Also, North named Abu Nida, not bin Laden, as the terrorist who’d threatened his life, according to a post to the official Senate’s “reference desk” page:
Oliver North testified about a home security system during a July 7, 1987 joint Senate-House hearing on the Iran-Contra investigation. The questioner was not a senator, but committee counsel John Nields. Col. North testified the security system was installed because threats were made on his life by terrorist Abu Nidal.
Turns out, North’s security system was an important subject for the joint committee because it was paid for using proceeds from Iran arms sales. Glenn Robinette, a retired CIA officer, testified that he prepared false bills for the $13,900 security system to help hide the nature of transactions. The system was actually paid for by Maj. Gen. Richard V. Secord, and the money came from a bank account that included profits generated by secret sales of U.S. arms to Iran, the New York Times reported in 1987.
North testified that he wrote two backdated letters that were intended to fit Robinette’s false bills, and that fabricating those letters was “the grossest misjudgment that I have made in my life.” The committee’s final report details the exchange with North in great detail:
So, bits and pieces of this rumor are true, but the larger claim that Gore laughed off North’s concerns about bin Laden are false. In fact, Gore was not even listed as a member of the committee that investigated the Iran-Contra scandal, so he would not have questioned North during the hearing.