Do the American people need to know the rest? Do even selected members of Congress need to poke into every nook and cranny of the country’s intelligence operations? This is the heart of the debate now raging in Washington in response to the report of the Rockefeller Commission on its investigation of the C.I.A. The same questions will underlie the investigations of two Congressional committees, one in the House of Representatives, the other in the Senate.
A substantial portion of the public believes that too much information on the intelligence agency has already come out. These critics say that every new publicized detail serves to weaken national security and unnecessarily expose intelligence operations to foreign governments.
It is perhaps symptomatic, for example, that two out of three telephone callers to a Washington television talk show the day after the Rockefeller Commission report was released suggested that the report itself and the various news media stories on the C.I.A. had gone far enough.
The Rockefeller Commission, an eight‐member panel headed by Vice President Rockefeller, produced a 299‐page report that moved the knowledge of intelligence agency’s activities well past what had been reported in news columns and magazines.
But the Rockefeller report may well be the strongest argument for a more probing investigation. It opened more doors than it closed.
For instance, the report noted that the C.I.A. has secretly paid gratuities to police officers in various United States cities and towns.
An innocuous practice? Hardly. In the United States, police officers are sworn to uphold the laws of their local jurisdiction. They are forbidden to accept gratuities from criminals or anyone in public life who might dissuade them from equal enforcement of the law.
Yet the Rockefeller Commission reports that the C.I.A. had such good relations with the police in Fairfax, Va., a small city near Washington, D.C., that local officers helped them burglarize a business owned by a Cuban refugee and his finacee, who was an employee of the C.I.A. at the time. It has not been established to date that either was a threat to national security.
The report also disclosed a decade‐long drug testing program in which the C.I.A. administered LSD and other mind‐disorienting drugs to participants without warning them of their possible danger. The account indicated at least one man died as a result but added that the agency was able to help the victim’s family get insurance. The Rockefeller Commission also noted that all records of the secret program were destroyed in 1973, 10 years after it had ended.
The Rockefeller Commission had no subpoena power. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and its counterpart in the House have.
A subpoena might encourage those involved in the drug program, for instance, to come forward and testify as to the number of people tested, how many died, how many, if any, were maimed and who authorized the C.I.A. to undertake the program in the first place.
The subpoena power might also encourage police officers and Central Intelligence Agency officials to give a full account of the agency’s dealings with police departments across the country.
The Senate committee, headed by Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho, now has a staff of 90 (about 60 of whom are lawyers or other professionals.) In five months of investigation it has held 21 meetings and interviewed dozens of witnesses:
Recently the committee interrupted its schedule to inquire into allegations of C.I.A. involvement in assassinations and expect to report on that investigation by early July.
Many in Washington wonder, however, whether the fascination with assassination may distract Mr. Church and his colleagues from investigating other covert activities, from delving into the overlapping in Government intelligence systems and scrutinizing the policies that led Government agents to plot against and in some cases topple foreign leaders. Going beyond that, will Mr. Church’s committee be able to discover whether any or all of these operations were launched without Presidential order or approval?
It is not so much a question of whether it is important to investigate assassinations. It is. But the United States intelligence community, made up of the C.I.A., the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and military intelligence units is a Government conglomerate, costing $6‐billion a year, that will take months to sort out.
Senator Church and his colleagues have said they believe they must learn what is going on before they can authoritatively recommend amendments to the National Security Act of 1947, back stronger Congressional control of the agencies or accept or reject numerous other proposals for harnessing the intelligence community. The committee has set a deadline of the end of 1975 for its final report and recommendations. But the end of the year gets closer and closer, and to many working on the investigation the job seems to get larger every day.