Watergate Revelations of Agency Misuse
Questions about Abuse of FBI and CIA Function
To many americans, the most serious aspect of the Watergate scandal—apart from the President's possible involvement—was the misuse of the nation's various intelligence agencies for partisan political purposes. And to many others, the most ominous aspect of the Watergate affair was the extent of domestic surveillance—spying, bugging, wiretapping, breaking and entering, data gathering—on individual citizens. For it is this attempted corruption of the intelligence function in a free democratic society that has led some observers to equate Watergate, at least in its ultimate intent, with the imposition of a police state.
In the past, the intelligence community has most often been subject to criticism for lack of public accountability—for becoming an “invisible government” or “secret establishment.” Today, ironically, the attack is for the opposite reason —for becoming too directly responsive to the White House. The CIA and the FBI have been tainted by Watergate disclosures and some military intelligence units have been implicated. The CIA apparently took part in domestic operations—a violation of its legal charter—and the FBI was accused of playing politics in law enforcement—a violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. Many members of the intelligence community are reported to have been left shaken by this perversion of their agencies. The most likely outcome will be a thorough review of intelligence activities and closer scrutiny in the future.
America's intelligence community is a diverse collection of agencies, most of them shrouded in secrecy, which may employ 100,000 to 150,000 persons and spend $5 billion to $6.2 billion annually.Their activities are largely unknown to the public and many of their budgets—hidden among those of other agencies—are not subject to the same congressional accounting as are other government institutions. The principal agencies are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Defense Department's intelligence divisions—Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Army, Navy and Air Force intelligence services, and the National Security Agency (NSA)—the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and Treasury in some of their functions. All are represented on the U.S. Intelligence Board. The CIA director is the board chairman.