A former colleague of Oliver North testified Tuesday that responses North was preparing for House members on Contra assistance did not appear to be accurate.
Vincent Cannistraro recounted for the jury in North's U.S. District Court trial a conversation in September 1985 in which North shared some of the responses he was preparing for House members asking about reports he was assisting the Nicaraguan rebels."He showed you some of his answers?" asked prosecutor John Keker.
"I asked him if they were accurate and they did not appear to be so," responded Cannistraro, who worked with North at the National Securiy Council.
Recalling Cannistraro's previously secret testimony before a federal grand jury, Keker asked, "Did you do anything?" after seeing the responses.
When Cannistraro balked, Keker put his hand to his nose and then stretched out his arm in a gesture reminiscent of the tale of Pinocchio, a puppet whose nose grew longer when he lied.
"Not that long," responded Cannistraro, as the courtroom erupted in laughter.
North is accused of lying to Congress in 1985 by allegedly preparing letters signed by then-national security adviser Robert McFarlane denying the NSC staff was assisting the Contras. The denials came amid a two-year congressional ban on military aid to the rebel force.
Cannistraro recalled a comment by a CIA official, "that whatever Ollie was doing he was bound to get us all in a lot of trouble and he wanted to stay far away from him."
"Was Colonel North considered a trustworthy person" by his colleagues at the NSC?, asked Keker.
"I had considered Colonel North a trustworthy person, but there were occasions" when there were questions "about some of the things he told us," Cannistraro said.
Keker also revealed that Cannistraro made no mention in his 1987 grand jury appearance of his assertion Monday that CIA Director William Casey said President Reagan had designated North as the man who would assist the Contras.
Cannistraro defended the omission by saying he wasn't asked about it.
"Mr. Casey said he had discussed this with the president of the United States . . . and this was how it should be handled," Cannistraro testified.
Cannistraro, one of the first witnesses called by North, is the first to state outright that Reagan had chosen North to work for the Contras.