Critics in the know blast journalist's book. CIA agents angry at Casey, revelations. BEHIND `THE VEIL'
Washington — ``Veil'' has stirred controversy and anger within the United States intelligence community. The just-released book, by Washington Post investigative reporter Bob Woodward, is about covert activities by the Central Intelligence Agency under the Reagan administration.
Officials were eager to vent their frustration, though only if not quoted by name. Their outrage was so intense that it was difficult to tell what most upset them - the practices of William Casey, the late director of central intelligence, or what they call the ``irresponsible'' revelation of intelligence sources and methods by Mr. Woodward.
Several well-placed officials and analysts in the intelligence community said they were pleased that Casey's ``nonprofessional'' and ``political'' practices had been uncovered and felt that their professionalism and reputation had been damaged by these practices. Many in the bureaucracy at the CIA and elsewhere had deeply resented and fought Casey's reported efforts to alter intelligence analysis and run his own foreign policy, these sources said.
One intelligence analyst complained that Casey was ``leaking the most sensitive information'' to Woodward while the professionals were being badgered and threatened with lie detector tests because of leaks. This comment echoed his colleagues' complaints about Casey's extensive private discussions with Woodward, which he said had been long rumored in the intelligence community. ``All along, the major leaks were from the top officials, not us,'' he says.
In addition, Casey and other top officials regularly forced changes in intelligence assessments that did not fit the officials' predilections, according to an intelligence official who said he spoke from firsthand experience. This was the case in such critical areas as Soviet support for terrorism, the potential success or risks of the US Marine presence in Beirut, and the military potential of the contra rebels who are fighting the Nicaraguan government.
Secretary of State George Shultz was particularly incensed by this behavior and especially crafted his Iran-contra testimony before Congress to single out Casey's practices, according to a State Department official.
Casey overrelied on his own reading of questionable clandestine intelligence, says a longtime intelligence analyst who works on these areas, and a number of sources were pleased that Woodward details misreading of intelligence on Lebanon and Libya.
``Once you make clear that there is a market for intelligence on a certain topic, you will get a lot of it, but it does not mean it will be good - and it wasn't, on Libyan death squads or on a lot in Lebanon,'' the analyst says.
The reports of rogue covert actions by Casey will reinforce the drive by CIA director William Webster and others to put tight controls on covert action, two of the sources said. This follows the Iran-contra revelations, which had already stirred up a major debate within the CIA over how much, if any, covert activity should be undertaken, they said.
Though a number of people in the agency believe their primary function should clearly be intelligence and had found a sympathetic ear in Mr. Webster, one source expressed concern that reaction to Casey's policies could go too far in restricting some types of covert actions.
A major lesson from the whole episode is the problem of having ``a campaign manager and ideologue on crusade'' as the head of the CIA, according to a senior official with long experience in foreign policy direction and coordinating covert actions in several government agencies. ``The danger is always there,'' he says, ``that the intelligence adviser will slip into policy advocacy. ... In the past, we built fences to prevent that, but in this administration they came down.''
Casey ``believed he could restructure the universe with an unhobbled CIA,'' says another midlevel intelligence official who fought Casey's initiatives on occasion. The official contends that Casey was trying to resurrect an almost ``mystical'' and unrealistic image of Office of Strategic Services activities in World War II. To the degree Woodward's book is ``feeding this enthronement of spookdom,'' he says, it is very dangerous.
The senior official cited asserts that Woodward fell into the trap of telling Casey's story for posterity as Casey, ``the crusading ideologue,'' probably hoped he would.
But for all their anger at Casey, these officials were equally furious with Woodward's publication of very sensitive details about intelligence sources and methods.
One official asked how a reporter could justify revealing information that would cause the US serious long-term damage.
``Does the public really want to know all these details? Woodward could have made his main points without most of them'' and saved valuable intelligence sources and millions of dollars to make up for the revelations, and could possibly have saved a few agents' lives, the intelligence official says.
``How is Woodward any different from someone caught spying when he publishes such sensitive information for all to read?'' asks the senior official with long diplomatic and intelligence experience. ``What is the difference between what he has done and what the Walkers did and were jailed for?...
``One can only conclude that he did it to make the book sexier, to sell more copies.''