House Panel Says CIA Lacks
Expertise to Carry Out Duties
by Tim Weiner
New York Times, June 19, 1997

WASHINGTON -- The CIA and the rest of the nation's intelligence services do not have "the analytic depth, breadth and expertise to monitor political, military and economic developments worldwide," a House committee that wants to increase intelligence spending reported Wednesday.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, whose chairman, Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., is a former CIA officer, said the intelligence services had "a largely inexperienced work force," often unable to speak foreign languages and unfamiliar with the countries they analyzed.

In addition, the committee reported, the agency has an "uncertain commitment and capability to collect 'human intelligence' on a worldwide basis through espionage." The panel said the United States should spend more money on that task.

The committee wants to increase secret intelligence spending by at least 5 percent, bringing it to more than $30 billion, several government officials said. If approved by Congress, that would be the biggest budget in five years.

About one-tenth of the money goes to the CIA and almost all the rest goes to military intelligence services like the National Security Agency, which spies on the telecommunications of allies and enemies alike; the National Reconnaissance Office, which builds spy satellites, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which coordinates military intelligence.

The committee's annual report with its budget authorization for intelligence is classified, as is the budget itself, but the panel published an unclassified version of the report Wednesday. The report is a combination of scolding and encouragement -- a critique of the intelligence agencies' intellectual abilities and derring-do, and a spur to do better, with the help of more money. A CIA spokesman said the agency had not seen the panel's report and could not comment on the criticisms it contained.

The report said the intelligence agencies continued to spend billions of dollars on advanced photo reconnaissance satellites and electronic-eavesdropping equipment, but lacked the brainpower to analyze the information collected by these technologies. A former director of the National Security Agency, Adm. Noel Gayler, has compared trying to get hard facts from the undifferentiated flow of data to trying to take a drink of water from a fire hose.

The nation "no longer needs, nor can it afford, to continue pouring vast amounts of money into expensive, high-tech collection platforms if the data collected is not exploited," the panel said. "Collecting information that is not processed and analyzed is a waste of taxpayer dollars."

The committee said it was "very concerned about the criteria and techniques used in the process of declassifying intelligence documents," because it feared that too much information might be released. Historians awaiting the declassification of intelligence records from the 1950s and 1960s have strongly criticized the slow pace of the CIA in releasing those documents, which are supposed to be made public after 25 years.

But the intelligence panel said it was "highly skeptical that the true costs of declassification have been determined accurately." Those costs, it implied, can be measured in dollars and in the potential damage to national security from opening up the CIA's archives.

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company

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