Deutch made strides in opening the CIA

In fiction, the world of international intelligence is dominated by cool gadgets, beautiful women and strong silent heroes. But we’ve always known that the real thing was a far dirtier business. From the Bay of Pigs to Irangate, the Central Intelligence Agency has earned a reputation for questionable ethics, puppet politics, drug trafficking and murder. Since the dawn of modern intelligence in the mid-1930s, the extreme secrecy of this cloistered arm of our government has been impenetrable. But the agency’s image is beginning to change under the guidance of director John Deutch.
When Bill Clinton won the White House in 1992, the Cold War had ended and national attention was focused on domestic issues. Clinton appointed Deutch, a former chemistry professor and deputy secretary of defense, to head the CIA. He decided the agency’s public image was in need of a makeover. Deutch began handling scandals and questions about the agency’s behavior with at least the appearance of greater openness than previous directors, such as William Casey, who oversaw the agency during the Iran-Contra scandal. Deutch has opened up appropriate areas of the agency’s behavior by commissioning outside evaluations of possible cover-ups and well-publicized internal investigations of other charges. Questions remain about how much we actually know, but the agency’s steps toward accountability are a welcome change.
Recently, allegations have surfaced that the CIA was involved in the spread of crack cocaine to inner city neighborhoods. Also, Richard Niccio, a state department official, has come forward with information that an operative was involved in two murders in Guatemala and that the agency subsequently tried to cover up the story. Deutch has handled both issues admirably. In response to the allegations about the CIA’s involvement in crack distribution, Deutch instigated an internal review of the situation that helped dispel rumors and put the conspiracy theory to rest. In the Guatemalan case, he appointed an outside panel to review the CIA’s action against Niccio. The panel is still deliberating on the situation.
In addition to dealing with these recent events, Deutch’s new openness sets the right tone for dealing with the agency’s inevitable dirty laundry from the Cold War. With a constant Soviet threat, much of the CIA’s activity was easily hidden from the public because of the tense atmosphere and tight national security. But the Iron Curtain has fallen. As the CIA’s past begins to surface, the agency should reveal the truth about its actions — such as the illegal financing of military actions in Central America, and the role of agents in training future dictators in the arts of torture and bribery at the School of the Americas. The public has the right to know about agency actions that directly affect the American population or violate human rights.
Deutch is clearly not telling all, and as director of an intelligence agency, he should not. Although he will likely step down soon from his CIA post, his openness in dealing with the agency’s involvement in activities such as the spread of crack is setting an encouraging precedent for any possible successor.