WASHINGTON — Despite vociferous opposition from conservative Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), the Senate on Wednesday approved the nomination of Richard R. Burt to serve as President Bush's chief arms control negotiator.
The 89-10 vote will permit Burt, 42, the former ambassador to West Germany, to represent the United States at the resumption of strategic arms limitation negotiations in Geneva on Monday. Helms had threatened to hold up the vote until after the talks reopened.
Even as late as two hours before the vote, Helms was still stalling the nomination, which cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on June 8.
Claims Security Violated
Helms argued forcefully against Burt's nomination on grounds that the nominee had a record of violating the security of classified information by sharing it with newspaper reporters and by being careless with government documents. He added he "would not vote to confirm my own brother" if he had such a record.
But Burt's many supporters in the Senate argued that the charges raised by Helms were either unsubstantiated or had been satisfactorily answered by Burt during his previous confirmation hearings before the Senate.
"None of the allegations that were made have ever risen to the level for us to even consider whether this man is a security risk," insisted Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.).
Before becoming ambassador to Germany in 1985, Burt served as director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs at the State Department and as assistant secretary of state for European and Canadian affairs. Helms opposed him for those positions as well.
Worked as Reporter
Helms said that Burt's casual attitude toward the security of government documents could probably be explained by the fact that he once was a newspaper reporter. From 1977 until 1980, Burt was a reporter for the New York Times in the paper's Washington, D.C., bureau.
Among other things, Helms charged that Burt had:
--As a journalist, published the details of the CHALET satellite intelligence collecting system in 1979.
--While serving in the Ronald Reagan Administration during the period between 1981 and 1983, maintained a social relationship with a female journalist for the New York Times who at least seven times wrote stories containing classified information available to Burt.
--As ambassador to Germany, disclosed in a television interview the U.S. capability to intercept and analyze terrorist communications coming from Libya.
--Also while ambassador, failed to adequately investigate the discovery of a film cartridge containing marijuana that was found in his Bonn residence.
In recent weeks, the office of State Department Inspector General Sherman M. Funk investigated these charges against Burt and ruled that there is nothing in his background that would prevent him from becoming chief arms control negotiator.
On the marijuana charge, which was the only new allegation raised by Helms, Funk concluded that "there is no evidence whatever that Burt possessed or used marijuana or any other controlled substance while employed by the Department of State."