A book of letters written by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York Democrat, contains some of the former Senate Select Committee on Intelligence vice chairman’s harsh criticism of secrecy and the CIA — mainly the agency’s failure to predict the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Moynihan, in a 1990 letter to Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, stated that “the central and enduring problem of the secrecy system is that while the [principal] actors typically feel that they have no choice but to rely on the secrets as a guide to national policy, the secrets are frequently wrong.”
“In the end the system failed utterly to foretell the collapse of the Soviet Union,” he stated.
Later he wrote, “but we can’t admit it.”
“I held hearings on the subject; made inquiries. Silence. For example, I know that the CIA once estimated that in 1975 the Soviet economy was 62 percent the size of the American economy. They know that I know this. They know that I know that they know I know. But they can’t bring themselves to admit it. No breaking ranks with the past.”
Mr. Moynihan wrote a memorandum of conversation of his 1993 telephone call with President Clinton after he helped pass a budget, despite the senators’ objection to cutting $1 billion from teaching hospitals in New York to increase the CIA budget.
“I said the agency has become corrupt as I watch [CIA Director Robert M.] Gates corrupt Sen. [David] Boren [Oklahoma Democrat and intelligence committee chairman],” Mr. Moynihan stated.
“I always expected to hear Gates was in Oklahoma to announce a grant,” he said. “Instead I learn that he has given $150 million for the David L. Boren scholarships. That is corruption. … The president mumbled.”
Mr. Gates was among the Soviet affairs analysts who missed the Soviet Union’s fall. He went on to be CIA director before becoming defense secretary in 2006.
Mr. Moynihan, in a 1993 letter to the president, said the problem was that “most of the Sovietologists and analysts, in and out of government, were liberals” who believed the Soviet Union was dangerous but not evil, with two notable exceptions being Ronald Reagan on the right and himself on the left.
The system that failed on the collapse of the Soviet Union was “still in place and untouched,” he wrote, with the White House sending for Senate confirmation people who were unqualified. “Standard conservatives have been replaced by standard liberals,” he said.
“Shouldn’t that bother you? Shouldn’t there be one person, possibly two, in the administration who asks on your behalf: Good Christ, if we missed that what else are we missing?” he stated. “Instead we are seeing the institutional equivalent of a cover up. Never good news for the presidency.”