A New Solution for the CIA

I. F. Stone
I. F. Stone; drawing by David Levine

Stalin did establish one useful precedent. He made it a practice to bump off whoever served as head of his secret police. He never let anybody stay in the job too long. As a successful dictator, Stalin seems to have felt that anybody who had collected so many secrets would be a No. 1 menace to security if he ever went sour. Stalin thought it safer not to wait.

I think we ought to take Stalin’s example one step further. I think we ought to get rid of the CIA altogether, lock, stock, and burglar’s kit.

We know from recent revelations how J. Edgar Hoover in his lifetime tenure as FBI chief collected dossiers on the sexual and drinking habits of congressmen and high officials. The mere rumor that such secrets were in his files made Hoover the most feared man in the capital, the untouchable of US politics. A similar character could build up a similar empire of fear in and through the CIA.

Those who think it enough to establish new oversight committees should remember that there have been CIA committees in Congress since the agency’s formation and they have invariably overlooked the abuses they were supposed to oversee. As for forbidding the agency to engage in “dirty tricks,” how enforce such a restriction against an agency so secretive, so far-flung, and so habituated to doing-in political leaders of whom it disapproves? It is hard enough to keep a tight rein on public agencies right here in Washington. How to control, sometimes 10,000 miles away, the kind of adventurers, screwballs, and intriguers an agency like the CIA naturally attracts?

The US government is inundated daily by tidal waves of intelligence. We have a mysterious electronic NSA which taps and tapes all the communications systems of the world; its huge “ears” in Pakistan and Turkey record the slightest Kremlin sneeze. Even in remotest Siberia, no babushka can milk her cow without being caught on candid camera from US satellites on eternal patrol.

In the Pentagon are separate intelligence branches of the army, airforce, and navy, each with its own military attachés abroad, and over all of them is a defense intelligence agency, a DIA. The State Department has its own intelligence and research division; the Foreign Service is its eyes and ears abroad. The departments of Commerce, Labor, and Agriculture have attachés of their own in many US embassies. Businessmen and Washington correspondents who use their publicly available studies on countries and commodities know how much more reliable they are than the spooks.

The Treasury has its narcotics and other agents. Internal Revenue, Customs, and the Post Office have their own gumshoe men. There is the FBI and there is the Secret Service. Nobody seems to know how much all this costs or how many are employed. Congress does know that CIA expenditures hidden in certain crevices of…

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