Congressional sources said today that fired National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Oliver L. North took the Fifth Amendment during his testimony Monday before the Senate Intelligence Committee.
One source, who, like the others demanded anonymity, said North took the Fifth Amendment at least 40 times. Another source said he declined to answer a number of questions put to him by senators and committee staff members.
Asked about an apparent contradiction between Sen. Dave Durenberger's contention that witnesses had been candid and the report that North refused to answer many questions, committee spokesman Dave Holliday said he would make no attempt to clear it up.
"I understand why it appears there is a contradiction," he said. "As far as the committee is concerned, you've not been misled by any member of the committee."
Discussion of News Leaks
Durenberger (R-Minn.) is the outgoing chairman of the committee.
Holliday said senators had discussed the issue of news leaks before they began their work today and decided not to comment on or to confirm or deny any reports dealing with testimony.
North's lawyer, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr., declined comment.
At the White House, Deputy Press Secretary Dan Howard said, "We would prefer that everyone tell what they know." However, he added that every American citizen has the right to take the Fifth Amendment. "That's something the Administration cannot do anything about. We cannot revoke the constitutional rights of our citizens."
The panel also heard sworn testimony from former national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane.
Sen. Thomas F. Eagleton (D-Mo.), who attended the closed meeting, said McFarlane testified under oath about the secret Iranian arms sale and subsequent funneling of funds to the Nicaraguan contra rebels.
Questions have been raised about McFarlane's truthfulness in a 1985 communication with the committee. Just before McFarlane left his national security post, he wrote a letter in which he gave "a categorical no" to questions from the Senate panel on whether North was assisting the contras, a congressional aide told United Press International.