House Panel OKs Bill to Halt Covert Aid to Angolan Rebels

Times Staff Writer

The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted Wednesday to halt covert U.S. aid to the Angola rebels and to require President Reagan to seek the approval of Congress for any future assistance to the forces led by Jonas Savimbi.

By a vote of 22 to 18, the committee approved the bill sponsored by Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D-Ind.) that supporters of the President portrayed as an attack on the so-called Reagan doctrine of support for anti-communist “freedom fighters” around the globe.

Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.) described the committee vote as an exercise in “Reagan-bashing” by the Democrats and “the death knell for covert activity” by the United States.

In addition, Republicans accused Hamilton of a backdoor effort to reinstate the Clark Amendment, a 1976 measure written by then-Sen. Dick Clark (D-Iowa), which banned aid to the Angolan rebels. It was repealed by Congress last year.


sh Must Consult Congress

But Hamilton, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee with responsibility for overseeing covert activities, argued that his legislation was intended only to force Reagan to recognize the prerogatives of Congress in such matters.

“The United States should support a war in Angola only with the approval of Congress,” he said.

The United States is known to have given at least $15 million in aid to Savimbi in the current fiscal year, quietly funneling what is ostensibly covert assistance through the CIA. Savimbi is fighting the Marxist government of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, which is backed by thousands of Cuban troops.


While the law requires the CIA to inform the House and Senate intelligence committees of such activities, it does not require the agency to seek the approval of Congress.

Under Hamilton’s legislation, the Angolan rebels could no longer be financed through the CIA. Instead, their money could only be provided openly, with the approval of Congress, through the U.S. foreign assistance program.

By definition, assistance funneled through the CIA is described as covert aid by Congress--even if it is publicly known. Under the Reagan doctrine, the United States currently is providing some type of assistance--overt, covert or a combination of the two--to insurgents in Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia. Even the covert programs have been been widely discussed by Administration officials.

Hamilton said that Reagan chose to channel the Angolan aid through the CIA solely to avoid congressional scrutiny of the policy. He noted that CIA involvement was not necessary to keep the program secret since the President and other Administration officials have publicly acknowledged that they are giving aid to Savimbi.