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Dissenters Call Account of Scandal Unfair and Opinionated : Iran Panels OK Report; Urge Civilian Security Adviser

November 06, 1987|KAREN TUMULTY | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Congress' Iran-Contra committees voted Thursday to recommend against allowing an active military officer to serve as the President's national security adviser, even as President Reagan announced the appointment of Lt. Gen. Colin Powell to that sensitive post.

The House and Senate committees included the recommendation in their still-secret final report on the scandal, which they both approved Thursday. The House committee voted 9 to 6, strictly along party lines, and the count in the Senate committee was 9 to 2, with three of the five Republicans siding with the Democratic majority.

Dissenting House Republicans charged that the committees' account of the scandal, which is expected to be made public Nov. 17, is unfair and opinionated.

"It's wonderful reading if you like hyperbole and exaggeration," complained Rep. Jim Courter (R-N.J.). "It's filled with words like 'lies,' 'arrogance,' 'secrecy.' "

House GOP to Issue Report

House Republicans plan to issue their own minority report.

But Sen. Paul S. Trible Jr. (R-Va.), one of the three Senate Republicans who voted for the report, said that he found the document to be "all in all, balanced and fair. . . . The recommendations are reasonable ones that ought to be considered by both houses of Congress."

Although committee members closely guarded the contents of the report, which is estimated to be about 600 pages long, some of them sketched out the document's basic outlines.

The recommendation against allowing a military officer to serve as head of the National Security Council staff clearly reflected the committees' dissatisfaction with Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter, who told the committees that as national security adviser early in 1986, he approved the diversion of Iran arms sale profits to the Nicaraguan Contras.

'Will Have Two Masters'

"This is in no way denigrating the qualities and qualifications" of Gen. Powell, said Sen. Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Senate investigating committee. But, he warned that Powell, like Poindexter, inevitably "will have two masters. He can't quite disregard his superiors" in the Army.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said that no Administration officials have suggested that Powell, considered by some to be in line to eventually become the first black Army chief of staff, should resign his military commission.

The national security adviser often must sort out competing arguments of the Defense Department, State Department and CIA in making recommendations to the President.

Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had made the same recommendation in closed testimony to the panels last June. He expressed concern that a national security adviser who is also a military officer might supplant the chairman of the joint chiefs.

Cites Withheld Information

"I think if you want a military bias . . . you should go to the chairman (of the Joint Chiefs), not to the (national security) adviser," Crowe said in testimony made public last month. He complained that Poindexter had withheld important information about the Iran arms sales from the joint chiefs.

Although several committee sources said that the report will contain few surprises, one staff member said it will reveal details that add "a lot of depth and a lot of texture" to the picture that emerged from the hearings.

Courter said the report puts a dark interpretation on inconsistencies in Reagan's early statements as the scandal grew last November.

It also includes a number of recommendations for shifting the balance of power in foreign policy- making from the White House to Capitol Hill, "making it more difficult for the Administration to act spontaneously when there are problems in different parts of the world," Courter said.

Sources said that the report calls for new and stiffer requirements that the White House notify Congress of covert activities. Current law requires "timely notification" but does not offer a precise definition.

Discusses CIA Role

The committees are also said to have agreed with Secretary of State George P. Shultz and others who urged that the CIA focus on supplying intelligence data rather than making foreign policy.

Inouye noted that the committees were unable to compile a complete report of the events surrounding the scandal because hundreds of documents--possibly crucial evidence--were shredded by the central figure in the affair, Oliver L. North, the Marine lieutenant colonel who was fired from Poindexter's White House staff.

He added that the committees also never heard the account of William J. Casey, the late CIA director, whom North and others said was a major force behind the arms sales and the subsequent diversion of profits to the Contras.

In an indication of the friction being generated by the report, Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N. C.) put forward a resolution Thursday recommending that none of the witnesses who appeared before the panels be indicted unless they were accused of perjury or making illegal profits from the deals. However, the Senate set that motion aside on a 91-4 vote.

Many members of both committees have indicated that they plan to add their individual views to the report. One of them, Rep. Bill McCollum (R-Fla.), said he will note that the investigation taught a single central lesson: "In a democracy, secret operations are often necessary, but secret policies never work."

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