DCI Response 05/01/96

Response by DCI John Deutch to the New York Times

Editorial Page Editor
The New York Times
229 W. 43rd Street
New York, N.Y. 10036

To The Editor:

Your April 20 editorial "America's Cold War Secrets" notes declassification of records pertaining to covert operations conducted during the Cold War has not proceeded as quickly as envisioned in 1993. We intend to do more without compromising our responsibility to protect sources and methods.

We have, however, accomplished a great deal. We have doubled the resources devoted to the CIA's declassification of historically valuable records. In addition, I have formed a staff responsible for implementing the automatic declassification requirements of Executive Order 12958. The staff will review for declassification over 40 million pages that are more than 25 years old.

Over the last few years, unprecedented quantities of Intelligence Community records have been declassified -- more in fact than in all of the preceding decades. Additional perspective on the Cold War and the intelligence contribution to understanding that period is now available as a result of declassification of more than 450 National Intelligence Estimates on the former USSR and international communism, a vast quantity of film shot by the CORONA reconnaissance satellites, and many of the "Venona" translations of decrypted Soviet intelligence cables that led to some of the big espionage trials in the 1950s.

In addition, we have declassified over 200,000 pages of CIA records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. And we have a major effort underway that is declassifying records relating to Gulf War illnesses.

As your editorial points out, we also have promised to review records of 11 Cold War covert actions. The Bay of Pigs and 1954 Guatemala covert actions are currently being reviewed; we expect to declassify many of these records this year, and more will follow.

While there is clearly room for improvement, I take issue with The Times' assertion that a large obstacle to declassification review is the "bunker mentality of keepers of the secrets." It is clear that we got out of the bunker a while ago, and we are committed to staying out of it.

John Deutch