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United States v. North

United States District Court for the District of Columbia
708 F. Supp. 375 (1988)


In 1981, President Reagan signed a measure authorizing the Central Intelligence Agency to support and conduct military operations against Cuban factions supporting the Sandinista in Nicaragua. In 1982, Congress began enacting statutes, called the Boland Amendments, aimed at limiting the assistance previously authorized by the president. On November 3, 1986, it was reported that the United States had secretly sold arms to Iran and that some of the proceeds from the sale had been redirected to the Contras fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua, as prohibited by the Boland Amendments. After the Iran-Contra Affair was exposed to the public, the Attorney General requested the appointment of an independent counsel to conduct an investigation. On March 16, 1988, a grand jury returned indictments against a number of officials, including National Security Officer Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, National Security Adviser John Poindexter, and two co-conspirators (defendants). North was charged with defrauding the United States government by allegedly conspiring to conceal the existence of profits and hiding information from Congress in relation to the conspirators’ support for the contras. The defendants challenged the validity of the indictments and the use of classified information in their trials, and moved to sever their trials. A judge agreed. North was tried first, and he moved for dismissal, arguing that the Boland Amendments were unconstitutional, because they endeavored to control how the president could make decisions and act in relation to foreign affairs. North contended that as a result, his actions did not interfere with lawful government function.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Gesell, J.)

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