President Carter will send Congress a report on the abortive attempt to rescue the American hostages being held in Iran, White House press secretary Jody Powell said yesterday.
Powell said the report will be made public today or Monday and that it was being sent to Congress "because of [Carter's] desire to inform Congress and consistent with the War Powers Act."
However, the spokesman said his reference to the War Powers Act did not mean that the White House agreed with congressional critics who have charged that the president should have consulted with key members of Congress before approving the rescue mission.
The legislation requires presidents to provide Congress with timely reports about situations in which American military forces are put in danger of hostilities. The administration contends that the Iran mission was a humanitarian rescue attempt and that Carter was not required by the law to consult with Congress about it in advance.
The White House was quiet yesterday on the day after the disastrous end to the Iran mission. The president's only announced meeting was his regularly scheduled morning briefing by national security affairs adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Powell said the White House was aware of reports from Iran that the hostages had been scattered to several different locations, but had not confirmed those reports independently. He declined to speculate on how this may affect any possible future efforts to free them.
"In terms of their ultimate release, it's too early to tell," he said.
Powell added that even if the hostages are scattered "it is important to reiterate that we will continue to hold the government of Iran responsible for their safety."
Powell also said the administration is "aware of and welcomes statements from Iranian authorities" that the bodies of the eight American servicemen killed in the rescue operation will be returned. He said this continues to be pursued, but noted that a transfer of the bodies had not yet taken place.
In the aftermath of the operation, Powell said it remained Carter's judgment that the rescue try should have been made. The president, he said, "regrets deeply the loss of life and regrets that it was not successful and had to be terminated.
"However, I donht know of anyone who feels that based on the facts that it was an incorrect judgment" to make the attempt, Powell said.