Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), decrying "the anatomy of a smear," said the Justice Department has cleared him of accusations that he or an aide leaked classified information to officials of Chile's authoritarian government.
At a news conference Friday, Helms distributed copies of a letter in which the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said they were told by the Justice Department that "the allegations lack substance."
In the letter, Chairman David L. Boren (D-Okla.) and Vice Chairman William S. Cohen (R-Maine) told Helms that, "on the basis of the FBI investigation, the Department of Justice has determined that no classified information was revealed as a result of the briefing to your staff member."
Reports on the incident in mid-July 1986 said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had opened a probe into allegations that Helms or his staff were involved in leaks to the Chileans. They did not allege that there had been a leak.
Helms said the articles and radio and television newscasts implied that he "had violated his trust." He said Friday that the articles were erroneous because the FBI had not opened an investigation but had merely received a request to do so.
That request for a "one-month" investigation was made July 18, 1986, by Sens. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the committee's chairman and vice chairman at the time. Helms said the letter was in turn leaked to "The New York Times and others."