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CIA Takes On a New Client : Killing of agent spotlights agency's assistance to former Soviet republic

August 12, 1993

It still isn't clear whether Fred Woodruff was killed in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi last Sunday night in a planned act of terrorism or as a result of a random bullet fired by one of the many criminal gangs that infest the now independent former Soviet republic. What has become clear is that Woodruff, listed as a U.S. embassy political officer, was in fact a senior officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, on assignment as part of an effort to train Georgians in anti-terrorism measures.

Woodruff's tie to the intelligence agency became implicitly clear when CIA Director R. James Woolsey flew to Tbilisi to escort the body home, an unusual public act of honor in a service that traditionally has tried to avoid identifying its agents. In the post-Cold War years the CIA has become more open, in everything from its recruitment to its cooperation with other governments. For example, Woolsey flew to Tbilisi from Moscow, where he reportedly had been holding talks with his Russian counterpart about joint measures to combat international terrorism, the drug trade and arms proliferation.

That Georgian President Eduard A. Shevardnadze, once the Soviet Union's foreign minister, would turn to the United States for help in security and intelligence training is an indication of how dramatically the world has changed in just a few years. It also makes sense. Deep fears of Russian imperialism in Georgia and other states of the former Soviet Union virtually rule out any request for Russian help to meet domestic security needs. It wouldn't be surprising if one or more of the other former Soviet republics also invited low-profile U.S. security advice and training.

Is it in the U.S. interest to provide such help? There are some clear benefits to be gained, including winning influence in an area that has been long closed to the West. The biggest benefit could come from helping local officials to bring safety and order to a troubled region, for without security stability is constantly threatened. So, yes, there is a U.S. interest in being involved. The death of Fred Woodruff is, however, a grim reminder that such involvement isn't cost-free.

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