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CIA Finds That End of Cold War Means Doing More With Less
Agency copes with hefty budget cuts, new demands for economic
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR
THE Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) gets blamed for lots of
things. Many people think it controls their minds. Others are sure
the agency murdered Elvis. Still others are certain that it knows
all about those UFOs they saw at Mt. Rushmore last year - and just
These people write in, demanding documents under the Freedom of
Information Act. The law says the CIA must treat them just like
working historians or journalists. Problem is, they're clogging the
system. "The UFO requester is the most tenacious kind we have to
deal with," sighs Jack Wright, CIA information and privacy
Conspiracy theorists are only one part of the CIA's problems
these days. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the object of
greatest attention for US spies has disappeared. The new
administration has ordered that hefty cuts be made in the
intelligence budget. Yet there's lots for the watchers to watch:
Geopolitical events, if anything, are growing more unpredictable.
The demise of the Soviet regime "has revealed a world in some
ways more dangerous, more perplexing, more uncertain, and more
challenging than it was before," said Director of Central
Intelligence James Woolsey in rare open testimony to Congress
earlier this spring.
Not everyone in Washington thinks the CIA, with its
cloak-and-Uzi image, is now the right part of government to handle
US intelligence-gathering tasks. Sources of information are more
open today, this theory goes, making the CIA's special talents
Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) of New York, for one, has
proposed breaking up the CIA and handing most of its job to the
State Department. Other lawmakers are pushing for deeper cuts in
intelligence spending than the $7 billion reduction over the next
five years that the White House has planned. Though the figure is
officially secret, total spending on the US intelligence community
(which includes military intelligence organizations) is currently
estimated to be about $28 billion.
Intelligence officials do not deny that the agency needs to be
reshaped. They claim they have made a start. Among other things,
the number of CIA analysts looking at the former Soviet Union has
been cut in half. Overall plans call for a reduction in the number
of US intelligence employees of around 18 percent by 1997.
The CIA is even shifting some resources from looking at the
possibility of global war to studying global warming. An
intelligence officer in charge of the environment, democracy, and
other global issues has been added to the National Intelligence
Council, the high-level panel that oversees CIA estimates.
Still, it is the large geopolitical problems that dominate the
US intelligence agenda. Tracking the command and control of the
nuclear weapons of the former Soviet Union is the top priority.
Potential nuclear powers remain important intelligence problems,
among them them North Korea and Iran. US policymakers are also
intensely interested in the political faceoff between India and
Pakistan, as both nations already have atomic arsenals.
One top agency official says he looks at the world today as a
3-D chessboard. On one level are traditional military problems; on
another is economic competition. A third level represents
transnational problems such as the environment and refugee flows.
"Politics in this world will be much more surprising," says
Joseph Nye Jr., chairman of the National Intelligence Council.
IT is the economic part of the equation that presents the CIA
with perhaps its most acute challenge. Clinton officials say over
and over again that national prosperity is the foundation of
security. If that's the case, why not use the CIA in the aid of
American business, and use it to gather economic intelligence?
Our allies do it, after all - though many of them had signed
bilateral agreements that they wouldn't. The French government's
apparent recent attempt to penetrate US aerospace corporations is
but the latest example of something that has gone on for years.
Throughout the cold war the US took a low-key attitude when it
identified such actions. Now it's every spook for himself.
"No more Mr. Nice Guy," said a senior intelligence official in a
recent meeting with reporters.
Some high Clinton administration officials, as well as senior
members of House and Senate intelligence oversight committees, want
the US to respond in kind. The intelligence community itself is
leery. Gathering economic intelligence, broadly defined, is already
a CIA task. But industrial espionage is something the CIA doesn't
want to do, though the agency is studying the issue.
Of course the conceit that all intelligence work requires the
wearing of a trench coat is somewhat misleading. Much of what the
CIA does is analysis - the gathering and sifting of both
open-source and clandestine information. And fully two-thirds of
CIA analysis is relatively mundane "tactical" intelligence -
background on Somali clans, for instance, or biographies of
important foreign officials.
Improved dissemination of such information is an important
intelligence issue. One proposal the CIA is studying involves an
interactive computer screen on policymakers' desks connected by
fiber-optic cable to Langley. Government officials could then pull
what they wanted to see from intelligence data bases, rather than
having it pushed upon them in the form of daily printed classified
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