Reform Unaccountable CIA
THE Central Intelligence Agen-cy is so focused on its rearview mirror that it can't look forward. CIA Director James Woolsey has termed the Aldrich Ames spy scandal a ``systemic failure,'' suggesting an institutional breakdown, not a personal one. He believes administrative reprimands are sufficient punishment. CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz's report on the Ames case documents 10 years of negligence and misconduct by officials who still hold sensitive positions in the directorate. Still, Mr. Hitz found ``no gross negligence,'' another example of the old boy network rationalizing the worst disaster in CIA history.
CIA deputy director for operations Hugh Price, who received one of the reprimands and thus is ineligible for rewards or promotions for two years, ignored an internal memorandum in 1990 recommending an investigation of Ames's ``lavish spending habits,'' including a $540,000 house and a $49,500 Jaguar, among others.
Just before the Hitz briefing to Congress, deputy director for intelligence Doug MacEachin described agency failures, but he ignored his own failure to warn of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, when he was director of Soviet analysis and helped politicize intelligence for then-deputy director Robert Gates. In the mid-1980s, Mr. MacEachin estimated Soviet GNP at around 60 percent of America's, and compared Soviet per capita production to Britain's. Very off.
Mr. Gates became CIA director in 1991 and promoted officials whose careers were shaped by politicization, and who still have high-level jobs. The analyst who produced a bogus National Intelligence Estimate on Mexico in 1984 is the same one who gave false information to Congress on Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1993. The man who spread disinformation blaming Moscow for the 1985 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II is MacEachin's deputy. So much for accountability.
The history of corruption at the CIA is well known. Confirmation hearings in 1991 for Gates documented the politicization of intelligence, which led Secretary of State George Shultz to conclude that he had been ``misled, lied to, cut out'' by the CIA. Mr. Shultz warned President Reagan that he was getting ``bum dope'' from the CIA, presumably referring to a specious intelligence estimate on Iran to justify arms sales to Tehran.
Lawrence Walsh's ``Final Report'' on Iran-contra outlined a ``concerted effort by CIA officials to withhold information from or lie to Congress'' about the shipment of missiles to Iran. At least then-CIA director William Webster, acting on a report by his own special counsel, fired two agency officers and demoted two others. Because of President Bush's pardons of Iran-contra participants, we'll probably never know the full story of CIA involvement in the scandal.
What to do? First, the CIA needs a new mandate and fewer tasks. The National Security Act of 1947, which created the CIA and the NSC, aimed to provide the president with sufficient power to conduct a worldwide ``cold war.'' It led to coups in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s, the Bay of Pigs in 1961, and the Vietnam War.
In the process, the CIA never became central to political or military decisionmaking. The Department of Defense's evaluation of Desert Storm concluded that national intelligence coordinated by the CIA was of ``limited value.'' General Norman Schwarzkopf found the intelligence riddled with ambiguities and called it ``mush.'' A study of intelligence consumers conducted by the Senate revealed widespread disdain among policymakers for the CIA's work.
A post-cold-war CIA must abandon many former practices. Covert military intervention should stop; the agency's paramilitary functions should be transferred to the Pentagon. CIA propaganda and efforts to influence foreign elections ought to end. It is ludicrous for the Clinton administration to invade Haiti to restore democracy and then authorize the CIA to conduct covert action to neutralize Aristide's opponents.
We must jettison the myth that only clandestine collection of information can ascertain foreign leaders' intentions. CIA sources failed to decipher Leonid Brezhnev's intentions toward Czechoslovakia in 1968, Anwar Sadat's toward Israel in 1973, and Saddam Hussein's toward Kuwait in 1990. State Department officials provide more useful information on foreign leaders than the CIA.
Second, the CIA needs a leader for the post-cold-war era. Mr. Woolsey, a cold warrior at heart, displayed his anachronistic thinking at confirmation hearings in 1993, arguing that the US had ``slain the dragon. But we live now in a jungle filled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes.'' He made instant headlines when he called industrial espionage the ``hottest topic in intelligence policy.'' We face an environment with growing challenges from political and religious extremists as well as nontraditional sources of instability.
The CIA director must be tough-minded, independent, and capable of introducing radical reform to an institution that has been resistant to change. He or she must retire or demote many officials in both the intelligence and operational directorates. Woolsey, who has become the agency's lawyer and not its director, has been afraid to do so because of a fear of worsening morale. In fact, CIA morale is poor because of the lack of responsibility and accountability.
There are obvious choices for a new director. The Clinton administration could look to industry, Norman Augustine of Martin Marietta; the military, retired Adm. William J. Crowe Jr. or retired Gen. Colin Powell; or academe, Al Carnesale of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. All have policy and intelligence experience; all have managed large organizations; all could attract outside scholars and experts needed to repair an insular and parochial CIA.
Any new director must realize that intelligence belongs to a national community of scholars - not to a secret society. Intelligence must be objective if it is to serve the national interest. National intelligence estimates are the CIA's most authoritative analytic product but they have little impact because of the agency's loss of credibility. In addition to restoring integrity to the estimating process, a new director must recruit a professional staff capable of drafting intelligence estimates and introducing outside scholars and researchers to that staff. Such expertise would be more available to the CIA if the intrusive security measures used to screen secret agents were not also applied to academics and researchers.
A new director must declassify the budget of the intelligence community and reduce the current budget level of $28 billion to $20 billion - greater in constant dollars than during the early 1980s at the peak of the cold war.
These savings can only be achieved with significant cuts on technical collection systems, particularly the large, multipurpose collection platforms that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and another $100 million to launch.
Finally, the CIA must return to Harry Truman's conception of it as an independent and objective interpreter of foreign events. Critics may then stop mocking the Biblical inscription in the entryway to CIA headquarters: ``And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.'' The Opinion/Essay Page welcomes manuscripts. Authors of articles we accept will be notified by telephone. Authors of articles not accepted will be notified by postcard. Send manuscripts by mail to Opinions/Essays, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, by fax to 617 -450-2317, or by Internet E-mail to OPED@RACHEL.CSPS.COM.