WASHINGTON — Bernard Kalb resigned today as chief spokesman for Secretary of State George P. Shultz in protest of the government's "disinformation" program directed at Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi.
In announcing his resignation at a State Department news conference, Kalb said his move was no reflection on Shultz, whom he called a "man of integrity."
"Rather I am dissenting from the reported 'disinformation' program," he said.
Reporters applauded Kalb, a former reporter, after he made his announcement.
His resignation comes on the eve of Shultz's departure for Iceland, where the secretary will be President Reagan's chief aide at the summit with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Kalb's deputy, Charles Redman, becomes acting spokesman and will accompany Shultz instead.
Kalb, 64, held the job for nearly two years after a long career with the New York Times, CBS and NBC. He said his choice was to remain at the department and "vanish into acquiescence" or to quit in protest.
'A Modest Dissent'
Kalb said that when he accepted the post, Shultz told him the guidelines involved "no lies, no misleading . . . to be as forthcoming as possible within security constraints."
"Now a controversy has swirled up about credibility," Kalb told reporters. "You face a choice . . . whether to be absorbed in the ranks of silence or voice a modest dissent."
Kalb said he was resigning because he was "worried about faith in America . . . American credibility . . . and on a much lower level, my own credibility."
"I do not want my own credibility to be caught up, to be subsumed, by this controversy, so I've taken the step of stepping down," he said.
Kalb repeatedly said he could provide no information on the existence of the "disinformation" campaign.
"My resignation does not endow me with sudden freedom," he said, indicating that he might be constrained by adherence to government secrecy rules.
Kalb said he had never been asked to lie on behalf of the Administration on the program.
The Washington Post revealed last week that Reagan on Aug. 14 approved a plan to generate a series of "real and illusionary events" to keep Kadafi nervous about his personal and political stability.
A short time later, a story appeared in the Wall Street Journal reporting that the United States and Libya were on a "collision course" and that the Administration was ready to respond should Libya begin a new campaign of terrorism.
At the time, White House spokesman Larry Speakes called the story unauthorized but "authoritative," even though intelligence officials in the Administration later said there was no evidence that Kadafi was about to rekindle terrorism.
Shultz, in a statement on Kalb's resignation, expressed his appreciation for Kalb's service but did not give any explanation for the decision.
Reagan, arriving in Atlanta for a political speaking engagement, declined to respond to a number of shouted inquiries about the Kalb resignation.
Speakes: No Comment
Speakes, asked about it by reporters aboard Air Force One, said, "I don't have any comment on B. Kalb."
When asked whether Kalb's service to the Administration was valued and appreciated, the spokesman said, "Kalb worked for Secretary Shultz."