DCI's Statement of 17 July 1996

[Source: NMIA in Cyberia HomePage]

July 17, 1996
Testimony of the Honorable John M. Deutch
Director of Central Intelligence
before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence

Mr. Chairman, I appear this morning at your request to explain the policy of the Central Intelligence Agency concerning possible use of American journalists, American clergy or the Peace Corps.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, I am uneasy discussing potential intelligence sources in public session, even in general fashion, but I can make a general statement on this very sensitive issue.

Simply put, CIA's policy is not to use journalists accredited to American news organizations, their parent organizations, American clergy or the Peace Corps for intelligence purposes. This includes any use of such organizations for cover.

This policy has been in place for 20 years. Recently at the request of this Committee, I reviewed the policy to determine whether it was both appropriate and sufficiently circumscribed.

As I told the Committee when this issue was raised with me, my sympathy is on the side of no intelligence use of American journalists or clergy. I strongly believe in the independence of our free press and in the division between government and the church. That is why I have stated publicly that I have no intention of using either American journalists or clergy for intelligence purposes. Further, as this Committee knows, I have found no circumstances while Director of Central Intelligence that would cause me to do either.

But, Mr. Chairman, as the Director of Central Intelligence I must be in a position to assure the President and the members of his National Security Council that there will never come a time when the United States cannot ask a witting citizen to assist in combating an extreme threat to the nation. So, I, like my predecessors, have arrived at the conclusion that the Agency should not be prohibited from considering the use of American journalists or clergy.

I am able to imagine circumstances, Mr. Chairman, in which the lives of American hostages depended upon particular knowledge only a journalist might have or obtain. I can foresee the possibility of a terrorist group attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in a crowded urban area where both the President and the nation would look to the Agency to use all possible means to detect and deter such an event. Under either of those scenarios, I believe it unreasonable to foreclose the witting use of any likely source of information.

Now critics of this decision might well say that these are far fetched examples in which the possible confluence of highly improbable circumstances is fanciful at best. Unfortunately recent history has shown us that the threat in these scenarios is real. I do not believe that as Director of Central Intelligence I can gamble that future sources of critical information will come only from predictable sources. Nothing in my 14 months in this job supports that kind of a judgment.

Having decided that I should allow the possibility of exceptional waivers, I looked carefully at the guidelines which governed such waivers. I found them restrictive but nonspecific. I therefore issued new policy guidelines which set out several specific tests that must be satisfied before the Director or Deputy Director may consider a waiver. Those guidelines have been made available to both intelligence committees. They are classified and I am available to discuss them in any detail the Committee may desire in closed session, but I want to state that the guidelines require prompt as well as periodic notification of the intelligence committees.

Let me repeat. These guidelines allow for the possibility of a waiver, but they do not compel or encourage such waivers. I have not changed my view that it would take extremely rare, indeed highly improbable, circumstances to change my predilection against any waiver of our policy not to use journalists or clergy for intelligence purposes.

There is one other aspect of this question that deserves comment in this public session, which is who ought to be the official entrusted with the responsibility of deciding whether to waive this policy. I considered whether the President ought to be the decision maker. In the end, we decided such decisions should remain with the Director. The Director is the official entrusted with running intelligence operations. The Director ought to be responsible for this operational, albeit extremely important decision in the rare situation where it might be contemplated. If the Director fails to give the matter proper attention or judgment, the Director can be overruled or even fired by his boss, the President.

Let me return to the Peace Corps. Here too, our policy is not to use the Peace Corps personnel for intelligence purposes. This has not changed, and here any waiver could occur under even more circumscribed circumstances.

Lastly, I would like to close by commenting on the Richardson amendment adopted by the House. The Richardson amendment requires that the President decide any waiver on the intelligence use of an American journalist. As I have said, I believe that this decision ought to rest with the Director. The Richardson amendment also excludes cases of voluntary cooperation between the Agency and a particular journalist. This is important because we would never contemplate a relationship without the writing [?witting] and willing cooperation of the individual involved.

Mr. Chairman, that completes my statement. I am happy to answer any questions you may have that are appropriate for this public hearing, and, of course, I will be pleased to provide any details you require in closed session.

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