Directors of Central Intelligence

William Hedgcock Webster (1924- )

DCI, 26 May 1987-31 Aug. 1991


Included here:

1. Material on Webster

2. Webster's Writings/Speeches

1. Material on Webster

Materials presented chronologically.

Boyd, Gerald M. "Webster of F.B.I. Named by Reagan as C.I.A. Director; Tower Refuses Job." New York Times, 4 Mar. 1987. [http://www.nytimes.com]

President Reagan announced on 3 March 1987 that he would nominate William H. Webster as DCI.

Greenhouse, Linda. "Webster Is Confirmed by Senate as Head of Central Intelligence." New York Times, 20 May 1987. [http://www.nytimes.com]

On 19 May 2008, the Senate confirmed William H. Webster as DCI by a vote of 94 to 1. The one negative vote was cast by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV). Acting DCI Robert M. Gates is expected to remain as Deputy Director.

Roberts, Steven V. "Webster Sworn In as C.I.A. Director." New York Times, 27 May 1987. [http://www.nytimes.com]

William H. Webster was sworn in as DCI on 26 May 1987.

Engelberg, Stephen. "Webster Dismisses or Disciplines." New York Times, 18 Dec. 1987. [http://www.nytimes.com]

According to administration officials on 17 December 1987, DCI William H. Webster "has dismissed two field operatives and disciplined three senior officials for improper actions during the Iran-contra affair.... Webster acted after receiving a report from Russell Bruemmer, the lawyer he named as special counsel to examine the role of agency officials in the sale of arms to Iran and the diversion of some profits to the contras." Although Webster's statement did not name the two dismissed officials, administration officials said they "were Joe Fernandez, the former station chief in Costa Rica, and the chief of base in Honduras, whose identity has not been publicly disclosed."

Administration officials said that the "senior officials disciplined ... were Alan Fiers, chief of the Central America Task Force, who was reprimanded; Duane C. Clarridge, head of the C.I.A.'s counter-terrorism unit, who was stripped of that job, reprimanded and urged to take early retirement; and Charles Allen, a national intelligence officer, who was reprimanded. A reprimand means the employee cannot be promoted or given a bonus for two years." The text of Bruemmer's report "is classified and was not released."

Weinraub, Bernard. "Bush Will Retain Webster at C.I.A.; Fills 4 More Posts." New York Times, 7 Dec. 1988. [http://www.nytimes.com]

"President-elect Bush announced [on 6 December 1988] that William H. Webster would remain as Director of Central Intelligence, saying that the need for 'continuity' was crucial in successfully carrying out the mission of the nation's intelligence agencies."

Perry, Mark. "The Case Against William Webster." Regardie's, Jan. 1990, 90-95.

Rosenthal, Andrew. "Webster Leaving as C.I.A. Director; Ex-Deputy in Line." New York Times, 9 May 1991. [http://www.nytimes.com]

On 8 May 1991, President Bush announced the retirement of DCI William H. Webster. According to "administration officials," the leading candidate to replace Webster is Robert M. Gates, the deputy national security adviser and former DDCI.

Johnson, Loch K. "DCI Webster's Legacy: The Judge's Self-Assessment." International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 5, no. 3 (Fall 1991): 287-290.

Perry, Mark. Eclipse: The Last Days of the CIA. New York: Morrow, 1992.

Clark comment: The collection of review comments below reflects the ambivalence knowledgeable readers have about this work. It is the fullest account we have on this period in the CIA's organizational life, but includes details the sourcing of which seems questionable. The author appears to have listened to everyone with a personal ax to grind, while those more knowledgeable about some events either were not talking or were not consulted. Small factual errors (the covert operations in Iran [1953] and Guatemala [1954] did not occur in the same year) lessen Perry's credibility on more important matters. It is also a little tiresome to hear that Agency morale was terrible following each organizational upheaval. Morale may have been a concern in portions of the most affected component; but, for the most part, the rank and file barely noticed or were unaffected by what was going on at the top. All that said, Perry adds considerably to what we know about the Webster years; and he gets much of it right. Many of the CIA's problems in the years after his narrative ends are clearly presaged in Eclipse. In fact, the book's title makes more sense today than it appeared to when it was published.

According to Surveillant 2.6, Eclipse "examines the bitter internal debate over CIA policy and leadership from the death of director William Casey in 1987 to the swearing-in of Robert Gates in '91." Perry "staunchly defends Casey's immediate successor, former FBI head William Webster." The book's "highlights are thinly supported."

Choice, Jan. 1993, says that Perry's is a "critical but balanced analysis" which makes a "unique contribution" in "highly readable prose." On the other hand, Fein, FILS 12.1, sees Perry making "uninformed judgments of the agency ... on issues worthy of more serious discussion." Many of his "verdicts are either groundless or seriously arguable." The book contains "analytical and factual errors ... [which] are serious barriers to sophisticated understanding."

For Bates, NIPQ 9.2, the author's "method of documentation leaves a lot to be desired," while Powers, NYRB (13 May 1993) and Intelligence Wars (2004), 295-320, thinks the book is "oddly titled." To Allen, DIJ 2.1, Perry "has difficulty analyzing his material in a broader perspective." It is difficult to take "at face value an otherwise remarkable and revealing collection of anecdotes."

Minnick, NameBase, notes that President "George Bush is depicted as a novice in his understanding of the CIA, despite the fact that [he] was once CIA director. CIA director William Webster is slower still, apparently lacking even in his knowledge of world geography.... The work includes an excellent bibliography and chronology for further research."

Benson, Pam. "Former CIA Chiefs Call on President to Stop Interrogation Probe." CNN, 18 Sep. 2009. [http://www.cnn.com]

In a letter sent to President Barack Obama on 18 September 2009, former CIA directors John Deutch, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, James Schlesinger, George Tenet, William Webster, and James Woolsey urged the president "to stop the criminal investigation of people involved in the CIA's harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists."

2. Webster's Writings/Speeches

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