“Blue ribbon” panel suggests spies pose as journalists and priests
WASHINGTON, D.C.–An private “blue ribbon” task force has recommended that policymakers consider overturning a twenty-year old executive order that bans CIA members from posing as journalists and members of the clergy in covert operations overseas.
The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) task force released a report in mid-February entitled “Making Intelligence Smarter: The Future of U.S. Intelligence,” which makes many recommendations for policy change regarding restrictions imposed on the CIA. In their effort to allow the CIA to engage in “risk-taking” in its clandestine operations, the panel suggests that “at a minimum … a fresh look be taken at limits on the use of nonofficial ‘covers’ for hiding and protecting those involved.”
The report itself does not list what it considers “nonofficial covers.” However, Richard Haass, the council’s project director and former national security assistant to President Bush, said that it is time to consider removing, among others, the two categories currently protected by U.S. directives: news correspondents and members of the clergy.
The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) adopted a resolution critical of the recommendation made by the CFR, and asked President Clinton and CIA Director John Deutsch to publicly dismiss the council’s proposal. Allowing the CIA to pose as press would undermine the integrity of the press and jeopardize the safety of reporters working overseas, the group argued.
The Council on Foreign Relations is composed of former high- ranking government officials, including former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and former CIA deputy director Richard Kerr, and other appointees, including two former journalists, former Time magazine editor Henry Grunwald and former New York Times columnist Leslie Gelb.