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Strong Choice

March 04, 1987

President Reagan's decision to name William H. Webster, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to succeed William J. Casey as director of Central Intelligence is a wise move that should go far toward restoring the people's confidence in the integrity of the CIA. Webster's willingness to accept a messy and complicated challenge speaks of his honor and sense of duty as a public servant.

"Judge" Webster, as he is known from his previous service on the federal bench, is the kind of public official in whom the United States abounds but whose numbers have been conspicuously sparse recently at the top levels of the Reagan Administration. He is a straightforward man of integrity who, by all accounts, puts personal considerations aside in favor of his obligations to his public charge.

The CIA is in need of such a man. By its secretive nature naturally prey to the abuse of power, the CIA in Casey has had for the last six years a director who was as indifferent to constitutional restraints as he was enthusiastic about the use of secret means and covert wars.

The agency must give honest reports and untainted assessments to its master, the government; when the CIA acts, it must act in strict conformity to the demands of the Constitution and the requirements of Congress. Judge Webster's record in restoring the integrity of the FBI is testimony to his fitness for doing the same for the CIA.

Well, sweet can be the uses of adversity. After humiliating himself and his office and his country with the help of some of his top assistants, the President has replaced his headstrong chief of staff, Donald T. Regan, with the eminently sensible Howard H. Baker Jr., and now he has given us Webster for Casey. There is much more to do. This is a beginning, but it is a good beginning.

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