Reporters for a number of U.S. publications sharply criticized a proposal floated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency that it be allowed to use journalists, missionaries, and Peace Corps volunteers as cover for its agents. "We think it's a revolting and dangerous practice, and no New York Times reporter would ever allow themselves to be used that way," said Michael Specter, a correspondent in the Times's Moscow bureau.
A spokesman for a Christian group working in Russia was equally negative. "Our philosophy is that we are guests in the country, and we cannot interfere in any way," said Peter Deyneka, president of Russian Ministries, a Christian outreach organization. "We would not be involved in that. We definitely never have been, and would not."
A panel set up by the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, a private organization, last month urged U.S. policy makers to lift a 1977 executive order prohibiting CIA use of such professions for cover. The lifting of the limitations on CIA recruitment remains only a suggestion thus far.
Some correspondents said even discussion of using journalists as spies can create dangers for foreign correspondents, particularly in war zones. They pointed to the death of Fred Cuny, the aid worker who disappeared in Chechnya last year. According to various theories, he was killed by one or the other side in the conflict on suspicion he was an American intelligence agent. "As we saw with the rumors surrounding the death of Fred Cuny, it's dangerous for people to even talk about it," said Specter. "I go to Grozny a lot, and I don't want to have to explain to people that I'm not an agent of the American government."
Source: The Moscow Times, 28 March 1996, 5. Excerpt reprinted with permission.
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