A House subcommittee, trying to determine whether CIA Director William J. Casey played a role in obtaining 1980 briefing documents from the Carter White House, plans to interview a witness who says he discussed the subject with Casey last week.
The subcommittee wants to question Paul Corbin, a one-time aide to Robert F. Kennedy. Corbin campaigned for Ronald Reagan in 1980, and said he provided research material to Casey and others in Reagan's campaign organization.
According to the Associated Press, Casey told The New York Times yesterday that he wouldn't have touched the briefing papers "with a 10-foot pole." Casey said White House chief of staff James A. Baker III had been "remiss" in not telling his superiors in the Reagan campaign about the use of the documents so that the risks of a possible "setup" could be assessed.
Casey told The Times that if the opposition had learned that the Reagan camp had the papers, "it could have destroyed the campaign."
He said in the interview that he was not contradicting Baker's assertion that Casey had given him Carter debate materials. Casey said he might have passed on some papers without studying them.
The House panel, chaired by Rep. Donald J. Albosta (D-Mich.), is responding to published reports that Casey called Corbin last week and asked what kind of documents Corbin had given him during the campaign.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Corbin said Casey called him while Corbin was vacationing in Aruba and said he wanted to clear up rumors about what material Casey had received during the campaign.
"He said he heard I had given him something" during the campaign, Corbin said. "I said, 'I've given you nothing' " except a copy of a speech written by former Kennedy aide Adam Walinsky.
Walinsky said yesterday that Corbin asked him for copies of his statements on crime and other subjects in September or October, 1980, and that Corbin "said he would try to give it to Casey and Baker . . . . He apparently gave it to them at the time they were putting together their briefing book for the debate."
Casey was then Reagan's campaign manager, and Baker, now White House chief of staff, was coordinating preparations for the debate between Reagan and President Carter on Oct. 28, 1980. The debate was an important event in the campaign. Casey's recollections are significant because Baker has recalled receiving the Carter camp's briefing documents from Casey, while Casey has said he has no recollection of seeing the material or giving it to anyone.
The Post Office and Civil Service subcommittee on human resources also plans to interview former national security affairs adviser Richard V. Allen this week. The subcommittee staff wants to ask Allen about his confirmation in a television interview of a Washington Post report that he received excerpts from Carter's National Security Council staff reports during the 1980 campaign.
Allen called the excerpts "innocuous." He said the material came to him "totally unsolicited," and that he would identify the source only to the appropriate authorities.
The Albosta panel is particularly interested in learning Allen's source for the NSC excerpts because of possible links to the preparation of Carter's briefing papers for the debate. David Aaron, who was deputy director of Carter's National Security Council, supervised the preparation by two Senate staffers of the Carter debate briefing materials on foreign policy.
Congressional sources said the panel also wants to learn whether the NSC documents contained classified data and whether Allen's source provided him with other Carter campaign materials.
The issue also surfaced yesterday in the competition for the 1984 Democratic presidential nomination. Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) said he had turned down an offer of secret campaign materials from the camp of a competing candidate.
"We've already had some materials volunteered out of one of the other camps," Glenn told reporters in Clear Lake, Iowa. "We declined to accept it, and I put out word to all my people that we would not accept any material from any other camp . . . . Nor are we putting any moles in anyone else's campaign, nor are we accepting any purloined material from anyone else . . . . "
Glenn called on President Reagan to resolve the controversy over the Carter briefing papers quickly, saying that "it reflects very badly and unfairly on everyone else who is on the political scene."