Witness Tells of Pinocchio Signal to North

From Reuters

A White House colleague of Oliver L. North testified today that he once chided North for deceiving Congress about secret Contra aid efforts and accused him of playing Pinocchio, the legendary lying puppet.

“I was trying to convey to Col. North that his answers were not entirely truthful,” witness Vincent Cannistraro said under cross-examination by the prosecution in North’s criminal Iran-Contra trial.

Cannistraro, a former CIA operative who worked with North at the National Security Council in 1985, testified about some NSC letters North helped to prepare in response to congressional inquiries about secret U.S. efforts to help the Contras.


Cannistraro said he found the replies so misleading that he looked at North and made a hand gesture indicating that his nose was growing longer--a common mischievous reference to the wooden boy of fable whose nose sprouted each time he lied.

The letters, written in the summer of 1985, were sparked by news reports alleging that North was funneling military aid and tactical advice to the Contras despite a congressional ban that had gone into effect in October, 1984.

‘Crossed the Line’

Although a full-scale effort to drum up outside aid to the rebels was in fact in progress under North’s direction, the letters signed by former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane but drafted in part by North denied any direct NSC effort to support the Contras.

Under questioning today by chief prosecutor John Keker, Cannistraro said that in 1986 he became worried that North had “crossed the line from objectivity (to) advocacy” of the Contra cause.

“I was concerned that Ollie had become consumed with his job as a reference point for the Contras,” Cannistraro said.

Cannistraro said that while North was brave and hard-working--claims that many other witnesses have also made--and while he himself considered North trustworthy, “There were occasions when we (at NSC) questioned the veracity of what he told us.”