Attorney General Griffin B. Bell said yesterday that he plans to notify members of Congress who have been cleared in the South Korean influence-buying investigation on the basis of testimony from accused Korean agent Tongsun Park.
In an interview during a flight to Atlanta, Bell said the Justice Department would analyze the lie-detector-backed statements of Park in Seoul and then privately inform those members cleared that they would not be prosecuted.
But a member of the House investigating committee, who sat in on Park's questioning, said last night that there were "inconsistencies" between some of the Korean's statements and some House committee evidence that should be checked before such action is taken.
"I think it would be prudent for the Justice Department to review certain parts of his testimony with us before reaching any final conclusions," Rep. Bruce F. Caputo (R-N.Y.), said in a telephone interview from his New York office.
Caputo said he did not mean to imply that Park was lying. "I believe that most of what he said was the truth as best he could recall it," he said. "But some of the things he said seemed inconsistent with my understanding of the committee evidence."
He said he would suggest ways the continuing Justice Department interrogation in Seoul could check the inconsistencies.
The practice of notifying persons who have been under investigation that indictments will not be sought is not unusual.
But Bell's statement yesterday seemed to underline the sensitivity with which the Carter administration views the investigation of Korean influence-buying in Congress during this election year.
The Justice Department and congressional investigations have been referred to at times - usually by Republican politicians - as the Democratic Watergate, because most of the allegations have been about Democratic members.
Bell noted during the interview that President Carter asked him yesterday when the Korean investigations would be wrapped up.
Peter A. White, deputy special counsel for the parallel House investigation, said yesterday, however, that "from our standpoint, any clearing of names would be premature "because House investigators had not talked to accused Korean agent Tongsun Park or several other key witnesses.
"The Justice Department can do what it likes," White added."We are not yet in a position to say our investigation is complete and we can exculpate anyone."
Bell made the comments as his top adviser on criminal investigations, Assistant Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti, was returning to Washington after questioning Park about alleged payments to members of Congress.
Civiletti said yesterday before leaving Seoul that no indictments of current members of Congress are likely.
In a telephone interview Friday from Seoul though he declined to say whether Park's testimony had cleared any members "We're [prosecutors] in the business of issuing charges, not green passes We're not the board of health," he said.
In suggesting yesterday that no prosecutions of sitting members are likely Civiletti observed that most of Park's activities in Washington took place between four and 10 years ago.
That seemed to indicate that some potential criminal violations had occurred more than five years ago and thus were beyond the statute of limitations for indicatable offenses.
There have been reports from Seoul that Park described payments totaling more then $750,000 to several former members of Congress.
Civiletti said there were a "handful" of potential cases that could be developed from Park's testimony against former members. "It is important to have those cases brought, and it appears that his testimony is essential for those cases," he said.
Bell's comments during the flight seemed to indicate that the Justice Department's investigation will end with the analysis of Park's testimony. He said that cases on individuals where questions still remained would be referred to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which is conducting the parallel investigation.
House investigators have made it clear that they are seeking evidence from several Korean diplomats as well as from Park.