North Courier Asked Leash on Dornan Aide, Businessman

Times Staff Writer

A clandestine courier for Lt. Col. Oliver L. North asked that an Orange County businessman and an aide to Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Garden Grove) be kept "on a leash" because they promised government funds to a contra leader, according to a memo released Tuesday at the Iran-contra hearings in Washington.

The brief reference was contained in a two-page Feb. 10, 1986, memo to North from conservative activist Robert W. Owen, who simultaneously worked as a paid consultant for North and the State Department's Nicaraguan Humanitarian Assistance Office.

Owen's memo read: "Two of Congressman Robert Dornan's staff were in Costa Rica with (former contra leader Eden) Pastora in January. They met with his commandantes and told them that the USG (U.S. government) was going to give aid to Pastora. You might want to suggest to Dornan to keep his people on a leash. They are: Raul Silva and William Brashears."

The memo was released at Tuesday's session of Senate and House committees investigating the Iran-contra affair.

However, a spokesman for Dornan's office said Tuesday that North never contacted the congressman about the January, 1986, trip made by Silva and Brashears, an Orange County dentist and developer. Brashears has never been a member of Dornan's staff.

Brashears could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Silva, who left Dornan's staff on April 1, said Tuesday that his trip to Costa Rica with Brashears was unofficial. Moreover, Silva said, he promised Pastora only that "we would do our best" to see that his faction of Nicaraguan rebels received humanitarian aid when Congress renewed funding for the contras.

When funding was approved, however, Pastora's faction received none of the money, Silva said. (Pastora later left the contras and sought political asylum in Costa Rica.)

"This was no secret thing we were doing," Silva said. "I was working for the congressman at the time, (but) I wasn't representing him. I wasn't representing the government."

Silva said he had used vacation time to accompany Brashears to Central America and served as his interpreter in meetings with Pastora. "I spent a couple of weeks down there on my own time," Silva said. "I went right up to the battlefield in the jungles of Nicaragua. I told him (Pastora) I would inform the congressman of his conditions and the situation and we would do our best to get some of the funds that were going to be allotted by the government. . . ."

Silva said Brashears was raising money from private donors to aid Pastora's rebels. Brashears, who made the trip as a private citizen, had recently formed Freedom Fighters International in Orange County to provide financial support for Pastora.

Brashears publicly announced his fund-raising effort Jan. 22, 1986, upon his return from Nicaragua. He was raising money for arms, as well as humanitarian needs.

Brashears said in that same month that he personally had donated $10,000 in cash and equipment and raised another $17,500 in cash before meeting with Pastora.

"Brashears and I parted company when we got back," Silva said. "I don't think he continued in his efforts very much after that."

When asked in February of 1986 about Brashears' fund-raising efforts, spokesmen for the U.S. State and Justice departments said there was no legal prohibition on U.S. citizens contributing money to foreign military groups.

Times staff writer Karen Tumulty in Washington contributed to this report.

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