Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

CIA Coming under Heavy Fire after Spy Speaks of Its Flaws

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

CIA Coming under Heavy Fire after Spy Speaks of Its Flaws

Article excerpt

SECRET information produced by the CIA is "insignificant." Spies are nothing but bureaucrats with deep cover. The shadowy world of espionage is, in fact, a "self-serving sham."

The man who made those charges last week - former CIA mole for Moscow, Aldrich Ames - is not exactly a spotless source. His role in the "sham" will earn him a life sentence. But there is no denying that his criticisms have resonated uncomfortably with many government officials in Washington. Long insulated from public scrutiny and open legislative pressure, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is now coming under more sustained attack than at any time since prying congressional hearings of the mid-1970s.

Few would go so far as Sen. Daniel Moynihan (D) of New York, who would break up the CIA and distribute its duties to various other agencies. But there is considerable sentiment on Capital Hill for making the United States intelligence budget public, at least in general terms. And, in the wake of the Ames case, Congress is considering legislation intended to help protect against future moles as damaging as Ames apparently has been.

"The nation cannot afford to let this situation continue," said Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D) of Arizona, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, at a hearing May 3 on US counterintelligence.

Lawmakers are particularly curious as to how Ames could have banked millions of Moscow's dollars and lived like a minor suburban potentate without attracting counterintelligence attention. Many say that lack of real cooperation between the CIA and FBI, which both have counterintelligence duties, was a major reason.

Tuesday, President Clinton signed an executive order intended to end friction between these often-competitive agencies. Among other things, the directive establishes a new National Counterintelligence Policy Board, which will report directly to the National Security Council.

This move is unlikely to mollify critics such as Senator DeConcini. A bill drafted by the Senate Intelligence panel chairman would put the force of law behind FBI-CIA cooperation, ensuring no future president could undo it with a stroke of a pen. …

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