We Need Spies

October 2, 2001

October 2, 2001

Just under the surface of prayer, determination and unity following the recent shocking terrorist attack, we see emerging a round of finger pointing. The blame game is beginning. I think there is plenty of blame to spread around, but I don't think you can heap it all on one agency, one department, and one person.

For more than a quarter century, the U. S. has been backing away from the dirty work of old fashioned spying. I recall clearly when I was Secretary of Agriculture and our Marine barracks were bombed in Beirut. President Reagan was sad but also angry. He was angry because he said a culture and attitude had developed, I quote, that "spying is somehow dishonest and let's get rid of our intelligence agents." President Reagan was criticized for his statement but he was right today. We have more expensive technological investments to include satellites and listening stations. As useful as those maybe, there is a new realization that they aren't enough.

We need to play on the same field as the terrorists and playas dirty as they do. That includes recruiting shady characters, crooks, and double agents -- spies that can be bought with money. We have the money. Buying spies is cheaper than buying technology. Unfortunately we are behind the cure on this, having been out of the business for so long, not to mention that the part of the world that we need to penetrate is very unfamiliar to us in both language and culture.

Considering the strong support from the public to rid the world of terrorism, I would expect the Congress to give President Bush most of the resources and authority he is asking for. I am convinced that the global assault that President Bush is leading on terrorism will serve to put the terrorist on the defensive. That will give us time to build an effective spy system.