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Oliver North Warned Us About Osama bin Laden in 1987

Netlore Archive: Email rumor claims a video clip of Oliver North's testimony in the Iran-Contra hearings of 1987 shows him warning Congress of the threat posed by terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Description: Email rumor
Circulating since: Oct. 2001
Status: False (see details below)

Email text contributed by Japheth C., Nov. 5, 2001:

Subject: We should have listened to Ollie

We should have listened to Ollie

You know, it's funny. I remember very vividly the Oliver North hearings, but did not recall the name of Osama bin Laden as the terrorist that North was threatened by. Has this slimeball been around that long? It's pretty evident, in hindsight that we should have listened to OLLIE!

In a lecture at UNC the other day where they played a video of Oliver North during the Iran-Contra deals during the Reagan administration. In this particular clip. There was Olie in front of God and Country getting the third degree. But what he said was stunning, as he was being drilled by some senator, who asked him;

'Did you not recently spend close to $60,000 for a home security system?'

Oliver replied, 'Yes I did sir.'

The senator continued, trying to get a laugh out of the audience, 'Isn't this just a little excessive?'

'No sir,' continued Oliver.

'No. And why not?'

'Because the life of my family and I were threatened.'

'Threatened? By who.'

'By a terrorist, sir.'

'Terrorist? What terrorist could possibly scare you that much?'

'His name is 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?'

'Because sir, he is the most evil person alive that I know of.'

'And what do you recommend we do about him?'

'If it were me I would recommend 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 they showed of the clip.

It's scary when you think 15 years ago the government was aware of Osama bin Laden and his potential threat to the security of the world. I guess like all great tyrants they start small but if left untended spread like the virus they truly are.

Analysis: Sorry, wrong terrorist.

When Colonel Oliver North defended his government-purchased home security system before a Congressional committee in 1987, he cited threats on his life from Palestinian terrorist Abu Nidal, not Osama bin Laden. The latter was busy fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan at the time. Bin Laden's fervent hatred of the U.S. is said by most sources to date from 1990, when the U.S. stationed troops in his home country of Saudi Arabia in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Oliver North himself disavowed this rumor in a statement released November 28, 2001.

Update: A later variant of this message circulating since December 2001 falsely names Al Gore as the senator who grilled Oliver North during his 1987 testimony. According to the U.S. Senate Web site, North was in fact questioned by committee counsel John Nields, not by a senator.

Update: A later variant circulating since September 2002 contains an additional paragraph claiming that 9/11 terrorist Muhammad Atta was freed from prison in 1993 in an agreement signed by then-President Bill Clinton. As I've noted elsewhere, this too is false.

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Sources and further reading:

Is It True that...
U.S. Senate Reference Desk

Oliver North Responds to Email Rumors
Creators Syndicate, 22 October 2004

Most Wanted Terrorist Flees to Iraq
The Guardian, 8 Jan 1999

Osama bin Laden Timeline
CNN.com, 2001

The 'Fall Guy' Strikes Back
Time Magazine, 20 July 1987

Last updated: 05/07/11

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