Assigns Cabinet Members to Task : President Seeks to Curb Spying in U.S.
President Reagan said Saturday that he had assigned members of his Cabinet to develop ways to “counter the rash of spy activities that threaten our security and interests at home and abroad and to improve our own intelligence-gathering capabilities.”
In his weekly radio address, delivered from the White House, Reagan said “Soviet Bloc and other hostile intelligence-service activities” have been increasing in number and sophistication. Although he indicated general areas where countermeasures should be taken, he avoided specifics.
Reagan called on Americans to recognize that “spying is a fact of life” and to learn more about “the unchanging realities of the Soviet system,” which he described as “an implacable foe of freedom.”
Prompt approval came from the Democrats’ designated spokesman, Rep. Claude Pepper of Florida, who opened an answering broadcast that was mainly an attack on Reagan’s Social Security policy with support for the President “in protecting the security of our country.” He noted that the House voted Thursday to reinstate the death penalty for military personnel convicted of spying in peacetime.
Reagan made no direct reference to the recent arrests of four alleged Navy spies, but noted that the Soviets had been “stealing or buying what they need” on U.S. weapons and technology. “We need to deal severely with those who betray our country,” he declared.
Reagan estimated that 30% to 40% of more than 2,500 Soviet Bloc officials assigned to the United States are “known or suspected intelligence officers” and said: “We need a balance between the size of the Soviet diplomatic presence in the United States and the U.S. presence in the Soviet Union.” Promising unspecified “steps to accomplish this,” he called for better control of “foreign intelligence agents” who, he said, have used the United Nations as “a spy nest.”
Praise for Congress
The President praised Congress for support it has rendered in rebuilding U.S. counterintelligence to compensate for manpower cutbacks and “unnecessary restrictions on our security” imposed in the 1970s.
Reagan complained that American officials are “systematically excluded from Soviet radio and TV,” while Soviet journalists and scholars have access to U.S. media.
“These men and women should at least be identified for what they are--propagandists whose appearances and statements are totally controlled by the Communist Party,” he said.
Pepper, in his comments on the proposal before Congress to reduce cost-of-living benefits for Social Security recipients, said: “The Democrats will not be fickle friends of the elderly. We will force the President to keep his promises too.
“Today Social Security is under siege as never before from the Republican Senate and a Republican President,” Pepper said. “In 1984 Ronald Reagan made an unequivocal promise never to allow a cut in Social Security, not a single one. Today Ronald Reagan is conniving with Senate Republicans to reduce cost-of-living adjustments.”