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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Warned About bin Laden?

Q: Did Oliver North warn Al Gore about Osama bin Laden at Senate hearings in 1987?

A: This ridiculous hoax has been circulating since 2001, even though the secretary of the U.S. Senate and North himself have debunked it.


To the editor, I’ve gotten this e-mail more than once. Is it true?

Do you remember 1987……..

Thought you  might be interested in this forgotten bit of  information………

It was 1987! At a lecture the other day they were playing an old news video of Lt. Col. Oliver North testifying at the Iran-Co ntra hearings during the Reagan Administration.

There was Ollie in front of God and country getting the third degree, but what he said was stunning!

He was being drilled by a senator; ‘Did you not recently spend close to $60,000 for a home security system?’

Ollie replied, ‘Yes, I did, Sir.’

The senator continued, trying to get a laugh out of the audience,
‘Isn’t that just a little excessive?’

‘No, sir,’ continued Ollie.

‘No? And why not?’ the senator asked.

‘Because the lives of my family and I were threatened, sir.’

‘Threatened? By whom?’ the senator questioned.

‘By a terrorist, sir’ Ollie answered.

‘Terrorist? What terrorist could possibly scare you that much?’

‘His name is Osama bin Laden, sir’ Ollie replied.

At this point the senator tried to repeat the name, but couldn’t pronounce it, which most people back then probably couldn’t. A couple of people laughed at the attempt. Then the senator continued.

‘Why are you so afraid of this man?’ the senator asked.

‘Because, sir, he is the most  evil person alive that I know of ‘
Ollie answered..

‘And what do you recommend we do about him?’ asked the senator.

‘Well, sir, if it was up to me, I would recommend that an assassin team be formed to eliminate him and his men from the face of the earth.’

The senator disagreed with this approach. And, that was all that was shown of the clip.

By the way, that senator was Al Gore..

. . .

This has not been broken since 9/11/01, please  keep it going…
This has been kept alive and moving since 9/11. In memory of
all those who perished this morning; th e passengers and the pilots on the
United Air and AA flights, the workers in the World Trade Center and the
Pentagon, and all the innocent bystanders. Our prayers go out to the friends and families of the deceased.

Send this to at least 10 people to show your support



The durability of this falsehood is remarkable. North himself debunked it publicly more than seven years ago, and it has been proven false again and again. Yet gullible people keep it going year after year.

North is a former Reagan White House national security aide and longtime conservative celebrity. The claim that he warned a congressional committee about bin Laden in 1987 is false on several counts.

It isn’t historically plausible, for one thing. Bin Laden didn’t form al Qaeda until the year following North’s testimony. In 1987 bin Laden was still fighting Soviet troops occupying Afghanistan, with the support of the United States. 

Furthermore, then-Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee was not even a member of the congressional panel that grilled North during those 1987 televised hearings into the Iran-Contra affair. The full membership of the Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition is listed on page V of the final report, and Gore is not among them.

It’s true that North defended having the security system installed at his home by saying his life had been threatened – but not by bin Laden. The U.S. secretary of the Senate summed it up in this item posted years ago in the "reference desk" section of the Senate’s official Web site:

Is it true that . . . Oliver North said during the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings that Osama bin Laden had threatened his life?

The answer is no. This Internet hoax says that under questioning from an unidentified senator, Col. Oliver North said he had a home security system installed because a terrorist had threatened him and his family. When asked who this terrorist was, Col. North said it was Osama bin Laden.

The facts: Oliver North testified about a home security system during a July 7, 1987 joint Senate-House hearing on the Iran-Contra investigation. The questioner was not a senator, but committee counsel John Nields. Col. North testified the security system was installed because threats were made on his life by terrorist Abu Nidal.

That North named Abu Nidal is documented by excerpts from the official transcript of North’s testimony, which took place over four days starting July 7 and ending July 10, 1987. 

Cover page of North's Iran-Contra testimony

On page 129 we find the following exchange between North and the committee’s chief counsel, John Nields (we have highlighted the most pertinent portion):

Excerpt of North's testimony in which he discusses Abu Nidal's threats on his life

North himself denied the false claim in this e-mail in a memo dated Nov. 28, 2001, not long after it first began to circulate. His response appeared for years on North’s own Web site, and it can still be seen online in copies of the site preserved for historical purposes by The Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Among other things, North notes that he named Nidal, not bin Laden, and that "I never said I was afraid of anybody."

-Brooks Jackson


Hamilton, Lee and Daniel Inouye. "Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran/Contra Affair."  DIANE Publishing, 1995.

Select Committees on the Iran-Contra Investigations. "Testimony of Oliver L. North." Transcript. GPO, 1988.