The secret testimony of then-CIA director William J. Casey to the House intelligence committee last Nov. 21, released this weekend, contained numerous misleading or wrong statements and one revelation that committee members evidently ignored.

In the presence of officials from the State Department who also knew the truth, Casey gave members of the panel incorrect accounts of several key episodes during the secret program of arms sales to Iran. None of the State Department officials tried to correct the director, however.

Casey's testimony that day -- he also appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- followed a fierce bureaucratic battle inside the Reagan administration. Secretary of State George P. Shultz and his legal adviser, Abraham D. Sofaer, had protested to the White House that the original testimony that Casey was to have given that morning contained false information. Sofaer threatened to quit if it was not changed. The story of this dispute has been detailed in testimony to the Iran-contra committees of Congress.

As a result of the dispute, Casey changed his original plan to testify that no one in the U.S. government knew in advance that Hawk antiaircraft missiles were included in a particular shipment from Israel to Iran in November 1985. Casey planned to say the United States thought the shipment contained oil-drilling equipment. Sofaer had pointed out that the United States knew that the shipment consisted of Hawks when it asked the Portuguese government to allow the cargo to be transshipped through Lisbon.

The testimony now released shows that instead of lying outright, Casey created the impression that the United States thought the shipment was oil-drilling equipment. He referred to it as "bulky cargo," and said that the crew of a Central Intelligence Agency proprietary airline hired to ship it "was informed {in Tel Aviv} that the cargo was spare parts for the oil fields." He gave no other description.

Casey never told the committee that the shipment contained arms, or that the U.S. government had authorized it. Sofaer sat in the committee room -- as did Under Secretary of State Michael H. Armacost -- when Casey gave this misleading account, but neither said anything, according to the transcript.

At another point in his testimony, Casey described that November shipment this way:

"There was a transfer {of weapons from Israel to Iran} that happened without our knowledge. For some months we didn't do anything about it when we learned about it and then we ultimately required the Israelis to reverse it."

In fact, the U.S. government had knowledge of the shipment, and never "required the Israelis to reverse it," according to documents and testimony given since to the Iran-contra panels. The Iranians rejected those Hawk missiles as the wrong model, and they were later brought back to Israel, but not because of any U.S. order.

This was one of several times in his testimony that day that Casey said Israel had sent U.S.-made arms to Iran once without U.S. knowledge. Subsequent information has shown that the United States knew about and authorized all such shipments.

Casey misdescribed to the House committee the results of the secret mission to Iran in May 1986, led by former national security adviser Robert C. McFarlane. Subsequent testimony has revealed that the mission collapsed, and that McFarlane returned convinced that the arms-for-hostages dealings with Iran were a mistake. But Casey testified:

"Mr. McFarlane and his team were able to establish a basis for a continuing relationship {with Iran} and clearly articulate our objectives, concerns and intentions."

The revelation Casey gave the committee that day involved the role of the National Security Council in helping provide arms to the Nicaraguan rebels. "The NSC has been guiding and active in the private provision of weapons to the contras down there," Casey said, adding, "I don't know all the details. I have kept away from the details because I was barred {by the Boland Amendment passed by Congress} from doing anything."

Casey said the NSC became involved because the administration wanted to help the contras at a time when Congress had banned assistance by the CIA and the Defense Department. "It came to McFarlane, and he began to develop it," Casey testified.