Vice President Bush, making public the report of a Cabinet-level task force on terrorism, said yesterday that "we haven't been able to solve" disagreements within the administration on use of military force in retaliation for terrorist attacks.
Even though President Reagan in 1981 vowed "swift and effective retribution" against terrorists, he has endorsed a more limited approach described in the report.
Bush, who chaired the task force, cited a consensus for "retaliation where it could be surgically done," but said there is no support for "wanton destruction of human life in order to show some muscle . . . . "
Describing the use of military force in terrorist attacks as "risky," the report says "our principles of justice will not permit random retaliation against groups or countries."
But it also calls for unspecified action "when perpetrators of terrorism can be identified and located" and says "a successful deterrent strategy may require judicious employment of military force to resolve an incident."
Secretary of State George P. Shultz has advocated a firmer administration antiterrorism policy, saying the United States "cannot wait for absolute certainty and clarity" before using force against terrorism.
Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and others in the Pentagon have urged caution in using military force, criticizing those who seek "instant gratification from some kind of bombing attack without being too worried about the details." Both secretaries served on the panel.
Yesterday, Bush acknowledged that "there isn't any simple answer" to the disagreement, one of the most profound of Reagan's presidency. "We haven't been able to solve that problem, and I wish we could have," he said.
These divisions have often paralyzed the administration after a terrorist attack and resulted in charges that Reagan's rhetoric is stronger than his actions.
Task force executive director James L. Holloway III, a retired Navy admiral and former chief of naval operations, said the panel's solution to the internal disagreements is to "have one spokesman, one theme, for all those people in government who are commenting" on a terrorist incident.
The declassified version of the report published yesterday says that U.S. policy is to resist terrorism by "all legal means available" and that the United States "will make no concessions to terrorists." However, the document says U.S. policy is to "talk to anyone and use every available resource to gain the release of Americans held hostage."
The task force, which Reagan ordered in the wake of the hijacking last summer of TWA Flight 847 in Lebanon, found that while an increasing number of terrorist attacks have been thwarted, "a potentially serious domestic threat exists" from terrorists.
Holloway said the 14 senior U.S. officials who wrote the report made 44 recommendations accepted by Reagan. Among them were strengthening National Security Council coordination on counterterrorism and establishment of a "consolidated intelligence center" on terrorism.
The panel also suggested closer coordination with other governments, revising extradition treaties and expanding human intelligence collection. It called for expanded U.S. criminal jurisdiction to allow prosecution of terrorists who attack Americans overseas and the death penalty for those who murder Americans held hostage.
Other suggestions include formation of a congressional Joint Committee on Intelligence and closer government cooperation with the media during terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, the House Foreign Affairs Committee approved a five-year, $4.4 billion plan yesterday to improve security at U.S. embassies around the world and protect American diplomats. The bill now goes to the full House.