Ms. KAREN SUGHRUE (Vice President, Council On Foreign Relations): Ladies and gentlemen, we’d like to begin. Good evening. I’m Karen Sughrue. I’m vice president at the Council On Foreign Relations. I’d like to welcome you here tonight to the Policy Impact Panel, sponsored by the Council.
This is our seventh such public forum, which have covered subjects as far ranging as US-China relations, defense spending and terrorism, among other subjects. Our subject tonight is the subject of the future of the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency, and, indeed, the future of the American intelligence effort as a whole.
Our aim in these forums is to establish the facts of a situation or an issue and then to perhaps illuminate some options for policy-makers. As many of you know, the Council on Foreign Relations takes no institutional stand on any issue because we are a membership organization made up of a diverse number of views.
And among our members, we are represented tonight on our panel—the chairman of our panel this evening is David Gergen, who is the editor-at-large at US News & World Report, and a contributing conversationalist, I’m told, for the PBS “Jim Lehrer News Hour.” We’re glad to have David here chairing our panel this evening. And I’ll it that over to him now to introduce his fellow panelists and our distinguished speakers. Thank you.
Mr. DAVID GERGEN (Editor-At-Large, “US News & World Report”): Thank you, Karen. And welcome, all of you, to this forum. We have three distinguished witnesses here before us, but just a word of background.
The United States continues to maintain the most advanced intelligence capabilities in the world. And as all of you know, as members of the Council, since the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the CIA has helped to prevent crises, has helped to shorten wars, has helped to save lives, and yet the CIA today finds itself at the center of many controversies. The intelligence community itself finds itself at the center of controversies. There are disputes about the amount of money that is spent on intelligence in this country and what the purpose of that intelligence should be after the end of the Cold War. In the aftermath of the Ames case, there are disputes about the competence of the CIA, as well as its accountability. And now we find ourselves in disputes about the leadership of the CIA as we consider the fourth director to run that agency in the past six years. And we’ll talk about all of those issues today.
Our program calls for each of the gentlemen in front of us, each of whom have served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to talk to us for about six or seven minutes, make opening statements. And then we have a distinguished panel on my right and my left, people well-known to all of you, that I’ll introduce in just a moment.
But for our audience around the country, I might say about Judge Webster, who will speak first, that he is a former judge on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. He served as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of course, from 1978 to 1987, and as director of Central Intelligence from 1987 to 1991. He’s been awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Medal, the National Security Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, among many honors. He is currently a partner in the Washington firm—law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, a distinguished firm. Judge Webster.
Judge WILLIAM WEBSTER (Former CIA Director, Reagan & Bush Administrations): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I couldn’t help but think, as we sat down to discuss this subject that has so often been revisited, always with new material and new challenges, about a session I had in the National Security Council in 1987.
As we sat down, William French Smith, the attorney general, turned to President Reagan and he said, ‘Mr. President, Bill Webster just had his impacted wisdom tooth out an hour ago,’ to which the president replied, ‘Really? I didn’t know we had anyone young enough around here for that.’ So yesterday, as a warm-up for this presentation, I had my last impacted wisdom tooth removed and I asked...
Mr. GERGEN: We’re glad that—we’re glad you’re still young.
Judge WEBSTER: Thank you. And I ask the question 10 years later, ‘Why does any discussion of reforming intelligence gathering and the CIA, in particular, always seem like pulling teeth?’—to me anyway.
General Vernon Walters, our distinguished former deputy director of intelligence, who served as head of our—of the—ambassador to the United Nations, ambassador to Bonn, used to say with some credibility, I think, that the American people are ambivalent about intelligence; that when they feel threatened, they want a lot of it, and when they do not feel threatened, it somehow seems—the whole thing seems immoral.
So in that context, we examine today’s world, a different world than it was 10 years ago when I had my first impacted wisdom tooth removed, but one in which the same questions are being asked about intelligence, its morality, its effectiveness and—and whether or not we have the capability to discharge our responsibility to the national security advisers to the president and to the president himself.
We have the question of whether or not human intelligence is capable in today’s world of providing the necessary function that has been its historic role, which is to determine the intentions and capabilities of our adversaries. Our adversaries are changing. Not only do they represent hostile heads of state, but they include terrorists, state actors and non-actors, organized criminals—particularly, I have reference to the huge development of over 100,000 members of the various forms of the Russian Mafia today—those who are engaged and will be engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction—nuclear, biological and chemical weapons—and at the same time, we have drug traffickers, and not to be overlooked, significant movements of troops that could be forewarners or precursors of military action that could involve this country. Those are just some of the few that—different characters, but same responsibilities.
Added to this is the question of whether or not covert action, as it has been historically known—and that is the effort—the capability to engage in clandestine activity, short of military action—or sort of military sponsored action—to support the foreign policy of this country when the foreign policy of the country does not seem to be working. In addition to that, because of the Ames case and other cases that have come down the pike, serious questions have been raised about the—our counterintelligence capability. Intelligence is both a shield and a sword, and the question comes up from time to time whether or not the shield is working properly.
Many changes have taken place in the last 10 years with respect to the hostile environment that we thought was so simple and so direct—the bipolar contest between democracy and totalitarianism in the form of the Soviet Union. We’re seeing emerging economic engines such as China. We are seeing countries that are not as dependable or stable but with large masses of military forces, such as Korea. And we are trying to keep track of many of the political, economic and military factors that will shape policy-making in the future.
Now I think I should make this point, if I could, that the intelligence community is not engaged in policy-making; our job is to provide useful and objective intelligence upon which policy-makers can make wise decisions in the interests of our country. It’s that simple. Any greater involvement, in my opinion, by the intelligence community in making policy brings into question the objectivity of our reporting, and opens it to the charge that intelligence is being spun to shape or support a particular point of view, whether it comes from the Congress or comes from the president.
Economic intelligence is an issue that ought to be explored and ought to be discussed. For many people, it is a—it is equated with economic espionage, using the intelligence community resources to spy on competing private sector companies or state-owned sector companies in other parts of the world. This is not what we mean when we talk about economic intelligence. We are talking about resources, understanding the haves and the have-nots, the kind of issues that result in conflict and competition. We’re talking about technology transfer, the stealing of technology. And we’re talking about international monetary transactions that, in any given day, exceed the entire Third World debt.
These are things that we must stay on top of. These are things that are not economic spying, but understanding the economic forces that often dictate and certainly influence the political decisions in the world. I’ve only to mention Gorbachev’s decision to reduce the number of forces in Europe, to engage in unilateral arms reductions and other factors, driven by economic circumstances, which we needed badly to understand.
I’d like to mention the FBI and one other—one other thing before I turn over the microphone. In today’s world, the FBI is increasingly involved in international crime. This blurs the traditional relationship between CIA and the FBI in terms of who operates abroad and who operates in the United States. It also is a—is a basis for potential turf competition. And I simply say without answering the question here that this question must be worked, worked carefully, and the counterintelligence center, the FBI and the CIA and the other intelligence community people must learn to work together or we will have serious trouble.
And finally, I’d like to say that regardless of what we read in the novels, regardless of the arguments that are sometimes put forth about intelligence is all about breaking the law, intelligence is not about breaking the laws of the United States. Unless the American people can trust the intelligence community to conform to the laws of this country and the rules and regulations that are given to guide it, and unless the intelligence community is responsive to the oversight committees especially charged with the surrogate responsibility for the Congress and the American people, the trust will not be there and the authority and the resources will not follow.
So these are my thoughts as we open the discussion today, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GERGEN: I thank you, Judge Webster, for opening up this discussion with a broad overview of the landscape.
We’ll turn now to Dr. Schlesinger. As many of you know, James R. Schlesinger served as director of Central Intelligence in 1973. It was a short tour because shortly after he was—went there, he was asked to move over to the Defense Department as secretary of defense, where he served from ‘73 to ‘77, later as secretary of energy from ‘77 to ‘79. He’s recipient of a great many honorary degrees and awards, just as all three of the men before us today are, including the National Security Medal and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Distinguished Service Medal. He’s currently a senior adviser to the investment banking firm of Lehman Brothers and counselor to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Dr. Schlesinger.
Dr. JAMES SCHLESINGER (Former CIA Director, Nixon Administration): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will pick up where you started and Judge Webster followed. Today the intelligence community is under assault. It is under assault partly because of a natural complacency after the end of the Cold War, in which the American people believe that we in this country are unthreatened. It is heightened, of course, by a certain zest for scandal that marks our competitive media and a thirst for publicity that affects certain members of Congress, but it also reflects this deeper ambivalence that Judge Webster was talking about. That ambivalence marks some democratic societies and, in particular, it marks the American democracy. We have always been uncomfortable with operations which, in their very nature, must remain secret. And today, with no clear and present danger, that uneasiness tends to rise to the surface.
A question that was put to us by the organizers of this session: How best to equip the agency to deal with the problems of the 21st century? One of the things that ought to be done is to avoid the kind of constant attack under which the agency has suffered in recent years. If the leaders of the agency are continuously called to the Hill or to press conferences to defend the legitimate operations of the agency, it will vitiate the basic purpose of having a secret intelligence agency.
Other nations, even those with lesser ambitions in foreign policy than our own, do not spend a great deal of time examining their own navels with regard to the issue of whether or not to conduct intelligence activities. They do not fancy themselves to be the leader of the international community and the stabilizer of international activities worldwide, a role which we envisage for ourselves. And therefore, it would be best for us fondly to settle the issue that we need to have vigorous intelligence operations which are allowed to conduct themselves without constant harassment and questioning.
In this connection, I might mention the issue of the directorate of operations, which recently has adopted the custom of examining—of having our offices in the field examine the human rights record of those who would provide information to the United States, to see whether or not they are suitable to provide that information. If we are attempting to get information on terrorist organizations or drug cartels, we will find very few people, if any, who have an exemplary record with regard to human rights. The kind of people who operate in these groups do not resemble at all those in the community chest or the Red Cross.
The question was put to us how best to equip the agency for the 21st century. The answer to that is quite simple: We must recruit and retain the best personnel, talented people. And that proposes an immediate call—task for the incoming director of Central Intelligence, because at this moment, the CIA is marked by poor morale, reflecting in part the turnover—the rapid turnover in directors. We will have the fifth director of Central Intelligence shortly in this—just over five years.
Mr. Chairman, let me turn now from those issues to a brief discussion of the future environment. It is a commonplace that we face more diverse challenges than we did during the Cold War. Challenges means threats. There is a presumption out there that other nations only desire the United States to lead them in the paths of righteousness. That is not true. Other nations may be plotting against us; indeed, they may join together to reduce the stature and power of the United States.
In the area of technology the question has arisen whether we need to continue to invest in high technology. We must continue to invest in high technology in order to stay ahead. Others will be continuously catching up. We have a worldwide proliferation of technology what, in regard to other matters, is sometimes referred to as the trickle-down theory. The lesser nations, indeed subnational groups, now have available to them technologies that 10 years ago would have been unthinkable.
For example, we have the Global Positioning System, which during the Gulf War, permitted the American forces to make a wide sweep through the desert to the total surprise of Saddam Hussein. That is no longer a secret, and indeed others are—can go down to Radio Shack and purchase a receiver which would be helpful. In addition to GPS, we have satellite receiving, satellite reconnaissance, available commercially. These photographs are available from a commercial operation in Maryland. These other photographs are available in a commercial operation headquartered in North Carolina. Through this, one can acquire the coordinates of targets, and if one is technically sophisticated, one can use the GPS system to guide weapons to those targets. That would require something more than most subnational groups would have, but some of these technologies are trickling down even to subnational groups.
I should mention the internet. That is what we refer to as the super—information superhighway, the vaunted information superhighway. There are others making use of that vaunted superhighway. For example, you can turn to the internet and get the formula for sarin, the nerve gas that was used in the attack in the Tokyo underground. You can find out about nuclear weapons. Here is a advertisement on the internet for the Swords of Armageddon, and the Swords of Armageddon, it might be noted, allegedly draw from thousands of top secret information released by the government from the AEC and DOE files, and this is now available on a CD-ROM for $300. I will give you the telephone number if you are further interested. Here we have another item available through the internet: Nuclear weapons, frequently asked questions; available on the Milnet. You can—if you happen to want an easy way to make a nuclear weapon or one more suitable for terrorist organizations, we provide that kind of information over the superhighway.
Now I’m—with regard to nuclear weapons, there has been some discussion of late of the elimination of those weapons. I would like to remind the members of this panel that the fewer the nuclear weapons that there are, the greater the value of each individual nuclear weapon. As the people in the nuclear freezer used to say—free—nuclear freeze movement used to say, ‘One nuclear detonation will ruin your whole day,’ and that will be true in the future if terrorists were to get their hands on the material and fashion a weapon.
Terrorism is the weapon of choice in dealing with the United States in the period ahead. It is the weapon of choice because with the experience of the Cold War and the Gulf War behind us, no one would think seriously of challenging the United States militarily. Terrorists make use of the internet. You can find the web of the Shining Path—Peru’s Shining Path on the internet; web for the Irish Republican Army. The internet permits you to send messages quickly and inefficiently and for the most part without detection.
I close by observing that we have special vulnerabilities that are involved in the area of information warfare. The president has recently established a commission on critical infrastructure vulnerabilities. That’s the opposite side of the shield of the information superhighway. Not only is the Department of Defense and its weapons systems dependent upon computers these days, but computer programs are what run electric power distribution in this country, electric power production, it runs sewerage systems, water systems, it runs our financial system. These are vulnerable to penetrations. On that information—on that internet you can find hackers who have posted on the web—on their web for hackers how to exploit these vulnerabilities. That’s only the hackers now, and hackers tend to be less concerned about leaving tracks than others who might follow in their footsteps, the criminals and the terrorists.
Mr. Chairman, for the intelligence community there is plenty to focus on in the period ahead. We need to develop new technologies, we need to exploit them, we need to track those technologies in the hands of others as it becomes increasingly available. We need to have a talented people working in the intelligence agencies or we will live to regret it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. GERGEN: Thank you, Dr. Schlesinger. And I hope in our follow-up discussion you’ll tell us what you think the CIA and the intelligence community ought to do about this trickle down of technology that you described. I’m very curious about it.
Our third speaker is R. James Woolsey, again, familiar to all of you, a former undersecretary of the Navy and adviser to the US delegation at the SALT I talks, been very much involved in negotiations over the years on—on both arms and men. He served as director of Central Intelligence in the Clinton administration from 1993 to 1995. I must say he looks remarkably fit having returned to the private sector where he is, once again, at his law firm of Shea and Gardner. Jim, we’re delighted to have you.
Mr. R. JAMES WOOLSEY (Former CIA Director, Clinton Administration): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. The question we were put has to do with the future of the CIA, so I’m going to limit myself in these remarks to that institution, which is, as this panel knows, by dollar volume perhaps something just a little over 10 percent of the intelligence community and—at the national level, and if one adds in the tactical expenditures for intelligence in the Department of Defense, the CIA is well under 10 percent of what the country spends on intelligence. But the CIA manages one of the three major collection operations that the country runs; the other two being photo reconnaissance satellites and electronic intercepts.
The CIA manages espionage. It does two other—three other things as well. It manages covert action, that is under the law efforts to influence events abroad if authorized by the president and the Congress is notified. It manages the central all-source analysis of intelligence for the United States government. And it has a charter for objectivity and for pulling everything together, which derived really from the failure of American intelligence to see what was coming at Pearl Harbor, and the CIA’s birth in 1947 was explicitly to avoid other Pearl Harbors. And finally, often not talked about, but I think terribly important, the CIA is the heart of scientific and technical innovation and coordination of scientific and technical developments for the intelligence community. And that has a lot to do with a number of very important technologies for the US government as a whole.
Let me speak briefly to each of these four roles in the current late 20th, early 21st century era. First of all, do we need espionage? I think the need for espionage is greater now than it was during the Cold War, partially because there are some intelligence targets, such as weapons proliferation and others—and Jim Schlesinger spoke very much to those—such as terrorism, for which espionage is essential. Those who are calling, as Mr. Hillsman has and, on occasion, Senator Moynihan has, for the abolition of the CIA would, I imagine, be very upset if a domestic terrorist incident involving a weapon of mass destruction took place, and it turned out later that it was sponsored by a rogue regime in the Mideast or by an organization such as Hezbollah, which had not been penetrated by the CIA because the CIA was either abolished previous to the event or, as Jim Schlesinger suggested, not permitted to spy effectively on such an organization because it couldn’t recruit spies who weren’t nice people.
In the aftermath of the Cold War, we can’t neglect Russia and China. Both are more open societies than they were some years ago, but both are terribly important to the future security of the United States, and both have a number of important aspects of their politics and their strategic and military structure which can really only be dealt with by collecting information the old-fashioned way, namely to steal it. Spies also, in these days and times, tip off satellites and satellites tip off spies. The business of espionage is more closely integrated with electronic intercepts and with reconnaissance satellites than it was during the Cold War. It is very important for the CIA to accommodate these changes and to ensure that its case officers—that it has at least a general sprinkling, let’s say, of case officers who are hackers, let’s say, rather than liberal arts majors, and to focus on the very important languages of today—all varieties, for instance, of Arabic. But it is also, I think, important to realize that espionage, whereas it has to be modernized in—to change with the times, has a very important role, which, in some ways, more important than it had during the Cold War.
One important aspect of human intelligence collection overseas—it’s not just espionage. It’s also dealing with other intelligence services, so-called liaison efforts, and very importantly, dealing with defectors—is counterintelligence. One thing that is, I think, poorly understood is that the fact that Rick Ames was, in fact, captured and prosecuted successfully, and the reason—recently, a CIA officer and an FBI special agent have been captured and at least the process begun with respect to dealing with people who had conducted espionage in the past—is because counterintelligence and certain aspects of security, including cooperation between the CIA and the FBI, began to improve substantially in the early 1990s. I’d say around early 1991 was when this began. It began under Bill Webster, and what you are beginning to see is the fruits of successes in counterintelligence and cooperation between the CIA and the FBI, catching people who began, in some cases, to spy in the mid-1980s. So it is important when these counterintelligence and law enforcement successes occur, I think, not to shoot the wounded and the heroes and to pick on those who actually succeeded in bringing to justice some who began their espionage efforts against the United States in years past.
The second major area is covert action. Let me simply say briefly that covert action, to much of the world, means trying to overthrow governments, but if I asked even this sophisticated audience to name the two CIA covert actions that have been praised by Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa as being perhaps the most important thing that the United States did, and most successful thing the United States did during the Cold War, not too many people would name Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe. Yet, those were very important CIA covert actions for much of their history, and books—major books are written these days about covert action, major articles that don’t mention any of the successes of the past, even ones that are well known.
Today—and I said publicly when I was DCI that well under 1 percent of the intelligence community’s budget went for covert action. It is not, by dollar volume, a major share of what the intelligence community does. But it is important. There are some aspects of it that are carried out very well and very effectively today and always under the law, pursuant to a signature on a finding by the president and to review by the two oversight committees of the Congress. I think it’s important that the country have something that it can do in between sending in the Marines and sending in, as it’s been said, former President Carter, and I think covert action is an important capability. Only the CIA really is able to carry it out.
The importance of objective all-source analysis is crucial, even if one like Mr. Hillsman believed in doing away with espionage for the United States and doing away with covert action, objective all-source analysis is at the heart of what the CIA is all about. Here, I think it’s very important to realize that the director of Central Intelligence is almost always going to be a skunk at the garden party. He is always going to be telling people things that they don’t want to hear, including that their policies are showing indications of turning south on them. There are friends of mine who have suggested to me that I may have overdone this skunk-at-the-garden-party aspect of the job during my tenure. But be that as it may, it is, I think, right at the heart of why one needs a CIA in order to have one institution in the business of analyzing and dealing with information flow to the top levels of government that has no policy ax to grind.
Much of the criticism of the CIA’s efforts back in the ‘60s, ‘70s and—and ‘80s, I think, has been misplaced, particularly the allegation that the CIA so-called missed the end of the Cold War, missed the fall of the Soviet Union. We commend to this audience a superb article in late 1995 in the “National Interest” magazine by Berkowitz and Richelson, which I think effectively debunks this notion. It’s also been very effectively dealt with by Doug McKekkan’s excellent paper published last summer by the Center for Study of Intelligence.
Finally, scientific and technical innovation and coordination—because of the flexibility that the director of Central Intelligence has in the area of managing research and development and acquisition of matters related to intelligence. The scientific and technical people at the CIA have a relative freedom from bureaucracy and a flexibility that has manifested itself many times in extraordinary scientific breakthroughs. When I sat on the Packard Commission in the mid-1980s, although we could not at that time mention the name National Reconnaissance Office, we, in fact, took the successes of the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office, such as the U-2 and a number of the satellite programs, and tried to suggest that the rest of the government should manage its acquisition systems and its research and development systems far more like the CIA than like any other institution. I’m rather chagrined that over the course of the last couple of years, we’ve begun to see some rollback in this scientific and technical flexibility and an introduction of some of the rigidities and bureaucracy into DCI programs that previously had plagued much of the rest of the government.
The flexibility of funding for reconnaissance satellites I think has been undercut, and I believe the new National Imagery and Mapping Agency may be operating in such a way that CIA imagery analysts, who are the heart of our country’s ability to understand what is going on from space, are going to be leaving in substantial numbers, because they would have rather worked—continued to work for the CIA rather than becoming employees of the Defense Department. That’s just a touch, Mr. Chairman, on those four issues, but I do think it is important to realize that in the post-Cold War era, the need for intelligence, in general, and for what the CIA does, in particular, is not only important, it’s greater than it ever has been. Thank you.
Mr. GERGEN: Thank you for those opening statements, and we’re going to turn now quickly to the questions. With me are two authorities on these issues—at least we’re trying to be authorities. Josette Shiner, I think all of you know, is a managing editor of “The Washington Times,” a newspaper she has helped to lead to many national awards. She’s had over two decades as a reporter and editor and covering the White House, Congress, the State Department. She has a number of honors, and she’s—also serves on a nominating—is a nominating juror for the Pulitzer Prize each year.
On my right is Morton Abramowitz, who is a former ambassador to Turkey and Thailand, a former assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research and, as you know, serves now as a president of the Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, a post he took up in 1991. Mort, you have recently served on a task force at the Council On Foreign Relations on this issue, so why don’t you lead us off here with these questions.
Mr. MORTON ABRAMOWITZ (Carnegie Endowment For International Peace, President): Thank you. First, let me say that this is a welcome reversal of roles for me. I’ve been a—questioned by you guys for 30 years, and so I’m glad to have this side of the podium right now. It’s clear also that there are no bomb throwers among you. That’s quite apparent. Although the Central Intelligence Agency and the other elements of the intelligence community do take a lot of criticism in the press over a variety of things, there’re, nevertheless, some very serious questions that are asked within the US government. There are questions about the quality of our intelligence. There are questions about the priorities. There are questions about the capabilities of clandestine service. There are questions about our covert action capabilities. And there’s a lot of criticism both not only outside the government but within the government.
So my question—I’m going to start with a very broad question, which perhaps might be better at the end of the program, but nevertheless, I’ll start with it now. We have a new CIA director or we will have one shortly. He will be—he will be taking over an extremely difficult job. All of you have had enormous experience. You know your way around. You know what many of the issues are. Given the vast changes in the world, given what he has to contend with, what would be your recommendations for change, if any, other than to hire a few good people?
Mr. WOOLSEY: I think the most important thing that a CIA director can do is to develop a close working relationship with the president. I think that was not the case when I was DCI, and I think it is very important for the director of Central Intelligence to be able to see the president frequently and to have his confidence in discussing the whole range of foreign issues that are going to come before the US government. I think it’s also terribly important that the DCI always call it straight and be willing to show that his—with his studies, with the professionals in the field who are looking at an issue, whether it’s Somalia or Bosnia or any other, that once he decides how the intelligence should be called, he’ll continue to call it that way and be willing to take the heat, even if that is not a popular thing within the executive branch or the Congress, for that matter—to continue to do.
I think those two things are absolutely vital, and they dwarf, to my mind, moving organizational boxes around or anything else. Now there are a lot of things that can and should be done to ensure that, as I mentioned very briefly, people are trained in the languages they need to be trained in, that they are trained in the most recent technical and scientific areas that they need to understand. There are a number of matters of that sort that are very important. In my judgment, the most important thing is getting extremely able people into the system, including those who report directly to you, people who you can—who will level with you and you can have confidence in, trusting them, overseeing them, making sure that they do a good job, but the quality of those individuals is far more important, I think, than the structure of the organizational boxes. I would not subject either the CIA or the intelligence community to any more organizational reform. I think we’ve had too much already.
Dr. SCHLESINGER: Let me pick up right there and agree, generally, with Jim Woolsey’s remarks and particularly the last remark. It’s an American illusion that somehow through restructuring or through management devices, that we can improve quality. It has long been an American illusion, and it’s why it leads to enormous retainers for management authorities and specialists and so forth. Most of that is just bunkum. It’s the quality of the people. And, Mr. Ambassador, you kind of was a little dismissive about hiring a few good people. I suspect that in your days at Carnegie Institution, you spent more time worrying about that than you were prepared to allow the intelligence community to do. The fact is that as a result of the actions of recent years, we are not recruiting the kind of people that we should and we are retaining fewer of the better quality people in the community than we used to do, and the long-term consequence of that was indicated...
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: Well, how are you going to do that? I mean, this is a problem that affects the US government in general. The US government—the quality of the US government’s probably declining. It’s a problem of the State Department. It’s a problem of the personnel system. How are you going to get a lot of better people into the system?
Dr. SCHLESINGER: There are ...
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: And how are you going to retain them?
Dr. SCHLESINGER: There are two things: internal response and the external response. On the internal response, generally throughout the government, civil servants are prepared to follow where there is leadership. And one of the problems that will be faced by the new DCI will be, because of the morale issues, to pull the place together more cohesively as an organization. Now those who are going to stay tend to burrow down into their own specialties, so providing a spree, to providing a mission within the agency, providing demonstrable leadership is, I think, part of the internal solution.
As to the external problem, there may be little that people in government can do. Those in the press may be able to do more. The tendency to downgrade those who work for the government over these last 15 or 20 years has diminished the attractiveness of a government career. And over time, we will pay a price for that, particularly if we continue to have the ambition that the United States serve as the—as the leading nation and cheerleader for the international community.
I mention those things—in order to retain people, you have to protect them. You have to protect them particularly in the intelligence area when they are saying things that are heterodox. One of the mechanisms that should be employed is the devil’s advocacy system, so that you set up within the intelligence community teams that are instructed to argue unpopular positions, and the director of Central Intelligence will have the obligation to protect those teams.
There is a good deal of discussion and criticism, as you indicated in your opening remarks, about the quality of intelligence. But remember that some of those complaints are not entirely objective. There is a tendency, when policy-makers have seriously bungled a problem, to try to blame it on an intelligence failure. I have witnessed a number of those. Usually, the intelligence is there. Frequently, it is ignored, and then after the event, the intelligence people are criticized because they failed to do the impossible. I remember in 1970, vehement criticism coming from the White House because of the failure of the CIA to predict Gomulka’s overthrow in Poland. If the CIA were going to know about it, Gomulka probably would have known about it. And if they had predicted it at the same time that he knew about it, it would not have transpired. But it was an easy way out, simply to blame the failures of policy on the supposed deficiencies in the quality of intelligence.
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: And do you believe that the quality of intelligence can be significantly improved?
Dr. SCHLESINGER: I think that if—I think that there is no reason that it cannot be significantly improved, but it is excessively derided, as Mr. Woolsey, I think, pointed out in his comments—yes, we should be continuously striving for improvements there, but that is a question of getting the right people and giving them protection—protection not only within the intelligence community but protection of their arguments within the larger framework of government.
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: Well, let me ask you a question here. We have no trouble spending billions of dollars on expensive reconnaissance systems, etc., which are very necessary. But the major complaint that I hear from the US government is not about reconnaissance systems or other technical means. It’s about the quality of our analytical effort. That may be wrong, but that’s the major criticism. So why don’t we—if that is the major criticism, why don’t policy-makers take a big chunk of money—maybe that’s not the only way to do it—but take a big chunk of money and do something about it?
Dr. SCHLESINGER: They might not be able to keep it classified, Mr. Ambassador.
Judge WEBSTER: If I might weigh in here, I don’t believe it’s money. I don’t believe that you will find in the CIA or the other components of the intelligence community people who are motivated by getting more money. In the analytical world, I think the most attractive thing about it, aside from a terrific opportunity to serve your country in a very meaningful way, is the access to information, not only unlimited public source information but information that is classified and not otherwise available to the average scholar so that there is a tremendous appeal and attraction to qualified scholars, and we have over 3,500 Ph.D.s, by last count, in the Agency alone.
Now the question is: How do they feel about their job? And part of that is determined at least in how they think the American people feel about the institution that they serve. And I believe that here is an opportunity for leadership and for new leadership coming in to demonstrate real support and to demonstrate, through the president of the United States and the chief committees of the Congress, support for excellence, an appreciation for what sacrifices have been made and will be made in the future, but a requirement that the work be top drawer.
Given that kind of setup, it seems to me the next step is to shake the scholar away from his own little niche and to participate in the Agency as a going entity; that he is, first and foremost, an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency, not an employee of Soviet analysis. And that requires some leadership and support and, as Jim Schlesinger said, a good deal of protection. Because they have to be encouraged to call it as they see it. Now from time to time, we are criticized in time of war for providing ‘on the one hand and on the other hand’ type of intelligence, but on balance, most of the policy-makers want to see both sides of the picture if there are two sides to the picture. They want the differences flagged, put into the estimates on the same page if possible. And they respect this alternative way of thinking. Some generals would prefer not to be confused by alternative thinking, and I can understand that in the current intelligence world.
But basically, scholars must be allowed to be scholars and to give the kind of information that builds confidence in the end work product. The reports on the breakup of Yugoslavia, I think, are a sterling example of well-thought-out analysis that proved out in almost every respect.
Dr. SCHLESINGER: Mr. Amb...
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: Let me ask—OK.
Dr. SCHLESINGER: Mr. Ambassador, your question goes to the heart of something that’s very important and has not been responded to yet. Yes, indeed, the intelligence community has tended over the years to become much more inward looking. It has not reached out to the most intelligent authorities in the land as opposed to those within the community. We should, as your question suggests, reach out more to them. Who are the best people available that we can get to advise us on this subject? Rather, it’s tended to become, ‘Here we are, the bunch of us. We will do the best we can.’ So I think that your question goes to the heart of the direction that we should move in.
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: Let me just ask one more question. It’s an old debated one, but one which I myself have changed my view in recent times. And that is the question of whether the director of Central Intelligence should be separated from the director of CIA? You describe an enormous job now just at CIA. Why should the director of CIA carry two hats? Now given the great complexity, given the need to have a major reform of the organization or major changes in the organization, keep it up to date with the changes in the world, it would seem that’s a big enough job for one person. Why should he have the job of being—or she have the job of being the oversight or the sort of the controller of the whole intelligence community?
Mr. WOOLSEY: The problem is, to my mind, not that the job is too big. It is, as the Council on Foreign Relations review and IC-21, the report from the House Permanent Select Committee On Intelligence and I think—and the Aspin-Brown Commission—all, in one way or another, said the same thing, which is that the authority of the director of Central Intelligence should be increased over the rest of the community. The DCI is sort of the chief executive officer of the CIA, and he’s kind of the chairman of the board of the rest of the community. And with respect to the need for a concurrence—formal concurrence by him in the appointment of the rest of the senior leaders of the community, in the form of budgetary authority, his power is considerably more limited than his title. Congress didn’t see fit to make those changes, but I believe that the increase in authority to go along with the nominal position of being the chairman of the entire community would be a worthwhile thing to do.
I think that’s much more important than creating new offices or new organizational structures or added deputies or any of the other things that have happened. What takes time is not—in the job, at least, in my experience, is not being able to pull together what is being done by the rest of the community other than by persuasion. And sometimes in the bureaucracy, one has to have something going beyond persuasion in your quiver, and I think all three of those institutions that have made that recommendation are correct. But I think that’s the problem. It’s not that there’s too much to do if the authority was there to match the nominal authority.
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: Any of you think differently?
Dr. SCHLESINGER: Slightly. I think that—going back to 1971, at least, all the reports—I wrote one in ‘71 that said, ‘The authority of the DCI should be increased.’ That’s an easy recommendation to make. Generally, it points in the right direction. The DCI is not going to be able to establish sway over the rest of the community. The rest of the community won’t have it, and therefore, I do not think that he should devote a great deal of his energy to attempting to establish his authority in areas in which he will be unsuccessful.
Mr. GERGEN: Mm-hmm. Thank you. Josette Shiner.
Ms. JOSETTE SHINER (Managing Editor, “The Washington Times”): I think in order to make this hearing fair, we should turn the tables at the end and let you ask David and I about the policies in the media that make life miserable for intelligence directors. I’d like to move outside the Beltway for a moment and discuss some interests, I think, are of concern to the American people. Despite the unfortunate assault that the CIA is under in our popular culture and despite the misgivings that American people have about intelligence, I think there is a firm expectation that the CIA will be able to prevent another Pearl Harbor or any type of unexpected attack on American properties. And yet, recent years have witnessed several terrorist attacks that have alarmed the American people. Could you tell us: Are we ready to deal with this new diverse threat? And what would it take in terms of resources or changing the rules to make us better prepared to deal with the post-Cold War threats?
Mr. WOOLSEY: I think that in terms of indications and warning of an attack on the United States from a nation state, American allies abroad, the CIA and the rest of the American intelligence community, over the years, has developed a really first-rate system of indications and warning supported by all of the methods of intelligence collection. What would be very difficult to do, under current circumstances, is to find out in advance and permit the government to do something about, let’s say, a terrorist incident inside the United States that was sponsored covertly by some rogue regime in the Mideast, Iran or Iraq, and to be—be sure that one could find out about that reliably in advance.
That is probably the sort of thing that could only be done by espionage if there was an extended effort here inside the United States, as there was in the effort to blow up the Holland Tunnel in New York, which the FBI successfully penetrated. And then law enforcement can have a substantial role. But if this is largely coming from overseas, you’re not going to find out about it from reconnaissance satellites and you’re probably not going to find out about it from any kind of electronic intercepts. You’re going to have to have penetrated the your own intelligence is going to have to have penetrated the rogue regime or the group like Hezbollah in order to be able to give warning.
And there are—Jim Schlesinger mentioned one policy constraint that—I agree with him—I think it is inappropriate; the restriction on case officers being able to recruit informants without a special waiver from the director of Central Intelligence if that informant may have a record of human rights violations. In intelligence collection of this sort, one has to be able to buy information, essentially, from some rather unattractive people; that’s the name of the game. It is not always the case in dealing with other governments. When good individuals are trapped in a bad government, as Colonel Pinkoski was, and who spied for the United States and Britain, they will sometimes volunteer.
In a sense, Thomas Jefferson still does some recruiting for us when we’re talking about people like Colonel Pinkoski. But if you were trying to penetrate Hezbollah, that’s not the way it’s going to work. And the arguments that Jim made against this current policy of not being able to recruit spies overseas if they are—have a history of human rights violations or other negative characteristics, unless you get a waiver from the director of Central Intelligence, I think is an unwise policy.
Judge WEBSTER: I think the task of combating terrorism is a very difficult one, but not an impossible one. Taking our own experience in the United States, I recall when I came to the FBI in 1978, we were experiencing about 100 domestic terrorist incidents a year. When I left in 1987, we were down to a bare handful. And in 1994, there were no incidents national, domestic or international in the United States.
This was done in large part by sensible, good, aggressive intelligence; counterintelligence if you will. One of the concerns that I have, in addition to restraints on who can be used for the gathering of information, are the—what I consider to be the mindless restrictions on the use of court-authorized wiretaps today. When we have a definite need and we know that we’ve been outgunned technologically, because if you carry around four or five cellular phones, you can defeat the court-authorized wiretap on one of those telephones. We certainly need a revision in our laws that give the courts authority to permit, on a proper showing, the federal authorities to utilize multiple telephones aimed at a particular target known to be planning to or engaging in acts of terrorism. I think that’s essential.
Intelligence abroad can be done in concert with our friends and allies. One of the best stories yet to be told is how we defeated Saddam Hussein’s terrorist teams during Desert Storm. Not one single team succeeded in its efforts to go after the United States and its allies, largely through the cooperation of our allies who worked with us and the information that we were able to develop about where they were going, what their trade craft methods were, what their objectives were. We won’t be there all the time, but getting there before the bomb goes off has to be a central objective in engaging in counterterrorism.
Ms. SHINER: Dr. Schlesinger, when a mistake is made in intelligence, the kind of retroactive discipline that we’ve seen or the lack of high-level political support, how much has that damaged the kind of risk-taking and initiative that’s necessary in dealing with the kinds of threats that we face?
Dr. SCHLESINGER: Well, I think that it does a great deal of damage and it does it periodically. This is not something new. After the failure of the Bay of Pigs, the tendency in the intelligence community was to rely increasingly on satellite reconnaissance, which fortuitously came along just about that juncture rather than running risks of clandestine operations. As a result, at one point there were more State Department employees P&G’d out of Eastern Europe than CIA employees. And that is not a sign of risk-taking.
Might I go back to your original question...
Ms. SHINER: Mm-hmm.
Dr. SCHLESINGER: ...and examine the issue of popular culture. The problem is less the popular culture than the mainstream media, a phrase that may have a certain resonance with you. The public is—generally is more concerned about not crippling our intelligence capabilities than it is about all of the problems that seem to worry some of the intellectual community. I remember when Operation Chaos was revealed and it was indicated that the Central Intelligence Agency employees had been following some members of Congress. There was, understandably, a great uproar in the press.
But one of the congressman came up to the agency and said—I’ll give you the name later on—and said, ‘My people don’t understand all of this. They think that when the CIA is following me that they’ve got a good reason to follow me and that I’m an object of suspicion. So would you please give me a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,’ which was produced. The fact is I think that it is not a problem of the popular culture and that it—we misinterpret protest from some elements of the community for popular feelings.
Ms. SHINER: Dr. Schlesinger, perhaps there’s two problems. One is with the rules that the media uses and what it prints; and I will point out that often what is printed is received from the executive branch or Congress, where the leaks often are more proliferate than in the media. In the popular culture, I think the problem is we’re raising a generation where the internet is the truth, and conspiracy theories about the CIA proliferate on there and the rogue force in the world in many of our popular movies is not Libya and it’s not in Iran; it’s the CIA itself.
And so you’re raising a generation of people that not only don’t understand the moral imperative for an intelligence operation, but weren’t there for Pearl Harbor and don’t understand even the history of it. It seems to me that there needs to be some effort among those like yourselves to defend the moral imperative of intelligence operations outside the Beltway.
Mr. WOOLSEY: There’s another thing that’s going on here, I think, which is in the few pages at the very end of his general theory, John Maynard Keynes has a wonderful discussion of how there are lags in public policy-making, and he says, essentially, ‘No one ever learns anything after they’re 25 or 30 years old, and so we’re all sort of slaves of the academic scribblers of the generation before.’ And that people who are in positions of authority in government think they’re making decisions; in fact, they’re just harking back to sort of what they learned in graduate school.
Now there is some truth to that. And one of the things one finds in the intelligence business is extremely forceful and trenchant criticism written today about a CIA that existed, say, in the early 1960s. I think Mr. Hillsman’s piece in “Foreign Affairs” of a year or so ago is a perfect example of that. It’s an excellent piece about what was wrong with the CIA circa 1963. Now there’s a lot of argumentation that takes place today about what went on in Central America in the early and mid-1980s. All right, well, fine, thanks, yes, there were a great deal of disagreements on some important issues, but much of that is over and done with. And a lot of things changed, particularly in the mid-70s when the covert action was brought under law. There are a whole range of things that have changed in intelligence. And there’s a certain lag time on the part of some reporters and editorial writers, present company excepted, in which they are doing an excellent job of criticizing the Church Committee era—or pre-Church Committee era issues and not coping with what’s really going on now.
Dr. SCHLESINGER: Ms. Shiner, I ‘amen’ to your second comment with regard to what’s in the public mind, what’s on the internet. With regard to that first comment, leaks from the executive and from the legislature, that is a very serious problem. The degree of leakage is simply astonishing compared to what it was, let’s say, 20 years ago. ‘It’s not a leak, it’s a faucet,’ as I think President Kennedy said. And if the leakers who are known go unpunished, that legitimizes not only their behavior, it legitimizes the story that they may have leaked, which may, indeed, be a false accusation.
Mr. GERGEN: Can I—thank you, Josette. Can I follow up these questions? There’s a certain disconnect here that I’m having trouble dealing with. Council on Foreign Relations had this task force that reported last year and it had a distinguished body of people on it; Hank Greenberg was chairman, Dick Haass was the project director. In the first sentence of their report, they say there is a, quote, A widespread lack of confidence in the ability of the US intelligence community to carry out its mission competently and legally.
In another portion of the report it says, quote, The president needs to make reform of the intelligence community a major national security priority. Now all three of you seem to be saying this agency is much more competent than is understood, that it’s performed far better than people understand and that, in fact, trying to reform it now is a mistake; that it’s a myth, it’s an illusion—an American illusion to think that we can reform ourselves or organize ourselves to perfection. Has the Council on Foreign Relations been taken over by radical bomb throwers who are in the thrall of this awful media? Or what’s going on here?
Dr. SCHLESINGER: Well, that’s a very tempting question.
Mr. WOOLSEY: Apart from a bit of the prose here and there in that report, the recommendations, I thought, were quite sound.
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: I did, too.
Mr. WOOLSEY: And there is this disjuncture between the hand-wringing about the Agency and American intelligence in general which springs, I think, from much of the media and elites in the United States. But when groups come together to try to decide what to do, including some who had been wringing their hands, they come up with what IC-21 and the Council on Foreign Relations and the Aspin-Brown Commission did, which seemed to me to be relatively sensible sets of suggestions. And what they say is rather much along the lines of what we’ve said here, which is you need to make some changes to modernize, you need to do this and that, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
Mr. GERGEN: You would have rather modest changes.
Mr. WOOLSEY: Right.
Mr. GERGEN: I mean, changes you’ve been discussing here; recruit better people, get the thing better connected with the president, reach out to scholars.
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: No, the changes are to get rid of the press and stop the leakers.
Mr. WOOLSEY: Well, I would like to stop the leakers, but I would never want to get rid of the press, but I would certainly like for some publications to write more objectively about American intelligence than I think they do.
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: But there—I don’t want to pursue this.
Mr. GERGEN: Please.
Mr. ABRAMOWITZ: We clearly need a good intelligence system. There are very few people—only a handful of people who doubt it. And the question is: How do we get it? And to get a good intelligence system, we have to acknowledge what we think is wrong. And that is what I’ve been trying to get at. What needs to be done to make a better intelligence system? And clearly—for example, you talked about the need for espionage. One of the problems with espionage is that our clandestine service, by all accounts—not something I know intimately, but by all accounts has a very serious problem now; has a very serious morale problem, has a very serious personnel problem. Something needs to be done. And I think it’s these sort of questions rather than the press that really must be addressed.
Mr. WOOLSEY: Part of the problem is that some of the serious morale difficulties come from so-called recent reforms. If you want to go into—let me use the example Jim brought up—if you want to go into the CIA, into the clandestine service to be a case officer, and you’re willing to study Arabic for four years and to be paid at a government civil servant rate, considerably less than you could probably make in international business, and to spend your time prowling the back alleys of some Mideastern country trying to befriend members of Hezbollah in order to convince them to commit treason against that organization in order to help the United States, you’re a rather remarkable individual. All right?
And if you are willing to work that way and to go to those lengths and put your life on the line to do that, then to have someone tell you that we have a reform. It’s a new policy. You can’t recruit as a spy anyone who may be a human rights violator. Well, Hezbollah consists entirely of human rights violators. That’s very much like telling the director of the FBI that he is supposed to penetrate the Mafia but he cannot recruit as informants anybody who may be a crook. All right?
Now that was a reform. That was a—it got very favorable press attention. All right? I think that was a very poor reform. It was a reform that set intelligence back not moved it forward.
Mr. GERGEN: Mm-hmm.
Mr. WOOLSEY: Part of what one has to do in this business is follow the Hippocratic oath (Latin spoken). First of all, do no harm in these reform changes one is going to make.
Mr. GERGEN: Mm-hmm.
Dr. SCHLESINGER: One of the problems that these American-style reforms creates is that other intelligence agencies that are prepared to cooperate with us get less cooperative. Judge Webster referred to the cooperation in the Gulf War, but that was a special period. To the extent that foreign intelligence services believe that the leakage that occurs in the United States will compromise them...
Mr. GERGEN: Mm-hmm.
Dr. SCHLESINGER: ...they are going to give you much less than they would otherwise give you. In the old days, Dick Walters observed that, ‘In the past we got good information from them. Now we only get a handshake.’ The press is a very interesting problem because of the improved methods of communication. You’ll recall that in 1942, a story appeared in the “Chicago Tribune,” which was not then part of the mainstream media, to the effect that the United States had broken the Japanese code. Happily, it was sufficiently obscure that nobody indicated this to the Japanese.
Today that would be on the internet, available to the other side. So it is becoming much harder to prevent leakage that resonates worldwide. That’s part of the problem that we face, and we just will have to accept the fact that information flows much more readily today than it has in the past. That is different, however, from the kinds of assaults and the kinds of structural weaknesses that will lead, for example, to a foreign service minimizing its liaison relationship to the United States. Now they will never eliminate it entirely because they expect to get good information from us in exchange. That good information, of course, frequently comes from technical intelligence—satellite photography and the like—rather than information with regard to clandestine exchanges.
Mr. GERGEN: But it...
Ms. SHINER: Well, Mr. Woolsey, if you could reform the reformers who are dabbling in the business of the CIA, what is wrong here? Is it that the members of Congress are cycled out of these committees and are uninformed? Is it that the case cannot be made to the American public because the trust is not there in the Agency? And how do we get out of this cycle of bad reforms that is tying the hands of the Agency?
Mr. WOOLSEY: Part of the problem—this is going to be a general answer, because I don’t have a specific recipe here. But part of the problem is that the spirit of this country really is, in many ways, very Wilsonian and some of that is very positive in terms of the way we conduct our foreign policy. But one aspect of Wilsonianism, of open covenants openly arrived at, sort of suggests that there should never be duplicity and covert things going on in the world of foreign affairs. And that attitude is one that is relatively common. I think in some parts of the media and the Congress, people are willing, if pressed, to say, ‘Well, yes, if it’s a clear-cut, major threat to the United States, then it might be all right to recruit, let’s say, a human rights violator to—to be a spy,’ but generally that seems, s