The Carter administration issued a pointed warning yesterday that it will not be dissuaded from its public campaign for human rights around the world by the harassment of individual dissidents in foreign countries.
Although not directed specifically at the Soviet Union, the warning came in response to questions about reports that treason charges are being prepared against Anatloy Scharansky, a Soviet dissident who was arrested in March after a newspaper accused him of working for the Central Intelligence Agency.
"It would be a fundamental misunderstanding to a assume the President can be forced by the actions of other governments form speaking out," White House press secretary Jody Powell said in response to questions.
Asked if the United States viewed the move against Scharansky as an attempt to silence President Carter on the human rights issue, Powell replied: "I would hope no one would have that goal in mind. It would be a sadly mistaken assumption."
Moreover, Powell added, Carter's determination to persue his human rights goals appears to be shared by dissidents in other countries who face the highest risk of harassment.
"People are involved in this because they see a good greater than individual freedom from retaliation," he said." . . . The issue has always been a higher good and a goal that goes beyond individuals."
While not addressing the Scharansky case specifically, Powell said the administration is "concerned about the apparent campaign against members of that group that is actively supporting the Helsinki accord."
This concern, he said, will be raised by the United States at a conference that begins June 15 in Belgrade to review the implementation of the 1975 Helsinki agreement, which includes a major section guaranteeing human rights.
Powell also noted that Scharansky is a member of the unofficial group that is monitoring Soviet compliance with the 35-nation Helsinki document on European security.
Earlier in the day, the State Department also expressed its concerned about Scharansky, whom it described as "well known and respected in the United States for his efforts in behalf of human rights."
"We've seen the stories and reports and are deeply concerned about what is reported to be happening," spokesman John Trattner told reporters.
Both Trattner and Powell said Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance raised the question of Scharansky's imprisonment with a senior Soviet official. Powell cited the Vance effort as an example of the administration's private efforts to advance the cause of human rights, which he said go hand-in-hand with the highly pyblicized public statements of the President and others.
Scharansky, 29, a Jewish computer specialist, was denied permission to emigrate to Israel in 1973. Since then, he has gradually emerged as one of the boldest and most articulate Soviet dissident activist.
He was arrested March 15 and now, according to members of his family, is being held for investigation under the treason statute, which carries a possible death penalty.
The allegatations against Scharansky were made in an article by a Jewish doctor in the government newspaper Izvestia. The article alleged that certain U.S. diplomats had enlisted Scharansky and others to collect secret information, suggesting a link to the CIA and the possible complicity of some American journalists in the Soveit Union.
Scharansky's arrest and the reports that he faces treason charges raised the possibility of a spectacular trial involving U.S. diplomats and possibly journalists. Such a trial would be viewed as a severe test of Carter's determination to press his human rights campaign - a determination, Powell emphasized yesterday, that the President does not intend to drop.
The White House also announced yesterday that Richard Pettigrew, 36, a former Florida state legislator and unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate, has been named assistant to the President for government reorganization. Pettigrew will serve as administrative officer of a committee, to be headed by Carter, that will oversee the administration's reorganization efforts.
The other members of the committee will be Vice President Mondale, Budget Director Bert Lance. Civil Service Commission Chairman Alan Campbell and Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Charles L. Schultze.