The CIA's 'risky' domestic spy role
In thinking about the new domestic spying powers of the CIA within the United States, Americans might well want to consider these comments. The domestic role, just authorized under an executive order issued by President Reagan, ''opens up the opportunity (for the CIA) to intrude into the private lives of Americans.'' Further, the move is ''risky,'' since it could revive public distrust of the agency. Finally: ''The CIA is not trained to operate within the constraints of American law. That's the FBI's role.''
Worrisome words these. And since they come from the past head of the agency, Adm. Stansfield Turner, they should be given special weight in assessing the changes now underway for the nation's principal overseas intelligence service. It must be remembered that the actual directives, or powers, for the agency, will be detailed in a secret document. Given abuses by the CIA when it spied on large numbers of Americans back in the Vietnam years, it is imperative that congressional oversight committees ensure that the public interest is protected - and that the agency is not in any sense allowed to return to discredited procedures of the past.
Obviously there is a fine line between foreign and domestic spying. But at the same time Congress clearly diffentiated distinct roles for the CIA and the FBI, the former to engage in foreign intelligence gathering, the latter in domestic spying. That distinction should not be blurred.
In the long run, is it not clearer than ever that Congress should finally get down to the business of writing a careful charter for the CIA? Only then can Americans be certain that the agency will not be allowed to ''intrude'' into their ''private lives.'