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No domestic spy role for CIA

When outspoken national defense advocates like Barry Goldwater and Daniel Patrick Moynihan find common cause to oppose a major expansion in the spying activities of the Central Intelligence Agency, the Reagan administration should listen carefully. Mr. Reagan appears ready to sign a proposed new executive order scrapping present curbs on the CIA that keep the agency from infiltrating or influencing domestic groups. Mr. Reagan should reject such an ill-considered and dangerous proposal.

Messrs. Goldwater and Moynihan, chairman and vice-chairman respectively of the Senate Intelligence Committee, are on target on this issue. That panel voted to reject Mr. Reagan's plan. In fact, allowing domestic spying - a role now properly left to the FBI under strict guidelines - seems to be a violation of the legislation setting up the CIA in the first place. Beyond that, it poses fundamental threats to the liberties of all Americans and risks a return of the deep public suspicion of and hostility toward the ''Company'' that marked much of the mid-1970s. Throwing off the present restraints would thus only be counterproductive and possibly lead to an acrimonious new congressional battle over legislation to reimpose curbs.

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The National Security Act of 1947 specifically precludes an ''internal security'' role for the CIA. Like the FBI, the CIA has managed to build up new public goodwill in recent years. This is hardly the time to undo what is most likely a still tentative consensus of support for US intelligence agencies. The essential distinction between the international spy role of the CIA and the domestic spy role of the FBI ought to be maintained. Mr. Reagan would do the country a disservice to blur it.


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