WASHINGTON — The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Saturday that he was dismayed by a published report that William J. Casey, the late director of central intelligence, repeatedly passed secrets to Washington Post editor Bob Woodward, while withholding information from Congress.
"When the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, if indeed that is correct, meets with an investigative reporter of Bob Woodward's skill and reputation 48 times, or anything resembling that, then I think that in itself is very questionable, and I think it's very surprising," said Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), who also serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
Nunn was commenting on a Washington Post report on Woodward's soon-to-be published book, "VEIL: The Secret Wars of the CIA," which lists numerous covert operations reportedly carried out by Casey, and cites 48 conversations with Casey as the source of some of the information.
The last Casey-Woodward conversation, according to the account, was in Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, a few months before the CIA chief died of pneumonia contracted during his hospitalization for brain cancer.
In a separate interview Saturday, Vernon A. Walters, a former high-ranking CIA official and the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said he was more concerned about the revelation of such activities than the activities themselves.
Asked if U.S. credibility abroad was undermined by the report, Walters said: "To have us operating in that fashion, no. To have it made public, yes."
According to the Post report on the book, Casey personally went around official CIA channels for covert activities, including some that used Saudi Arabian operatives.
Among those operations, the report said, was an assassination attempt on the reputed leader of a hostage-taking terrorist band in the Middle East. The attempt resulted in the killing of 80 bystanders on a Beirut street. The intended victim escaped harm, but eventually was silenced in a less dramatic way: with a payoff worth $2 million, according to the report.