Burned Wick

2 minute read

Suffering hard times

As Comedian Jimmy Durante used to put it, everybody wants to get into the act. The act in question last week was the investigation of United States Information Agency Director Charles Z. Wick’s surreptitious tapings of his telephone conversations with Government officials, celebrities and foreign businessmen. By week’s end two congressional committees and the General Services Administration had launched investigations into Wick’s low-fi misdeeds. When the New York Times, in its third front-page story on the subject in seven days, revealed that last March Wick taped two conversations from a Palm Beach hotel with White House Chief of Staff James Baker, the Florida state attorney in Palm Beach County announced that he too was launching an inquiry. The reason: a Florida law makes it a felony to tape telephone calls within the state clandestinely.

Secret taping is not illegal under federal or District of Columbia law. However, a 1981 GSA regulation generally forbids the recording of telephone conversations by Government employees if the other party has not consented, a fact that two USIA general counsels brought to Wick’s attention in March 1981.

Late in the week Wick got public support from a close friend, the President. Said Reagan: “He has done a splendid job. I think the whole USIA is far superior to anything that has ever been, and he’s going to continue there.” Perhaps Reagan phoned his views to Wick, who just might have put them on the record.

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