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Testimony of Coverdell - We lost a volunteer in Bolivia because they said he was DEA
The CIA's use of journalists, clergy, and Peace Corps
The CIA's use of journalists, clergy, and Peace Corps
Notes from July 17, 1996 hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Not verbatim, the gist.
Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga., former Peace Corps director
John M. Deutch, director of central intelligence
National Association of Evangelicals
Church World Service
Senators present at beginning of hearing: Arlen Specter (R-Pa.., chairman), Bob Kerrey (D- Neb.), and John Glenn (D-Ohio)
The CIA's use of journalists has been a collateral issue in the recent commission reports on U.S. intelligence. The House voted in its intelligence authorization bill that there must be a presidential waiver before the intelligence agencies might use journalists, clergy or Peace Corps. The Senate has not yet voted. The issue is before Congress.
Among the suggestions before Congress:
Let the president decide, as he must now for covert action.
Let the director of the CIA decide.
Limit the exemption to a specific period of time.
A national-security waiver.
I am concerned that this discussion gives publicity to the issue.
Our first witness will be Senator Paul Coverdell, a former director of the Peace Corps. I asked the Peace Corps to send a witness but they are not coming.
Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.): We are uncomfortable discussing publicly sources and methods of intelligence. In any event, I don't see why any professor, any American patriot should be prohibited from working for their country.
Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio): In some situations, you can't send a satellite, you need human intelligence. I see that as an individual choice. I wouldn't rule it in or out.
Testimony of Senator Coverdell:
The committee should put the Peace Corps aside. It should not be used for intelligence.
It is dangerous for volunteers to be in the context of the CIA. The former CIA was not allowed to use them.
I was director of the Peace Corps during the Bush administration. We entered Eastern Europe. Solidarity asked, Are the volunteers CIA?
It would raise doubts across the entire Corps. It would put the volunteers at risk. We lost a volunteer in Bolivia because they said he was DEA. We need to ratify an exemption for the safety of the Corps. It should be a separate facility.
By letter dated April 2, 1984 the permanent ineligibility of volunteers to join the CIA is established. They are ineligible to join any other intelligence agency for ten years after the end of their service. This can be greater than ten years, if the general counsel so determines.
Senator Specter said that Mr. Deutch was in favor of the exception from the blanket ban if:
1. It could save the lives of hostages
2. There was a terrorist threat
Senator Coverdell said there could be no exceptions because it would undermine the whole thing. Given the large size of the existing intelligence community, exceptions were not necessary.
Senator Specter asked whether the prohibition worked to protect the volunteers.
Senator Coverdell replied that it did. Their safety has been a concern since the inception of the Peace Corps. They are without assets. If you violate their exemption from intelligence involvement at any one point, you have done it across the board.
Written testimony of John M. Deutch, director of central intelligence. [His oral statement was similar.]
Mr. Chairman, I appear this morning at your request to explain the policy of the Central Intelligence Agency concerning possible use of American journalists, American clergy or the Peace Corps.
As you know, Mr. Chairman, I am uneasy discussing potential intelligence sources in public session, even in general fashion, but I can make a general statement on this very sensitive issue.
Simply put, CIA's policy is not to use journalists accredited to American news organizations, their parent organizations, American clergy or the Peace Corps for intelligence purposes. This includes any use of such organizations for cover.
This policy has been in place for 20 years. Recently at the request of this Committee, I reviewed the policy to determine whether it was both appropriate and sufficiently circumscribed.
As I told the Committee when this issue was raised with me, my sympathy is on the side of no intelligence use of American journalists or clergy. I strongly believe in the independence of our free press and in the division between government and the church. That is why I have stated publicly that I have no intention of using either American journalists or clergy for intelligence purposes. Further, as this Committee knows, I have found no circumstances while Director of Central Intelligence that would cause me to do either.
But, Mr. Chairman, as the Director of Central Intelligence I must be in a position to assure the President and the members of his National Security Council that there will never come a time when the United States cannot ask a witting citizen to assist in combating an extreme threat to the nation. So, I, like my predecessors, have arrived at the conclusion that the Agency should not be prohibited from considering the use of American journalists or clergy. I am able to imagine circumstances, Mr. Chairman, in which the lives of American hostages depended upon particular knowledge only a journalist might have or obtain. I can foresee the possibility of a terrorist group attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in a crowded urban area where both the President and the nation would look to the Agency to use all possible means to detect and deter such an event. Under either of those scenarios, I believe it unreasonable to foreclose the witting use of any likely source of information.
Now critics of this decision might well say that these are far- fetched examples in which the possible confluence of highly improbable circumstances is fanciful at best. Unfortunately recent history has shown us that the threat in these scenarios is real. I do not believe that as Director of Central Intelligence I can gamble that future sources of critical information will come only from predictable sources. Nothing in my 14 months in this job supports that kind of a judgment.
Having decided that I should allow the possibility of exceptional waivers, I looked carefully at the guidelines which governed such waivers. I found them restrictive but nonspecific. I therefore issued new policy guidelines which set out several specific tests that must be satisfied before the Director or Deputy Director may consider a waiver. Those guidelines have been made available to both intelligence committees. They are classified and I am available to discuss them in any detail the Committee may desire in closed session, but I want to state that the guidelines require prompt as well as periodic notification of the intelligence committees.
Let me repeat. These guidelines allow for the possibility of a waiver, but they do not compel or encourage such waivers. I have not changed my view that it would take extremely rare, indeed highly improbable circumstances to change my predilection against any waiver of our policy not to use journalists or clergy for intelligence purposes.
There is one other aspect of this question that deserves comment in this public session, which is who ought to be the official entrusted with the responsibility of deciding whether to waive this policy. I considered whether the President ought to be the decision maker. In the end, we decided such decisions should remain with the Director. The Director is the official entrusted with running intelligence operations. The Director ought to be responsible for this operational, albeit extremely important decision in the rare situation where it might be contemplated. If the Director fails to give the matter proper attention or judgment, the Director can be overruled or even fired by his boss, the President.
Let me return to the Peace Corps. Here too, our policy is not to use Peace Corps personnel for intelligence purposes. This has not changed, and here any waiver could occur under even more circumscribed circumstances.
Lastly, I would like to close by commenting on the Richardson amendment adopted by the House. The Richardson amendment requires that the President decide any waiver on the intelligence use of an American journaiist. As I have said, I believe that this decision ought to rest with the Director. The Richardson amendment also excludes cases of voluntary cooperation between the Agency and a particular journalist. This is important because we would never contempiate a relationship without the witting and willing cooperation of the individual involved.
Mr. Chairman, that completes my statement. I am happy to answer any questions you may have that are appropriate for this public hearing, and, of course, I will be pleased to provide any details you require in closed session.
Q and A
Senator Specter said that the committee could pursue the issue of the guidelines in closed session.
Senator Specter noted that the House by a vote of 417-6 provided that intelligence agencies not use accredited journalists or those officially recognized by the host government as U.S. journalists. The president may waive this prohibition if there is a presidential certification to the intelligence committees.
This would not prohibit voluntary cooperation.
The Senate has not yet considered this issue.
You propose that it be the director of central intelligence who makes this decision?
Mr. Deutch: The director or the deputy director. No one below.
Senator Specter: This would include the Peace Corps?
Mr. Deutch: The criteria are neaarly the same. As mentioned in my testimony, there is no case of using the Peace Corps.
Senator Specter: So you say you have not used anyone in any of these categories?
The presumption is that it just isn't done. Why not then elevate it to the level of a finding for covert operations? A presidential certification, in writing, with notification of the intelligence committees.
In light of the sensitivity of the issue and its infrequent use, this would not be difficult for the president to do.
Mr. Deutch: First, the director of central intelligence should be responsible for human intelligence. If the president has any doubt in the DCI's judgment, replace him/her.
Second, leave room between the decision of the director and the president. It is not a day-to-day involvement.
Senator Spector: It is hardly a question of day-to-day involvement of the president. This type of use would be infrequent, extraordinary. Isn't that added protection?
Mr. Deutch: The president should have confidence in his/her appointee, the president can oversee, you should not have the White House involved in intelligence activities, leave it to their professional judgment. There would still be immediate notification to the president and the intelligence committees.
Senator Specter: If there are sufficient instances of informing the president, it should be the president's decision. Regarding notification of the committees, there's controversy over how prompt is prompt. This was addressed in the 1987 legislation.
Mr. Deutch: Forty-eight hours from decision.
Senator Specter: That might establish the parameters.
Second panel of witnesses: Kenneth Adelman, former director of Arms Contral and Disarmament Agency; Ted Koppel, ABC News; Terry Anderson, former hostage and AP correspondent; Morton Zuckerman, publisher of U.S. News and World Report
Mr. Adelman: I would like to make three points.
First, There is the phenomenon of press self-absorption. The Council on Foreign Relations study made important recommendations about broad aspects of U.S. intelligence. The press seized on one sentence, that dealing with journalists, and that became the controversy.
In general, intelligence is good on hardware, but we were surprised by Gorbachev.
Senator Specter: What could intelligence have done better?
Mr. Adelman: There should have been a leap of imagination. They should have known that Gorbachev would want to do something dramatic. I take responsibility, too. Intelligence should have had a better feel. I like the idea of competing intelligence analyses.
Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) joined the panel.
Mr. Adelman continued: Second, current policy is fine. No group should be exempt. The finding should be at the covert-action level. The remarks of the DCI were to the point, although they did not totally cover the issue.
Third, no matter what we do, it will be laughed off by the bad guys.
American journalists should feel a civic responsibility to step outside their role as journalists.
Senator John Kerry: I am deeply concerned about publicizing this issue. It is better left alone. If they weren't tainted before, they will be now.
Most intelligence-gathering can be done without the use of these categories. The Peace Corps, et al. The most salutary effect of these inquiries would be if it elicits a prohibition rather than leaving it in doubt.
Terry Anderson: I also share the opinions of Senators Kerry and especially Coverdell. The damage has already been done by Mr. Deutch's admission that it had been done. It must be prohibited.
Journalists are in danger. In much of the world the CIA is held in great disfavor. Journalists begin with a presumption of involvement.
I was accused of being a spy, I was on a list of CIA agents put out by fundamentalist Shiites.
When we make rules, it depends if people have been disrespectful of rules, if they have been stretching the rules. There is sufficient evidence in the history of the CIA to put it in this category.
Regarding the use of journalists, it is difficult for journalists to keep information to themselves. If they have it, they will publish it.
We need an absolute, public, blanket ban on the use of journalistic cover.
Ted Koppel: I am opposed to the CIA having the legal option of using journalistic cover.
The CIA has broken laws. It will again.
Many governments assume that journalists are working for the CIA, because they use journalists.
How often the waiver is actually used is irrelevant. It is how it is assumed to be used.
When an intelligence official breaks U.S. laws, if their argument is persuasive, Congress can be lenient. If the CIA must use journalists it will do so, but it should have to be breaking the law in so doing.
Morton Zuckerman: I recall the Nick Daniloff case. His name was associated with the CIA. This is an example of a journalist exposed to risk. This may have violated guidelines.
Any association of the press with intelligence, particularly with the CIA, is bad.
The prohibition should be increased, made absolute, not just to protect individual journalists, but to preserve the constitutional independence of the press.
It is not an individual decision if the journalist is witting. It affects all the press.
Senator Specter: The Council on Foreign Relations report has brought this question to public view. There has been the House vote.
He asked Mr. Anderson regarding the substance of the House vote. You were a major victim.
Mr. Anderson: It is a very significant issue. I'm not the only victim. It is fairly frequent that journalists are put at risk. The fundamentalist Islams in Lebanon believed that all journalists were spies. The only way of healing this is a flat ban without exception. If there is an exception, no matter how well hedged, it would confirm their belief.
They interrogated me roughly, though without torture. They gave us the name of what they termed a CIA agent at the American University. They said that I reported to him. They had many questions regarding intelligence. They were not satisfied with my complete denial. They had weapons pointed at my head, they were shouting, "Spy!"
There is no way of telling how many journalists have been put at risk because of this issue. Last year, some fifty-five journalists died worldwide in the course of duty, many in obscure circumstances. There is no way of knowing how many of those were killed because of suspicion they were intelligence agents. Most believe that that was the reason for some.
Senator Specter: What about a national-security exception? By the president, if extraordinary circumstances prevail?
Mr. Koppel: You heard the DCI object even to that. I said that the CIA will do it anyway regardless of the law. At least the violators would know the consequences. Otherwise, there is no prohibition. You are left with the goodwill of the director or deputy director.
Senator Specter: This is an interesting argument you are making, that they should have to break the law. We pride ourselves on being a nation of laws.
Mr. Koppel: We also have the precedent of the CIA routinely violating the law.
Senator Specter: Finding the facts can be hard, as we found in the Ruby Ridge case.
Would you be satisfied if the president made a finding?
Mr. Koppel: My preference would be that the law stay in place.
Senator Specter: We have no statute on that. It has been up to the CIA.
Mr. Koppel: That would be unacceptable.
Senator Specter: That is why we are considering legislation.
[To Mr. Zuckerman:] You consider it a First Amendment issue?
Mr. Zuckerman: As we understand the present situation, there are circumstances under which intelligence agencies use journalists. There is the example of Daniloff.
This calls for a balancing of interests: the value of an untainted press, bringing in unvarnished reports.
The day-to-day role of the press abroad, without taint of intelligence, is better assured by an absolute prohibition. A greater national interest is served by this than by any that would involve preserving this suspicion or taint.
Senator Specter: So you would argue for no exceptions including a national-security waiver.
Mr. Zuckerman: Yes.
Senator Specter: And that this would have a substantial effect on journalism.
Mr. Zuckerman: Mr. Daniloff was indirectly involved with the CIA, though that wasn't the whole reason they arrested him. Yet the taint was there. Read Secretary of State Shultz's memoirs.
Yes, there may be individual circumstances where the information would be useful, but the greater value is journalism without this suspicion.
Senator Specter: Mr. Adelman, you've heard this. Would you settle for a national- security exception?
Mr. Adelman: I have no opinion on the president-vs.-DCI issue.
[Sen. Charles S. Robb (D-Va.) joined the panel.]
Mr Adelman continued: Terry An To the best of our knowledge, the text on this page may be freely reproduced and distributed. If you have any questions about this, please check out our Copyright Policy. totse.com has served up 188,508,538 pages since 03/13/98.
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Senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.): We are uncomfortable discussing
publicly sources and methods of intelligence. In any event, I don't
see why any professor, any American patriot should be prohibited
from working for their country.
Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio): In some situations, you can't send a
satellite, you need human intelligence. I see that as an individual
choice. I wouldn't rule it in or out.
Testimony of Senator Coverdell:
The committee should put the Peace Corps aside. It should not be
used for intelligence.
It is dangerous for volunteers to be in the context of the CIA. The
former CIA was not allowed to use them.
I was director of the Peace Corps during the Bush administration.
We entered Eastern Europe. Solidarity asked, Are the volunteers
It would raise doubts across the entire Corps. It would put the
volunteers at risk. We lost a volunteer in Bolivia because they said
he was DEA. We need to ratify an exemption for the safety of the
Corps. It should be a separate facility.
By letter dated April 2, 1984 the permanent ineligibility of
volunteers to join the CIA is established. They are ineligible to join
any other intelligence agency for ten years after the end of their
service. This can be greater than ten years, if the general counsel so