Five Clues for a New Spymaster

The CIA director should get out of the Cabinet and clean house

CIA director-designate Anthony Lake will likely survive this week's hazing from the Senate Select Intelligence Committee and then face a tougher task - returning the Central Intelligence Agency to Harry Truman's original conception of it as an independent interpreter of international developments.

To do so, Mr. Lake must confront the legacy of the CIA's failure on assessing the former Soviet Union, a legacy his predecessors refused to recognize, and redirect an institution whose actions and habits have resisted reform and accountability. Several steps must be taken to rehabilitate the CIA:

*Lake must correct the most serious systemic problem at the CIA - the need to separate the directorate of operations from its cold-war culture. The CIA's authority for covert action grew out of the cold war; most clandestine operations are anachronistic. Lake must acknowledge that clandestine operations are relevant to only a very narrow spectrum of policy problems. The CIA recently dropped more than a thousand secret informants from its payroll - nearly one-third of all its agents - because they were unproductive or had been involved in serious criminal activity or human rights abuses in their countries.

Covert actions have rarely advanced American interests. Too often they have represented an administration's desire for a quick fix in foreign policy; too frequently they have been counterproductive and embarrassing. They raise serious moral and political questions that tarnish our quest for international stability and compromise our democratic principles.

Let foreign elections alone

Efforts to influence foreign elections should end, covert military intervention should stop, and the CIA's paramilitary capabilities should be transferred to the Defense Department. The CIA's unwillingness to declassify documents on clandestine intervention in Africa, Southwest Asia, and Central America ensures that the government's official histories of American foreign policy are inaccurate.

*Lake must reverse former director James Woolsey's decision to merge the directorates of operations and intelligence, which puts intelligence analysis at the service of policy interests. In his memoirs, former Secretary of State George Shultz demonstrated that CIA involvement in clandestine operations tainted its intelligence on policy issues. One danger is that analysts rely too heavily on information collected clandestinely, often from double agents. Previous directors of central intelligence, including Mr. Woolsey and Robert Gates, presented clandestine intelligence from double agents to the White House with no warning or explanation.

Stop giving 'bum dope'

Even worse, intelligence analysis may be influenced by covert actions that are part of the policy process. The CIA's false assessments of Haiti and President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1993 came about because paid agency assets involved in clandestine operations were enemies of Mr. Aristide and the sources of disinformation. Mr. Shultz's memoirs remind us that when "policy and analysis get mixed up, the president gets bum dope."

*Lake must reverse the efforts of his immediate predecessor, John Deutch, to militarize the CIA and deemphasize the role of strategic intelligence. Mr. Deutch made the Pentagon responsible for analysis of all satellite photography by establishing a National Imagery and Mapping Agency at the Defense Department and abolishing the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center. Imagery analysis is used to calibrate the defense budget, gauge the likelihood of military conflict in the third world, and verify arms-control agreements. Allowing the military to dominate this important field enables the Pentagon to be the sole judge of its procurement needs.

*Lake will need a new team at the top, because many of those who contributed to the CIA's legacy remain in positions of authority. Woolsey promoted the two senior officials who were responsible for corrupting intelligence on the former Soviet Union, making them deputy director for intelligence and national intelligence officer for Russia, respectively. Deutch's deputy director for operations was the project manager of a specious assessment on Soviet policy in 1985. Deutch also named former director Gates, whose confirmation hearings confirmed that he had corrupted the intelligence process, to head a panel to determine whether an intelligence estimate had been politicized, as its critics had charged. Lake is inheriting a demoralized CIA because his predecessors recycled these people and were unwilling to challenge the agency's culture.

*Lake must introduce accountability to that culture. High-ranking CIA officials have lied with impunity to the Senate intelligence committee to cover up the agency's involvement in human rights abuses. Woolsey failed to punish those members of the directorate of operations who failed to monitor the case of confessed spy Aldrich Ames because they were engaged in a "concerted effort ... to withhold information from or lie to Congress" on Iran-contra matters, according to special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh's final report. Deutch, moreover, upheld the revocation of the security clearance of Richard Nuccio, the State Department official who refused to participate in the CIA's attempt to lie to Congress and revealed a suspected murderer on the CIA's payroll in Guatemala.

Lake - who would be the fifth director of central intelligence in six years - should endorse the idea of a statutory six-year term for future directors and resign from the president's Cabinet. As a scholar and former professor, he is in a strong position to manage intelligence analysis in an environment free of political interference. But, as a Cabinet member and former national security adviser, he will have to vouch for intelligence assessments that challenge policies he helped create and inform Congress of clandestine operations that may embarrass the White House.

Lake should not be part of the policy process, and he must demonstrate that he is committed to returning the CIA to its primary mission - providing objective intelligence to US policymakers.

* Melvin A. Goodman, co-author of "The Wars of Eduard Shevardnadze," is professor of international security at the National War College and senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. His article, "Ending the CIA's Cold War Legacy," appears in the current issue of Foreign Policy.

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