Oliver L. North was the target of a potential assassination plot that involved one of eight men charged with illegal pro-Libyan activities in the United States, an administration source says.
The man, Mousa Hawamda, is a naturalized American who was identified Wednesday at an arraignment hearing for six of those arrested in the alleged scheme, which prosecutors said involved diversion of Libyan funds to support anti-American activities.Hawamda was described as a Libyan intelligence operative who operates under the guise of a Washington travel agency owner.
U.S. Attorney Henry Hudson said that based on information received by the FBI, Hawamda "was involved in a potential plot to assassinate a high government official of the United States." Hudson did not identify the official or give any other details.
But another official, speaking on condition he not be identified, said the target was North, a former National Security Council aide and a major player in the Iran-Contra arms and money scandal.
North, who was fired from his NSC post in November 1986 over allegations that he illegally funneled money to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua, masterminded counterterrorism operations against Libya, including the April 1986 aerial bombing of Tripoli.
During the congressional hearings on the Iran-Contra affair, North said threats against his life had prompted him to install a security fence around his home.
The eight who were arrested Wednesday by the FBI were brought before judges and ordered held without bail pending detention hearings later this week. Six of the men appeared before a U.S. magistrate in nearby Alexandria, Va., and were then led out with their hands and legs shackled; another one was being held in Detroit; the eighth was picked up in Denver.
Hudson said defendant Saleh Mohamed Guima Al-Rajhi, 32, had given the Libyan government a list of U.S. officials who may have been involved in the 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya. The prosecutor said this was done for the purpose of retaliation by Libya.
"This is a rare case, a sensitive case involving national security," Hudson told the magistrate. He said the prosecution had obtained much of the information leading to the arrests from informants whose lives were in danger.
"Our intention is to try and protect them as long as possible," Hudson said.
Six of the eight arrested were described as members of the People's Committee for Libyan Students, based in McLean, Va. The other two were the owner of the Manara Travel Agency and an agent for the company, according to the FBI.
All were charged with violating a license allowing the student organization to provide financial support for Libyan students in the United State and Canada.
The prosecution alleged that the organization diverted funds to pay for some 200 Americans, among them Black Muslims and Indians, to travel to Libya for anti-American demonstrations.
The violations carry a possible penalty of five years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine.
Travel to Libya is prohibited by U.S. sanctions imposed on that country in 1981 and 1986 because of its alleged involvement in international terrorism.