Shultz Warns All Ambassadors Not to Deal With NSC Behind His Back
Secretary of State George P. Shultz cautioned all American ambassadors today not to engage in “back-channel” communications with the National Security Council unless they are acting on the direct orders of President Reagan.
“For an ambassador to act on instructions of which the secretary is not aware is a matter of serious concern, regardless of the contents of those instructions,” Shultz said through Charles E. Redman, the State Department spokesman.
Acting in the case of John H. Kelly, the U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, who was in secret touch with the NSC at the White House from his post in Beirut, Shultz sent all U.S. embassies detailed instructions on how they are to keep in touch with Washington.
Kelly, meanwhile, was admonished by Shultz for using the secret channel to make arrangements concerning David P. Jacobsen, a released American hostage, without notifying the State Department.
However, Kelly was sent back to Lebanon with what Redman called “the full confidence” of Shultz and the President.
The spokesman said Shultz “reviewed ambassadorial responsibilities and the chain of command” with Kelly. “The secretary conveyed his disappointment over the ambassador’s failure to inform the Department of State.”
However, Redman said, “the secretary was relieved to learn that Ambassador Kelly had not participated in unauthorized negotiations for the release of the hostages and that his activities in this matter were limited to arranging the safe departure of David Jacobsen from captivity in Lebanon.”
The ambassador had been summoned home by Shultz, who told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that he was shocked to learn that the ambassador had bypassed him in communicating with the council.
Shultz met with Kelly on Saturday and again on Tuesday.
Shultz had opposed the Iranian purchases in private conversations with President Reagan.
Kelly, who is single and a veteran of 21 years in the Foreign Service, had volunteered for the dangerous assignment in Beirut last August. Earlier, Kelly worked at the State Department and had held posts in Turkey, Thailand and France.
The back-channel system originated 20 years ago in the Kennedy-Johnson era and was used extensively by Henry A. Kissinger as the national security adviser to former President Richard M. Nixon.
Under the system, the ambassador does not normally initiate the contact with the White House. Rather, he receives the first communication and then has to decide whether to respond without informing the State Department.