An executive order during the Carter administration was thought to have banned the practice but it was recently revealed that a “loophole” has existed which allows the CIA director or his deputy to grant a waiver.
The little discussed, little mentioned Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) brought the loophole to the media’s attention with the publication of a CFR task force report. In the report, the council recommended that the ban be reconsidered and it brought to light the previously unknown “loophole.”
I remembered seeing scant stories about the issue in the press but the first mention of the CFR was on the web page of the Society of Professional Journalists. “SPJ opposed the CFR’s proposed recommendation, ... the CIA should increase its spying and covert activities, within legal constraints, including use of the press as a cover.”(1)
I contacted the New York Office of The Council On Foreign Relations, and they quickly volunteered to send me the report: “Making Intelligence Smarter, The future of U.S. Intelligence, Report of an Independent Task Force, Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations.”
The work is crafted to be deceptive. The introduction represents the composition of the twenty-five Council Task Force members as “a few were professionals who had direct experience in the world of intelligence.”(2) The use of the words “a few” is patently deceptive. They were indeed the majority of the group numbering eight, plus three out of three observers. (3)
“Several were former policy-makers, whose roles made them consumers of intelligence.” This group numbered four.
The report claimed “quite a few had no direct experience with intelligence but brought to bear insights and lessons from careers in other realms, notably business.” Five were from the education field and all had political science or government studies’ titles. Eight were from business circles and of these five were from finance and two were from the news media.
Not surprisingly, at no point does the report come right out and say the CIA agents should pose as journalists and get journalists to be spies. The task force report is designed to work far more surreptitiously than that. The report, though only thirty-nine pages, speaks volumes by what it does not say. It alludes to reforms and solutions in a broad and general way without offering concrete or tangible applications to some of the self evident maladies that plague the Intelligence empire. This is consistent with the “Teflon coated” disclaimer used by the CFR since its inception.
The CFR claims to adhere to a founding principle, that it takes “no position on issues.” (4, 5) By working in these generalities they leave the report's end users able to implement policy conducive to their [the recipients’] ends and claim a legitimate application of an advisers qualified suggestions and ideas.
The general statement contained in the report makes the first suggestion of expansion beyond what the status quo offers to the intelligence provider for a range of choices and means to collect its product. “Analysis would be improved by increasing the flow of talented people into the intelligence community.”(6) The report does not offer any specifics as to what the talents or backgrounds of these people should be. Nor does it offer any suggestion as to how many would be appropriate for this increased flow of talent. Is the report a carte blanche recommendation to recruit new blood?
The authors advocate the use of free-lance operatives as additional assets. They recommend short term commitments from outside the regular intelligence community; “A greater flow of talented people into the agency from academia and business is essential” and with this they “could attract and exploit some of the best minds from academia and other sections of society that would otherwise not be available.”(7) We can conclude that people who work in the media would fall into this class.
The CFR complain that clandestine operations are currently “circumscribed by a number of legal and policy restraints.” They recommend taking a “fresh look” at the limitations, specifically those that would prohibit “non official covers for hiding and protecting those involved in clandestine activities.”(8) I contacted the CFR, and this is indeed the language from which controversy stems. This is a very broad statement that basically argues that all the policies and abuses we have endured from the intelligence communities can be rationalized and justified. At no point does the report acknowledge that there may be a threat to American lives through the use of the “non-official covers” they speak of in their report.
Immediately following this statement is some particularly disturbing language. They recommend rethinking rules that interfere with intelligence’s ability to carry out “preemptive attacks on terrorists." Do they mean assassinations? Well, if they mean journalists without ever saying “journalist” I can certainly see how they could mean assassinations.(9) Now hold this up to the counter terrorism bill that makes it a crime to expound ideas the Attorney General finds unfavorable defines as terrorism. Can they assassinate U.S. citizens? Remember this is the CIA we were told about in the COUNINTEL-PRO papers. Are we condoning that sort of behavior now?
This report does not limit the “fresh look” to just journalists as a possible cover for spying. Nor does it offer any criteria for the operational standards for their use. Is the report saying if a spy had a cover that involved employment at a credible U.S. news institution, then the spy would be published and we would read news written by spies. You can not be selective in reviewing policies previously used by intelligence world. Biological and chemical warfare, testing on citizens could get a fresh look, as well as torture and kidnapping.
Under the claim that intelligence professionals should know policy-makers needs and vice-versa, the task force recommended that intelligence professionals see "regular rotation of career intelligence officers into positions in the policymaking departments (State, Defense, Treasury, etc.,) and the NSC.” They recommend “temporary assignment to the relevant congressional staffs..” and “sabbaticals in academia or business.” They suggest that these activities be required for advancement or promotion to senior levels within an agency. In essence they want to see total intelligence proliferation across all institutions, in both public and private sectors.
The council task force recommends that the current Director of Central Intelligence be granted greater centralized control, rather than the current hierarchy where the position places the DCI is first among his or her equals. They recommend that the DCI (who traditionally is also CIA Director) be made into an intelligence Czar. This would make him or her superior to all other heads of intelligence, in all other agencies. The Czar would have autonomy over budgets and set the intelligence agenda for the policy-makers rather than policy-makers informing the Intelligence gatherers as to what their needs are.(10)
The report also recommends greater political protection for agents when their covert Intelligence activities are called into question by any group with oversight authority. It basically recommends that no-one should be held responsible and a condition of immunity exists for all intelligence employees.
The Task force is cavalier with its treatment of civil-rights for U.S. citizens. “Certain rules that are in effect to protect civil liberties continue to make sense.” This report diminishes and trivializes our Bill of Rights and places the supreme law of the land on par with simple “rules” and judges them selectively. It does not say which ones do or do not make sense. The authors support the policy against “deliberately collecting information inside the United States or overseas on U.S. citizens...” They also support continuing the policy of giving “incidentally acquired information”- (at home or overseas) - to any and all “law enforcement”.(11) Will all of their information soon be “incidental”?
The most shocking of all of the CFR recommendations were those with regard to oversight. They state that “oversight has the potential to be valuable so long as it does not compromise necessary secrets.” Secrets defined totally by the unchecked intelligence community itself. They recommend that both House and Senate Select Committees, as well as others such as Budget and Foreign Affairs be “merged for selected briefings and hearings.” Multiple committees have provided our country with the benefit of disclosing anomalies and aberrations in witnesses’ stories thereby disclosing misleading or dishonest testimony. This would be a sizable sacrifice for the American people. Without this safeguard we would not have known the depths of Watergate or have been witnesses to the convolutions of Iran Contra. The single respectable item within their recommendation is that they stop short of suggesting a single select committee on intelligence, composed of both houses. They admit this would be too concentrated a power. This lucid and sober thought is lost with their opinion that all time limitations placed on a committee member serving on the respected bodies be removed, and institute a permanent non-rotating membership.(12) They claim this would “deepen congressional expertise.”(13)
We must remember that the end users of these recommendations, (the very members of the Intelligence agencies for whom these recommendations were considered and in some cases the very authors and committee members themselves!), are fellows in the CFR and public servants in our government. Former Central Intelligence Agency Director Deutch is a long standing CFR member. It should come as no suprise that The CFR and CIA have had a long standing relationship.
The founding of the CFR in 1921 forged a permanant relationship between finance, industry and the media with goverment and foreign policy. The elite could not resist the lure of the power to influence and control foreign policy by covert means, and thereby circumvent the isolationist policies that were put into effect by the United States founders. James Forestall, George Kennan and Allen Dulles, all veteran CFR menbers, drafted the plans for the CIA and lobbied congress for the National Security Act of 1947, which authorized the establishment of the CIA. The personality and methodology of the CIA extend directly from the wartime covert activities of Allen Dulles and idealogy and goals of the CFR. At the time the CIA was established, Dulles had spent more than thirty years with the CFR. The CFR has influenced the face of US intelligence more than any institution, possibly more than Congress or the CIA itself.(14)
Through the years, policy has had its origin in the body of the CFR and similar anointed elite groups. The policy has been carried out by the United States with the CIA and other US intelligence groups acting as the defacto enforcer of the policy of the elite. (15)
The recommendations in the CFR task Force Report are as hollow and self promoting as the twenty or so similar reports that have preceeded it since 1949. True reform will only come about when the goals of foreign policy are changed. Strategic dominance, exploitation of resources and labor are not easily achieved through polite methods. These goals lend themselves to darker methods traditionally employed by the various agencies of US intelligence. Peace and democracy do not come about through sales of weapons to murderers and assasins. An objective report that deals with the goals of foreign policy instead of the methods and institutions of intelligence gathering, is long over due. This can only come from a task force made of citizens with no vested interest in the harvesting of intelligence.
There are many appalling things in the report, least of all is their high-mindedness disregard for our Constitutional Civil Liberties. What is most appalling about the CFR Task Force Report, the CIA Director's response, and thus all of the CIA’s position on this First Amendment issue, is that both never once pay heed to the more than one-hundred journalists killed in foreign service in the past two years.(16) They never once recall the more than six years their darling CIA dealt with a situation where terrorists took a journalist hostage, accusing him of being a spy for the CIA. I hope I will never forget Terry Anderson. Former DCI Deutch and the elite minds great enough to “Make Intelligence Smarter” sure did.
1 SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS OPPOSES CFR RECOMMENDATION ( Press Release, February 6, 1996. http://town.hall.org/places/spj/cfrrec.html) • 2 Making Intelligence Smarter, The future of U.S. Intelligence, Report of an Independent Task Force, (Council on Foreign Relations 1996, p7). • 3 Ibid. (p.vi-vii) • 4 Ibid. (Title page) • 5 Disclaimer, Foreign Affairs, (1922-1996, Title Page) • 6 Making Intelligence Smarter, The future of U.S. Intelligence, Report of an Independent Task Force, (Council on Foreign Relations 1996, p3). • 7 Ibid. (p18) • 8 Ibid. (p24) • 9 Ibid. (p24) • 10 Ibid. (p26) • 11 Ibid. (p31) • 12 Ibid. (p32-33) • 13 Ibid. (p6) • 14 Jacob Heilbrunn, the New Republic, March 27, 1995 • 15 Dr. Thomas R Dye, Understanding Public Policy, (p354-362) • 16 Julie Grimes, Letter to John Deutch, February 21, 1996
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