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An Interview with Richard Helms

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stopped, he had to dig in his heels and say "Don't send down those documents. We are going to find out here whether it is required that secrecy be breached in order to conduct this investigation in public."
    
That would have forced the issue into the courts. If the Congress then insisted on subpoenaing the documents, the courts would have had to decide.
    
I would have felt a lot more comfortable if they had done so, if there had been an order from the courts to Director Colby, to turn over those documents-but this never happened. In the end, it was decided by Mr. Colby's interpretation of the Constitution.
    
Could Colby have stopped the hemorrhaging? What should he have done?
    
Once one starts to bleed it becomes a question of quantity. The time to try to head this off was at the beginning. That was the time for the President of the United States to take a firm stand in favor of the security of the CIA's files. President Ford could have forced the issue into the courts and maybe to the Supreme Court. I would have felt a lot more comfortable if the Supreme Court had directed the Executive to turn over those secret documents to the Legislative Committee. But they didn't have a chance to rule. We must not forget that the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the CIA, a secret service or a clandestine service, was founded just before our involvement in World War II and the concept never has been tested in the courts.
    
One review of Colby's book said that he could have scarcely done more damage to the cause of U.S. intelligence or counterintelligence if he had been a KGB agent. Would you go along with that?
    
I think Colby did considerable damage, but he explains in his book why he took the actions he did. He has gone to great pains to explain himself and I think only History can judge the merits of the case.
    
I don't believe that Colby was a KGB agent. I don't believe that we had any KGB agent in the inner circle of the Central Intelligence Agency. The nightmare of every Director is that one day he will be told that somebody inside his immediate organization has been spying for a foreign power.
    
So I was very conscious always of the charges and countercharges that some individual might be off base or something of this kind. It was my conviction that none of the people with whom I was closely associated was in any way working for any foreign intelligence organization. I certainly do not believe it about Colby and I don't think such allegations serve the cause of the United States at all.
    
So much paper and so much information were released that it is almost impossible to tell what has been compromised. Moreover, the legal requirement to satisfy inquiries under the Freedom of Information Act are further eroding security. The Agency is trying to be careful about what it releases, but blotting out something with black ink on a piece of paper doesn't mean it can't be recreated by somebody who knows the facts. I find that this is a very difficult on-going kind of "leaking" and I put the "leaking" in quotations because it is done under the guise of legality and by law. I have pleaded with the Senate Select Committee to exempt the intelligence and security agencies from the Freedom of Information Act.
    
FOIA is good legislation if it results in someone learning from the Department of Transportation or the Department of Interior or elsewhere information the American public has the right to know. But it is used as a device to ferret out information about intelligence and security operations and I think that is bad and ought to be changed. I
    
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM