Killed the CIA?
The Confessions of Stansfield Turner (page 2)
Edward Jay Epstein
In the summer of 1977, after setting
in motion a plan to eliminate 820 positions in the espionage
branch (and notifying the affected case officers by a computerized
form letter), Turner reported to President Carter that "the
espionage branch was [now] being run ethically and soundly."
This was no doubt what the President wanted to hear from his
Director of Central Intelligence. The problem was that ethical
espionage is a contradiction in terms. There are of course
forms of intelligence gathering which violate no laws or ethical
standards. For example, "national technical means," which
includes satellite photography and electronic interception
of data, is sanctioned by the United States and the Soviet
Union in the SALT agreements; embassy attaches are permitted
to report on what they observe; and defectors and travelers
can be debriefed. But espionage, by definition is illegal.
It is the theft of secrets from a foreign state. It involves
bribing, blackmailing, or otherwise persuading a foreign national,
in contravention of the laws of his country, to supply secret
material or to plant an eavesdropping device. In addition,
it is almost invariably necessary to use false identities,
lies, and other deceptions to bide the theft itself. The process
of organizing lawbreaking, as well as deceit, may be justified
on the grounds that it is necessary for the safety and survival
of a state, or, as it is called, raisons d. etat, but it can
hardly be elevated to an ethical plane.
Consider, for example, the espionage
flap that confronted Turner early in his career at the CIA.
In July 1977 a young Soviet diplomat, Anatoli Filiatov, whom
the CIA had been grooming as a ,'mole" in the Foreign Ministry,
was caught by the KGB in Moscow. Then his American case officer,
who had diplomatic' cover, was entrapped-and photographed-leaving
espionage equipment, including lethal cyanide ampules, in
a "dead drop" for the Soviet spy. After the American diplomat
was expelled from Moscow, Soviet sources reported that a Soviet
diplomat, who worked with Filiatov in the Foreign Ministry,
was killed with a similar cyanide capsule, implying murder
or suicide. In addition to losing an agent, and having a case
officer exposed and implicated in a possible cyanide poisoning,
the CIA had to assess whether it had been betrayed from within.
Even though this disaster did not develop into a public scandal,
Turner no doubt realized that activities such as these could
not be easily converted into ethical espionage.
The new role Turner proposed for the
espionage service was determining, through polling techniques,
public-opinion trends in such countries as the Soviet Union,
Iran, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and Argentina. As he
explains: "The espionage branch is the ideal instrument .
. . for uncovering such trends, even if doing so is almost
an overt activity." Specifically, he suggested "using either
undercover case officers or agents," with ,, the polling skill
of George Gallup," to "take the pulse of a foreign country."
The espionage branch, instead of illegally inducing enemy
diplomats and intelligence officers to spy for the United
States, would under such a scheme employ sociologists and
anthropologists for this ethical, if somewhat academic, intelligence-gathering.
He notes that there was strong resistance to this radical
reform of his, explaining that it "was not considered espionage
by the professionals." Nor would Stansfield's reform produce
the enemy codes, plans, and other secret documents for which
traditional espionage strives.
In any case, Turner offered his poll-taking
idea only as a sop. His real design for the CIA involved effectively
abolishing espionage, except as an ad hoc supplement in certain
prescribed circumstances, and replacing it with "technical
collection," which is information gathered by electronic and
image interceptors in satellites, ships in international waters,
and other remotely-based platforms. This is a fully understandable
preference: espionage, done by human agents who are vulnerable
to arrest, is inherently dirty, unethical, unreliable, and
potentially explosive; technical collection, performed by
machines, is clean, legal, reliable, and invulnerable to scandal.
Turner's thesis, which he argues lucidly, is that in recent
years "the growth in technological methods of information-gathering,"
such as satellites and computers, has produced revolutionary
gains for American intelligence which render traditional espionage
all but unnecessary-except as a backstop for technical collection.
While this "revolution" has been going
on since World War 1, Turner is correct in asserting the paramountcy
of technical collection today. It supplies the preponderance
of intercepted data and reportedly accounts for well over
90 percent of the national intelligence budget. America's
ability to suck in and "vacuum clean" data is superb: technical
collection can detect enemy planes taking off, radar being
switched on, missiles being fueled, and even tanks starting
their engines. It can also, as Turner rightly points out,
extrapolate from these data an enemy's intentions as well
as his capacity for war.
All these marvels notwithstanding,
technical collection remains a different form of intelligence
gathering from espionage. It essentially intercepts data that
are allowed to leak into the international ether. These data
remain available either because an enemy does not know they
are leaking, which is usually a temporary situation, or because
an enemy does not deem it worth the expense to protect them
through encryption, camouflage, or deception. Most of what
is intercepted by technical collection therefore is not secret-at
least in the sense that the enemy knows it is being intercepted.
And nations can protect truly sensitive data that can potentially
be intercepted. If, for example, the Soviet Union does not
want secret transmissions to be read by American intelligence,
it encrypts them in a one-time computerized code, which cannot
be broken without knowing the constantly changing cipher.
The raw data of course are still intercepted by American antennas,
but they cannot be deciphered. Similarly, if the Soviet Union
wants to prevent an object from being photographed by an American
satellite, whose paths are predictable, it hides or disguises
it. The picture is still taken, but the object is not visible.
Whereas technical collection is based
on the leakage from electronic transmissions and physical
phenomena, espionage is predicated on human leakage: it seeks
to compromise individuals with access to secrets. If successful,
it not only forces the individuals illicitly to divulge secrets,
but it keeps the enemy from knowing. that his secret has been
compromised. In doing so, it often provides the key which
enables technical collection to be productive against secret
information. For example, the breaking of the German Enigma
coding machine in World War 11, which is usually regarded
as a triumph of technical collection, proceeded from an unsung
espionage triumph. In 1931, French intelligence recruited
as a spy a German clerk in the Reich Cipher Center named HansThilo
Schmidt. He provided the instruction manual and daily key
settings for the Enigma machine over a two-month period. If
these cryptography secrets had not been obtained, the German
military codes generated by Enigma-though intercepted by the
Allies- might never have been deciphered.
Espionage, since it is based on human
vulnerability, can penetrate even the most heavily guarded
repositories of national secrets. Soviet intelligence demonstrated
this in the 1950's when -it recruited no fewer than five different
American sources in the ultra-secret National Security Agency
(NSA), the unit that supplies the codes and ciphers used by
the American government. One of these KGB spies, Jack E. Dunlap,
the chauffeur for the NSA's Chief of Staff, organized a number
of staff officers into a larceny scheme, which allowed him
access to the highest level cryptography, the "keys to the
kingdom," as one military investigator put it. He delivered
this material to his Soviet case officer in the Chief of Staff's
limousine (the only car which could leave headquarters without
being searched). This human spying made it possible for the
Soviet Union to decipher the American data that had been gathered
by its technical collection, and also to ascertain many of
the targets of American technical collection.
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