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3 Ex-CIA Directors Blamed for Agency Role in Misdeeds : Intelligence: Inspector general says a total of 12 officials should be held accountable for disinformation being sent to President. Congress gets Ames damage report.

November 01, 1995|JAMES RISEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Sweeping up after one of the greatest intelligence failures in American history, the CIA's inspector general has charged that three former agency directors and nine other former and current officials should be held accountable because some disinformation from Soviet double agents was knowingly passed to the President, the CIA reported to Congress on Tuesday.

CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz recommended that former CIA Directors R. James Woolsey, Robert M. Gates and William H. Webster be held accountable for the agency's failure to notify the White House that much of the information the President and other senior U.S. policy-makers were reading in top-secret intelligence reports from inside Russia actually was "controlled" information being fed to the United States by Soviet double agents.

While Hitz said that the former directors should be held accountable, it was not clear what action he had recommended in response to what he called their management failures. CIA Director John M. Deutch disagreed with Hitz's conclusion and said he does not believe they should be held accountable and does not plan to reprimand any of the three.

The inspector general's charges against the three former CIA directors accompanied the agency's long-awaited damage assessment of the Aldrich H. Ames spy scandal. The assessment was formally presented to Congress Tuesday by Deutch. The director reported that more than 100 CIA agents or potential agents inside the Soviet Union and later Russia, as well as other nations, were betrayed by Ames during the nine years that he spied for the KGB.

After the agents were fingered by Ames, some of those he betrayed--mostly Russians recruited by the CIA--were forced by the KGB to become double agents who fed disinformation back to Washington. Others were killed.

In the most explosive charge in the CIA's damage assessment of the Ames case, the agency has determined that some mid-level CIA officers knew that their Russian agents had been compromised and "doubled"--and did not notify U.S. policy-makers.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that the CIA has found 16 instances in which one CIA officer filed reports from agents that he knew had been doubled but failed to disclose it. Specter said that others were knowingly feeding disinformation to policy-makers as well.

Deutch has referred the matter to the FBI for a possible criminal investigation.

Specter added that the Soviet disinformation campaign has important consequences, in some cases prompting Washington to make costly--and needless--purchases of military equipment.

"It's just mind boggling, the scope of what went on here," Specter told reporters after the Senate Intelligence Committee's closed briefing by Deutch. "The CIA was passing on information to the President knowing that the information came from individuals who were controlled by the KGB."

Specter could not say whether reports containing Soviet disinformation were still being sent to the White House after President Clinton took office. But it is clear that the disinformation went to the Ronald Reagan and George Bush White Houses.

Ames, a career CIA officer known in the agency's ranks for ineptitude and excessive drinking, began spying for the Soviets in 1985 in return for money and was not arrested by the FBI until February, 1994. During those nine years, he had access to some of the CIA's most sensitive secrets.

Ames worked in the agency's Soviet division and in counterintelligence. And he continued to have access to highly sensitive intelligence information even after his name first surfaced as a possible suspect in the CIA's internal hunt for a Soviet mole.

The damage assessment did not uncover any other CIA officers who were working for the Soviets with Ames. But the report detailed that Ames gave the KGB a veritable road map to the CIA's Soviet espionage networks, allowing them to turn those networks back against the United States in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Of the 12 current or former CIA officials cited in Hitz's report as those who should be held accountable, Deutch said that only one is still working at the agency. The rest retired before he took over as director in May. Although Hitz said that the 12 should be held accountable, it was not clear what level of reprimands or censure he suggested for any of them.

The inspector general did not charge that Woolsey, Gates and Webster knew that disinformation was being passed on to policy-makers, however. Instead, he found that, as leaders, they should have maintained tighter management controls to prevent such a poisoning of the intelligence process. They should be responsible for guaranteeing the quality of what was the CIA's most important product during the last decade of the Cold War--intelligence about the Soviet Union and Russia, he said.

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