CIA CASTING ABOUT FOR NEW MISSIONS (House of Representatives - February 05, 1992)

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The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from Arkansas [Mr. Alexander] is recognized for 5 minutes.

From the New York Times, Feb. 4, 1992


C.I.A. Casting About for New Missions


Washington, February 3: Standing in a nondescript conference room in a convention hotel in East Brunswick, N.J., James T. Fitzgerald does what he has been doing for the last 25 years: pitching the Central Intelligence Agency to aspiring recruits.

`It's not like the James Bond movies,' he explains to 28 men and a woman, college graduates invited to the orientation on the basis of their resumes. `The more you learn about the C.I.A., the more you read about it, the more unromantic it becomes.'

For an hour, Mr. Fitzgerald works with the group but never uses the words `Soviet,' `enemy' or `covert,' or even `espionage.' Rather, he tells his audience that the mission of the agency is now so diverse it `could probably staff a small university.'

Like a secret agent who carries an invented history and clean passport to a new post, the C.I.A. is struggling to create a new, post-cold-war identity. If Robert M. Gates, the Director of Central Intelligence, could have his way, the spy agency would shed its popular image as a hotbed of operators who conduct covert actions around the world, or seduce foreigners into committing treason in the interests of America's national security.

A child of the cold war nurtured on an us-versus-them mentality, the C.I.A. is longing to be accepted as a benign arm of the government bureaucracy, the place to come for cutting-edge information on everything from the effects of the AIDS epidemic on the emerging leadership of Africa to the possibilities of war in the Middle East over water resources.

In fact, some of the recruits said they were attracted to the C.I.A. not by the prospect of spy-movie adventure. They came for job security.

`I'm trying to get into something more structured, more stable than the job I have,' said a 27-year-old man, an economics graduate who is working as a supervisor of cashiers in an Atlantic City casino. `All I need to do now is count,' said the candidate, who asked not to be identified. `I'm choosing the C.I.A. because the benefits are good. The Government takes care of you.'


Only a decade ago, the agency was leading clandestine military operations against the Soviet Union or its proxies in countries like Afghanistan, Angola and Cambodia. Those covert operations have ceased, as the Soviet Union withheld from regional conflicts, then broke apart.

`In terms of dollars, the investment in covert action has already plummeted,' said Gary E. Foster, the C.I.A.'s Deputy Director for Planning and Coordination.

Mr. Gates has even approved the recommendations of an `openness task force' to declassify millions of documents and make senior officials accessible to the public. `Transparent is now the operative word,' a C.I.A. reformer says--a revolutionary idea in an environment where success has been measured by the ability to remain opaque.

Still, the covert side has not disappeared. The agency argues that it still needs covert operators, in part to sift the increasing volume of information that is coming from newly opened societies. And it continues to give recruits a small gray pamphlet that promises adventure and unpredictability in the `clandestine service.'

`The call may come in the middle of the night or on a rainy Sunday morning, or it may interrupt a dinner party or a daughter's graduation,' the pamphlet says. `If it is urgent, the case officer exits his social and cover life to meet with an agent in a corner of a deserted park, at a table in a bistro, or in a safehouse.'


But now, the way to move up in the agency is no longer to run successful operations against the Soviet enemy.

The M.B.A. who can trace a tortuous money trail through a foreign banking system is coming to be more important than the trench-coated spy who can follow an enemy agent through a back alley overseas. As Mr. Fitzgerald tells his young charges, `We're really looking for economists these days.'

Similarly, the skills of thousands of people who collect Soviet military communications with satellites and other technical means are becoming obsolete.

After a decade or so when satellites were pre-eminent, it is becoming clearer that they are unable to discern intentions. Aerial surveillance could not penetrate the mosques or teahouses of Teheran to test the depth of opposition to the Shah. Nor could it watch Saddam Hussein's inner circle to figure out whether Iraq would use the tanks and troops it had massed on the Kuwaiti border.

`There's no real need for Field Station Berlin, or a variety of listening posts in Germany, which, among other things, listened to Warsaw Pact military communications,' said Jeffrey T. Richelson, the author of several books on American intelligence agencies. `Not when there's nothing more to listen to.'

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C.I.A. soul-searching stems not just from a belief that the world has become safer. There's also the realization that in a world where the postwar enemy has ceased to exist, the C.I.A. and its handful of sister agencies, with their billion-dollar satellites and mountains of classified documents, must somehow remain relevant in the minds of Americans.

This situation raises anew a question that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democrat of New York, asks: Without the Soviet threat, why not just abolish the C.I.A. and let the State Department take over?

For 40 years the threat of nuclear war drove the C.I.A., along with the other agencies and departments that make up the $30 billion-a-year constellation that is often called `the intelligence community.' Included are the National Security Agency, which is responsible for eavesdropping around the world; the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon's intelligence arm; the National Reconnaissance Office, which manages satellite intelligence, and analytical intelligence pockets tucked away in the State, Commerce and Treasury Departments.

Few if any C.I.A. officials agree with the notion that the intelligence agencies still need to focus 60 percent of their resources on the Soviet threat. In recent months, the atmosphere has been so cozy that shortly after Robert S. Strauss arrived in Moscow last summer to take up his post as President Bush's Ambassador, the K.G.B. handed him detailed wiring diagrams for listening devices in the new United States Embassy. K.G.B. agents wearing visitors' badges are being given tours of the C.I.A. and the F.B.I.

William E. Colby, a former C.I.A. chief, tells of sitting around a table with the heads of half a dozen Eastern European intelligence services at a planning conference in Bulgaria in November, lecturing them on how to function in a democratic society.

`It knocked me out,' Mr. Colby recalled. `I told them, `Well, it is possible to run an intelligence service in a free society. It's a bit of a nuisance,' I said, `but you can work out relations with Congress and adjust to a bill of rights and an independent judiciary.'

As the conference unfolded, the Bulgarians agonized over what to do about their old boys schooled in the practice of torture, while others wondered what to do with their potentially explosive files. Mr. Colby was so struck by the new mood that he said enthusiastically, `Isn't it wonderful to be allies?'

The overwhelming sense that opponents have become allies has prompted him to tape a message of peace for the Coalition for Democratic Values, an organization of liberal Democrats founded by Senator Howard M. Metzenbaum of Ohio.

`I'm William Colby, and I was head of the C.I.A.,' he says in a recent 30-second television commercial. `The job of intelligence is to warn us of dangers to our military. Now the cold war is over, and the military threat is far less. Now it is time to cut our military spending by 50 percent and invest that money in our schools, health care and our economy.'


The intelligence agencies have so far been only peripheral players in a vital post-cold-war struggle: the effort to retain American economic primacy among the world's industrial nations.

As the military threat has receded, the belief that American security rests in economic strength has grown. As a result, many analysts are asking: Why not give the C.I.A. and its sister agencies the task of making the United States more competitive by spying on foreign corporations and turning over their secrets to their American counterparts?

Ethical objections aside, the critics of such an idea speak of the independence of American companies from government, and say: they do not want Washington to become the handmaiden of industry. And as intelligence officers are fond of saying, they may be willing to die for America, but not necessarily for General Motors.

The most the C.I.A. will do, Mr. Gates has said, is to scrutinize the trade and financial transactions of foreign governments, particularly those of allies who are helping their industries at America's expense, and to investigate global developments in high-tech areas that affect national security. Together with the F.B.I., the C.I.A. will also step up efforts to prevent foreign corporations and governments from stealing secrets.

`We know that foreign intelligence services plant moles in our high-tech companies,' Mr. Gates said during his confirmation hearings last fall. `We know that they rifle briefcases of our businessmen who travel in their countries. We know that they collect information on what we're doing, and I think the C.I.A. and F.B.I. working together should have a very aggressive program against it.'

But, he added, `There is a lot of concern about doing industrial espionage, if you will, and I frankly don't think that U.S. intelligence should be engaged in that.'

Other officials say they cannot become the policemen for American business. The F.B.I. recently reassigned more than 300 of its counterintelligence agents to drug trafficking and domestic problems, reflecting its changing priorities at a time when spying by Eastern European intelligence services has virtually disappeared.

`If it's just a question of an American company getting beat out by another company, I don't think we'd launch a major intelligence investigation,' said Wayne Gilbert, assistant director of the F.B.I.'s intelligence division. `When a foreign company actually puts agents in a company for a long period of time in a way that directly affects national security, that's when we'll act.'


As soon as he was confirmed in November, Mr. Gates began defining a new role for the agencies he took over, arguing that they were still preoccupied, by habit and organization, with a Soviet military machine that no longer existed. If he did not make major changes and specify budget cuts, he told intelligence officials on Dec. 4, Congress would do it for him.

As these agencies adjust to the new global realities, they are organizing around three loosely connected central concepts: the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the instability this has spawned; the spread of weapons of mass destruction, including a new risk that there are some in the former Soviet Union who would peddle their weapons and their expertise around the world, and the continued existence of totalitarian governments.

President Bush's National Security Directive No. 29, issued in November, dealt with intelligence requirements until the year 2005. It spoke of an urgent need for `a top-to-bottom examination of the mission, role and priorities of the intelligence community.'

Mr. Gates hopes to devise a plan for restructuring by the end of March. Because the intelligence agencies' budget will surely shrink by billions of dollars, he intends to take the same approach that a wedding caterer might: He'll offer a range of menus for different budgets.

Many intelligence managers resist change, though. At the F.B.I. Mr. Gilbert says he has detected no marked decrease in spying on the United States by the new Russian version of the K.G.B. That assessment is shared by the C.I.A.

Arguing that the major espionage cases of the last 15 years have involved people selling secrets for money, Mr. Gilbert says the F.B.I. must remain vigilant against those who continue to sell secrets, even if Moscow's Embassy is no longer the primary bazaar.

`We don't want to rush out and have those warm, fuzzy feelings and then suddenly find there are new systems established to infiltrate our services,' he said in an interview. `I'm not throwing cold water on the idea that we are one, big peaceful world. I just have to be cautions.'

The C.I.A., for its part, has taken some tentative steps to reorganize. Last summer it cleared a wing of one of its buildings to make space for a Non-Proliferation Center that is now staffed by almost 100 experts. At the same time, the agency has disbanded its Soviet insurgency branch and its Soviet disinformation unit. In the last two years, it has cut its Soviet foreign policy staff by two-thirds and its weapons analysis staff by 25 percent. But agency officials are reluctant to make changes that cannot be reversed.

`It's not an on-and-off switch,' said George Kolt, director of the Office of Soviet Analysis, lately renamed the Office of Slavic and Eurasian Analysis. `You can't say to someone, `You do research on Uzbekistan because people are interested in it,' then tomorrow say, `Go do research in Latvia.' You have to train people. You can't switch people out of the blue.'

Critics argue that neither the C.I.A. nor the State Department can cope with the deluge of newly available material since the Soviet collapse. They say that the government is woefully lacking in language skills at a time of need--when, for instance, Ukraine's Foreign Ministry has switched its news conferences from Russian to Ukrainian, and when a recent oil deal between Azerbaijan and Iran was announced in Azerbaijan.

`Before last September you could follow the non-Russian republics by reading only Russian, because the Russian press was at least as official as the non-Russian press,' said Paul Goble, until recently the State Department's leading expert on Soviet nationalities and now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. `Now the opposite is true, and you're in big trouble if you can't read the local language.'

Asked whether it was difficult to find people to translate newspapers from the various republics, an intelligence official remarked: `Translate them? We don't even get them!'

Mr. Gates, during his confirmation hearings, acknowledged that the agency had been so focused on the inner workings of the Kremlin that it had to rely on travelers for information about the republics.

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But reorganization and language training will not provide the intelligence agencies with a program that can compare with its grand, global, cloak-and-dagger mission of the cold war. They are taking on new issues, without the consensus that existed before. Proponents are calling them essential, while detractors say they are make-work--`organizational maintenance,' as Senator Moynihan puts it.

`In many ways the situation today is similar to 1947, when the C.I.A. was first created,' said Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence. `The essence of intelligence wasn't yet us-versus-them, but was driven by challenges of the moment: How do you locate scarce resources, or how do you govern a liberated country? You needed encyclopedic knowledge about the world because you didn't know where next challenge would come from.'

Whoever is proved right, it is difficult to imagine how analysts or covert operators can get as excited about the environmental impact of Brazil's shrinking rain forest or the dumping of toxic waste in Eastern Europe as they did about the life-and-death struggle between East and West.

Still, senior agency officials insist that the C.I.A. will have no problem finding a mission.

`If ever there was a non-problem, this is it,' said John L. Helgerson, the C.I.A.'s Deputy Director for Intelligence, in an interview.

`So many people are asking us so many things--on China, on Yugoslavia, on North Korea; Proliferation--it's a growth industry at the moment like no other. We could put everyone in the agency in proliferation and narcotics, and we still wouldn't solve the problems.'

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from California [Mr. Riggs] is recognized for 5 minutes.

[Mr. RIGGS addressed the House. His remarks will appear hereafter in the Extensions of Remarks.]

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from California [Ms. Pelosi] is recognized for 5 minutes.

[Ms. PELOSI addressed the House. Her remarks will appear hereafter in the Extensions of Remarks.]