Attorney General Griffin B. Bell said yesterday he knows of no material in U.S. government files that would implicate Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos in illegal drug dealings.
But Bell did say he has seen material in Drug Enforcement Administration files that would "involve" or "reflect upon" members of Torrijos' family.
Bell, interviewed on "Issues and Answers" (ABC, WJLA), said that "a lot of" the evidence is hearsay. Pressed on whether there was any "hard proof" in the files, he said, "I don't know. I am not going to say any more about it because I would have to tell you everything I know about it and if I did that the Senate could abandon the idea of having the session they are going to have."
The Senate, which is debating the Panama Canal treaties, has agreed to hold a secret session Feb. 21 to examine allegations that Torrijos or members of his family have been involved in narcotics smuggling.
The move is in response to pressure by Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who said he has received DEA files implicating Torrijos' relatives in drug trafficking.
Asked about the files Dole mentioned, Bell said, "I think I have seen them. . .If there is something else it is beyond me; I don't know about it. But I can say this in response to what Sen. Dole may have said. He and I probably have seen the same things. He might draw a different conclusion from it."
Bell said of the material about Torrijos' relatives, "I am not going to agree to the word 'implicate'. . .I would use 'reflect upon' or 'involve.'"
He added: "I shouldn't say any more about it. I think we better let the constitutional processes work their way."
On other matters, Bell said the controversy over the dismissal of Republican U.S. Attorney David W. Marston in Philadelphia "was staged, completely stages. . .a good event for the media."
"I am sure the media enjoyed it for the last two or three weeks," Bell said. "But I could have prevented it from being a media event if I had gone to Philadelphia and told Martson "that I was going to replace him," Bell said.
But Bell said he decided against taking that direct action because he wanted to have time to find out what cases Marston "had no hand" and because he wanted to have a smooth transition between Marston and his successor.
The attorney general repeated that Sam Dash, who was chief counsel to the Senate Watergate committe, is his first choice to succeed Marston.
Bell also was critical of the earlier handling of the investigation of illegal activities by the FBI. "Nobody had ever gone to the higher levels" of earlier administrations. "I am doing that," he said.
He criticized the case against John J. Kearney, a former FBI supervisor in New York charged with wiretapping, obstruction of mail and other felonies.
"I think the judge paid the proper respect to the case when he threw out two counts last week, said it had not been properly investigated. I think that is a fair assessment. I have 10 lawyers working on the case now and we will have it under control, I hope, by March 1," Bell said.