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And this they call intelligence?

Seems that we are in for one of those spells that comes every 10 or 15 years or so when we wonder about our intelligence community and its way of falling on its face.

In 1961, after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, President Kennedy fired CIA Director Allen Dulles and talked half seriously about breaking up the agency and scattering it to the winds.

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In the mid-1970s, Congress hung the CIA and FBI out to dry in a series of investigations that disclosed mindless operations from bizarre assassination plots to experiments with mind-altering drugs on unsuspecting subjects.

The FBI was found to have run secret intelligence operations that harassed innocent citizens and spread libels about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Came then the decade of the moles from the mid-1980s until the mid-1990s: penetrations ranging from the Navy's John Walker, whose espionage activities enabled the Soviets to decode more than a million secret messages, to Aldrich Ames, who betrayed more than 100 covert operations and more than 30 spies for the West.

So mark now a new crop of intelligence failures, starting with the gang that couldn't read its maps straight and guided a smart bomb into a dumb target, namely the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade.

And that's not all.

Last August President Clinton ordered missile attacks on a plant in Sudan supposed to be making poison gas. Officials will now tell you, on mumbled background, that it was probably a pharmaceutical plant.

A series of events on which our intelligence community might have had better advance information:

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*The blast that killed 19 American airmen in Saudi Arabia weeks after an Air Force security officer had warned of the vulnerability of the installation.

*The nuclear bomb tests in India and Pakistan last year that the CIA, National Security Agency, and National Reconnaissance Office, despite their expensive imaging and listening hardware, didn't see coming.

*The leaking of nuclear secrets to the Chinese about which the FBI disclaims responsibility, saying it didn't get proper search authority from the Justice Department.

*And, finally (for the moment) the report on the 1996 explosion on TWA Flight 800 that the FBI blocked for months looking for a terrorist plot it never did find.

And all this - budgeted $26.7 billion - they call intelligence!

*Daniel Schorr is senior news analyst for National Public Radio.

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