Thirteenth DCI, William Joseph Casey
William Casey: Back to Basics
Intelligence Community going like a house afire.
Jimmy Carter had made intelligence a presidential campaign issue in 1976, and it was so once again in 1980 as Ronald Reagan vowed to rebuild weakened US intelligence capabilities in order to support a stronger American policy in the world. Both campaigns in 1980 focused on CIA and on issues of policy and performance, not on the DCI’s role or on the Intelligence Community as a whole. But, as it turned out, Reagan’s election marked a shift from a DCI intent on strengthening his community role via new structures and authorities to a DCI bent on exercising community leadership via enthusiasm and common actions without revising organizations or charters.
In selecting his DCI, Reagan signaled that he was serious about supporting a stronger national intelligence effort. Like Carter, he chose to have a new DCI replace the incumbent, and he wasted little time in naming his national election campaign manager, William J. Casey. Casey was a veteran of the wartime OSS, and throughout his subsequent business career he had sustained a deep interest in foreign affairs. He had served on PFIAB, and he advised Reagan on national security affairs in the post-election period. He wanted to be secretary of state, but he contented himself with the silver medal he was awarded. Reagan placed him in his cabinet (a first for a DCI), and Casey believed his post offered him a platform for shaping national security policy as well as providing intelligence to the president and other members of the NSC.
Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) wanted VAdm. Bobby Ray Inman, USN, then head of NSA, to be the new DCI. He went so far as to plead his case with the president-elect but in the end accepted that Reagan’s mind was made up. Reagan personally recruited Inman to be Casey’s deputy, and to many the DCI and DDCI nominations seemed to be a package deal.
J. William Middendorf, head of the intelligence team on the transition staff assisting the president-elect, and several members of his staff took up temporary residence at CIA headquarters after the election, a new experience for the professional intelligence officers who worked there. The team’s report noted the option of having an intelligence “czar” at the White House but recommended that the status quo be maintained, making no mention of any need for additional or altered DCI authorities. The report noted that “understandably, the DCI needs a strong voice” in community budgetary affairs but observed that the budgetary authority granted to the DCI in Carter’s Executive Order 12036 was “perhaps the greatest source of irritation in the DCI’s current relations as head of the Intelligence Community.” It argued that exercise of this authority had hurt the DCI’s ability to coordinate community-wide efforts: “This one issue has done more than any other to create the current counterproductive adversarial relationship with the Department of Defense.” The team recommended that the new DCI eliminate “his mini-OMB functions” and pare back his resource management staff, which the team believed had become too large and intrusive, confining his budgetary role to review of the budgets drawn up by non-CIA intelligence agencies. It further envisaged fewer OMB constraints on the DCI’s budget decisions.
The team also criticized the DCI’s ties to CIA, arguing they harmed his ability to fulfill a truly community role. Part of the problem was analysis, the team believed, averring that “CIA’s analytical products, even when inferior, have been routinely preferred over the other agencies’ products in the process of coordination.” Another aspect was budgetary, the team asserted, because the DCI “tended to pursue CIA’s parochial ends rather than the Community’s good. This micromanagement by CIA hurt the SIGINT programs and the National Reconnaissance Program worst.” Some on the team urged reinstituting the Executive Committee set up in 1965 to manage the NRP, which had been first diluted and then supplanted by other arrangements in the 1970s.
The transition team’s views amounted to a fairly broad criticism of intelligence generally representative of attitudes held by individuals who became key members of the new administration, and the administration adopted some of the team’s ideas, reconstituting PFIAB and canceling DCI Turner’s new security compartmentation scheme. But Casey disregarded other team ideas, such as removing career officials on team “hit lists” and replacing them with recommended individuals. The new DCI made it clear that the team’s report was simply an input to his thinking and that he would decide upon his own course of action, telling CIA officers concerned about some heavy-handed aspects of the transition team report simply not to worry about them.
Status and Policy Role
Casey’s cabinet membership did not guarantee any particular role, just as its absence would not necessarily have denied it. Turner had attended cabinet meetings without notable impact on policy, and McCone had played an active policy role under President Kennedy without cabinet membership. It did bring Casey closer, however, to being a co-equal with the secretaries of state and defense than had generally been the case for DCIs. This may have bolstered Casey’s natural inclination to be a policy player, an activism that led to problems affecting his office ranging from Secretary of State George Shultz’s discounting of intelligence reporting on the USSR to the NSC staff’s involvement of CIA in questionable activities in the Iran-Contra affair.
At the same time, Casey had a firm sense of the importance a DCI should accord to his personal role as senior intelligence adviser to the NSC. This did not mean that he did not appreciate the role of technology or management in intelligence affairs. In fact, Casey borrowed “best practices” from private business in pushing CIA to adopt an “excellence” campaign and a corporate credo in 1984. It did mean, however, that he would rather deal personally with the impact of intelligence information on policy than with bureaucratic arrangements and detailed management tasks.
Some administrations issue guidance for how the NSC and its various subgroups will conduct business on the first day the new White House opens for business. In 1981, it took some weeks to finalize the new NSC organization, and one of the issues was whether there should be an intelligence subcommittee like those being formed for foreign and defense affairs. Daniel B. Silver, CIA’s general counsel, advised DCI Casey that an early State Department proposal for the NSC structure subordinated the DCI to the secretaries of state and defense and did not even include him in all NSC meetings. Under the eventual new structure, the DCI chaired a new Senior Interagency Group for Intelligence (SIG-I) that paralleled similar groups on foreign policy and defense chaired by the two appropriate cabinet members in those areas. To be sure, the DCI still formally reported to the NSC, but the early 1970s practice of having him in effect report to an NSC committee chaired by the president’s national security adviser would have been out of step with Casey’s cabinet status.
Casey Downplays Community Role
It would be hard to imagine a greater difference in basic approach to the job of DCI than the contrast between Turner and Casey. Turner concerned himself mightily with seeking larger authorities appropriate to his emphasis of his community-wide role. He expended considerable personal energy in pursuing what he felt was the proper bureaucratic power and role for a DCI determined to pull together the nation’s major foreign intelligence capabilities for greater efficiency and effectiveness. This, after all, had been a major objective assigned to him by President Carter, and indeed to his predecessors by past presidents who wished to control burgeoning intelligence budgets.
Casey had other priorities. He wanted to strengthen analysis, revive covert actions in the service of foreign policy, strengthen counterintelligence and security, and improve clandestine espionage operations. Most of these goals related more to what he could do with CIA than with the community as a whole. The administration wanted to increase national security expenditures, including funding for robust intelligence capabilities, in order to support America’s role in a global struggle against the threat posed by the USSR. With respect to DCI authorities, Casey seemed unconcerned. He acted as though he simply had sufficient authority to do whatever had to be done to accomplish the national intelligence mission, and he expected other intelligence chiefs to be cooperative members of a team that he led.
Soon after being sworn in, Casey met in CIA’s auditorium with CIA employees to convey a broad message of how he intended to provide leadership as the DCI. He spoke supportively about the agency and its staff, reminded them of his background (present at the creation with Donovan, later service on the Murphy Commission and PFIAB), and assured them of the president’s support (telling them of Adm. Inman’s fourth star as DDCI and his own cabinet rank). He said he would take a special interest in strengthening human source collection and analysis. He contrasted this emphasis with the approach taken by DCIs in the latter half of the 1970s by commenting that he welcomed Adm. Inman’s help as DDCI “to take on some of the Community role that consumed so much of the time of my two or three immediate predecessors.”
Inman has reported that Casey made it clear that he wished to pay personal attention to being the president’s intelligence officer, to analysis generally, and to clandestine activities of CIA: “He didn’t want to do the budgets, didn’t want to do the hearings with the Hill, didn’t want to do the bulk of the Community relationships.” In Inman’s description, Casey and he were a team with a division of labor agreeable to both of them. The contrast with Turner was pointed and clear: the DCI’s community role might be important, but it was not going to consume Casey’s personal attention and energy. Echoing Allen Dulles’s approach, Casey seemed careful to indicate that at least some of the bureaucratic activities specifically related to community leadership were not the best places for him as DCI to spend his time. Indeed, he did not hesitate to point to the attempts of DCIs Colby, Bush, and Turner to strengthen the DCI’s community role in the previous decade as an example to avoid rather than follow.
Executive Order 12333
The new administration began with a consensus that a new executive order on intelligence should replace President Carter’s Executive Order 12036. The main purpose was to signal a more active and effective role for intelligence, giving the new order a more positive and supportive tone than its predecessor and showing that the executive branch determined intelligence policy. It would both carry out a campaign promise and demonstrate that further legislation was not needed.
Eventually, in December 1981, President Reagan signed Executive Order 12333, which replaced his predecessor’s order. But the path to that result proved contentious, taking a year to accomplish and raising more controversial issues than anticipated. The proposed new order, for example, attracted congressional attention. Initial efforts to draft a new order provoked news stories warning of a weakening of protections of civil liberties and privacy and led to further redrafting. Senator Walter Huddleston (R-KY) wrote to Casey in May 1981 regarding a new draft, expressing concern regarding increased CIA activities in the United States, and Representative Edward Boland (D-MA) questioned Casey regarding various differences between the draft under consideration and the existing Carter-approved order.
Discussion of the new executive order within the Intelligence Community also surfaced potentially divisive issues in the spring of 1981. In April, Casey chaired a discussion about whether the NFIB and its new twin, the National Foreign Intelligence Council (NFIC), which had been created to consider major program resource issues, should be established in the executive order rather than by DCI directive. Adm. Inman saw in some of DOD’s suggestions a bid to require the DCI to consult formally with those bodies before taking certain specified actions, a practice that he felt had been ineffective in the Carter years and should be dropped in the new order. These and other issues hearkened back to old turf battles that Casey did not want to spend his time refighting.
On the touchy issue of the DCI’s budgetary role, all at the meeting agreed readily to eliminate the “full and exclusive” DCI authority in the Carter order and the unpopular NITC. On both issues, however, nobody at the April meeting contradicted John Koehler, the community resource management staff chief from the Turner years who continued in office under Casey, when he asserted that the DCI’s budgetary and tasking authority would, in fact, continue as they had existed before. The words of Executive Order 12036 may have offended, but the actual authority apparently did not.
In fact, the program and budget issue occasioned a curious reaction in the Pentagon. Some in OSD had expected DOD intelligence program managers to raise a hue and cry to cut back on DCI authority in this area, but they found instead a desire not to change what had developed. Gen. Richard Stilwell, USA (ret.), deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, told Koehler that he found DOD’s intelligence chiefs “very eager to preserve the special protection and status which the NFIP structure and procedures offer them.” This episode reflected the one notable attraction the DCI has to offer Pentagon program managers: he may be able to give to their intelligence programs more prominence than they might enjoy competing within the DOD environment, which often favors weapon procurement or other forces-related programs over intelligence.
Regarding tasking, Adm. Inman asserted that NITC “had never been anything but a fiction.” As for the issue of the DCI’s using boards to seek advice, Inman argued that the “attitude and tone” of that process was more important than stated procedures. In effect, a promise of the kind of collegiality practiced by DCIs Smith and Dulles in the 1950s was put forward as the benefit the community would enjoy in exchange for not pressing potentially restrictive language in defining the DCI’s responsibilities.
Two other areas came up for discussion at the April 1981 meeting. One was the DCI’s authority with respect to counterintelligence, with Inman explaining that he felt it was legitimate for the DCI to set “minimum standards” in this field without intruding into the management responsibilities of the various agencies and departments. The other was the DCI’s authority over foreign intelligence liaison relationships conducted by agencies other than CIA, a particular concern for DIA. Again, Inman played a key role, objecting to a DOD proposal to limit the DCI’s authority in this area to “clandestine” operations by pointing out that NSA’s “cryptologic” relationships had gotten along fine while following DCI policies.
In addition to working through the concerns held by the different constituencies within the Intelligence Community (potentially involving their cabinet-level heads), Casey had to deal with the White House on the new executive order. Richard Allen, President Reagan’s first national security adviser, advocated a simplified executive order to replace Carter’s. Such an order, in Allen’s view, would best accomplish the administration’s main goal, endorsement of a strengthened intelligence capability and expression of a positive attitude toward intelligence activities. Allen wrote to Casey that he felt “the revision should provide a mechanism for the formation of consensus in the development of budget decisions and highlight the DCI’s role as a community leader and the senior intelligence official.” On this and other objectives, such as enhancing clandestine human source operations, he and Casey were in easy agreement.
But the process of taking into account all the issues of interest to members of Congress, the administration, and the various parts of the executive branch proved to be a complicated task. By mid-May, Allen complained to Inman (suggesting an effort to lobby Casey through his deputy) that the “current draft and process seem to be moving in a direction inconsistent with the President’s views regarding intelligence.” The draft was, in Allen’s view, “unsatisfactory because it was essentially a continuation of the previous Order.” By now, Casey was listening to his new general counsel, Stanley Sporkin, who was concerned that a short executive order, while it might helpfully convey the message desired by Allen and the administration, was not necessarily a good idea. In reacting to an early draft from Allen, he explained to Casey that he should take care to help craft a fuller order, in large part to protect his authority and community leadership position.
Sporkin pointed out that Ford’s Executive Order 11905 in 1976 had given the DCI one of his “most important” authorities, “a clear role in the intelligence budget process,” something worth maintaining explicitly even if the ambitious “full and exclusive authority” language in the 1978 Carter executive order was going to be eliminated to assuage DOD irritations. He argued also that a lean document would suggest that the new administration was abandoning the reforms adopted in the more detailed orders of the 1970s and “may engender strong criticism and lead to renewed calls for comprehensive legislative charters for the Intelligence Community.” Indeed, implicitly inviting Congress to step in would run counter to the objective of strengthening the executive branch’s leadership of national intelligence. Sporkin explained that it was inevitable that there would be rules, and if they were given a firm footing at the presidential level, intelligence officers—especially those in the clandestine service—would then understand better the legal risks involved in carrying out operational activities. Finally, he reminded Casey that Reagan had served on the Rockefeller Commission, which helped pave the way for President Ford’s executive order, and he warned that the draft order then being proposed in fact “erodes the authority of the DCI.”
Casey adopted Sporkin’s reasoning in writing to Richard Allen and Attorney General Edwin Meese. He told Allen that the lean draft did not sufficiently enumerate the responsibilities of Intelligence Community members: “Unless these responsibilities are assigned with precision, confusion will result in the conduct of routine collection, analysis and dissemination activities, particularly in the tasking and counterintelligence areas. Energies that should be devoted to substance will be dissipated in turf battles.” He reminded Meese of Reagan’s role on the Rockefeller Commission and argued that the real problems of the late 1970s were not the provisions of the executive orders but “the sheer size and complexity of implementing regulations imposed by the Justice Department during the Ford and Carter years.” He promised help from the community in drafting a better order, and within a month he noted to Sporkin that “your draft” is moving along well and that a “middle ground” had been worked out between himself and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger thanks to Frank Carlucci, Turner’s former DDCI now serving as Weinberger’s deputy.
Casey’s staff soon became concerned about the “continued flailing” over the new order. Koehler’s chief staffer dealing with the issue warned that Inman “seems to have removed himself from the fray” and that the DCI and Sporkin were handling everything on this issue personally. Allen, the staffer feared, “is still pushing for a very short executive order that sets an appropriate tone, contains no restrictions, and leaves all turf issues for revised NSCIDs”; he has “invested so much of himself” in his approach that a workable outcome seemed in doubt. In fact, a group of Republican members of Congress wrote the president in June suggesting that no executive order was needed and that, after rescinding the Carter era order, any instructions needed could simply be put in classified guidelines. If the administration did proceed, they argued, it should ensure that the new order was a clear, new one with an emphasis on repairing US intelligence capabilities, “not merely alterations of the Carter order.”
At one point, drafters prepared a presidential statement of general principles to accompany the new executive order, but Casey argued successfully for including a list of goals in the order itself. For example, strengthening analysis was a stated objective of the new administration. So, in an implicit criticism of CIA’s past analysis efforts, the new order listed as a primary goal “maximum emphasis” on “fostering analytical competition among appropriate elements of the Intelligence Community.” It also contained other objectives relating to a more active and effective intelligence capability. None, however, stressed the DCI’s community role in any way that would remind one of the Turner initiatives or raise hackles within the community itself.
The discussions about the new order wore on through 1981. The potential for problems with the Department of Justice and the FBI regarding overall DCI authority over counterintelligence (which some in Justice feared would place internal, domestic law enforcement activities under the DCI’s aegis) were handled without mishap. Sporkin knew FBI Director William Webster, and Meese and Casey avoided falling into adversarial positions. Some still feared, however, that the order would sanction greater CIA involvement in activities inside the United States. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) penned a sarcastic comment about the order calling it “the work of a committee of bureaucrats” and attacking it both for going too far (“Expansion of the CIA’s domestic powers is simply unacceptable.”) and for not going far enough (its language promising a more vigorous intelligence effort was “hortatory” and not backed by specific implementing measures). Senators Henry Jackson (D-WA) and Walter Huddleston both weighed in, warning about the potentially deleterious effects of CIA domestic activities on public attitudes toward intelligence. Congress did not, however, move toward legislating different rules, nor did it take up issues related to the DCI’s community responsibilities in any way different from the executive branch.
In the end, the order adopted in December 1981 spelled out the DCI’s responsibilities reasonably fully. The wording of his community resource management role differed somewhat from the Carter order but gave him the leading role in developing the NFIP, reprogramming funds within it, and monitoring its implementation. It described a full range of other community duties, including giving guidance, setting priorities, tasking collection, etc. Also, rather than establishing the NFIB and NFIC and determining their membership, it left those actions to the DCI’s discretion. Executive Order 12333 remains in effect as of this writing. President Reagan also approved orders authorizing PFIAB and the IOB. In the first case, he restored a body that had existed from the days of President Eisenhower but had been allowed to lapse during President Carter’s administration. In the second, he continued a body set up during President Ford’s administration.
Casey’s Community Leadership Style
George Carver, an intelligence transition team member who had served past DCIs in senior positions, suggested to Casey a way to think about and approach his community role. He highlighted “restoring a lost sense of Community,” which he felt Turner’s emphasis on centralized budget control and collection tasking had damaged, and pointed to the potential utility of using coordinated national intelligence production as a “force for cementing cohesion.” Carver seemed confident that irritants could be righted without incurring limitations to the DCI’s authorities or community role.
In March 1981, DDCI Inman chaired the first meetings of the NFIB and the NFIC held after Casey became DCI, confirming that Casey would rely upon him for much of the ordinary business of the Intelligence Community. This did not mean, however, that Casey intended to be remote or to restrict himself to meetings of the more senior SIG-I, which he did indeed frequently chair. Casey also chaired NFIB and other community meetings, and according to John McMahon (who in June 1982 succeeded Inman as Casey’s DDCI), developed and maintained active personal relationships and rapport with the heads of intelligence agencies, conducting a lot of community business via those relationships. They, in turn, accepted and recognized his leadership. As a result, when his community staff called other agencies and asked for information or other support, it generally got cooperation.
Beginning in 1983, Casey also conducted six two-day gatherings of Intelligence Community leaders away from the Washington area, where they took up a full menu of issues. Casey thought of them as an innovation in community relationships although Turner had also held such gatherings. Casey both listened to views expressed by other intelligence agency heads and made it clear that he expected them all to pull together under his general guidance and motivation. His performance in this regard recalls the examples of Walter Bedell Smith, who valued their participation while remaining firmly in charge, and of Allen Dulles, whose leadership style was inclusive and confident.
In both regular meetings of NFIB or NFIC and in special off-site gatherings, Casey conveyed an impatience to get on with practical steps to improve intelligence performance in ways that supported national policy. Enhancing analytic products, increasing what espionage could contribute, frustrating enemy spies seeking American secrets, and other such actions made up Casey’s agenda. He had little time for issues of bureaucratic reorganization, efforts to bolster or alter authorities, or the details of staff work. He expected agencies other than CIA to pitch in, indicated he valued their contributions, and through force of personality imposed his leadership on a community generally pleased to be led and supported by a vocal and strong advocate of intelligence who demanded no major changes in the way they ran their own bailiwicks. Casey was an articulate, smart, and well informed chairman of meetings he led, but, according to one senior DOD participant, he took a scholarly and substantive rather than take-charge approach that was more reminiscent of Allen Dulles than John McCone.
Casey’s approach encouraged some in agencies other than CIA to believe he was not tied to parochial CIA points of view. For example, in the case of an NIE on international terrorism taken up early in 1981, Casey readily turned to DIA to supply drafting expertise when he was dissatisfied with a CIA-prepared version. Clearly Casey was partial to clandestine operations, including a strong desire to have covert action be a key instrument of US policy, and this impulse could be seen as favoring “his” agency, CIA. He also did not hesitate to put CIA’s DDI, Robert Gates, in charge of the NIC from September 1983 until April 1986 (when Gates became DDCI), thus placing a key community group under a senior CIA officer. But Casey made it clear he also supported other intelligence missions such as signals intelligence, satellites, and counterintelligence and thus would be supportive of programs throughout the community.
Three years into his job, Casey felt upbeat about what he had done within the community. Asked if there was tension among the intelligence agencies in a December 1983 newspaper interview, he responded “very little,” adding that he thought the community “works together with greater cooperation” than before. The next month, he wrote the president a 23-page single-spaced letter outlining the accomplishments of intelligence so far in his administration. Much of the letter discussed CIA matters, but Casey boasted that NIEs had improved as a result of better community-wide participation: “The process we have developed for putting critical issues under an Intelligence Community and not just a CIA microscope has done wonders in flushing out a range of information and views, making all ten components of the US Intelligence Community feel that they are part of the process and getting full cooperation of all components on the full range of intelligence operations in a way which has not been seen in some time.” 
Restoring the Intelligence Community Staff
Casey wasted little time in changing one organization directly related to his community role. In March 1981, he reestablished a unitary IC Staff similar to the one that had existed in the 1970s under DCIs Schlesinger, Colby, and Bush, thus undoing Turner’s split of that staff into separate collection and resource management elements. Casey kept on for more than a year John Koehler, the civilian staff chief he inherited from Turner, designating him simply as director, IC Staff.
In July 1981, Casey sent Koehler a two-page memorandum laying out the services he expected the staff to perform for him. Casey asserted that “the unification of the elements of the Intelligence Community Staff was intended to promote more efficient and coordinated Community support [to the DCI and DDCI].” The areas of staff activity he delineated covered the usual topics of program budgeting and planning, collection prioritization and tasking, support to all major community committees, and evaluations of programs and products. Casey left it to Koehler to organize the staff, saying only that he expected its units to correspond generally with the duties he had laid out. The memorandum, which ended “I expect the DDCI to establish the details of organization and staffing with you,” may have been an effort by DDCI Inman to ensure that the staff understood his role in providing it with detailed oversight and direction.
Casey met regularly on Thursday mornings with his IC Staff, making it clear that he valued the work they did to support him in his community role. Although he looked to his DDCI to take care of a lot of community business, he made sure he animated the community work the members of his IC Staff were doing with clear support for and involvement in the full range of their community activities. On occasion, he was a voracious reader of their products, reviewing stacks of committee reports containing mind-boggling detail, offering comments and feedback that demonstrated an interest in all aspects of the intelligence business.
Casey interested himself in many different tasks and asked innumerable questions of his community staff subordinates, challenging how they did their work or recommendations they had forwarded. Yet the basic structure and processes of community business did not change during his tenure. In 1983 Casey reconstituted the Critical Intelligence Problems Committee and established an Intelligence Producers Council (IPC) comprising the heads of analytic organizations to further community cooperation on major collection and production issues. The IC Staff’s basic requirements and evaluation systems remained in place, including the complex matrix of priorities on scores of topics and countries maintained under DCID 1/2.
On the planning front, Adm. Inman took the lead in preparing an “Intelligence Capabilities, 1985–1990” study framing a rationale for growth in intelligence resources. Various other important planning studies, such as one on future SIGINT capabilities that supported decisions on large overhead reconnaissance programs, were also undertaken. Later in the decade, after the initial funding surge had receded, the IC staff drafted a “National Intelligence Strategy” to justify continued spending on intelligence programs even as the defense budget faced increasing scrutiny. The Senate oversight committee demanded such a document in 1985, and Casey took an active role in meeting the request, forming a study planning group and commenting frequently on its drafts.
Just before his incapacitating stroke at the end of 1986, Casey was considering changes to his IC Staff. NSA Director William Odom had proposed strengthening the powers of major program managers such as himself. He envisaged the creation of collection discipline, or “INT,” commanders for HUMINT and imagery much like the head of NSA was for SIGINT. In fact, in 1986 a new DCI collection committee had been established to give stature to the newest “INT,” measurement and signature intelligence, or MASINT (it grouped together a number of activities requiring specialized technical analysis, e.g., acoustic or chemical signatures, some of which overlapped with the signals and imagery intelligence disciplines).
Richard Kerr, then CIA’s DDI, wrote to Casey opposing Odom’s suggestions. While “INT commander” status might help the head of NSA in managing SIGINT assets across various components of the NFIP, Kerr argued, by following Odom’s advice the DCI might complicate the fulfillment of his own responsibility for making cross-program decisions. Kerr suggested instead that the DCI make use of all-source analysts to strengthen producer-oriented evaluation and program guidance functions in the IC Staff, enabling more cross-program studies of how priorities were being met. “The change,” Kerr argued, “would significantly reorient and reduce the role of Bill Lackman’s budget group,” which worked closely with program managers in putting together the NFIP. Actually, Casey was himself receptive to the idea that intelligence professionals, not just analysts, should supplement the guidance that consumers gave the Intelligence Community. In an earlier memorandum, Casey had declared: “You may have heard me sound off to the effect that in real life it is the providers of information rather than the consumers who develop the best ideas as to what the consumer needs and should have.” (Casey’s faith in intelligence professionals as definers of key targets—an approach that helps the DCI fulfill his responsibility to warn the NSC of looming threats—lost out in the 1990s to the notion that policymakers ought to set intelligence priorities in the aftermath of the Cold War and not allow intelligence careerists to “make up” priorities simply to justify their budgets.)
Casey’s leadership within the Intelligence Community owed much to the overall favorable atmosphere for intelligence resources and activities he helped foster within the administration and his solid support from the president. His vision of cooperation in pursuing better intelligence with which to fight the Cold War did not intrude into the internal workings of the various intelligence agencies, nor did it seek major changes in terms of organizational structure or missions.
Casey’s sometimes abrasive approach in dealing with important figures outside the community, however, occasionally brought trouble. His relationship with Congress at times was stormy, mainly because of his active involvement in foreign policy, which helped to provoke congressional restrictions on covert actions. Casey’s DDCIs tried to take on the role of dealing with Congress as much as they could, but he could not delegate that relationship totally. By 1985 and 1986, Casey was trading open blows with the chairman of the SSCI, Senator David Durenberger (R-MN), to whom he once wrote (and then released to the press) that he could “only wonder at the contrast between what you say to us privately and what you say to the news media.”
His occasionally rocky moments affected his relationships within the executive branch as well, including the White House, where he was not a member of the closest “insider” circle. In 1983, he sent the president a defensive note to counter public criticism of him: “I was sufficiently cut up by [Washington Post reporter] Lou Cannon’s sharp hatchet to pass along this from a retiring admiral here which I think reflects a prevailing attitude in the Intelligence Community.” Enclosed was a farewell letter from an IC Staff aide, RAdm. Donald M. “Mac” Showers, USN (ret.), lauding Casey’s “dedicated leadership of the Intelligence Community” and asserting that he could “genuinely say that the present Community and National Intelligence structure is more effective than any predecessor arrangements.”
Casey was wary in dealing with PFIAB, meeting with it on a regular basis. He knew that Anne Armstrong, its chairman, was close to the president, and that a number of its other members were also influential within the administration. At the end of his first year in office, he sent the president a report he had made to PFIAB on the progress the community was making on a wide range of issues, specifically drawing attention to counterintelligence and noting that “the working relationship between FBI and CIA, as Judge Webster said this week in a letter to the Post, is close and fully cooperative.” He also tried to use PFIAB to lobby the president to continue giving the intelligence mission plentiful resources and support.
One minor challenge Casey faced within the executive branch was an effort by a group enamored with “competitive analysis” as a corrective for what they saw as weak analysis in past NIEs and CIA products to move some intelligence analysis tasks outside CIA and even outside the DCI’s control. They sought to set up an arms control verification shop at the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA) that could advocate analytic views opposed to intelligence assessments. Although Casey shared their views about the inadequacy of past analysis and was ready to allow analytic units outside CIA to draft NIEs, he was unwilling to concede the fundamental DCI duty of providing top policymakers with agreed national intelligence. Fortunately for Casey, Eugene Rostow, ACDA’s new director, did not accept the view of his more radical advisers although he did want ACDA to be associated with the Intelligence Community, perhaps like the Department of Commerce, which had observer status at NFIB meetings.
Casey was determined to play a strong role in counterintelligence, an issue with many wandering threads to different parts of the executive branch, especially involving the FBI and the Department of Justice but also DOD. Under the aegis of the SIG-I, which Casey chaired, there was debate about whether counterintelligence should be handled by a subgroup that the DCI, the DCI and FBI jointly, or the FBI alone, should chair. Casey, who was willing to see the FBI chair it, faced pressure from members of Congress urging a stronger DCI role. In 1986, he was still wrestling with this issue and reorganized the IC Staff elements dealing with counterintelligence and internal security into what he hoped would be a more effective arrangement. Throughout the many chapters on this issue during his tenure, Casey kept his relationships with Attorney General Edwin Meese and FBI Director William Webster on an even keel.
Getting Along with the Pentagon
Overall, Casey had a good working relationship with Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. Weinberger, who agreed with Casey on basic policy matters such as the nature of the Soviet threat and the need for both strong defense programs and covert action to counter it, was non-confrontational and spent little personal time on intelligence issues. Weinberger’s internal reviews of intelligence programs did little to control their spending, and Casey sometimes had to live with overall DOD spending decisions that favored tactical intelligence or military programs and reduced the NFIP more than he wished. They attributed problems over which they sparred from time to time to their staffs and bureaucratic behavior.
During the back-and-forth over the new executive order, Koehler urged Casey not to allow the debate to damage his working relationship with Weinberger. “It is absolutely essential that you and the Secretary of Defense do not wrangle over authorities,” Koehler warned Casey, reminding him of Turner’s difficulties with Harold Brown. Koehler believed that OSD staffers had been working ever since Carter’s issuance of Executive Order 12036 to prepare alternative guidance to restore lost DOD power and influence, and he feared that the exercise of rewriting the order would lead them to produce “an extensive laundry list of desired changes.” He was confident, however, that Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci shared his view that the DCI and DOD should cooperate and could be counted on to counsel Weinberger, as Koehler was counseling Casey, to not allow disputes over specific issues to get out of hand.
The first years of the Reagan administration saw several initiatives to set up a new space command, a fond desire of some in the Air Force. PFIAB undertook a study on space matters, and one of the issues for Casey became the threat of merging the NRO into a new space command. DDCI McMahon discussed the problem with Weinberger, telling him: “The NRO is one of the few organizations within the US Government that works well. As a result, lots of people would like a piece of that action.” He noted in his minutes of the meeting: “We urged the Secretary to join with the Director in jointly signing a memorandum back to the NSC [staff] urging that we leave the NRO organization as presently constituted.”
Casey warned Weinberger that there were Pentagon and NSC staff officers pushing for such a subordination of the NRO and pointing out that the secretary’s interests were involved as well as his as DCI. Weinberger indicated his willingness to keep the NRO as it was and to make sure that the Air Force ceased lobbying efforts to change it. Casey had McMahon, an expert on the NRO, take up the argument with Judge William Clark, Reagan’s second national security adviser. McMahon told Clark in no uncertain terms that his NSC staff was abetting Air Force plans to take over the NRO (he pointed to a memorandum Clark had signed that invaded DCI turf on this issue) and elicited from Clark a promise that the DCI’s role regarding the NRO would not be changed. Weinberger claimed that he was disgusted with some of the work being done in the NSC staff on this issue, and Casey and Weinberger agreed that they would lobby the president to overcome maneuvering by “unknown factions within the NSC” to preserve their responsibilities for the NRO.
Weinberger’s own office wanted to strengthen DOD’s intelligence role, and Casey’s staff worked with them to resolve differences over a variety of matters. For example, in working out SIG-I arrangements on counterintelligence, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Stilwell argued that DOD should chair the subcommittee on countermeasure programs. Casey agreed, pointing out to SIG-I members that the subcommittees in any case reported to the SIG-I, which he chaired.
On some other matters, DOD’s aggressiveness on intelligence was more painful to Casey. One major issue was OSD plans for DOD human source intelligence operations involving both clandestine activities and foreign liaison relationships. Early in the administration, Casey told Weinberger that DOD’s ideas for Defense HUMINT gave him “some problems,” and he gained Weinberger’s agreement that a special group be set up to look into the issue. This did not prevent OSD from proceeding along lines that discomfited the DCI, especially touching on the issue of “special activities,” or covert action. Casey noted in an internal memorandum in May 1982 that a recent order signed by Weinberger concerned him: “The directive which Stilwell and [DIA Director Lt. Gen. James] Williams got Weinberger to sign…is a shocker…. we ought to think through exactly how we can go along on this….”
Casey wrote Carlucci that he was prepared to support DOD efforts to strengthen HUMINT, but he wanted “a clearer and firmer understanding of what it will do, how it will be put together, and how it will be controlled. Concern about this is increased with recent Army ACSI [assistant chief of staff for intelligence] efforts to strengthen ties with foreign military counterparts in the Middle East and Africa.” Casey added that there was a political dimension to the issue: “As you know, all this has made it appear to the [congressional] Committees that we are not effectively managing foreign intelligence relationships and may be using the military to circumvent Congressional and Executive restrictions on CIA activities.” Weinberger said he would talk with Stilwell about the problem, and Carlucci said he had disseminated a letter in the Pentagon telling the military not to conduct special activities. Both professed that they agreed with the DCI that DOD’s foreign intelligence activities had to be coordinated with CIA. Congress kept pressure on Casey on this issue, one committee telling him that it was “very concerned regarding any coordination of CIA and Army clandestine activities, especially those Army activities which appear to constitute ‘special activities’ requiring Presidential authorization,” but in the end accepting the DCI’s assurances that coordination was being improved, duplication avoided, and Congress appropriately informed.
At the beginning of Reagan’s second term, Weinberger reorganized his office to create a new assistant secretary for command, control, communications, and intelligence (ASD/C3I), consolidating some intelligence functions under this new officer, who reported directly to the secretary. This created a new partner with whom the DCI and his community staff dealt on a range of community issues, but it did not encompass all intelligence matters. For example, it left counterintelligence and space policy, as well as DOD policy for covert activities and psychological operations, under the undersecretary for policy or his deputy. This ASD/C3I office (which had its own hands full trying to rationalize all DOD intelligence activities) would remain the principal DOD office with which the DCI’s staff dealt on community issues until an OSD reorganization of 2003 created a new undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
Shared Responsibility for Intelligence Budget
Early in the Reagan administration, John Koehler urged DDCI Inman to be wary of altering the way the IC Staff worked with OMB in dealing with the intelligence program and budget. He knew that Inman had reservations about the joint budget review process, which was similar to an arrangement OMB had with DOD, presumably because of the influence OMB could have on the outcome. Koehler pointed out, however, that while OMB was thus involved in determining the budget, the alternative was a system under which OMB would require earlier deadlines and more time for OMB review independent of any DCI staff involvement. On balance, Koehler argued, an effort to try to free the DCI from OMB could end up increasing OMB’s role, an outcome he knew the DCI did not want.
Although Casey relied on his DDCIs a great deal in community budgetary matters, he felt the need in 1983 to draw attention to his interest in strengthening clandestine HUMINT and analytic capabilities. He wrote McMahon in 1983 noting that although decisions dating back to 1979 and 1980 to build “very costly high technology collectors” had to be supported, equally deserving were the processing capabilities to handle what those collectors gathered and 1980 and 1981 decisions to improve HUMINT and analysis. While growth in resources was available in 1983, he was concerned that pressures for future reductions would lead policymakers to renege on funding lines unless they understood clearly what would be lost.
As always, the DCI’s key partners on program and budget matters were the secretary of defense and his deputy. In May 1983, Casey and McMahon argued with Weinberger and Paul Thayer to preserve CIA money in the DOD budget when Weinberger insisted it had to share in cuts being spread throughout the DOD budget. As Casey feared, pressures to restrain intelligence and defense spending grew as time wore on. By 1984, McMahon was complaining to Deputy Secretary of Defense Will Taft, IV, in a meeting attended by Casey, that OSD had taken decisions adversely affecting intelligence out-year funding “without the Intelligence Community’s knowledge.” In 1985, Casey wrote to Weinberger complaining that OSD had “unilaterally” altered future spending lines reducing the NFIP, an action “undertaken directly counter to your policy enunciated by Frank Carlucci that such actions would not be taken by any element of the Defense Community without coordination with the DCI.”
The lobbying helped. It was sensible from Casey’s and his DDCI’s point of view because they did indeed receive responses to their complaints although Casey understood that DOD was under even more pressure to reduce than the NFIP. At a meeting with Taft in late 1985, DDCI McMahon pleaded for a restatement of a 1981 Carlucci promise to “fence” the NFIP, but he acknowledged Taft’s rejoinder that the real issue was for them to continue to see “eye to eye” and reach the best possible solution supportive of the DCI’s program. McMahon acknowledged that that was his view as well, and they then turned to the practical task of agreeing upon a compromise budget number. Their version of bureaucratic head-butting was certainly a more friendly combination of rivalry and agreement than had been the case with Turner and Brown.
The more serious threat to the NFIP was not OSD but Congress, which had by 1986 hit CIA with unallocated cuts and passed the Gramm/Rudman law, which threatened further reductions. By the time he became DDCI in 1986, Robert Gates was greatly conflicted, pleading on the one hand with Taft to make up shortfalls in important covert actions and, on the other hand, musing out loud about the possible benefits of telling Congress that it should treat the NFIP as a separate, untouchable element carried simply for security purposes within DOD’s large budget. The way it was being done, Gates said, makes the DCI’s gain a loss for DOD, and “every time DOD lost, so did we.” Taft reminded the new DDCI that while such an approach might work well for the NFIP with the intelligence authorizing committees on Capitol Hill, it was unlikely to be accepted by the powerful armed services committees. Also, such a change might invite OMB to take a larger role. He told Gates he thought the DCI was better off “dealing bilaterally” with DOD, causing Gates to write a note to himself: “I’m not convinced of this at all—I think this is an issue that needs to be pursued.”
Picking a Director of NSA
In 1985, Casey weighed in on choosing a new head for NSA, going back and forth with Weinberger on the matter. Weinberger suggested to Casey that he pass any names he wanted considered to Gen. Jack Vessey, USA, the Chairman of the JCS, whom the secretary had asked for a recommendation. Casey discussed possible choices and criteria with Weinberger and sent him several memorandums, first suggesting some names and then arguing more specifically for someone with an extensive signals intelligence background. He even went so far as to interview some of the candidates the JCS were considering.
The JCS in the end recommended Lt. Gen. William Odom, USA, whom Casey had originally suggested to Weinberger as one of a small group of candidates. Casey indicated he would accept this choice, but he also told Weinberger that he thought VAdm. Burkhalter, USN, the head of his IC Staff, was a stronger choice by virtue of experience. Casey praised Odom’s analytic capability but suggested he would be better placed as the next head of DIA, a viewpoint he said was shared by others including Robert McFarlane, the president’s national security adviser.
The issue caused a private tiff between Casey and his former deputy, Adm. Inman, who had retired in 1982. Inman felt that Casey’s role in the matter went beyond the normal level of DCI involvement and threatened the usual role of the JCS and the secretary of defense in selecting NSA’s director. Casey charged him (first in a letter to Weinberger, then in a letter to Inman) with lobbying against Burkhalter’s candidacy and with accusing Casey of politicizing the issue. Inman responded in a frank, handwritten note, denying the lobbying charge and threatening to call for public hearings if the eventual nominee did not enjoy JCS support. In the end, the president selected Odom, and Casey accepted the appointment without further demurral.
In this episode, Casey showed determination to play a role on a community issue by at least putting his viewpoint forward at the cabinet level. He valued his working ties to the various intelligence agency heads and wanted teammates of his preference if possible. Also, he was willing to risk provoking precisely the problem that arose in his private spat with Inman, fear of an unwanted (and, in Inman’s eyes, illegitimate) expansion of the DCI’s influence within the Intelligence Community. The issue would return more publicly in 1996 when Congress, intent on strengthening the DCI’s authority community-wide, passed a law requiring the DCI’s concurrence in appointing the heads of NSA and the two other major national intelligence agencies (the NRO and the brand-new imagery and mapping agency) and his evaluation of their performance.
By not seeking to reorganize or more directly manage the Intelligence Community’s business and by overseeing a period of resource growth, Casey earned the gratitude of many intelligence agency chiefs and their allegiance to his energetic and positive leadership of their collective enterprise. As long as the other intelligence leaders felt engaged and valued in this atmosphere, there was little reason to complain about Casey’s obvious attachment to CIA and pursuit of covert action.
By the time the Iran-Contra scandal erupted in the fall of 1986, however, Casey found himself beleaguered. His activist policy role had entangled him in the troubles afflicting the administration, and his relationship with Secretary of State George Shultz had broken down completely. Attorney General Meese came to the president’s rescue and helped him restore order to his administration, replacing the White House national security team. Casey kept his job but was wounded politically. He nonetheless led an off-site conference of Intelligence Community leaders at the end of November and carried on in a semblance of his old self, his talking points as upbeat as ever: “Feel very good about our community having worked together for six years more effectively than most of our government without any significant failures, no scandal [!] and a good many solid successes.”
In mid-December, however, Casey suffered a debilitating stroke and was unable to return to his duties. In late January 1987, he formally resigned, and in May he died. President Reagan nominated his loyal subordinate Robert Gates, who had become DDCI in the spring of 1986 after McMahon’s departure, as his replacement. Questions arose during the confirmation process about Gates’s involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, however, and he withdrew his name to avoid further controversy about the DCI position. Gates served as acting DCI from mid-December 1986 until May 1987, when William Webster, longtime director of the FBI and a man whose reputation for probity served as a signal of change, was finally sworn in as Casey’s successor.