Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said yesterday that the Senate intelligence committee should consider requiring Senate confirmation of key deputy directors at the CIA, citing the appointment of a new head of covert operations who had been deeply involved in the secret arms-for-hostages dealings with Iran in 1986.

Thomas A. Twetten, selected by CIA Director William H. Webster to take over Jan. 1 as deputy director for operations, worked as a "case officer" handling the CIA's part of the financing and logistics of transfers of U.S. arms to Iran in 1986 for former White House aide Oliver L. North.

Specter, a member of the intelligence committee, said he had not been informed in advance of Twetten's appointment and had not known of his role in the Iran-contra affair until yesterday. Twetten was questioned in April 1987 by the Iran-contra investigating committees, but the published transcript did not identify him by name.

Specter said he was not raising questions about Twetten based on what he knows of the Iran-contra record, "but I do think as a matter of process we are going to have to consider confirmation in the future as to these top deputy spots."

Under current law, only the CIA director, the deputy director and the CIA inspector general are confirmed by the Senate.

A spokesman for CIA said yesterday that on the day before Twetten's appointment was announced last month, Webster met with Sen. David L. Boren (D-Okla.) and Sen. William S. Cohen (R-Maine), the chairman and vice chairman of the intelligence committee, to brief them "on his intention {to name} Twetten." Webster also called the chairman and ranking member of the House intelligence committee, Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Calif.) and Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) the same day about the appointment.

Boren and Cohen were unavailable for comment yesterday. A Senate aide, however, said he believed they asked whether it was "politically wise" to appoint Twetten to such a sensitive job.

The CIA spokesman said that Webster had "carefully considered all aspects of {Twetten's} record and his suitability," including his Iran-contra dealings, back in June 1988 before appointing him to be No. 2 in the operations directorate.

Specter played a key role in questioning Robert M. Gates about his role in the Iran-contra affair during Gates's 1987 confirmation hearing to be President Ronald Reagan's choice to succeed the late William J. Casey as CIA director. In the end, Gates withdrew his name and was named to his current position as deputy national security adviser in the White House by President Bush.

Yesterday, Specter said, "It is a little surprising there was not any consultation with committee members" about the Twetten appointment.