Former CIA Director William E. Colby added his voice Sunday to those supporting Robert M. Gates' nomination to head the intelligence agency, arguing that Gates had successfully disproved allegations that he tailored analyses to suit his political bosses.
Gates also came "awfully close" to predicting the aborted August coup in Moscow, Colby said on CNN's "Newsmaker Sunday" interview program. "If the coup had succeeded," Gates would be "bathing in glory" now, he added.
Colby appeared with Senate Intelligence Committee members Howard M. Metzenbaum (D-Ohio) and John H. Chafee (R-R.I.), both of whom held fast to their positions on the nomination--Metzenbaum opposing Gates and Chafee supporting him.
It is anticipated that the committee vote on Gates, expected next week, will be close but narrowly in favor of recommending his confirmation. Reflecting the division within the committee, Metzenbaum expressed doubt that Gates would be approved while Chafee said he was sure of approval.
Metzenbaum argued that Gates, a 48-year-old career intelligence officer, had politicized the intelligence-analysis process by supporting positions favored by the Ronald Reagan Administration and its controversial CIA chief, the late William J. Casey. Chafee contended that such charges were "totally unsubstantiated." Colby agreed with Chafee.
Colby, who served almost two decades ago, was the last career director of the CIA. After his tenure, the job was given to political appointees, including George Bush in 1975-76, in the wake of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal.
Bush had asked President Jimmy Carter to allow him to remain in the post at least several months into the Carter Administration to avoid the impression that the top CIA job was a political appointment, but Carter refused. Reagan gave the job to Casey, who managed his presidential campaign and who now is widely blamed for the Iran-Contra scandal.
Now President Bush wants to return the job to career officers, according to Colby and other knowledgeable officials.
Colby, who said Gates had "pretty well smashed the allegation" that he had politicized the intelligence process, also supported the nomination on the grounds that Gates would be the first career officer in the job to come from the analytical branch of the CIA rather than the operations side.
Analysis has become far more important than traditional spying or covert action these days, Colby said, particularly in regard to the Soviet Union, which will have to be watched "very, very carefully" in coming years.