The list of CIA failures in recent years is long and seems constantly to be growing. The sensational account of Aldrich Ames, who brazenly sold sensitive secrets to the Soviets for eight years, is only the beginning.
For instance:- About one-third of the agency's female case officers last week said they are alleging sexual discrimination regarding promotions, assignments and spying tasks.
- A recent anti-drug program run by the CIA in concert with the Venezualan government was infiltrated by drug traffickers and was further compromised when a male agent and two female Drug Enforcement Administration agents were involved in a sexual liaison.
- At least seven CIA station chiefs have been removed from foreign posts because of questionable behavior, including one who stole a religious icon from a church in Cyprus.
- A recent U.S. News & World Report investigation uncovered major failures and fraud within the agency. Among other things, the magazine learned that at least 30 Iranians who spied for the U.S. were killed or imprisoned because of communication failures.
- The agency has yet to account for its failures to adequately monitor and anticipate the decline of the Soviet Union or the crackdown in China's Tiananmen Square.
Despite the bad news, this is hardly the time to abolish the agency, as some are urging. Even though the Cold War is over, the world is still a dangerous place, and reliable intelligence continues to be vital to the nation's interests.
Consequently, the CIA should be reformed and modernized. It needs to be refocused after so many years of concentrating mainly on potential Soviet aggression. And it needs the kind of leadership that will boost sagging morale within the agency while restoring the confidence of foreign agents whose cooperation it needs.
Congress is well-aware of the problem, and it already is proposing solutions. One calls for the agency to be split in two, with one half gathering information and the other half analyzing it. Another calls for a presidential commission to study the roles of all intelligence agencies in light of political changes in the world.
These are good suggestions. But Congress should make haste. A CIA that is the target of so much criticism is of limited use to the country.