May 7, 1989 – Oliver North Trial: Not A Pleasure Cruise. Space Shuttle Atlantis: Second Time; A Go. Exxon Valdes: The Gift That Keeps Giving.
May 7, 1989 – A week full of wonderment. Starting with the verdict in the Col. Oliver North trial. North was on trial for his participation in the Iran–Contra affair, a political scandal during the Reagan administration, in which he claimed partial responsibility for the sale of weapons through intermediaries to Iran, with the profits being channeled to the Contras in Nicaragua. It was alleged that he was responsible for the establishment of a covert network which subsequently funneled those funds to the Contras. Congress passed the Boland Amendment (to the House Appropriations Bill of 1982 and following years), which prohibited the appropriation of U.S. funds by intelligence agencies for the support of the Contras. The money was passed through a shell organization, the National Endowment for the Preservation of Liberty, to the Palmer National Bank of Washington, D.C., and then to the Contras.
In July 1987, North was summoned to testify before televised hearings of a joint congressional committee that was formed to investigate the Iran–Contra scandal. During the hearings, North admitted that he had lied to Congress previously, for which and other actions he was later charged. He defended his actions by stating that he believed in the goal of aiding the Contras, whom he saw as freedom fighters against the Sandinistas and said that he viewed the Iran–Contra scheme as a “neat idea.” North admitted shredding government documents related to these activities, at William Casey’s suggestion, when the Iran–Contra scandal became public. He also testified that Robert McFarlane had asked him to alter official records to delete references to direct assistance to the Contras and that he had helped.
North was tried in 1988. He was indicted on 16 felony counts, and on May 4, 1989, he was convicted of three: accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and ordering the destruction of documents through his secretary, Fawn Hall.
The Space Shuttle Atlantis finally blasted off, carrying with it the Magellan Space probe, the much anticipated project for taking close-up pictures of Venus, which were expected to take place fifteen months from launch. The Atlantis launch was on-again/off-again, and it was the five minute window, the result of a break in clouds, that got the Space Shuttle off the ground and on track to make history.
And the infamous Exxon Valdes oil spill, which did untold amounts of damage to the Alaskan coastline was back in the news. On this day, the state of Alaska officially rejected Exxon’s plans to clean up the oil, leaked by its tanker the previous March. The State indicated Exxon failed to consider the increased pollution of shorelines well beyond Prince William Sound, where the spill occurred. The result was the damage was considerably worse than first reported and no one was expected as much volume of oil as had been spilled. Officials said the efforts to clean up were workable, but it needed to go beyond the waters and well into the shoreline. The Captain of the Exxon Valdes was in Alaska to plead not guilty to charges.
And that’s just a small sample of what went on, this May 7, 1989 as reported by ABC World News This Week.