CIA nominee Woolsey was immersed in intelligence as arms negotiator

December 23, 1992|By Charles W. Corddry | Charles W. Corddry,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- R. James Woolsey, picked yesterday to be director of central intelligence, has been a fixture in the U.S. national security establishment for more than 20 years, serving Democratic and Republican administrations in high defense and diplomatic posts.

Mr. Woolsey, 51, has long been immersed in secret intelligence as a Navy official and arms control negotiator and, according to friends, has definite ideas on improvements needed to minimize intelligence failures.

These failures are not attributable, in this view, to the collection of intelligence information on foreign countries but rather to faulty analysis of the data at top levels of government.

"Jim will insist that analysts look through the eyes of people whose behavior they want to assess and predict," instead of guessing what they themselves would do in a developing crisis, said George A. Carver, Jr., a former top CIA official.

After President-elect Bill Clinton announced his choice yesterday, Mr. Woolsey outlined the "more complex and difficult agenda" that will demand different post-Cold War approaches -- proliferation of mass-destruction weapons, terrorism, drugs, ethnic and national hatreds, ecological damage and tough economic competition.

Mr. Woolsey is "bright, hard-working and articulate," said former defense secretary Harold Brown, under whom Mr. Woolsey served as Navy undersecretary in the Carter administration.

In that post, according to Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, who ran the National Security Agency at the time, Mr. Woolsey was responsible for naval intelligence and became "fascinated" by it.

He has been a long-time user of intelligence and now must take on actual management of the complex U.S. intelligence apparatus.

There are estimates that the U.S. intelligence operation costs about $30 billion a year, including CIA, NSA, Pentagon spy-satellite and other intelligence operations.

Mr. Woolsey, a native Oklahoman, is a graduate of Stanford University and, like the president-elect, was a Rhodes Scholar in England who took his law degree at Yale.

After graduation in 1968 he became a Pentagon analyst, then served on the National Security Council staff under President Richard M. Nixon, including being on the U.S. Strategic Arms Limitation Talks delegation in 1969-1970. He went on to become general counsel to the Senate Armed Services Committee from 1970 to 1973.

Under President Ronald Reagan, he served with Brent Scowcroft, now President Bush's security adviser, on a commission that paved the way for building MX missiles and developing a smaller Minuteman missile. He was Mr. Bush's ambassador in the successful negotiations for deep cuts in conventional arms in Europe in 1989-1991.

During the Reagan administration, Mr. Woolsey also served on a commission that tried to solve Pentagon arms procurement problems. In that capacity, he wrote a 100-page draft report that was judged too colorful for publication and caused great internal controversy.

He likened Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger's Pentagon to the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" musical story of the dancing brooms that went out of control.

A major intelligence task will be not only to produce more responsive data for policy makers in the new world situation but to do it more efficiently.

In this regard, Admiral Inman and others described Mr. Woolsey as a skeptical official who demands proof of need from subordinates.

A time of testing is likely to come when Mr. Woolsey has to decide how far to go in overcoming institutional biases in his sprawling organization.

On the issue of better analysis of foreign events, now being demanded by the congressional intelligence committees, Mr. Carver cited the example of the 1973 Egyptian preparations for war with Israel.

Analysts in Washington and Tel Aviv, Israel, reasoned that Egypt would not dare to attack across the Suez Canal, he said. That might have seemed rational to the analysts, Mr. Carver said, but Egyptian generals were making the decisions.

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