Should the Top Tier of the CIA Be Fired?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," June 9, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: A Republican congressman is blasting the CIA (search), accusing the agency of gross incompetence and saying it has dropped the ball on everything from the hunt for Usama to Iran's nuclear weapons programs.

Representative Curt Weldon (search) of Pennsylvania is the vice chairman of the House Homeland Security and Armed Services Committees. He makes his charges in a new book. The congressman says the top tier of the CIA, entire top tier of the CIA, should be fired. That is a suggestion that is not sitting all that well in Langley.

Joining us now to talk about it is the former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency under President Clinton, James Woolsey. He's also vice president of Booz Allen and Hamilton, a consulting firm.

So, what do you make of this dust-up with Congressman Weldon calling for a decapitation strike, essentially, on the CIA?

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, the first thing that's important here is, this is a very serious and knowledgeable congressman. I have traveled with Congressman Weldon, worked with him closely back in the '90s on a number of issues related to Russia. And he does not go off half-cocked. He's intense about what he believes, but he's a careful man. And I think that one of the things that's going on here is that the CIA does have a propensity for not wanting to talk to or listen seriously to walk-ins — people who volunteer information.

GIBSON: What's a walk-in?

WOOLSEY: Somebody who walks into an embassy and volunteers information, sometimes a foreign intelligence officer, sometimes someone else.

They tend to listen very closely to their liaison services, as they're called, the foreign intelligence service that they talk to. And what Congressman Weldon, I think, is saying here is that they should have checked out far more thoroughly the stories that have come, the allegations that have come from this Mr. Ali, as he calls him, that is the main individual who is talking to Congressman Weldon.

Ali has some other things. I have read the manuscript of Congressman Weldon's book and I wrote a forward for it. Ali had some other allegations that are very interesting about bin Laden working with the Iranians and being present from time to time in Iran that are rather detailed, and they track very closely with what is in a new book by Ken Timmerman (search) called "Countdown to Crisis." Both the Weldon book and the Timmerman book begin with the word countdown. And they both have the themes that the Iranians may be up to a good deal more in the terrorism area against the United States and may have worked together from time to time, not only with Al Qaeda, but also with the Iraqis.

Now, a lot of American intelligence analysts don't like thinking about that. They like saying that the Shia will never work with the Sunni and neither will ever work with the secular Baathists (search) and so on. To my mind, that makes about as much sense as the people in the 1930s who said the communists would never work with the Nazis. And then, whoops, here comes the Hitler-Stalin pact in 1939.


GIBSON: Mr. Woolsey, you know, one of the retired CIA guys who was in this very area has denounced this thing bitterly, saying that this is not a credible source that Weldon is relying on.

WOOLSEY: Yes. Well...

GIBSON: And that Weldon is impugning a lot of people whose professional judgment was to say, "Hey, this guy isn't worth anything. Don't pay any attention to him."

WOOLSEY: Well, Weldon has a number of facts in his book, and they ought to look at the facts he alleges, such as this cooperation between Iraq — I'm sorry — between Iran and Al Qaeda. The locations bin Laden is supposed to have visited and been in, in Iran, some of those are confirmed in the Timmerman book by a different source.

They need to get out of the mode out there at Langley of just protecting what they've done in the past. You need to have an open mind in intelligence. And I don't care if this man who was talking with Congressman Weldon may have been introduced by Manucher Ghorbanifar (search). Mr. Ghorbanifar may have been wrong in the past and right now.

You have to keep an open mind in this business. And I get worried when the retort to a serious congressman's allegations is one of just fury from out there at Langley. People ought to stick to the facts and start debating the facts as alleged.

GIBSON: Former Director of the CIA James Woolsey. Mr. Woolsey, it's good to see you. Thanks.

WOOLSEY: Good to be with you, John.

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