Despite new evidence presented in their final report of questionable CIA and FBI involvement in the Iran-contra affair, the congressional panels investigating the scandal decided not to make a major issue of the activities and declined to subject senior officials of either agency to detailed questioning.

Committee leaders had tentatively planned to call as public witnesses Central Intelligence Agency Director William H. Webster, who headed the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the Iran-contra affair, and Deputy CIA Director Robert M. Gates, No. 2 man during most of 1986 under the late Director William J. Casey. But neither appeared.

Webster was never even deposed by the committees, according to committee sources, although he and his agents played a key role last year in the initial investigation of the secret Iran arms sales and were linked to former White House aide Lt. Col. Oliver L. North in other earlier activities involving U.S. military support for the Nicaraguan contras at a time when such support was barred by Congress.

Gates was deposed for only two hours by the committee staff and "trumpeted his lack of knowledge" of the Iran-contra affair, according to one committee investigator who was present. Gates had earlier appeared before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence during its preliminary inquiry last December into the scandal and testified before the Tower review board early this year.

One source of pressure for special treatment for the two agencies and their bosses came from Senate and House intelligence committee members -- particularly Senate Chairman David L. Boren (D-Okla.) -- who wanted any detailed inquiry to be limited their own panels, according to sources who asked not to be identified.

Boren openly argued against calling Gates in public and later raised questions about the approach taken by committee lawyers in Gates' closed-door deposition, according to committee sources. Boren supported Gates in his unsuccessful effort to be CIA director and has said he expects Gates to remain as No. 2 under Webster.

Boren has said that Gates had already been questioned at length about his role in the Iran-contra affair.

"There also was not time to go into what some members felt were peripheral issues" inovolving FBI and CIA performance, one top investigator said.

However, a special chapter in the committees' report discusses alleged National Security Council staff interventions in criminal prosecutions, including several incidents involving North and FBI officials, but never mentions Webster.

The report also has a chapter describing privately funded covert operations, including one in 1985 and 1986 to ransom U.S. hostages using personnel from the Drug Enforcement Administration, under North's direction, financed in part by money from Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot. Webster was aware of the operation, according to committee sources. The Iran-contra report said these efforts may have violated U.S. laws.

Evidence available to the committees showed that Webster also was aware of an operation in mid-1985 involving both the FBI and CIA that used $100,000 from Perot in another unsuccessful plan to pay ransom for a U.S. hostage.

Webster's only meeting with Iran-contra committee staff occurred in an interview arranged primarily to get assurances that the FBI would continue to supply information even though Webster was moving to the CIA.

Webster appeared twice before the Senate intelligence committee in connection with his nomination as CIA director, promising to disclose all the FBI contacts with North. However, additional information on North's contacts with the bureau continued to appear well after Webster was confirmed by the Senate and took his new job.

The majority report disclosed that CIA officials were far more knowledgeable about the Iran arms sales than previously revealed. Newly disclosed documents described in the report show that some CIA operatives heard as early as spring 1986 that a diversion of profits to the contras was being openly discussed by North and Iranian middleman Manucher Ghorbanifar.

These findings raise questions about the assurances Gates gave during his congressional appearances that he had no hints of a diversion until CIA official Charles Allen came to him in October 1986. At that time, Gates said later in testimony before the Tower board and Senate intelligence panel, the information Allen had was only speculative and "shaky stuff."

Gates also told the Tower review board that "when he first heard Allen's suspicions that a diversion of funds had taken place, his 'first reaction was to tell Mr. Allen that I didn't want to hear any more about it,' " according to the Iran-contra report.

The Iran-contra report reveals that Allen, the CIA's top intelligence officer for counterterrorism, interviewed Ghorbanifar in January 1986 and recorded in his notes that the arms sales "could be used for 'Ollie's boys in Central America.' "

Allen also noted that the arms sales "can fund contras," the report said. In his deposition to the committees, Allen said he did not include that information in his memo to Casey and others because he "did not 'consider it important or even relevant to my particular mission,' " the report said.

George Cave, a CIA retiree who was brought back under contract to work on the Iran arms sales operation, reported to Casey and others in early March that Ghorbanifar had brought up the contra diversion idea at a meeting in Paris at which North was also present.

Ghorbanifar "also proposed that we use profits from these deals and others to fund {other operations}. We could do the same with Nicaragua," the Cave memo to Casey said, according to the committees' report.

The Allen notes and Cave memo were not brought up during the staff deposition of Gates, according to sources.

Allen and Cave, according to the Iran-contra committee investigators, said they forgot about Ghorbanifar's earlier statements on diversions.

In an unusual addendum to the report, the two top members of the Senate intelligence committee, Boren and Vice Chairman William S. Cohen (R-Maine), alleged that agency personnel involved in Central America violated CIA "policy and restrictions imposed by law."

They also criticized CIA officials for failing to give adequate "direction and supervision," and accused others for withholding information from Congress after the Iran-contra affair became public.

At the same time, Boren and Cohen argued successfully inside the Senate committee that the Iran-contra report should not focus on CIA personnel or activities.