R.I.P. for the CIA?

One worthless government program that deserves to die


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In an era when citizens are upset about needless government agencies, the Central Intelligence Agency may stand out as the ultimate example of a bureaucracy whose lifespan has been pointlessly prolonged. Long after its original mission ceased to matter, a combination of iniquity and inertia has kept the CIA intact.

Unlike other controversial government agencies that merely squander taxpayers' money, the Central Intelligence Agency is a sinister enterprise with a long criminal record. Its sole rationale -- engaging in shadowy combat with its equally nefarious communist counterparts -- crumbled at about the same time the Berlin Wall did. Without a Cold War to wage, the CIA has become a dinosaur desperate to avoid extinction.

In the course of its 48-year rampage, it has left the geopolitical landscape strewn with victims. Eric Alterman, writing in Rolling Stone (March 23, 1995), reviews a 'small sampling of the CIA's darker moments: the hiring of Nazi war criminals; the overthrow of legally elected governments; the training and financing of foreign police and paramilitary forces engaged in systematic murder and torture; participation in clandestine invasions and actual wars against nations with which the United States was at peace; attempted assassinations of foreign leaders.'

Add to that shameful litany the recent revelation that a CIA henchman ordered the 1990 killing of an American innkeeper in the Guatemalan mountains and the 1992 torture-slaying of a guerrilla leader married to a U.S. citizen. As Robert Parry points out in In These Times (April 17, 1995), those are only two of 'the countless thousands' slaughtered in Latin America during the past four decades 'with tacit or explicit American support.'

Declaring that 'the CIA has made our country into the granddaddy of international terrorism,' an In These Times editorial (Dec. 12, 1994) concludes that it is time to 'put an end to its pernicious existence.'

No less an establishment figure than Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan agrees that the CIA should be abolished. What particularly rankles the New York Democrat is the agency's amply demonstrated incompetence. Moynihan is still incensed over the CIA's consistently inflated estimates of the Soviet threat during the '70s and '80s; despite their stated purpose of gathering information, the fall of communism and the Soviet Union took them by surprise.

Other big embarrassments include its protracted failure to unmask double agent Aldrich Ames; the charges by a top female officer that the CIA practices systematic sexual discrimination; and the bogus briefing given to U.S. lawmakers last year regarding the psychiatric history of Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.