Steve Coll, in his article on drone warfare, cites my history of the C.I.A., “Legacy of Ashes,” in noting that American Presidents from Eisenhower to Nixon used the C.I.A. to oust foreign leaders (“Remote Control,” May 6th). Not one of the C.I.A.’s assassination plots against a foreign leader succeeded. Since then, President Bush and President Obama have made the C.I.A. a killing machine for counter-terrorists. Murder, however, is not the role of an intelligence agency in a democracy. Its role is to conduct espionage in order to know our enemy’s thinking, intentions, and capabilities. The C.I.A. should give the Pentagon back its missiles under the laws of war and return to its true mission. Know your enemy: that’s intelligence. The C.I.A. failed in that mission in Iraq and in Afghanistan. If it now botches its mission in Syria, no sniper’s rifle will save us from our inability to harmonize our military, diplomatic, and intelligence instruments of war. If we go to war in Syria, the goal will have to be the death of President Assad. Killing foreign leaders is a bad business; so said Richard Helms, who ran the C.I.A. under Johnson and Nixon. If you try to kill theirs, he said, why shouldn’t they try to kill yours?
Tim WeinerNew York City
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Letter of the Week
Tim Weiner to The New Yorker. Can't resist printing whole thing:
is author of a dozen books (click on covers at right), including the new "THE TUNNELS: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill." He was the longtime editor of Editor & Publisher. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @GregMitch