How to reform our national intelligenceAfter reading...


November 30, 1996

How to reform our national intelligence

After reading William Pfaff's cogent and insightful article, ''Is the CIA above the law?'' (Nov. 21), I am compelled to offer the following comments regarding the current organization of intelligence in the United States.

The national intelligence community consists of the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the intelligence activities of the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Of these, only the CIA is an independent agency; that is, not a subordinate activity within an executive department of the government. Instead, the director of the CIA reports directly to the president. While the latter has a small Intelligence Oversight Committee and the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board to assist him, neither group has the capability to provide effective oversight of CIA activities, nor have presidents shown the willingness to devote the time needed for effective guidance of the CIA, and understandably so.

Intelligence should operate within the premise that it exists to enhance national security by providing information to operations necessary for the successful execution of a mission, be it military, political or economic. Intelligence should not exist for its own sake, and, consequently, it should have a supporting role rather than an operational one. Yet the CIA, by virtue of its being an independent agency and in the absence of effective executive oversight, tends to assume an operational status. When the cloak of secrecy required for covert activities is added, the potential for extra-legal actions is apparent.

In recent years, Congress has established oversight committees a remedy, but legislative branch attempts to guide an executive agency are limited at best. What is needed is a national intelligence community whose members all have effective guidance from their executive superiors.

A possible solution:

Get rid of the Central Intelligence Agency, and assign its political and economic intelligence resources to the State Department as a separate branch therein, subordinate to the secretary of State and subject to his direction.

Establish a National Intelligence Committee, whose function would be to coordinate the activities of the several members of the national intelligence community. It would consist of a chairman appointed by the president and the heads of the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the State intelligence branch and the respective service intelligence activities.

This would decentralize the intelligence ''power'' that rests in the hands of the CIA and ensure that the role of intelligence remains a supporting one -- while still providing needed information.

. A. Sagerholm


4 The writer is a retired vice admiral, U.S. Navy.

Falling leaves and children

This is the time of the year when the leaves fall off the trees. Children will always play with leaves, thinking it is a game, and cover themselves over with leaves. Sometimes the motorists do not see them in the leaves.

It is the sanitation department's responsibility to try to keep the leaves off the streets.

Parents have the responsibility to keep the children out of the street and away from the leaves. This is one way of keeping the accidents down. If we save only one child we have accomplished our mission.

. B. Quirmbach


It's not the type of surgery, it's the HMO

I am writing in reference to the Nov. 23 letter from Galia Berry that appeared under the headline, "Outpatient surgery not best for mastectomy patients." The last paragraph said, "One wonders if outpatient surgery would be done on a man suffering from testicular cancer." One no longer needs to wonder.

At the age of 35, my husband was diagnosed with testicular cancer and, yes, his surgery was done on an outpatient basis. Three hours after his surgery, because of our health insurance, CIGNA, my husband and I were ''shooed'' out of the recovery room to go home from a local Baltimore County hospital.

My husband had no idea where he was, and could hardly sit up in a chair by himself. It took myself and his brother to get him dressed. It took three people -- myself, his brother, and his mother -- to get him in the car and up to our bedroom. I was so upset about being rushed out of the hospital and worried about my husband that I did not think about home post-operative care.

age. I had to call the surgeon/hospital for home-care instructions the day after my husband's surgery, when the incision started to drain, and was told by the surgeon, ''The draining is OK, see you in a week.''

My husband's recovery at home was not as recuperative as compared to a hospital stay. We have two small children, ages 2 and 3 at the time. In addition, I had to return to work that Monday. His surgery was done on a Friday.

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