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Credentials for the CIA

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The Senate Intelligence Committee is investigating the past financial dealings of CIA director William J. Casey. The White House says the President retains "full confidence" in Mr. Casey, but White House aides indicate that this "full confidence" could diminish if the investigation turns up anything serious or unpleasant.

Thus, Mr. Casey's tenure at CIA depends in part on whether there is anything more than is already known about his role in the promotion of business stock issues which proved to be less sound than the advertising implied.

But even if Mr. Casey himself comes through the Senate committee investigation unscathed, two questions have emerged out of recent events at the CIA which could and perhaps should weigh more heavily than Mr. Casey's financial record.

The first question is about Mr. Casey's own judgment.

He insisted on picking as his deputy in charge of CIA "operations" a personal political associate who had no experience in intelligence work, Max Hugel. The selection was strongly opposed within the professional intelligence community and in the White House staff Mr. Casey was allowed to have his way because he had managed the President's political campaign brilliantly and successfully. It is difficult for any president to say no to his successful campaign manager.

Events since the selection have justified the doubts which had been raised. CIA insiders say that the Hugel performance in charge of the secret and clandestine side of the CIA has been a professional disaster. They say his ignorance of the spy business has alarmed friendly and allied intelligence agencies, thus reducing the normal low of information to the United States from the resources of other countries. They say that the professionals under him have been demoralized by his ignorance of the business.


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