Woolsey makes no secret of what CIA is all about - CIA director James Woolsey, answering a question at WSU on Monday, said that the idea that a new spy plane had been developed was “a scam” - The Wichita Eagle Beacon - Tuesday, February 8, 1994 - World In Brief: - by Bud Norman
There’s still a lot that the director of the Central Intelligence Agency can’t say, but on Monday, James Woolsey found enough that he could say to fill several hours of public appearances in Wichita.
“Intelligence agencies basically acquire information by sealing secrets. That’s nothing new for American intelligence or any intelligence agency in the world.” Woosley told a near-capacity crowd at Wichita State University’s Miller Concert Hall during a Forum Board lecture there, explaining why some questions would not be answered.
“Those types of activities and sources of information, when disclosed even in the United States - because of the wonders of electronic and print media and the fact we live in a global media village these days - when they are disclosed they’re disclosed, of course, to the people from whom one is attempting to steal the secrets.”
Still, Woolsey’s appearance at WSU - and later at a Rotary Club luncheon, in an interview with The Eagle editorial board, at a reception with the Chamber of Commerce and Friends of McConnel Air Force Base, and finally at the annual meeting of the Wichita Committee of 100 - provided an uncharacteristically frank account of the notoriously secretive agency.
U. S. Rep. Dan Glickman, Wichita Democrat, head of the House Select Committee on Intelligence and the man who brought Woolsey to Wichita, said the appearances heralded a new era of post-Cold War openness - or glasnost, as Woosley’s Russian counterparts might say - for America’s spies.
Woosley, 51, a Tulsa native, admitted that the Cold War had changed the CIA’s job. Some information that used to be obtained only by elaborate methods, he said, can now be found in Russian newspapers. That does not mean, he stressed, that the CIA is no longer needed.
The United States still needs to “keep an eye” on dangerous countries and unstable regions, he said, and he informed of new weapons systems being developed by potential enemies. The CIA is also needed to gather information on major foreign narcotics suppliers. Woolsey said, and although the agency won’t engage in “industrial espionage” it should be able to identify important economic trends and investigate violations of international law by foreign companies.
Woolsey could even be terse and tough with some questions, particularly those that seemed to imply an anti-CIA sentiment. To one young WSU student who posed a lengthy question about whether America should abandon the war on drugs and try a “regulatory” approach to narcotics instead, Woolsey simply said, “no.” (This young man was an activists with KECH. All the literature and information he gave the CIA agents, had my name, address, and telephone number on them.)
Another young man noted that “It’s common knowledge in the aviation community that the government has developed a spy plane” known as Aurora to replace the recently retired SR-71 Blackbird.
“Neither the secretary of the Air Force, the secretary of defense, the president nor I have ever heard of Aurora. That is a scam.” Woolsey said. Asked whether he meant the name or the project, he said. “The name, the project, the notion.”
Woolsey later denied to the Associated Press that any such plane was being tested, but he didn’t deny that a new-generation spy plane was being developed.
Even when talking tough, Woolsey did not quite fit the dashing motion-picture image of a CIA man. Balding and dressed in an extremely plain blue suit and red-striped tie, he looked more like one of the Rotarians than he shared a taco salad with at lunch.
The Rotary Club meeting - which will be broadcast sometime in the next few days to a nationwide audience on the C-SPAN cable network - provided Woolsey with an apparently more sympathetic audience, but he still cut some questions short. Asked for the second time of the day how America should respond to recent events in Sarajevo, Woolsey told one man that “you asked me for an assessment of the Americans’ position. We don’t do Americans.”