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Reagan Knew Phone Hookup Wasn't Private

October 15, 1985|Associated Press

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE — President Reagan and Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger used an open radio telephone line last week to discuss plans to intercept the plane carrying four Palestinian hijackers and part of the conversation was picked up by a ham radio operator, White House spokesman Larry Speakes acknowledged today.

Speakes, aboard the presidential aircraft en route to Boise, Ida., was asked whether the overheard conversation had jeopardized the security of the top-secret operation.

At the time of the conversation Thursday afternoon, Reagan was flying back from Chicago aboard Air Force One. Weinberger, who had attended a meeting in Canada, was flying in a military plane to his vacation home in Bar Harbor, Me.

"They did talk," Speakes said, adding that Reagan did not use his aircraft's secure communications system and acknowledged that at least part of the conversation was picked up by an amateur radio operator.

Open Line Known

Speakes said that both men knew they were talking on an open, unsecure channel and added that it would be hypothetical to say whether the discussion could have threatened the integrity of the interception.

Asked if Weinberger had opposed the mission, as has been reported, Speakes said the defense secretary "presented all the options forcefully."

Another White House official, speaking on condition he not be identified, said the two planes had the equipment necessary to provide a coded communications line and allow for a secure conversation, but it would have taken time for operators to coordinate the two systems.

The brother of an amateur radio operator in Chicago called CBS News in New York to report that the ham operator had overheard comments between Reagan and Weinberger hours before the interception was made public.

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