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Contra Panels Quiz Ex-CIA Officer in Secret

May 29, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The congressional Iran- contra committees questioned former CIA Costa Rica station chief Joe Fernandez in closely guarded secrecy today on his role in aiding Nicaraguan rebels during a two-year ban on U.S. government military assistance.

One committee member, Rep. Henry J. Hyde ( R-Ill.) said Fernandez generally confirmed testimony by former Ambassador Lewis A. Tambs on Thursday that officials in Washington ordered assistance for the contra rebels during the congressional ban. (Story, Page 12.)

Fernandez, referred to in previous testimony at the Iran-contra hearings under his alias of Tomas Castillo, was the CIA station chief in Costa Rica during the two-year congressional ban on U.S. military aid to the rebels.

Asked About Superior

Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Me.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the Senate Iran-contra panel, said Fernandez was asked "what his actions were, what his instructions were, who he reported to."

A transcript of Fernandez's testimony is to be made public after review by the Central Intelligence Agency, which can delete information it deems too sensitive. Committee aides said the transcript would not be available before late Saturday.

The hearings, which have been nationally broadcast, became a private affair for Fernandez after the CIA said his safety could be jeopardized if he appeared on TV.

'Clarifying Everything'

A committee member, Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), said Fernandez was "clarifying everything," including the role of the late CIA Director William J. Casey. But McCollum declined to say more.

Tambs testified Thursday that he worked with the CIA to open a southern military front for the contras in Nicaragua during the ban on aid to the rebels.

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