The White House responded sharply yesterday to Senate criticism that politics are behind an administration plan to declassify a document on an alleged "disinformation" campaign by the Nicaraguan government.
White House deputy spokesman Edward P. Djerejian said the charge by Sen. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.), chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, is "utterly untrue."
Djerejian said at the regular White House briefing yesterday that the State Department would "issue information regarding the Nicaraguan government's efforts aimed at influencing the American political process, including disinformation effort," probably on Monday.
But, he added, "We certainly will not -- emphasize not -- compromise sensitive sources and methods, as the senator's statement suggests."
Durenberger complained Thursday that the administration had done "damage to our sources and methods" with the "transparent political ploy" of promising to make the document public. He said the move was "clearly" part of the administration's campaign to win $100 million in military and economic aid for the counterrevolutionaries, or contras, fighting Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government.
Durenberger accused the White House of planning to use the document "to lobby Congress, to portray every senator and congressman who votes against lethal aid as a stooge of communism."
The document is allegedly a secret outline of a Nicaraguan campaign to defeat the U.S. aid through the use of news media and lobbying groups. Central Intelligence Agency Director William J. Casey reportedly showed the document to Republican congressional leaders earlier this week, and they pressed the White House to make parts of it public.
Djerejian said the White House had decided to release a desensitized version of the document "at the urging of members of Congress who were given the opportunity to review sensitive classified information." The names of individuals and organizations in the report will be withheld, other officials said, because of privacy laws.
President Reagan is expected to use the occasion of a major defense policy speech on Wednesday to send Congress his request for aid for the Nicaraguan rebels.