NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL ON ROBERT GATES (Senate - October 31, 1991)
Mr. BRADLEY. Mr. President, I recently read an excellent editorial in the Friday, October 18, 1991, edition of the New York Times on the nomination of Robert Gates as Director of Central Intelligence. It raises important questions that my colleagues and I should consider as the Senate takes up Mr. Gates' nomination next week.
I ask unanimous consent that a copy of this editorial be inserted in the Congressional Record.
There being no objection, the editorial was ordered to be printed in the Record as follows:
From the New York Times, Oct. 18, 1991
The Once and Future C.I.A.
These have not been stellar years for the Central Intelligence Agency. Even with the distinguished outsider Judge William Webster in charge, the once-proud agency has, at least to public perception, flunked. Who there anticipated the fall of the Berlin wall, the aggression of Saddam Hussein, the implosion of the Soviet Union?
Nevertheless, President Bush contends he needs an experienced insider and has nominated Robert Gates to be Director of Central Intelligence, a choice the Senate Intelligence Committee votes on today. There are strong reasons to vote no.
Mr. Gates has done his best to dispel the doubts that forced him to withdraw when he was first nominated in 1987. He has seemed contrite and open-minded and cites his broad experience and future vision. But senators would do well to consider at least three criteria.
Whether his past performance shows him to warrant their trust. . . whether he has earned the confidence of agency employees . . . and above all, whether he, an insider, is the right person to lead the agency into uncertain times. On each count, Mr. Gates falls short.
David Boren, the committee chairman, commends Mr. Gates for forthrightness. Yet he overlooks occasions when Mr. Gates helped skew intelligence assessments and was demonstrably blind to illegality. The illegality concerns the Iran-contra scandal. Mr. Gates contends he was `out of the loop' on decisions about what to tell Congress. And he defends his professed ignorance on grounds of deniability--that he was shielding the C.I.A. from involvement. These contentions defy belief.
The testimony of other puts Mr. Gates, on at least two occasions, very much in the loop. He supervised preparation of Director William Casey's deceitful testimony to Congress about the scandal. And one C.I.A. analyst, Charles Allen, says he informed Mr. Gates, before it came to light, of three unforgettable details: Oliver North's involvement, the markup of prices of arms sold surreptitiously to Iran, and diversion of the proceeds into a fund for covert operations. In a telling lapse of his reputedly formidable memory, Mr. Gates could not recall the details when Congress asked two months later.
The second criterion concerns intelligence estimates. Incorrect forecasting should not be disqualifying; estimates can be wrong for the right reasons of political expediency, that's `cooking the books.'
The hearings have documented at least three cases of such slanting: a May 1985 estimate on Iran, estimates of Soviet influence in the third world, and assessments of Soviet complicity in the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II. Mr. Gates has responded to their testimony but not refuted it. He evidently went to great lengths to manipulate the process, because highly reticent career officials testified against him in public. That electrifying development demonstrates how little confidence Mr. Gates enjoys in the agency.
It can be argued that his experience makes him well suited to lead the C.I.A. into the future. As a former Deputy Director and deputy national security adviser, he knows how intelligence assessments are put together and what policy makers need. And he knows the U.S. will not keep spending $30 billion a year on intelligence.
But it is more reasonable to think the agency would be better off with a director unbound by William Casey's dark legacy--the conviction that the agency knows best, a barely concealed contempt for Congress and a belief that anything goes including evading the law. Reshaping the agency wisely depends on casting off the legacy.
Thomas Polgar, a C.I.A. veteran, urged the committee to consider the message that confirmation would send. Would officials wonder whether it was wise for outspoken witnesses to risk their careers by testifying? Would they say to themselves, `Serve faithfully the boss of the moment; never mind integrity? Feel free to mislead the Senate--senators forget easily?
By voting no, senators will vote to remember.
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