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Stewart Alsop's CIA: The Battle for Secret Power, July 1963
The CIA thought so much of this piece that it was reprinted, sans original title or publication date, as a postscript to the rushed post-Dallas reprint of Thomas Braden & Stewart Alsop's Sub-Rosa: The OSS and American Espionage (NY: Harcourt Brace, 1964), a work first concocted as part of the 1946 campaign to overturn Truman's decision to shut down the OSS.

Quote:Stewart Alsop, “CIA: The battle for secret power,” Saturday Evening Post, 27 July 1963, pp.17-21

Since World War II the Central Intelligence Agency has been our major covert defense- sometimes offense – against Communism. Now a Defense Department agency is challenging its supremacy.

At about 9:30 on most working mornings, Maj. Gen. Chester Clifton, the President’s military aide, comes into the President’s office clutching a handful of documents. The papers in Clifton’s hands are likely to include a couple of “eyes only” cables from American ambassadors, the ultra-secret “Black Book” of the code-breaking National Security Agency and intelligence summaries from State and Defense departments. But the document which Clifton almost shows the President first is a little book which has been put together in the early hours of the morning by the Central Intelligence Agency.

This neatly typed and bound booklet has on its cover the words: INTELLIGENCE CHECKLIST. FOR THE PRESIDENT. TOP SECRET. The booklet represents the quintessential end product of a major postwar industry about which even knowledgeable people know remarkably little. This is the intelligence industry, which spends upward of $2.5 billion a year and employs over 60,000 people.

Intelligence has traditionally been a peculiarly feud-ridden business, and for a simple reason. Intelligence is knowledge, knowledge is power, and power is the most valuable commodity in government. The Central Intelligence Agency has been at the very center of all the great crises of the last decade – and the CIA has actually caused several of these crises.

Where the stakes, in terms of power, are so great, rows and rivalry are inevitable, which is one of the principal reasons why it is rather widely believed within the intelligence industry that “Bob McNamara and John McCone are on a collision course.”

John McCone, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a white-haired, kindly faced man, who has been described by Georgia’s Sen. Richard Russell the second-most-powerful man in the Government. Among McCone’s many responsibilities, the most important is to make certain that the secret intelligence conveyed to the President in his little book is both adequate and accurate.

When the President opens his little book, he sees on the left-facing page a series of newspaper-type headlines – COMMUNISTS PLAN GUATEMALA RIOTS, a headline might read, or IVANOV G.R.U. AGENT IN LONDON. If the headline interests him, the President reads on the opposite page a brief factual paragraph, explaining, for example, that the Communists plan to try to topple the military junta in Guatemala by instigating mass riots; or that Evgeny Ivanov, who shared the costly favors of Christine Keeler with British War Minister Jack Profumo, was a representative of G.R.U., or Soviet military intelligence. Usually there are a dozen or so items.

Anyone with romantic ideas about the spy business might find the President’s book pretty tame stuff on most days. But the book helps to make the President, in the words of one intelligence expert, “the best-informed chief of state in the world today.” It is John McCone’s job to keep him that way.
McCone himself is known hardly at all to the American public: He grants no interviews and makes no speeches. And yet, although he may not be the second-most-powerful man in the Government, he is certainly among the half dozen most powerful. He had three distinct, vital and overlapping jobs.

As a member of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council, McCone is one of the handful of men who advise the President on the substance of high national policy. In his two other jobs, McCone also supplies the President with the intelligence and the estimates on which policy is based. This combination of functions is unique and, some maintain, dangerous.

As director of the Central Intelligence Agency McCone is boss of a vastly important empire that employs some 14,000 people and spends several hundred million dollars a year.

Among those 14,000 people there is an infinite variety – scholarly intelligence analysts, spies, black propagandists, scientists, U-2 pilots, specialists in everything from Urdu to assassination.

The CIA spends a lot more money than the State Department, and at times it has had more real power and influence on high policy. The CIA, for example, was principally responsible for the overthrow of Iran’s Premier Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and Guatemala’s pro-Communist President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman in 1954. CIA operatives dug the famous tunnel to tap Soviet telephone lines in East Berlin in 1954. The great U-2 crisis of 1960, which broke up the Paris summit conference, was, of course, a CIA operation. And the CIA has been at the center of the two great Cuban crises of the Kennedy Administration – the Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961 and last October’s great confrontation between Kennedy and Khrushchev.

Running the CIA and advising the President in ExComm might seem job enough for any man. But McCone is also responsible, in the words of a letter to him from the President, “for the effective guidance of the total intelligence effort.” Members of what is known in bureaucratese as “the intelligence community” include the State Department, the Atomic Energy Commission and the FBI. Departments like Commerce and Agriculture, and agencies like AID and USIA also have joined the intelligence act. But in terms of money and manpower, it is the Pentagon that owns the lion’s share of the intelligence industry.

The Pentagon’s heavily guarded National Security Agency employs more people than CIA, and its building at Fort Meade, Maryland, is even bigger than the CIA’s huge new building in Langley, Virginia. All three services have big intelligence setups of their own. So do the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And the Defense Intelligence Agency, newly created by Secretary McNamara, will soon spill over from the dark depths of the Pentagon into another huge building of its own in Arlington, Virginia, for which there is a budget request for over $17 million.

McCone has his enemies

The intelligence community over which McCone is supposed to rule is thus a very big community indeed. It is not a community noted for brotherly love and happy fellowship. CIA has been feuding intermittently with the State Department for years. But the real tension nowadays is between CIA and the Pentagon. Both McCone and Secretary McNamara deny that they are “on collision course.” But it is certainly true that McCone’s CIA and McNamara’s new, rapidly expanding DIA have already had plenty of minor and some major collisions.

The place to start in trying to understand what the intelligence industry is all about is with John McCone and his CIA. There are certain facts about McCone which no one disputes. He is immensely rich. His own self-made fortune, based on wartime shipping – when added to the even bigger shipping fortune of his attractive second wife, the former Theiline Pigott – comes to what has been called “Kennedy kind of money.”

McCone is also very able. He has enemies in Washington – 15 senators voted “nay” on his appointment – and in time he is likely to have more. But not even his enemies doubt his ability. Like most able men, McCone enjoys the exercise of power, and he is a born competitor. He is a devout Catholic, a conservative Republican – Richard Nixon is a friend – and a fervent anti-Communist. In any listing of the hawks and doves among the President’s advisers, McCone certainly rates as a leading hawk.

Beneath his rather placid-seeming exterior, in fact, McCone is a passionate man, with deep and stubborn convictions. And, despite that kindly face, McCone can be very tough indeed. “Allen Dulles ran a happy ship – or at least he did before the Bay of Pigs,” says one veteran of the CIA. “John McCone runs a taut ship.”

Dulles, McCone’s predecessor as CIA chief, had devoted most of his life to the intelligence trade, and he loved it. Subordinates found him easy of access and easy to work with. “We were like a band of conspiratorial brothers,” says a CIA man, “although there was never any doubt about who was big brother.”

Dulles liked to involve himself directly in secret operations, and when an agent or station chief – head CIA man in an area abroad – returned to Washington, Dulles would call him into his office, puff his pipe and pick the CIA man’s brains. McCone runs CIA like the big industry it is, on an all-business basis. He rarely sees a returned station chief, and he holds himself aloof from operations, although he insists on being informed.

Within the CIA McCone deals almost exclusively with the five key men who really run the agency. With one exception all five are new at their jobs. The reason for this turnover can be summed up in three words, words which CIA men hate – Bay of Pigs. In the wake of the Bay of Pigs disaster, all CIA’s top officers, from Dulles down, were replaced.

“We were a sick dog in those days,” one CIA veteran recalls. “Anyone could kick us and know we couldn’t bite back.” For at least three weeks after the disaster the President himself wanted nothing to do with the sick dog – he even refused to read CIA reports. In those days the whole organization seemed to be teetering on the brink of destruction.

Nowadays the CIA is back on top of the heap. The men principally responsible for its resurrection are John McCone and his five key subordinates. One of these key men –perhaps the key man, though there is much argument on this point – Lyman Kirkpatrick Jr., a smooth-faced, white-haired polio victim, confined to a wheel chair. Kirkpatrick’s title is executive director – in effect, he acts as a sort of chief of staff to McCone.

Kirkpatrick is certainly an able man, obviously intelligent, with a talent for climbing the bureaucratic ladder. He also has a talent for making enemies. When Dulles ran the agency, Kirkpatrick, who was Dulles’ special favorite, had the enemy-making job of inspector general. After McCone had been nominated but while Dulles was still director, Kirkpatrick added copiously to his roster of enemies when he wrote for McCone a long secret report harshly attacking Dulles and other colleagues for the handling of the Bay of Pigs.

Partly because he was impressed by Kirkpatrick’s ability, and no doubt partly because he wants above all no Bay of Pigs during his tenure, McCone greatly expanded Kirkpatrick’s powers. Even so, in terms of money, manpower and real responsibility Richard Helms, a dark-haired, good-looking ex-newspaperman of 49 may be the real No. 2 man after McCone.

Helms has the innocuous-sounding title of deputy director for plans –D.D.P., as he is known in the agency. A more accurate title might be chief of espionage and dirty tricks. Helms’s division is responsible for what is known in the intelligence industry as the “sexy stuff.” All the CIA’s covert operations in recent years that have come to light – and many that have not - have been the work of the D.D.P.

These operations fall into several categories. The first is traditional espionage, the gathering of secret intelligence by agents acting under one cover or another. Then there are “special ops,” designed to overthrow a hostile government, as in Guatemala or Iran, to prevent the overthrow of a friendly government or to mount a paramilitary operation as the Bay of Pigs. There are “black propaganda” and “morale operations” units, and there is the creation and support of a vast variety of “front” and “cover” organisations. Some of these organisations operate quite openly, and regularly solicit support from the citizenry, but are in fact subsidized and controlled by the D.P.P. All in all, Helms “owns” about half the people in the CIA, and at least until recently, the D.D.P. spent most of the CIA’s funds.

Like Kirkpatrick – and McCone, for that matter – Helms owes his job to the Bay of Pigs. His predecessor as D.D.P. was Richard M. Bissell Jr., chief planner of the Bay of Pigs operation and, before the Bay of Pigs, a good bet to succeed Dulles as CIA Director.

Bissell was also the chief architect of many successful intelligence and special operations, including the U-2, perhaps the most brilliant intelligence achievement of the post-war years. Without the U-2, Nikita Khrushchev’s attempt last autumn to spring a trap for the United States in Cuba might well have succeeded.

Helms is accounted both a more prudent and a less brilliant man than Bissell. “There will be no Bay of Pigs under Dick Helms,” one CIA veteran comments, adding, “but there would have been no U-2 either.” Helms is unquestionably a first-class professional clandestine operator. “He’s a real pro,” comments another CIA veteran. “He knows where all the bodies are buried.”

The chief customer for Helms’ secret intelligence is Ray Cline, deputy director for intelligence, or D.D.I., a stocky, sandy-haired man of 45 with a brilliant academic record. He, too, is accounted a more prudent but less imaginative man than his pre-Bay of Pigs predecessor, Robert Armory. Unlike Helms, Cline mounts no secret operations and “owns” no foreign agents. But Cline is a powerful man too. Allen Dulles is the authority for that less than 20 per cent of intelligence derives from espionage. Cline’s corps of analysts, who deal in the other 80 percent, includes experts on everything from “cratology” and “tentology” – the identification of the contents of a crate or tent from its external appearance – to the medical history of Nikita Khrushchev.

Cline’s main function is to see that the intelligence gets to the people who use it. Cline, for example, made the carefully worded phone call to McGeorge Bundy that first alerted the White House to “hard” evidence of the Soviet missiles in Cuba. Cline is also responsible for getting that little book to the President – his subordinates begin arriving at the CIA building at the horrid hour of three A.M. to read the late cables and put the book together. Only McNamara, McCone and Secretary of State Dean Rusk get copies of the President’s book. Cline’s shop also puts out a Daily Intelligence Bulletin with a much wider circulation, and weekly and monthly intelligence summaries as well.

The fourth key man among McCone’s subordinates is Sherman Kent, a brilliant man with a bulldog face, who chews tobacco and talks more like a stevedore than the ex-professor he is. Among the top men, Kent is the only survivor of the Bay of Pigs, in which he was in no way involved. In the bureaucratic hierarchy he is a low man on the totem pole – he ranks below the other men. But his job may be the most important of all.

His job is to interpret the intelligence, to say what it means, and saying what intelligence means is at least as important as getting it in the first place. Kent is chairman of the 12-man Board of Estimates. The Board of Estimates churns out national intelligence estimates, and, in times of crisis, “crash” estimates, known as special national intelligence estimates.

Making the national estimates is a risky business. It involves trying to put yourself in the other fellow’s shoes, and as Allen Dulles has pointed out, Nikita Khrushchev is quite capable of taking off his shoes for desk-banging.

Three examples will suggest how risky Kent’s job is. In 1958 Kent’s board produced a national estimate of Soviet capabilities in the production of strategic missiles. With an assist from the Air Force, which insisted for parochial reasons that the national estimate was too low, and from Democrats, who had parochial interests of their own, the myth of the “missile gap” was born. “Hard” intelligence later proved that the Soviets had in fact produced far fewer missiles than they had been adjudged capable of producing – and that the missile gap was thus a myth. Some of this hard intelligence came from the Soviet official Oleg Penkovsky, shot for treason in Moscow in May, who supplied “absolutely reliable” information on Soviet missile production to CIA and British intelligence. Some also came from certain top-secret technical espionage methods.

A bad guess on Cuba

Last September 19 the estimator guessed wrong. A national estimate of that date, while recommending an intelligence alert, concluded that the Soviets were unlikely to adopt the “high-risk policy” of placing missiles in Cuba. The first Soviet ships carrying missiles had actually arrived in Cuba on September 8. A CIA sub-agent, peering through his shutters on the moonlit night of September 12, spotted a missile carrying-convoy. His report was detailed and convincing enough to be rated “hard” intelligence. But, understandably, in view of Fidel Castro’s elaborate police apparatus, several days elapsed before the sub-agent could get the report to the chief agent in his area and thence to the CIA. Thus the report did not reach CIA hands until September 21, or two days after the national estimate.

Later, during the height of the Cuban crisis, a crash estimate was submitted to ExComm. Its purport was that Khrushchev might now be willing to risk nuclear war. Fortunately for civilization, this estimate also turned out to be wrong. These three examples, it should be noted, do not accurately reflect the acumen of Kent and his estimators. The Board of Estimates has done a creditable job over the years, given the inherent imponderables.

As this is written, the job of McCone’s fifth key man is open. Until mid-June, it was occupied by Herbert (Pete) Scoville, an able scientist highly regarded in the White House. Scoville was D.D.R. – deputy director for research, a post newly created by McCone. A more accurate title might be deputy director for technical espionage. Mata Hari, in fact, is rapidly giving ground to such scientific intelligence devices as the U-2, reconnaissance satellites, side-viewing radar, long-range communications intercepts and other unmentionable technical means of finding out what the other side is up to.

At the height of the Cuban crisis, the job of overflying Cuba in U-2’s was taken out of Scoville’s hands, and was assigned to the Pentagon. The deed – the fell deed in the CIA’s eyes – was done with McCone’s approval after a bloody jurisdictional hassle at Scoville’s level, although the hassle did not, contrary to published report, lead to any “surveillance gap.” Scoville is not talking, but it is a good guess that the Pentagon’s tendency to move in on him, and McCone’s tendency to remain above the resulting battle, had a lot to do with his resignation in June. The search for a successor is under way.

So much for the empire over which McCone rules as director of CIA. It is interesting to compare CIA and its main rivals in the world of secret intelligence, the Soviet K.G.B. and the British M.I.6. CIA is a direct descendant of the wartime Office of Strategic Services, built from scratch by Gen. Wild Bill Donovan. As Donovan once acknowledged, OSS was a carbon copy of the British intelligence system. Now, in some ways, the American system has more in common with the Soviet system than with the British.

The K.G.B., like C.I.A., is headed by a public figure, Vladimir Semichastny, former leader of the Konsomol and a Khrushchev man. Besides the K.G.B., there is a second Soviet secret service, the G.R.U., which is run by the military.

The K.G.B. and the G.R.U. run completely separate and bitterly competing intelligence nets. In CIA files a number of episodes are recorded in which the K.G.B. and G.R.U. cloak-and-dagger men have tripped on each other’s cloaks and stabbed each other with their daggers. In our system the equivalent of the G.R.U. is the Defense Intelligence Agency, headed by a former FBI man, Lt. Gen. Joseph Carroll. The developing relationship between CIA and DIA is not unlike that between K.G.B. and G.R.U.

All important intelligence services employ “diplomatic cover” for their major operatives abroad. In this respect there is a certain honor among thieves. The Soviets, for example, are certainly aware of the identity of the CIA station chief in Moscow, and the American government knows who the K.G.B. station in Washington is – Counselor of Embassy Aleksandr Fomin.

Georgi Bolshakov, also a member of the Soviet Embassy staff until recently, is believed in the CIA to have been a major G.R.U. operative. His assignment was similar to that of his G.R.U. colleague in London, Christine Keeler’s friend, Evgeny Ivanov – to cultivate the acquaintance of powerful persons. Through his connections, Bolshakov conveyed Khrushchev’s false assurances to President Kennedy that Soviet weapons in Cuba were wholly defensive. When an article in The Post reported his role in the Cuban crisis, Bolshakov was hastily withdrawn. Bolshakov is a witty and personally agreeable man, and before he returned to Moscow certain American friends gave him a farewell dinner. His parting toast deserves to be recorded: “Soviet Union has made great concessions for peace. Has withdrawn missiles. Has withdrawn IL-28’s. Has withdrawn Bolshakov. No more concessions!”

In the British system, there is no real equivalent of DIA or G.R.U. But the most obvious contrast between the British and American intelligence systems is suggested by the difference between McCone and “C”, chief of M.I.6. Unlike McCone – or Semichastny – “C” is not a public figure. His name is never mentioned in the British press, and out of regard for British sensibilities, it will not be mentioned here. The Soviets, of course, know who “C” is. But keeping his name out of the public prints does have certain undeniable advantages.

McCone himself would prefer the anonymity of a “C.” But he cannot possibly achieve it. The director of CIA is inescapably a public figure, and there is no American equivalent of the Official Secrets Act. This creates problems. Advance publicity in the press, which would certainly have caused the Official Secrets Act to be invoked in Britain, contributed to the disaster in the Bay of Pigs.

McCone has plenty of other problems, but he also has greater latitude in dealing with them than any other leading Government figure. He can hire and fire at will, and he can spend his “unvouchered funds” as he sees fit. These powers give to the CIA a flexibility unique in the Federal bureaucracy. To cite one example, just eight months passed between December, 1954, when Allen Dulles gave Richard Bissell the green light on the U-2, and August, 1955, when the U-2 first flew. By Pentagon standards, this was a totally incredible performance – it would have taken the Pentagon bureaucracy at least two years, and more probably three, to get the U-2 into the air.

This capacity to act quickly is one of McCone’s major assets, when he is wearing his hat as “director of central intelligence,” with responsibility for “effective guidance of the total intelligence effort.” When he wears this hat, McCone needs all the assets he can find. For, although what McCone says goes in the CIA, what McCone says does not necessarily go in the rest of the nation’s intelligence community – and above all in the Pentagon.

Secretary of Defense McNamara spends far more money and “owns” far more people in the intelligence industry than McCone does as CIA chief. And McCone and McNamara are very much alike on one way – they are both competitors in their every instinct. “Both Bob and John,” says one who knows both well, “like to get that fustest with the mostest.” “Thar” is the center of power – the White House.

The competition between McCone and McNamara to get thar fustest with the mostest has sometimes provided a rather entertaining spectacle. During the Cuba crisis each new crop of U-2 pictures was daily processed in the early hours of the morning at the photo-interpretation laboratory in downtown Washington. While the pictures were being developed and analyzed, McCone’s CIA man and McNamara’s Pentagon man – usually a major general – would breathe anxiously down the necks of the photo interpreters. As soon as an interesting picture appeared, McNamara’s general would grab it and drive like the wind to the Pentagon, where McNamara, a compulsive early riser, would be waiting him.

The CIA man would grab his copy, race even faster for McCone’s house in northwest Washington, rush to McCone’s bedside, and shove the picture in McCone’s sleepy face. At this instant the telephone would ring, and McCone would be able – by a split second – to say, “Yes, Bob, I have the picture right in front of me. Interesting, isn’t it?”

“All I had to do was trip on McCone’s back stoop,” one of the CIA’s couriers has been quoted as saying, “and McNamara would have won the ball game.”

In this game of one-upmanship the CIA’s relative flexibility is an important asset. More than once, doubtless to McNamara’s chagrin, McCone has beat him to the White House with operational intelligence garnered by Air Force or Navy planes. But McNamara has assets, too, above all in the Pentagon’s command of money and power.

CIA’s money troubles

“People think the CIA has more spending money than it does,” says one CIA man. “Hell, these days it’s really tough to get a measly quarter of a million for an operation – and in the Pentagon that’s not even carfare. If the Army hadn’t taken over a lot of our responsibilities in Vietnam, the agency would have had to declare in bankruptcy.”

It is no secret that McNamara and McCone have not always seen eye to eye, particularly in regard to the exceedingly sensitive subject of Cuba. McNamara recently told a congressional committee, “I do not feel [Cuba] is being used as a base for the export of Communism to any substantial degree today.” This was flatly contradictory to McCone’s publicly expressed views on the same subjects – and in this case McCone unquestionably has the best of the argument.

McNamara’s two-hour national telecast on the Cuban missile situation last February did not improve McCone-McNamara relations. On February 6 the President suddenly decided that the rumors that the Soviets had not really withdrawn their missiles from Cuba must be publicly scotched. He ordered McNamara to conduct that same day a “special Cuba briefing” on nationwide networks.

McCone was not consulted about the telecast. He was testifying in executive session on Capitol Hill that morning, and when asked by such senatorial grand dukes as Senators Richard Russell and Saltonstall about details of the Cuban intelligence operation, he was cagey in his replies. When, a few hours later, he heard those same details being broadcast to the world by McNamara, his hair is said to have turned a shade whiter.

On McCone’s orders, an analysis of the McNamara telecast was made in CIA. The report concluded that the telecast had seriously compromised certain intelligence techniques. “On the next go-round,” says one expert, “you can be damned sure they will change the shape of the crates they ship their missiles and IL-28’s in.” As the McNamara telecast made obvious, the CIA’s “cratologists” had confirmed both incoming and outgoing shipments of missiles and bombers.

McCone had a right to be unhappy about the telecast – he is charged by law with “the protection of intelligence sources and methods,” and he should certainly have been consulted in advance. For his part, McNamara has made it abundantly clear that McCone’s presidential authority to “guide” the total intelligence effort has certain well-defined limits where the Defense Department is concerned. During a House hearing McNamara was asked if he was “operating on the intelligence you get from the CIA?”

“No, sir,” McNamara replied firmly. “I receive information directly from the Defense Intelligence Agency, and that information is screened by no one outside the Pentagon.

The Defense Intelligence Agency was created by McNamara on August 1, 1961. There were good reasons for establishing the DIA. The intelligence estimates of the individual services have traditionally been intensely parochial – an example being the wildly inflated Air Force estimates of Soviet missile and bomber production. Moreover, there are some things in the intelligence industry which the Pentagon can do better than the CIA.

For example, John McCone was probably right on balance when he agreed at the height of the Cuban crisis to turn the CIA’s U-2 surveillance operation over to the Air Force. The U-2 operation was no longer covert, and in the circumstances, the sensible thing to do was to make the surveillance effort a straight military operation, as it remains today.

For another example, when the President learned of the Communist plan to instigate riots in Guatemala, he asked his military aide an obvious question. “About these riots,” he said to major General Clifton. “Can the government handle them? Find out about that.” The CIA did not have the answer to the President’s question. Through its close connections with the military men in the Guatemalan junta, the DIA did have the answer – a firm “yes” – and it delivered the answer to the White House the same day.

And yet there is one reason why the Defense Intelligence Agency should not have been created. There is really nothing very much that the DIA can do that the CIA is not doing already. The Army, Navy and Air Force must have their own order-of-battle intelligence, so the three service intelligence units will continue to exist. That being so, the DIA has no choice but to concentrate on the political-strategic intelligence which is the CIA’s chief function. Some military men have sensitive political antennae. A great many, unfortunately, do not.

Moreover, Parkinson’s Law operates with special virulence in the Pentagon. One reason is that all three services are top-heavy with high-ranking officers. This creates an intense hunger for staff “slots,” and intelligence has always been a happy hunting ground for the slot-hungry. This scrambling in turn leads to empire building, and as that budget request for a huge new building for DIA suggests, the DIA’s empire is rapidly expanding.

DIA spokesmen – not CIA – insist that all is sweetness and light between the two agencies. In fact, 13 issues had arisen at last report between DIA and CIA, on which McCone and Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric have been quietly negotiating.

For example: Will DIA’s intelligence bulletins circulate outside the Pentagon in competition with CIA’s? Whom maintains liaison with friendly foreign intelligence, like MI6? Who “owns” the CIA-created national photo interpretation center? Who owns such technical devices as the U-2? Where does the CIA’s responsibility for guerrilla and anti-guerrilla operations end and the Pentagon’s begin?

Above all, who runs covert operations and where? This is the most sensitive issue of all. It is in this area that CIA and DIA, like K.G.B. and G.R.U., are likely to begin tripping over each other’s cloaks and stabbing each other with their daggers. Recently reports reached CIA that DIA was planning a major clandestine operation in an area that was previously an exclusive CIA bailiwick. “If they move in on us there,” says one CIA man, “we’ll really have to pick up the gauntlet.”

Meanwhile, much depends on the answer to the question: How good is the CIA? For DIA and the military can make a case for moving in on the CIA only if they can provide better intelligence more quickly to the President and the other major intelligence consumers.

“Intelligence,” says John McCone, “is not a measurable commodity. You can’t put a price tag on it.” That is true enough. But there are certain measures which can be used all the same. One is the opinion of old hands in the intelligence industry. This reporter has asked many old hands for their opinions of CIA. Their answers in most cases are remarkably similar. They boil down as follows:

Dick Helms’s Department of Espionage and Dirty Tricks – a solid C-plus. This moderate rating must be read in the light of the fact that this is the toughest course in all the intelligence curriculum.

Ray Cline’s analysis section – B-plus.

Sherman Kent’s estimators – a B or, given the trickiness of making the national estimates, perhaps even a B-plus.

The newly vacated department of technical espionage- a B-plus.

There are other ways to assess the effectiveness of an intelligence organization. The grand prize in the game is the “penetration of the opposition.” If you can insert an agent or agents into the other side’s intelligence organization, you are in the happy position of a player without a blindfold in a game of blindman’s buff.

M.I.6 has been penetrated to a fare-the-well, as was proved by the celebrated case of George Blake, one of a seemingly endless succession of Soviet agents who have penetrated the British government. “The British suffer from the old-school-tie complex,” says one security expert. “You know – ‘What, old Guy a turncoat? Why, I went to school with him.’ They regarded the polygraph as ungentlemanly and our security techniques as boorish. But they’re beginning to learn.”

Penetration by spies

K.G.B., it can be stated on high authority, has been penetrated by CIA, although the hows and wheres are, of course, the toppest of top secrets. Has CIA been penetrated by K.G.B.?

There is no way to prove that it has not. As Bedell Smith, Allen Dulles’s predecessor, once testified – thus creating a furor in the McCarthy era – an intelligence chief must operate on the assumption that the opposition has penetrated his organization. At least two men who might have been Soviet agents have been fired from the CIA. But those in the best position to judge believe that the odds are high that CIA has not been penetrated. If so, CIA must be given a higher score in this vital area than its rivals.

Odious comparison, in fact, suggests that the CIA has done reasonably well in total effort over the years. The Soviets have overflown American territory more frequently than is generally known, but they have nothing to match the U-2 operation. Although we have had our Bay of Pigs, they have had theirs – Khrushchev’s missile adventure in Cuba. The outcome of that adventure proved a total Soviet intelligence failure, in regard to both American intelligence capabilities and the probable American reaction to Khrushchev’s challenge.

The K.G.B. has had plenty of other failures. A recent, less obvious example, was the flop in Iraq. According to CIA estimates, the Soviets invested the equivalent of half a billion dollars in General Kassim’s Communist-infested dictatorship, hoping to turn Iraq into a Middle Eastern Cuba. Yet K.G.B. had no advance warning of the coup that led to Kassim’s assassination in February, and the destruction of the Communist apparatus in Iraq. Neither did the British, Israeli or Egyptian intelligence services. The CIA was “thoroughly clued in.”

There is no doubt, furthermore, that CIA has succeeded in attracting and holding many remarkably able analysts and operatives. John McCone himself has clearly been impressed – and, perhaps, surprised – by the quality of people he found in the CIA. “This is the most competent and effective organization I have had anything to do with in private or public life,” he says.

There are some veteran CIA men, perhaps suffering from nostalgia, who sense stodginess creeping in, who regret the days when such brilliant if sometimes overdaring men as Dulles, Bissell and Amory ran the show.

“The real trouble with this new building,” says one CIA man, “is that it tends to make an honest woman of the old madam – you know, no spittoons, keep the antimacassars clean and no champagne in the morning. We ought to be lurking in scrabby old hideouts, with the plaster peeling and stopped-up toilets. There’s something about the atmosphere of this building that leads to too many memos, too many meetings and not enough dirty work.”

There are those who resent John McCone’s tendency to run the organization like a big corporation rather than a band of conspiratorial brothers. “Maybe Allen was a bit of a romantic. But it was fun working for him. Dammit, a man who’s been abroad for a couple of years on a rough assignment wants to see the boss, if only for half an hour.”

Despite these rather nebulous strictures, those in a good position to judge give both the CIA and McCone himself high marks. One thing is certain. Our intelligence industry is here to stay. There are a lot of things wrong with it: it costs too much, employs too many people and involves too much rivalry and duplication. But we can never go back to the dear old days before World War II, when American intelligence was in the hands of a few elderly female civil servants with pince-nez glasses, who tended the attaché files in the War Department. John McCone himself has summed up the best reason why we can’t go back:

“Every war of this century, including World War I, has started because of inadequate intelligence and incorrect intelligence estimates and evaluations. This was true of Pearl Harbor, for example, and it was true in Korea. The Cuban crisis in October could have generated a war, some think a nuclear war. But war over Cuba was avoided because of intelligence success. Every threat to our security, every weapons system, was correctly identified in time to give the President and his policy advisers time to think, to make a rational estimate of the situation, and to devise a means of dealing with it with a maximum chance of success and a minimum risk of global war. I consider this an intelligence success. Although intelligence is not a measurable commodity, that is at least a partial measure of its value.”

If good intelligence can help us to avoid a war which might destroy us all, the enormous American investment in the intelligence industry will surely have paid off rather handsomely.”
"There are three sorts of conspiracy: by the people who complain, by the people who write, by the people who take action. There is nothing to fear from the first group, the two others are more dangerous; but the police have to be part of all three,"

Joseph Fouche

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