John Deutch does not intend to be a caretaker director of central intelligence. His predecessor James Woolsey left office amid calls for the agency to be reformed or even abolished.
Deutch’s forceful promises Wednesday of swift changes and new leadership in the intelligence community Wednesday showed that he had learned from Woolsey’s unhappy tenure. By seizing the reform initiative, Deutch seems also to have adroitly undercut the slow-moving commission headed by his friend and former boss, former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin.
But when discussion in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence turned to financial matters, Deutch made less radical noises.
The Woolsey-era CIA had limited access to the president. Clinton just was not interested in them, intelligence officers say. To make sure that the president hears the CIA’s point of view, Deutch wants a seat in the Cabinet.
This was one of the few issues on which the generally friendly Senate committee and Deutch parted company. Deutch stressed that a Cabinet seat would guarantee the agency’s ability to provide accurate information to the highest reaches of power. The senators, however, tended to remember the controversial precedent of William Casey, Ronald Reagan’s intelligence chief.
Woolsey was criticized inside and outside the agency for not holding senior officials accountable for their failures, notably in the Aldrich Ames spy case. Deutch, however, promised that intelligence executives who fail to inform Congress or their superiors of security problems would be “terminated,” as would executives who fail to respect the agency’s policy on sexual and racial equality.