Convicted of serious crimes by a jury, Oliver North owes his freedom today to an appellate court's rigorously applying what conservatives used to call "technicalities" to free criminals. That's fine, but North's defenders should be aware that this case has significantly extended the protections of the Fifth Amendment -- the right against self-incrimination -- not just for North but for any similarly situated defendants in the future.
One of the oddest aspects of the whole Iran-contra investigation and prosecution has been the incessant yammering of the Wall Street Journal about the high cost of prosecuting North and his fellow conspirators in their plot to subvert the United States government. As predictably as the rise of the sun yesterday, the Journal moaned that the investigation by special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh has now surpassed $100 million.
Odder still, toward the end of its editorial, the Journal notes that -- the Walsh prosecutions cost "probably a hundred times the costs of prosecuting a Manuel Noriega . . ."