A Modest Proposal: Abolish the Damn Thing!

A Modest Proposal: Abolish the Damn Thing!

There is little I see to quarrel with in Irving Howe’s original statement on the CIA and students (March—April DISSENT) or with Lewis Coser’s forceful statement published above. I would only call attention to the disappointing fact that too many of the NSA leaders have tried to brazen their way through the moral jungle into which they have wandered, while others have failed to grasp what was wrong in their action. Certainly, the least one might have expected was some gesture on their part—a mass resignation of the NSA officers and executive board, for example, or that the whole issue be submitted to discussion in the form of an emergency national convention that might elect a new leadership.

I wish to discuss briefly a somewhat different side of the question —namely, the failure of most people to grasp what, precisely, the CIA is. The sensational side of the revelations has distorted this and given the impression that its main activity revolves around the feeding of money to various organizations with the aim of subverting them to CIA purposes. I submit that this is a minor part—one-tenth of the submerged iceberg—of the CIA. It is such misunderstanding which leads, for instance, to such feeble conclusions as those contained in a New Republic editorial (March 4, 1967) . After detailing the, by now, well-known instances of CIA payments, use of conduits, etc., the editorial concludes:

“There is nothing evil in working for the Central Intelligence Agency. Many who have taken Agency money to do what they believed needed doing are not villains. The results have not been all bad and were often good—and would have been just as good, or better, if the financing had been open and above-board…”

If this is true, why all the fuss? Clearly, the author of these naive comments hasn’t much notion of what the CIA is all about.

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