Secretary of State George P. Shultz yesterday defended the retaliatory measures a State Department official took against New York Times correspondent Leslie Gelb for reporting U.S. contingency plans to deploy nuclear weapons in allied countries.
Shultz, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the article contained classified information and "did damage the interests of the United States." He added that Gelb, "when he wrote it, knew that he would" have such an effect. The article said that the United States has contingency plans to place nuclear weapons in Canada, Iceland, Bermuda and Puerto Rico.
After the article was published, the State Department's director of politico-military affairs, Lt. Gen. John Chain, barred his aides from having contact with Gelb. Chain also ordered that a picture of Gelb, a former head of the politico-military affairs bureau, be removed from its frame on the office's walls. Chain has since rescinded most of the steps taken against Gelb, but has not replaced the picture.
Shultz said, "I think that General Chain has done a tremendous service by calling attention to these problems." Shultz responded to suggestions that an apology to the reporter was in order by saying, "I'm not prepared to apologize to anybody."
In his first public statement about the Gelb affair, Shultz said that Gelb "published an article that he started on as a result of some things published in some other countries . . . . That article has done us a considerable amount of damage." Shultz said the subject had come up in a recent conversation he had with Iceland's foreign minister.
Information contained in the Gelb piece had already been published in part in Iceland, Britain, Bermuda and Canada. But Shultz suggested that "material that appears in other countries may come and go" but that the information had gained credibility by appearing in a "paper of recognized authority."
Referring to Gelb's State Department service, he said that "people who have held government office have a special responsibility." Then he added: "There are no standards of performance anymore. We need to get some standards back."