Although Oliver North's trial does not begin until Tuesday, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, told a national television audience Sunday that he feels North is not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing.
He also said as a guest on ABC's "This Week With David Brinkley" that a competent defense for North would have to include public discussion of sensitive national security secrets to show that his intents were not criminal.Hatch, who has access to secret documents from his work on intelligence, judiciary and Iran-Contra committees, said he feels North's actions to shred secret documents was done with the altruistic intent to preserve national security matters, not with criminal intent to deceive Congress.
"In the intelligence community, documents are destroyed every day to protect sources, names, methods, assets, foreign nations, foreign national leaders and other intelligence people," he said.
But a reporter asked, "Even on the eve of a national investigation?"
Hatch replied, "Oh, sure they are. And in this particular case Oliver North felt . . . at least I believe this is what he felt, that if he didn't destroy some of these documents, a lot of people who had risked their lives to help this country would be wiped out."
Hatch repeated his long-maintained arguments that North could not be prosecuted for many of the counts against him without revealing sensitive national security matters.
"Think about it. Oliver North has to explain what he was doing on that National Security Council. He has to explain what was happening and what was involved to defend himself.
"The only way he can do that, really is with the classified information. And if we get into that, I can explain to you some of the really serious problems that will arise from a classifed nature standpoint and from a disclosure of methods, means and other nature of intelligence gathering that would just knock your socks off."
He added, "I think it can be demonstrated with access to these documents that Oliver North believed he was acting for and on behalf of this prior administration carrying out its foreign policy."