U.S. government press and cultural posts overseas will remain off limits as cover for CIA agents after the State Department takes over the U.S. Information Agency in October, a senior department official said yesterday.
For more than two decades, the CIA has been barred from hundreds of these diplomatic positions at U.S. embassies and consulates under a secret understanding acknowledged publicly for the first time yesterday in The Washington Times by former CIA directors Robert Gates and William Webster.
State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said yesterday that the ban on using these positions as cover for spies would survive the consolidation of USIA within State.
"Notwithstanding reorganization and consolidation of the foreign affairs agency, we will continue to adhere to long-standing principles guiding assignment of U.S. personnel to missions overseas," said Mr. Rubin.
Mr. Gates, who served under President George Bush, said that the ban on CIA use of these positions protected American press and cultural officers, enhanced their credibility and also was extended to staff of the Agency for International Development who often work in the countryside where they are "vulnerable. …