NRA President Oliver North Was Convicted In Iran-Contra Affair — Later Overturned — Nearly 30 Years Ago

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Oliver North’s name returned to the news in recent days, amidst reports that he will not be seeking reelection as the president of the National Rifle Association upon the completion of his first term, per The Inquisitr. The retired United States Marine Corps lieutenant colonel has garnered attention as a best-selling author — and as the host of several radio and television shows — but his career may always be defined by a political scandal from 30 years ago, the Iran-Contra affair, which rocked the Ronald Reagan administration.

North became the face of the scandal — and was eventually convicted on three counts of accepting a gratuity, aiding in the obstruction of Congress, and destroying documents, according to records from Brown University. This resulted in a suspended 3-year prison term, 2 years probation, $150,000 in fines, and 1,200 hours of community service. This conviction was later reversed, and all charges were dismissed.

The Iran-Contra affair arose from American foreign policy during the Cold War and the Reagan administration’s all-out attack on the spread of communism in the United States’ “backyard.” This meant that even political upheavals in the small Central American nation of Nicaragua became a proxy battle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union — and the competing ideologies represented by these two superpowers. Nicaragua was lead by the Marxist-oriented Sandinistas, with the U.S. military funneling money and weapons to the rebel “Contras” that sought to overthrow them. Congress eventually passed the Boland Amendment, banning this support due to allegations that the Contras were involved with death squads and drug smuggling, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

The National Security Council (NSC), of which North was a member, allegedly sought a way around this block by taking advantage of a situation across the globe.

In 1985, the NSC had previously sold antitank and antiaircraft missiles to Iran, a nation that the American administration believed to be a sponsor of international terrorism. This sale occurred despite a contemporary trade embargo against Iran, and was allegedly conducted in the hopes that it would lead to the release of American hostages in Lebanon. While the hostage crisis didn’t reach its conclusion until 1992, the NSC continued with these sales through 1986, making $48 million from the Iranian government. A portion of these profits was funneled to the Contras, partially managed via money transfers purportedly set up by North.

When the actions of the NSC reached public consciousness in 1986, there was a massive backlash against the Reagan administration — an administration that was forced to acknowledge their role in funding the Contras. While North accused President Ronald Reagan and Vice-President George H.W. Bush of being aware of the operation, both denied having any relevant knowledge. North was eventually convicted, and was forced to resign from his role. The reputation of the United States as an opponent of terrorism was also severely damaged at the time.

However, in 1990, North’s convictions were reversed after an appeal. The appeal raised the question that his trial “might have been impermissibly affected by his immunized congressional testimony,” according to records from the Federation of American Scientists. By 1991, all of the charges against North had been dismissed, clearing the way for the career he has enjoyed since.