Room SD-106
Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C.
Friday, January 19, 1996

CHAIRMAN BROWN: We have as our last witness Mr. Herman Cohen, who is here today representing the American Foreign Service Association, and to present comments for it. He serves as Senior Advisor for the Global Coalition for Africa, which is a North-South policy forum. And he was Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, and, before that, a Senior Director for Africa on the National Security Council Staff.

He has had a career as a Foreign Service officer, Deputy Director General of the Foreign Service. He has been Ambassador to several African countries, as well as other overseas postings. We welcome Ambassador Cohen. And I guess his associate, Mr. Taylor, is here, too.


AMBASSADOR COHEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for inviting the American Foreign Service Association to this hearing.

As the name suggests, we have a major interest in those folks who are serving abroad in our embassies and consulates of the foreign affairs agencies -- State Department, USIA, USAID, Commerce, Agriculture. These are the people who belong to our association. And of course we also take a close interest in the other agencies that are in our embassies.

You have a paper that we have submitted, and I would just like to highlight a couple of things that we think are of high priorities. First, there is the authority of the chief of mission, the U.S. ambassador, at any post. We would hope that this commission would reiterate the overall authority for supervising all intelligence operations, all intelligence activities in that particular country.

The chief of mission is responsible to the President and to the Secretary of State for a very complex set of goals and objectives in U.S. policy in each particular country. And it is important that the chief of mission know that all intelligence activities are compatible with these overall goals and objectives. And occasionally, the chief of mission and his staff can give some helpful suggestions to the intelligence people as to how they might better achieve their objectives in any particular country.

Now, legislation exists which gives the chief of mission overall authority. There are executive orders. There is the letter from the President to each chief of mission saying you have authority over all activities. But we would like to see this commission, in your final package, reiterate, reinforce the authority of the chief of mission.

And I know of no chief of mission that I have ever run into who was not concerned about sources and methods. When I was chief of mission, I did not want to know who the sources were or what the methods were. I did not want to reveal, by my body language, that I was meeting with someone at a cocktail party who happened to be a source for intelligence information. We do not want to know that information. But we want to know generally what the activities are and how they fit in with our overall goals and objectives.

Secondly, from my time working in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research and subsequently on the NSC, I was quite aware of the fact that the largest single source of intelligence information for the analytical groups throughout our U.S. Government is the Foreign Service reporting that comes from the different Foreign Service agencies. It is not from the CIA and the DIA. It is from the standard Foreign Service reporting. Very often, far more than 50 percent of the content of the sources for analysis comes from the Foreign Service reporting.

So, the irony of the current budget situation is that these platforms that are the places where intelligence comes from -- the Foreign Service, defense intelligence, defense attaches, CIA stations -- these platforms are not considered part of the national security budget. They are considered part of the State, Commerce, and Judiciary budget, which is a domestic affairs budget.

So as the cuts in non-national security activities go very, very deep, there is a danger that the main platforms for the origination of information for the intelligence analysts will disappear. Posts will have to close, and it will be very, very -- much more difficult for the intelligence community to find a place to work -- which is the U.S. embassy.

So we would hope this commission would call attention to the fact that the Foreign Affairs agencies, are just as much national security agencies as are Defense and CIA.

And, finally, I would hope that in terms of beefing up intelligence support that comes from Washington to the operators in the field, that you would look just as much at support needed for U.S. embassies and U.S. negotiators as you are thinking of support for U.S. military commanders in the field.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Chairman, in the area of law enforcement, we heard earlier Attorney General Barr and members of the commission speak of the substantial increase of law enforcement personnel overseas. You have no doubt become very much aware of the coordinating aspects of this. We could provide you information on this, with anecdotal evidence of some of our concerns. But what is clear is that it is very difficult to coordinate foreign activities in Washington. The very fact that we work through a U.S. Attorney system, and those U.S. Attorneys' offices deal directly overseas, points to one of the major difficulties in trying to coordinate from Washington.

This reemphasizes the role that Ambassador Cohen mentioned of the chief of mission being the coordinating instrument of the President and of the entire Government. We have, unfortunately, too many examples where domestic law enforcement agencies have dealt directly with host government ministries on matters that could create diplomatic problems, because of timing, because of conflicting priorities.

And we urge, as we do in our paper submitted to you, that in this continuing debate about the coordinating authorities for law enforcement, that this be taken into account. That the proliferation of our interests as well as our assets overseas only exacerbates the problem. And I will leave it at that.

Thank you.

CHAIRMAN BROWN: Thank you very much, both gentlemen.

I have a comment and a question. My comment is I am strongly convinced that preserving adequate funding for the State Department is a very important matter. It will be cost-effective for intelligence, broadly defined, and also for national security generally. And throwing other items into the State budget obviously compounds that problems.

It is too bad, in some ways, that the State Department budget cannot be hidden away in the defense appropriation process that has been so useful for the CIA. But it is not going to happen. And I think that, recognizing the problem, I am not sure we can make any recommendations that will be terribly useful in solving it. But we will pay some attention to it.

I am taken with -- well, I note one suggestion in your paper that I would like you to say a little more about. It has to do with who operates the communications. You point out that you would not like State Department communications to be operated by the CIA. You do suggest that the State Department operate the CIA communications or, more generally, everybody's communications into the mission. Which I understand structurally, but of course the same concerns that State people have about giving their communications to somebody else, the Intelligence Community would have about the State Department running it.

You propose to solve that by having a special channel, essentially, which might also serve non-communications issues, but would be a separate channel. I am not sure how that would work. My own experience as a cabinet officer was that State did have various channels. I mean, there was EXDIS, which everybody saw and NODIS, which most people in State saw and a few people outside. And then there was a code word, which I will not repeat, for a special channel, which a lot of people in State saw and very few people outside saw.

Isn't there always going to be an in-group and an out-group, with more in the in-group in whatever agency operates the channel?

AMBASSADOR COHEN: I think that is right. And one of the big problems has always been the lie detector test. The State Department has always been opposed to having that and CIA has always said this is sine qua non, you must have a lie detector test to work for us. I think it is all kind of silly, and it is duplicative. It costs a lot of money. We all have to have these special channels to avoid each other staring over our shoulder, especially when State has to comment on intelligence operations -- and I guess vice-versa.

I would say turn it over to GSA, the General Services Administration, somebody who has nothing to do with either agency. But it is should be doable.

VICE CHAIRMAN RUDMAN: Then you will not be able to talk to anybody.


AMBASSADOR COHEN: But you could have an independent diplomatic telecommunications service, which is even what you see on the sign when you walk into an embassy code room now. And just have it working through someone who has nothing to do with either one -- save the money. Let's get it over with. It is kind of silly.


VICE CHAIRMAN RUDMAN: Just very quickly. I have heard of these disputes for a long time now. And the thing I have never understood is this -- and maybe you can explain it to me, Ambassador Cohen. We will take a hypothetical.

The embassy in County X. We have a law enforcement person over there, who we find out has been there for a week dealing with the internal affairs ministry on a number of issues, and has never told the Ambassador word one. The Ambassador finds out and is very upset. Cables the State Department. The Secretary of State or number two, the Under Secretary or Deputy, sees it. He is very upset. And I assume calls the appropriate cabinet official -- in this case, the Attorney General -- and says I do not want that to happen again. Two weeks later, it happens again.

I mean, isn't that what the President is for? We can write all kinds of things in these reports. If the leadership is not willing to stand up and say "you will not do that again and, if you do, you are going to find a new job", it is going to go on forever. I submit to you that putting it in reports does no good at all. The only way it does any good is if people who run agencies, like the State Department, simply stand up for what is right and what the law says. And if they do not, you cannot expect anyone to help you. I mean, that is my humble view on it.

AMBASSADOR COHEN: Yes, I think that is absolutely right. It is leadership, and the ambassador has the right to kick people out of the country. Any U.S. Government employee who is there that he does not want, you get out of here on the next plane.


AMBASSADOR COHEN: And I have seen them do that. When I was Ambassador, I used to call all the other agency heads together and say, there is no squabbling needed here between our agencies. The enemy is Washington.


AMBASSADOR COHEN: It is not our different agencies. And we have got to work together to convince Washington what the right thing is. So, I agree with you 100 percent.


CHAIRMAN BROWN: Anyone else?

MR. HERMANN: Mr. Ambassador, as a citizen, I might think that the Ambassador and his team in-country would be one of the richest sources of information about what is going on in the country and what the country is like. How capable is the current set of country teams in place as a source and a mechanism for this responsibility? And are there recommendations we should make that would strengthen that and the role of the country team as a part of the intelligence process?

AMBASSADOR COHEN: Well, I travel a lot in my post-retirement job, especially in Europe and in Africa. And what impresses me is the high quality of the younger people that are being taken into the various agencies -- State, USIA, USAID, Defense, CIA -- really a magnificent bunch of people, very well-educated, many with Ph.D.'s, most with master's degrees. And they hit the ground running.

Just two days ago I was in Ethiopia talking to a young economic officer. His first post in the Foreign Service. That guy knew everything about the country. He had it fully analyzed. He was making all sorts of wonderful recommendations. So I have no worries about the quality of the people out there. I think the recruitment process is 100 times better than it was at the time I entered the Foreign Service.


Yes, Mr. Goss.

MR. GOSS: Mr. Ambassador, I read your comments last evening. And there was one in particular I wanted to ask about. The idea of the Ambassador commenting on all intelligence reports before they are issued in final form. I presume that that would be an ambassadorial statement attached to a report and not something blended in without source of authorship; is that correct?

AMBASSADOR COHEN: Yes. Essentially, the collection process of the CIA is a vacuum cleaner. It takes in everything that they get, and they shove it off to Washington, whether it is garbage or whether it is high quality. And I remember when I was in Senegal, I saw a piece of paper coming across my desk. It was a CIA report. And I said this is garbage. Why are we sending it? And I called in the station chief and I said, Why did this go to Washington? And he said, Well, we are a vacuum cleaner. We take everything in and we send it to Washington. It is up to the people in Washington to decide what to do with it.

I said, Well, what I am going to now is send in a very important cable saying this was garbage and everyone must disregard it. That does not make you look good.

So we worked out a deal where every report was given to the political counselor or the economic counselor, they looked at it, and if they thought it was useful, they would append embassy comment -- we think this is highly unlikely, or we support this, we think this is good. And we think this should become routinized as a help to the guys back home to see, you know, as a second opinion on all of this.

MR. GOSS: You are talking primarily about DI-type material, not operational material I presume?

AMBASSADOR COHEN: Oh, absolutely not operational, just DI.

MR. GOSS: The other question. I think you are very articulate in presenting your case for your side. I am sorry some of my colleagues are not here, because I do think it has been a particularly bad year. But I have checked on some of the materials, and the information I have -- and I cannot hold these charts up because they are classified -- and probably should not be, but they are at this point. It says the total number of Department of State collectors overseas in the last five years is actually gone up a significant proportion, whereas those from the Intelligence Community have actually gone down.

I realize the point, and I have heard the debate in other hearings, but the argument about the slots is a very important argument, how we use our resources overseas, what we want overseas, and how we set our country team up to get it. I do not think this Commission is going to resolve that issue. Because there is much more to that issue than just the little piece that we are dealing with here, in my view.

AMBASSADOR COHEN: Yes, but I think as a general principle you would want to say that you do not want to spend a lot of money in clandestine collection when you can get the same stuff in a lot cheaper, overt collection. It is a lot easier to pay $25 in taking someone out to lunch than to pay $5,000 for a piece of information.

MR. GOSS: We have talked about the question about how best to focus down, do our collection, analysis and operations, and make them work, and our tasking -- all of that part of the structure we have focused on. But I think that the idea that we are wasting slots is a subject that is going to go on and be dealt with in a different forum. I do not think that is true, but I do not think we got 100 percent efficiency out of our slots overseas by any means either -- primarily because we have not resolved a lot of the policy issues. And this is only one of them.

I mean, the law enforcement side of this comes into rather quickly as well.

AMBASSADOR COHEN: That is right, yes. Yes, once you decide what the mission is, then you can decide what the slots should be.

MR. GOSS: It is a lot easier once you do that.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Other questions?

(No response.)

CHAIRMAN BROWN: Thank you, Ambassador Cohen, Mr. Taylor. You are our last witnesses. I would make a final observation. And that is when we set up this set of hearings, some people might have thought that it was just pro forma, so as to say we had had public hearings. The thought even occurred to me.

However, when I saw the list of witnesses, I concluded that that was not the case. They would be substantive inputs. And in the event, that expectation has been more than met. I think we have had a very useful set of hearings. I think we will take them to heart. And although we will not include in our report everything that was recommended -- we could not, because some of it contradicts others -- it will have its effect.

Do you want to add anything, Mr. Vice Chairman?

VICE CHAIRMAN RUDMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

CHAIRMAN BROWN: Thank you. We are adjourned.

(Whereupon, at 4:29 p.m., the hearing was adjourned.)