Dependent on Danger

January 04, 1995|By Garry Wills

Chicago -- James Woolsey's product was danger. He had to convince us that the CIA is still needed, though the occasion for setting it up has disappeared. ''It is still a dangerous world,'' he liked to say.

The trouble is that the CIA has a history of augmenting danger, not eliminating it. It helped get us into avoidable crises -- as in its whole bungled history of dealings with Iran. It helped bring on the missile crisis with its assassination attempts against Fidel Castro. It made enemies by interfering in others' internal affairs. It housed spies at home who killed our spies abroad.

All this occurred when we admittedly had an enemy to fight. Now, the CIA has to create enemies to scare us into paying for its established interest in spying. When a bureau depends on danger to keep its empire intact, it will exaggerate danger, or create it. An agency supposed to be a neutral judge of intelligence data is bound to be biased in its findings if its own survival depends on inflating those findings.

There is only one cure for the CIA's troubles: dissolution. The CIA may have been a necessary evil during the Cold War. Now it is an unnecessary evil. The best new director for the CIA would be no director.

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