A presidential commission on the U.S. Information Agency said yesterday that controversies over Director Charles Z. Wick's recording of telephone conversations and the "blacklisting" of potential USIA speakers were the result "not of malicious intent" but of "energy, dedication and commitment" in accomplishing the agency's mission.
The U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy, addressing the heavy criticism of Wick and the USIA last year, agreed in its 1985 annual report that "blacklists are wrong" and said that Wick's unauthorized taping of calls "clearly was wrong and not a wise choice of managerial tools." But it added:
"Vigorous debate among public diplomacy professionals on methods and priorities is not new, and in the commission's view it is a sign of a healthy organization. We are convinced that recent headquarters controversies at USIA are a result, not of malicious intent, but of the energy, dedication and commitment both career and noncareer officers bring to accomplishing the agency's mission."
"Four years ago, this commission was gravely concerned about the prospects for public diplomacy," the report said. "Today there are many reasons why this bleak outlook is changing . . . . The Reagan administration has revitalized USIA and, under the creative leadership of Charles Z. Wick, made public diplomacy a central part of the conduct of American foreign policy."
The strong support for Wick, one of the most controversial of President Reagan's agency heads, comes from a presidentially appointed commission whose members theoretically represent both Republican and Democratic views. However, under Reagan, appointments to the commission have been tilted heavily toward those who share the president's belief in a tough attitude against communist activities in the information and cultural fields.
The commission chairman is Edwin J. Feulner Jr., chairman of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has provided intellectual rationale for many of Reagan's programs. The vice chairman is e. robert (bob) wallach, a lawyer who represented attorney general-designate Edwin Meese III during an investigation by an independent counsel last year of whether Meese was involved in conflicts of interest.
Other members include Priscilla Buckley, managing editor of the conservative political journal National Review; Richard Mellon Scaife, a publisher prominently associated with conservative causes, and Herbert Schmertz, who as public affairs vice president of the Mobil Corp. has directed the company's vigorous responses to what it regards as bias in the news media.
Among the report's recommendations was a call for the USIA to combat "semantic corruption." It defines the term as "systematic distortion by the communists of the meaning of certain words" -- such as "peace," "democratic," "liberation" and "people" -- as a way to disguise or confuse "the real nature of movements and regimes under communist control."
A USIA spokesman said that, at the commission's suggestion, a classified telegram was sent to all of the agency's overseas posts "instructing them to be alert to the problem." The spokesman said the overseas posts also had been given copies of the book "A Lexicon of Marxist-Leninist Semantics" to help increase their awareness of the problem.
The lexicon is published by Western Goals, an Alexandria organization.