Dr. Anthony Lake
National Security Adviser
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
You will, no doubt, be questioned during your confirmation hearings on the widely reported cuts in CIA's popular Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). Interest in preventing these cuts is so high among scholars, the media, and non-governmental organizations, as well as other government agencies, that we have created a World Wide Web site designed to collect testimonials for FBIS and to represent the broad support it enjoys-- portions are enclosed.
Indeed, we now have a project championing the view that CIA should do more, not less, to service these communities which, in the post-cold period, do so much-- directly and indirectly-- to shape U.S. relations with heretofore adversary nations. Accordingly, we consider CIA attitudes toward FBIS to be a harbinger of intelligence community attitudes toward the important evolving issue of "Intelligence for Society." And we commend this broader issue to you as the intelligence community continues to seek its proper role in this new era.
In any case, we know we speak for an enormous array of scholars, journalists, historians and interested members of the public-- as well as Executive and Legislative Branch personnel-- in asking that the pending cuts to the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) be reconsidered.
FBIS is among the most important research tools of the U.S. intelligence comunity, and it is certainly the most important resource provided by the intelligence community to the American public.
Researchers, activists, journalists and policymakers of all description have come to rely on this invaluable source. Without it, they would have to rely on subscribing to the publications, from Iran or Peru or wherever, waiting for them to arrive and then translating them. Few could do this. And none could listen in to radio broadcasts.
Because the CIA has performed this function for everyone at once, the program has been immensely cost-effective. Imagine, by contrast, the costs of having everyone who subscribed to this service, separately, doing their own translations.
This service is becoming more, not less, important in the evolving world. As secrecy declines, with the end of the Cold War, the collection of public information becomes more important. And as the relative importance of civic society in foreign affairs increases, the importance of informing that society-- its citizens, the media, NGOs and scholars-- rises as well. FBIS is an exemplar of an intelligence contribution to the public that should broadly replicated, not curtailed.
For all these reasons, it was intensely disturbing to many to find that CIA first eliminated, as an economy move, the hard-copy version of FBIS. Reading all this material on a computer poses many difficulties, even if it has some advantages.
And now we find that CIA is proposing to cut back on the publications and broadcasts that it will cover.
We would like to see this program restored and expanded. We feel confident that there are other portions of CIA's budget that have a lower priority than FBIS's crucial function in informing our society. And we know that other parts of our Government, such as the Defense Department, are worried about these cuts as well. In addition, the British Broadcasting Corporation's World Service, which has complemented FBIS, feels the U.S. is failing to do its share.
That FBIS should be strengthened is, we think, a cry from the heart from many different organizations and constituencies here and around the world.
Jeremy J. Stone
Federation of American Scientists