Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Soviet Agents Mislead U.S. into Defense Overspending CIA Reports on Tainted Information

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Soviet Agents Mislead U.S. into Defense Overspending CIA Reports on Tainted Information

Article excerpt

Misinformation fed to Washington by Soviet agents suckered the United States into overestimating Soviet military strength and overspending on defense, CIA Director John Deutch said in a report released Friday.

In a report to Congress on the damage caused by CIA spy Aldrich Ames' work for the Soviet Union, Deutch said that the main effect of the false information was to hide the fact that the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse.

Deutch said a damage assessment team found that information passed to U.S. officials from Soviet-controlled sources "had a substantial role in framing the (U.S.) debate."

The United States got the misinformation during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Ames, a veteran CIA agent who worked in counter-intelligence, was arrested in February 1994 and is now serving a life prison term.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the tainted CIA reports had caused an unnecessary speed-up of the U.S. defense program.

Deutch cited no concrete examples but said the tainted reports could have influenced the speed of developing weapons to meet anticipated threats.

"Taken as a whole, Ames' activities also facilitated the Soviet, and later the Russian, effort to engage in `perception management operations' by feeding carefully selected information to the United States through agents whom they were controlling without our knowledge," he said.

But he said the damage assessment team "found no major instance where Soviets maneuvered U.S. or NATO arms control negotiators into giving up a current or future military capability."

"This conclusion is buttressed by the fact that the Soviets' bargaining position grew increasingly weak as its economy deteriorated and (former President Mikhail) Gorbachev struggled to maintain control."

CIA Inspector General Frederick P. Hitz, whose office prepared Deutsch's report, said CIA officials other than Ames shared the blame for the false information. When making reports to policy makers in Washington, they failed to make clear where the information came from, thus leading readers of the reports to give them more credence than they deserved.

Among those who received the intelligence reports and may have been misled by them were former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush. …

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