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Central Intelligence Agency unnecessary, two speakers say
STANFORD -- A broadening alliance of people on the left and right of the political spectrum think it's time to abolish the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, two speakers said Feb. 1 at a Stanford University conference on national security.
While they disagreed on what intelligence policies the United States should have, Larry Bensky, an international affairs correspondent for Pacifica Radio, and M. Carling, a research assistant at the Hoover Institution, agreed that the CIA has not done a good job and obstructs the development of an open, coherent international security policy.
Their discussion was part of a day-long student-organized conference on "Redefining National Security" sponsored by the Haas Center for Public Service.
Carling said the CIA's covert operations have all been unsuccessful and undertaken for the wrong reasons - "not to enhance effectiveness" but to make it easier for the president and other policymakers to avoid making unpopular policy decisions in public.
The agency was successful in installing the shah in Iran precisely because it was not a covert action, he said.
"The United States, through the CIA, openly passed around money," Carling said.
"Everyone knew about it and jumped on the bandwagon. If they had hired Swiss bankers to hand it out, the shah never would have come to power."
Carling assisted Hoover Senior Research Fellow Angelo Codevilla in research for the book Informing Statecraft: Intelligence for a New Century, to be published within the next few weeks by Free Press. The book, he said, covers 4,000 years of intelligence, which Carling described as the necessary "eyes and ears of statecraft."
The. CIA should be abolished, he said, because it doesn't really gather intelligence but was created to "centralize intelligence analysis so it would be bureaucratically unchallengeable."
Contradictory analyses are debated inside the intelligence community in secret, he said, whereas the debates should take place among elected and appointed policymakers.
The CIA is trying to prevent its demise in the post-Cold War era by thinking up new missions for itself, said Bensky, who covered last year's lengthy congressional confirmation hearings on Robert Gates' nomination to be central intelligence director.
He cautioned that the CIA might try to turn Japan into the new enemy, and he accused the agency of trying to garner new university allies and recruits through the National Security Education Act recently passed by Congress. The act would provide $150 million to improve university teaching of foreign languages, and regional and international studies. Bensky said he was not opposed to improving international education but the funding decisions should be administered by the Department of Education.
Carling also criticized the CIA for recruiting primarily white upper- and middle-class college graduates for intelligence work. He compared it to an auto mechanic who, rather than determining what's wrong with the car, "fixes" it based on what limited tools he has collected.
"It would be very easy for an American of Chinese descent to walk across the border of Hong Kong and get whatever information he wanted," Carling said, "but the CIA doesn't do things like that. It hires people who look like me to stay in capitals, to talk to the elites and [be] fed misinformation."
In one study, he said, just 10 percent of the CIA agents in Mexico City could speak Spanish, and none of them "spoke the Spanish of the secretaries."
Bensky and several members of the audience, however, questioned whether it was morally right or necessary for the United States to put Americans to work gathering information on foreign countries under false pretenses.
Bensky accused the agency of "pernicious motivations" that involve "taking away legitimate life goals" of citizens of this country or others.
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