The Central Intelligence Agency today denied a published report that a CIA-trained group was responsible for a March 8 Beirut car bombing that killed more than 80 people.
The CIA “never conducted any training of Lebanese security forces related to the events described” in an article in Sunday’s editions of the Washington Post, CIA spokeswoman Patti Volz said.
“It also had no foreknowledge of the Lebanese counterterrorist action mentioned in the article,” she said.
Responding to complaints from some members of Congress that they had been kept in the dark about the alleged operation, Volz said the agency “scrupulously observes” its commitment to keep congressional oversight committees informed of agency activities.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that he was seeking more information about the Post report, which claimed that an anti-terrorist group, trained by the CIA but acting without authorization from the agency, was responsible for the bombing.
“I’ve already started a series of inquiries. . . , " Leahy said. He said he would raise the issue as early as today at the opening of Senate hearings on terrorism.
The White House and State Department refused to discuss the substance of the story, which was based on information from unidentified sources.
‘Consistent With Law’
“That’s our policy, of not commenting on any alleged intelligence matter,” deputy press secretary Larry Speakes said at the White House today. “We point out that we do not undertake any activities--have not--that are inconsistent with the law and we meet our obligations under the law to report to Congress.”
Asked if he was denying the story, Speakes replied: “I’ve said what I’ve said.”
Lebanon’s ambassador to the United States, Abdallah Bouhabib, said in a telephone interview that he had not been told of any American involvement in the attack. He said he had assumed that the bombing was the work of a dissident Shia faction.
Reagan Supports Plan
The newspaper said President Reagan late last year gave his support to the anti-terrorist plan, which was pushed by Secretary of State George P. Shultz and National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane.
The plan was designed to stage preemptive strikes--including killing suspected terrorists if necessary--to head off further terrorist attacks on U.S. facilities in the Middle East, the Post said.
Members of one of the counterterrorist groups, acting without CIA authorization, hired others in Lebanon to detonate the car bomb outside a Beirut apartment building March 8, the newspaper said,
The entire operation was canceled soon afterward, the newspaper said.