INT: And the danger, of course, that it goes into whose hands... you know...
ST: There's no question that people like the Iranians are fishing around in Russia today to try to get materials that they would need for making nuclear weapons. The Iranians are sitting on a great big dome of oil, and they're building nuclear power reactors. It doesn't seem like it makes sense.
INT: OK. To go backwards, talking about the era of the Cold War itself, how close do you think we came to a nuclear holocaust, a large-scale nuclear exchange?
ST: I don't think we came very close to a holocaust once the Cuban missile crisis was behind us. That was a very close-run thing, but both Kennedy and Khrushchev backed off, they backed off when they faced the possibility of actually going to nuclear war. Kennedy was way ahead of Khrushchev in nuclear capability, but he realized that he couldn't use that, because he didn't want one or two nuclear weapons to come from Cuba on to the United States, so he was stymied, despite his superiority. We just have to understand that the dynamics of these weapons are different than many others, and that reminds us that countries like the United States are not going to start nuclear wars, if only because one or two retaliatory strikes back at us would be more than we would find acceptable: the cost would be too great for whatever we might achieve by using a nuclear weapon. I therefore advocate today that we make a pledge of no first use of nuclear weapons, and that we expand the 185-nation nuclear non-proliferation treaty into a no first use treaty, so we have a majority of the nations of the world lined up and saying, "We don't want these weapons used, and anyone who uses them is going to be subject to our sanctions, it's going to be labeled a crime against humanity," and I think that can help put pressure on. That would mean, of course, the United States withdrawing its nuclear guarantee for Western Europe, and I think it's time for the Western Europeans to stand up and say, "We want that guarantee removed," because it's a very dangerous bluff that we have been maintaining here, and the Europeans should not want to be defended with nuclear weapons: it would be suicidal, because surely there would be a nuclear retaliation if we used nuclear weapons in their defense. So, to move the world ahead, the United States should make this pledge of no first use, the Europeans should encourage us to make that pledge, so that we can get some momentum going here.
INT: Fine. To sum up really what you've been saying, do you think the world is a safer place since the end of the Cold War?
ST: The world is a safer place, because the risk of a major nuclear war - by accident, for instance - between Russia and the United States, has reduced. On the other hand, if we have proliferation of these weapons, the probability of the weapons actually being used is likely to increase. Now they're not going to be used on a holocaust scale, because the proliferators will not have arsenals of the size the Russians and the United States have had or do have. So, yes, the risk of a major holocaust is down; the risk of a small use of nuclear weapons could increase. Any use of nuclear weapons will change the complexion of the world. We must avoid this; we must not pass to our children and our grandchildren a world in which they have to live with a constant threat in diplomacy of the use of nuclear weapons, and perhaps the occasional use of them.
INT: That's a lovely answer, actually. So what is the legacy, in your opinion, of the Cold War?
ST: The most serious legacy of the Cold War is this nuclear overhang, this excessive numbers of nuclear weapons, and still the doctrine, still a belief that maybe they're usable, that they're just big conventional weapons, and this poses a threat that we would come to a world in which the nuclear weapon is an occasional instrument of actual war, and the whole psychology of life would be different. We have to look back to the late Forties and the early Fifties. In the United States, because of the use of nuclear weapons in Japan, children... I mean, young parents were saying, "We probably shouldn't have any children because the world's going to blow up." I mean, it was exaggerated, but it was the psychology, and we don't want to get back to that kind of a psychology in the world, that "I'm going to bed tonight, but I don't know if a terrorist is going to put a bomb here near my house tonight, and I'll be gone - and I have nothing I can do about it." It was a feeling in the Fifties of hopelessness in the face of this uncertainty of vast and indescribable destruction. We've got to avoid that. To do that, we've got to bring all of the responsible nations of the world into a much stronger coalition to prevent the proliferation of these weapons to the irresponsible nations or to terrorists.
INT: Very good indeed. I'd like to move on to talk to you a little bit about your time with the CIA...
ST: All right.
ST: ... if that's OK. Can you tell us how you found the CIA when you took over as DCI - how accountable it was, and... (Interruption - looking for question on page) Can you tell us how you found the CIA when you took over, what sort of shape it was in?
ST: When I took over the CIA in 1977, it was in the second phase of its four-phase history. The first phase, there was almost no outside control of the CIA from the Congress...
(Interruption - start again because of airplane. Apologies.)
INT: So could you tell us how you found the CIA when you took over, what sort of shape it was in?
ST: When I took over the CIA in 1977, it was in the second phase of the four-phase, thus far, history. The first phase, there was very little outside control or check on the CIA from the Congress, even from the White House, and not even adequate controls inside the CIA. In 1976, the Congress passed laws that said they would have access to the CIA's secrets and that they would have a check on the CIA. So when I took over, the CIA was in a state of trauma: how do you do secret intelligence and still inform a parliament? And it was a shock to them; they were also shocked because there had been investigations in 1976 that had severely criticized some of the things they had done in the past, when not under supervision. So phase two ran until 1981, when we tried to establish that kind of control, with due appreciation of the necessity for a good deal of secrecy in any intelligence process. We think we had it running quite well, as a matter of fact, and we got to where the Congress trusted us, so that when we told them "We really don't think we ought to tell you all those details, because it might compromise the life of an agent," they would not ask us that question, because they realized that we were not trying to withhold something, that we were covering up our own mistakes or whatever. Unfortunately, phase three came in 1981-86, when the Administration in this country said, "No, we can't do good secret intelligence and report to the Congress." That created a schizophrenia in the CIA. Some of the people said, "We've got to follow the law," some people said, "We can't follow the law," and that led to real problems that came up in 1986, in the Iran Contra affair. Several CIA officers were indicted; one was convicted of lying to the Congress. We then moved into phase four, in which we've had a series of directors of the CIA who've tried to put it back in line with the law. Unfortunately, there are still rogue people who don't appreciate that, and they've gotten the CIA into additional trouble, without... because they have not informed the Congress in particular about what they were doing, when they should have informed it. So it's still in a confused state today, but it's coming back to where it ought to be.
INT: Great, OK. There had been a sort of decade of paralysis - is my understanding right? - caused by some sort of fears about defectors and Soviet deception and so on.
ST: I'm not sure what decade you're talking about.
ST: Angleton I referred to by saying that the CIA wasn't under control inside. I mean, there was a period in the CIA's history when there were power bases within the CIA that were under full control of the director. One was a man named James Jesus Angleton, who ran the counter-intelligence operations. He did so in such a arbitrary way, condemning people for his hunches rather than facts, that in my day I actually went to the Congress and got legislation to pay several people whose careers Angleton ruined, in order to sort of compensate them a little bit. So when the Congress puts up money for that kind of thing, there's some fire behind the smoke.
INT: There's certainly a problem there. So how did you see the role of the CIA during your time there? What was its mission, what was its role?
ST: Well, its mission then, and now, unchanged, is to keep the President and other key policy-makers in the country well informed about what's happening in foreign affairs that will impact on our country. Now in my day, it was largely the Soviet Union and its military capability that worried us. I actually tried to start shifting that more to other countries, because it was clear that we were winning the Cold War and we should worry about the rest of the world. Today, of course, the focus is on lots of other countries than just Russia, lots of other topics than just military power.
INT: OK. Your arrival coincided with the introduction of the KH-11 satellite. Can you tell us how you regarded hi-tech espionage, as opposed to the traditional human spy that we all know and read about?
ST: There always is a...
(Wait for plane to go by. A bit of talk.)
INT: All right.
ST: There are three generic ways of collecting intelligence data: by photographic means, largely satellites; by electronic listing systems; and by human spies. They each have their own function. The photographs and electronic listings are technical systems; they have the advantage that they don't risk people's lives in spying; they have the advantage that they don't nearly as much risk perturbing your relations with a friendly country, or reasonably friendly country, whereas if you get caught with a spy in somebody's cabinet, why, it's very embarrassing if that is a friendly country. In the post...
(Interruption - noise. A bit of chat.)
INT: So you were going to tell us about how you regarded hi-tech espionage, as opposed to the traditional human spy.
INT: Do you want me to do the whole thing over?
INT: That would be good, yeah.
ST: There are three ways of collecting intelligence data: electronic listings systems, photographic systems, and human spying systems. They each have their own virtues. The two technical ones, photographs and electronic listing, have the virtue that you don't risk a human's life; they have the virtue that you aren't likely to get caught - it's not a direct personal thing, like having an agent inside someone else's cabinet. If it's a moderately friendly country you're dealing with, it can be very embarrassing to be caught with a human spy. The two technical systems have the advantage that they are generally more reliable; you don't know for sure whether a human agent is putting you on: maybe it's a double agent, and so on. There is the claim that human agents are the only ways you can find other people's intentions, but that's a very specious line of reasoning, because if I'm reading somebody's mail or listening to somebody's conversations, or even with photographs seeing what kinds of things they're doing, what they're building and where they're moving troops and so on, you can get some pretty good ideas of what their intentions are. But the human agent often can help you find a whole topic that you didn't know anything about and that you weren't tuning your listening systems [to], you weren't using your photographic systems; it gives you a clue that something is going on over here that you just didn't know about, so they are very valuable. In the post-Cold War world, though, where we have rather few avowed enemies, you will use the human agents much more cautiously; you will use them for very specific pieces of information you can't get the other ways, and you will use them only when you think the return is going to be worth the risk that your friend is going to say, "What are you doing to me?"