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CIA Says Its Translation Output Won't Shrink

Tuesday February 4, 1997 1:45 PM EST

WASHINGTON (Reuter) - The Central Intelligence Agency said Tuesday that it was preserving the breadth of the foreign media it translates and distributes not just to U.S. decision-makers and analysts but to subscribers worldwide.

Scholars, scientists and researchers of all kinds had mounted a campaign to keep the budget axe from the program, known as the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, or FBIS.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the spy agency planned to make "more, not less, information available on line for direct public access," thanks to the Internet and other communications advances.

"As FBIS is undergoing a number of changes, several things will remain constant," he said in reply to a query about a rumoured decision to cut way back on the service which, together with a similar operation run by the BBC, amounts to the premier global translation service.

"We will still monitor, translate and disseminate press reports and broadcasts from about 3,500 open sources in 55 languages, virtually 100 percent of the coverage we provide today," Mansfield said.

In an era of CIA downsizing, he said the coverage would be maintained by taking advantage of "cheaper, quicker and more flexible technologies."


The stated CIA intention to preserve the breadth of coverage was welcomed cautiously by the Federation of American Scientists, which counts half of the living Nobel science laureates among its members and which is often a harsh critic of the spy agency.

"It's good to know that the CIA is responsive to public interests, at least in this case," said Steven Aftergood, who directs a government secrecy project for the federation, which lobbied hard to protect FBIS.

But Aftergood noted that even if FBIS maintained its current breadth of coverage, it may badly trail the global explosion of media outlets that followed the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, when the newly independent republics returned to their ethnic and linguistic roots.

FBIS is dealing regularly with about 50 percent more sources deemed to have value to U.S. officials than at the start of this decade, when the end of Soviet communism gave unprecedented access to maps and publications, CIA officicals said.


Copyright 1997 Reuters Limited.

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