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Investigator Questioned Regarding Tower Allegations

February 19, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A U.S. investigator whose report on the arms control delegation in Geneva included charges that John Tower kept his secretaries as mistresses was told by the State Department to postpone a meeting with a House subcommittee, the panel’s chairman said Saturday.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the subcommittee, said in an interview that hours later State Department officials promised full cooperation with the panel, but added he still was concerned about the incident.

Dingell said Berne Indahl, a State Department security officer who was sent to Geneva in 1986 by the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency to help investigate allegations of security breaches, also apparently was questioned by FBI agents.

Indahl had been scheduled to meet Saturday with the staff of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

But Dingell told CBS News that when Indahl arrived on a flight from Africa, where he is currently posted, ″he was met by security officials of the State Department who whisked him off to a motel or hotel, advised him that he can speak to no one until Tuesday.″

″State brought him back for us,″ Dingell told The Associated Press. ″Then when he got back it turned out they didn’t want him talking to us.″

Dingell said he later spoke with State Department officials who said they knew nothing about the incident or why Indal was told to delay his meeting with the committee. The officials promised full cooperation with the committee, and Indahl later spoke with subcommittee staff members, Dingell said.

Nonetheless, the congressman told CBS, ″Interference with a congressional investigation is a criminal act... In the meantime, the inquiry of the committee is now expanded by this rather curious set of events.″

The subcommittee has been conducting an inquiry into security at nuclear weapons facilities run by the Department of Energy, he said. The inquiry is not related to investigations dealing with the Senate confirmation hearing for Tower, the defense secretary-designate.

In the course of its probe, the subcommittee obtained documents from an Office of Personnel Management report of an investigation into the activities of the Geneva delegation while Tower served as a U.S. negotiator.

Tower, a former Texas senator, served in Geneva from January 1985 to April 1986. Allegations against Tower included claims that he used his secretaries as mistresses.

Dingell said information received by his subcommittee had raised ″some very serious questions″ and included ″quite colorful″ stories about the personal behavior of some delegation members, he said. The congressman said he could not say if Tower was involved.

The information, which Dingell said had been shared with the FBI and the Senate Armed Services Committee, also ″involves inability to keep track of records, papers, safes, a lack of an adequate logging file with regard to classified documents...″

Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said an investigation of Tower’s actions in Geneva found no security breaches.

Dingell’s subcommittee sought a meeting with Indahl to discuss the investigation he conducted in Geneva and statements attributed to him in the personnel office report.

Congressional sources, who requested anonymity, said a letter was sent to Secretary of State James A. Baker III requesting a meeting with Indahl. The security officer, who was in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, returned to the United States on Saturday.

Indahl, contacted later at a Washington D.C.-area hotel, declined to comment.

State Department spokesman Charles Redman said he had no information on the incident. An FBI spokesman said the agency would have no comment on an active investigation.

The allegations against Tower were said to have been made to Indahl by John Grassle, a Geneva security official, but Grassle was quoted by Knight-Ridder News Service as saying he did not make such allegations.

A man who answered the phone at Grassle’s home said his father had gone on vacation for a few weeks.

Assistant FBI Director Milt Ahlerich said Friday that the agency is ″in the latter stages of winding up″ the check into allegations about Tower’s personal and business affairs.

Tower has been dogged by allegations of drinking and womanizing. Many senators have said they are also concerned about whether Tower could avoid conflicts of interest after receiving more than $1 million as a consultant for major defense contractors since he left the Senate four years ago.

A vote by the Senate Armed Services Committee on the nominee has been delayed while the FBI conducts its inquiry. Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the ranking Republican on the panel, said Friday that the committee had forwarded additional material to the White House and that he and Nunn would be available this weekend to review the FBI report.

The Senate committee is expected to meet early next week to consider the embattled nomination.

Update hourly