WASHINGTON -- The CIA is actively directing the laying of mines that Nicaragua says have hit at least seven ships in its harbors since February, it was reported Friday.
CBS News and The Wall Street Journal reported the U.S. involvement. Dale Peterson, a CIA spokesman, said the agency had 'no comment whatsoever' on either of the reports.
'U.S. government sources have told CBS News that the Central Intelligence Agency is actively directing the mining of Nicaraguan ports,' the network reported.
'It had been thought that anti-Sandinista rebels were responsible. These government sources say the rebels are not doing any of the mine laying. The nationality of just who is is not known. The CIA has a freighter off Nicaragua's coast and sources said boats aboard take the mines into the harbors.'
Nicaragua has reported mine explosions that damaged seven ships, including a Soviet freighter.
The Wall Street Journal, quoting 'a source familiar with CIA briefings on the operation,' said a ship controlled by the CIA is doing the mine laying. 'Units operating from the ship are self-contained, and are composed of Salvadorans and other Latin Americans from outside Nicaragua,' the newspaper said.
It described the mines as acoustic, triggered by the sounds of ship movements, and planted by small boats operating from the mother ship.
The newspaper said CIA Director William Casey apparently disclosed details of the operation to members of the House Intelligence Committee during a recent closed session.
'During Senate debate this week, the Intelligence Committee chairman, Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., surprised other senators by openly referring to a document or paper indicating the administration had directly authorized the mining,' the newspaper said. 'Goldwater's remarks were dropped from the published record made available Thursday, and while an aide to the senator dismissed the matter, two other sources indicated that such a paper or staff memo did exist.'
The Reagan administration has been seeking $21 million from Congress to help support the Nicaraguan rebels. President Reagan has stated the United States seeks only to disrupt Nicaragua's support for rebels in El Salvador and not to overthrow the Marxist government.
The Senate approved the $21 million request on Thursday and sent it to the House, where strong opposition is expected.