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December 15, 2016
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May 24, 2004
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May 23, 1978
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Approved For Release 2004/07/08 : CIA-RDP81 M00980R000600230045-2 ARTICLE APPEARED ON PAGE A-10 THE WASHINGTON STAR (Green Line) 23 May 1978 Soviet oil futures Having poked our noses into last spring's de- bate about the credibility of CIA reports on Soviet oil troubles. - and the use President Car- ter made of them to boost his energy bill we think it only fair to eat a bit of crow. .? You may have noticed that the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee undertook a study of those CIA reports, submitting their "integrity" and quality to painstaking study. The resulting report, released this week, is a model government paper - incisive, interesting and judicious - a document that may reveal 'Wore about the gathering'and use of foreign- intelligence in 30 pages than more 'sensational studies do in hundreds. The study is said by one reporter to "gently chide" the CIA's experts in the Office of Eco- nomic Research; and so it does. But the chiding is on a relatively minor point; and few of the parties to the discussion of April 1977 escape unchided, including the press. On April 15th 1977, to begin at the beginning, President Carter told a press conference that he was "quite alarmed" by "a long and detailed study of international oil supplies" recently pre- 516 was of White House manufacture. But the Sen- ate Intelligence Committee does not quarrel with the "political" use of intelligence, "as long as this. can be done without compromising any sensitive sources or methods ... and the infor- mation is made available to the* public so that others may gauge the soundness of the argu- ment." Which. is fair enough. "All of the infor- mation needed to evaluate the strength of (CIA) conclusions about Soviet oil production was made available to the public by July, 1977," the committee adds. And what of the quality of the intelligence? Was it on the mark? Were its sources suffi- ciently solid? The committee's answer is a deci- sive yes, qualified only in one major way. In its view, the CIA experts were right to project a substantial drop in Soviet oil production (rela- tive to need and demand), but not necessarily right in concluding that the Soviet Union (and. its Eastern bloc dependents) would become large net importers of foreign oil by the mid- 1980s. This prediction, it develops, assumed the' improbable: that the Soviet Union would not go to extraordinary lengths to stabilize demand pared by the CIA. Three days later, this report and thus to avoid a drain on scarce reserves of (The International Energy Situation: Outlook to hard currency. The exchange consideration, ,1985) was released. A second CIA report (Pros- apparently, could be paramount. The CIA's was, pects for Soviet Oil? Production) followed some in other words, "a worst case" analysis and days later. erred only in failing to make its assumptions as, The, President's citation of these reports to clear as they might have been. "If the study is -bolster-the case for his energy bill led us - and to be faulted, it ought to be faulted for its lack of others - to ask a number of rather insulting clarity on that methodological point." questions which now appear unwarranted. - The fine spadework of the Senate Intelligence . We said, for instance, that "it came as a shock Committee staff, in addition. to showing how that the CIA had moved into the tricky art of - easy it is for the press and public officials to dis-. estimating international oil and gas reserves ... cover support for our preconceptions in a de- Almost-alone, it appears, the CIA declares that Cached professional study, serves also to clear the Soviet oil industry is 'in trouble,' that its oil the way for a sober consideration of the strate production `will soon peak, possibly as early as next year,' that by- the mid-1980s the Soviet Union will become a net importer of oil." Other skeptical comments were in the same vein; most, including our own, were off-base. Here, after a year's study of the CIA role in oil production (not, in this .instance, oil reserve) forecasting, is the Intelligence Committee's ver- dict: First, there is "no evidence" that the CIA tai- lored its study to suit administration political convenience. Nor (as Adm. Stansfield Turner pointed out in a -letter to this newspaper last May 8) was the oil study a new departure for the CIA. Secondly, whatever political inspiratiori fig- ured in the publicity given to the_ CIA studies gic implications of the Soviet oil dilemma. - ? `1 The expert belief is that the Soviet Union does have an oil problem. The alternatives, presume ably, are to stabilize demand and/or undertake conservation measures; to use American tech- nology (now being supplied) to improve oil yield in water-saturated oil fields; - or to try to fix a grip on foreign sources that might be brought within its own currency area. The latter option might, if one were given to gloomy imaginings, explain much about recent Soviet maneuvers in the oil-rich areas of the Middle East. Certainly the latest findings deci- sively undermine the comfortable old assump tion that the Soviet, Union has oil to swim in and will never become a competitor in the interna- tional rat-race for dependable oil sources. Approved For Release 2004/07/08 : CIA-RDP81 M00980R000600230045-2