The CIA inspector general's office has recommended disciplinary action against several employes involved in production of a controversial manual for U.S.-backed rebels in Nicaragua that advocated "selective use of violence" to "neutralize" political targets, sources familiar with the contents of the report said yesterday.
Sources said the report recommended "significant" disciplinary action against fewer than 10 CIA employes for their role in producing, approving and distributing the 90-page manual, including some middle-level CIA officials who reportedly approved distribution of the manual last fall without understanding its Spanish text.
The report was requested by President Reagan last month after the existence of the manual, "Psychological Operations and Guerrilla War," was disclosed and an uproar developed on Capitol Hill.
Congress funded the rebels with the assurance that they were operating simply to stop the flow of arms from the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua into neighboring El Salvador, and Congress cut off all funding for the covert war in October.
The administration has indicated that it will go back to Congress for further aid to the rebels next year.
Reagan said at a news conference after his reelection this week that the furor over the manual was "much ado about nothing."
The inspector general's report comes a day after Edgar Chamorro, a rebel leader, told House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staff members that the CIA knew of and fully supported the rebels' aim of overthrowing the Sandinistas.
But he said CIA officials coached the rebels to say publicly only that they were fighting to pressure the Sandinistas toward greater democracy, to avoid congressional disapproval of the program.
Chamorro said this was part of a congressional lobbying effort that included CIA briefings of rebels on the political background of members of Congress who visited the rebel's Honduras base.
This was to make sure the rebel leaders knew how to approach the lawmakers, he said.
Chamorro also told the staffers that the rebels, known as "contras," did not have a policy of assassination or "neutralization" but that there were cases where rebel commanders had ordered the execution of civilians or prisoners.
In an interview yesterday with The Washington Post, Chamorro said, "We never planned an operation to massacre civilians. That was a bad side-effect." He added, "Some of the commanders didn't like to have to carry prisoners along with them."
He added that his rebel organization, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force (FDN), the largest CIA-backed group, has taken action against several rebel commanders.
Chamorro said that when the CIA first helped organize FDN in late 1982, "we were always assured that this was a serious effort and we were going to overthrow the Sandinistas by July 1983 or the end of the year at the latest."
But, he said, CIA officials carefully coached the rebels that the "public message was stopping the arms, stopping the exporting of revolution, a Democratic Nicaragua."
He added that many rebel leaders objected to this public definition of their aims. "We felt we were not mercenaries or a border patrol or an A-team for the United States but fighters to liberate Nicaragua." Chamorro appeared before House Intelligence Committee staffers on Wednesday as part of an investigation into the guerrilla warfare manual.
Chamorro said he told the committee that the manual was designed to bring some sort of discipline to the disorderly, and often violent, rebel groups. He said he was asked to translate the manual by a CIA employe, known to him as John Kirkpatrick, but that sections encouraging rebels to hire professional criminals and to kill fellow rebels to create martyrs were included without his knowledge.
He said he was "shocked" to see those sections, and ripped them out of most copies of the manual before it was distributed. He said that all copies contained recommendations that violence be used to "neutralize" some targets.
Chamorro said that, at the time, he interpreted the word "neutralize" to mean make ineffective, not assassinate.
The inspector general's report on the manual was delivered to the House and Senate intelligence committees yesterday.