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White House Says Reagan Was 'Fully Aware' of Lie Test Scope

December 25, 1985|United Press International

WASHINGTON — A White House spokesman insisted Tuesday that President Reagan was "fully aware" of the scope of an order he signed requiring lie detector tests for thousands of government workers who see secret documents.

The Washington Post, citing unidentified Administration officials, reported that the President had privately admitted he did not completely understand the ramifications of the directive he signed secretly Nov. 1 to tighten protection of classified information.

After the order, known as National Security Directive 196, was disclosed by the Los Angeles Times on Dec. 11, Secretary of State George P. Shultz threatened to quit if ordered to submit to a polygraph test. Reagan revised the order last Friday to give individual departments wide discretion in using the tests.

White House spokesman Larry Speakes denied the Post report, saying: "The President was fully aware, fully briefed.

"The story is wrong," he said. "The President knew about it."

The order made all government employees who had access to classified information--including Cabinet members--liable to polygraph tests.

Speakes acknowledged that in addition to Shultz's public protests, both Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III, who earlier served as White House chief of staff, and White House counsel Fred F. Fielding had spoken out in the past against a policy of requiring polygraph tests.

The Post said its sources reported that Fielding was not informed of the directive's polygraph provisions at the time of its signing, and he had strongly urged that it be amended after it became public.

Further, it said that Baker, a member of the National Security Council, was absent from a key meeting on the directive because he was busy with work on a major tax overhaul bill.

Other officials, the Post reported, said privately that they did not believe the order had been thoroughly reviewed by White House staff for legal and political implications in light of questions in Congress and the courts concerning polygraphs.

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