Recommendations on whether to take legal action against former attorney general Ramsey Clark for traveling to Iran last June have reached the office of Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti, but it will take him 60 days -- until well after the November election to make up his mind.
Civiletti declined to tell reporters at a news conference Thursday what the recommendations are. Sources said the Justice Department's criminal division has concluded that criminal peoceedings against Clark are not warranted, but it could not be learned what the civil division concluded.
A top Civiletti aide said later that the decision-making process is complicated because the analysis totals 100 pages and there are conflicts within the department on some of the legal issues. One complication is that some persons were allowed to travel to Iran despite a presidential ban on travel to that country, he added.
Clark's trip to Iran last June in defiance of the ban created considerable controversy because he took part in a conference on U.S. "crimes" against Iran. He said his participation was an effort to free the American hostages in Tehran, but President Carter said it was his inclination to prosecute Clark.
Civil libertarians immediately criticized Carter's statement as interference in Justice Department deliberations and as a threat to a citizen's right to travel freely. Civiletti said the case would be considered on "regular litigation standards."
State Department officials privately have expressed concern that any action against Clark might harm continued efforts to free the hostages. So they are likely to be pleased with continued delay.
Republican politicians, on the other hand, were vocal in their opinion last June that Clark should be prosecuted. Thus any decision not to take legal action against Clark, if announced before the election, might be seized upon by Ronald Reagan as a campaign issue.
Civiletti also had these comments at the news conference:
He said he couldn't quarrel with the senators in the Billy Carter foreign agent investigation who disagreed with his decision to withhold intelligence reports from subordinates and discuss the case with the president.
An internal investigation of leaks in the FBI's controversial Abscam investigation has been completed and is being reviewed by FBI Director William H. Webster and Deputy Attorney General Charles B. Renfrew. Civiletti said he didn't know if any department employes would be disciplined. c