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Intelligence Agency Should Like the Cut of Lake's Cloak

By Walter Pincus and Thomas W. Lippman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 6, 1996; Page A27

In Anthony Lake, the CIA is getting the kind of director that senior agency officials say they have always wanted: a foreign policy expert who knows from firsthand experience what the president wants in terms of intelligence and has the president's confidence.

Lake has been immersed in international affairs since he began his government career as a junior Foreign Service officer during the Vietnam War. But he also brings to his new job the detached perspective of an academic, developed during his years writing books and teaching at colleges in Massachusetts.

As President Clinton's national security adviser over the last four years, Lake has maintained a much lower public profile than many of his predecessors. He was seldom seen on TV, and went out of his way not to be perceived as a separate power center within the administration. He spent more time indulging his passion for baseball and watching practices with his friend, Redskins coach Norv Turner, than he did appearing in public, aides said.

In fact, Lake is so soft-spoken and professorial with outsiders that he often is perceived as weak or diffident. But inside government, he has developed just the opposite reputation. Colleagues and longtime friends described him yesterday as a skillful, determined -- and usually successful -- bureaucratic infighter.

"He's become a tough back-room operator who works the bureaucracy hard to get his own way," said one colleague.

Lake also has a reputation for keeping secrets, another characteristic cherished by the intelligence community. For example, Lake kept secret even from then-CIA Director R. James Woolsey a White House decision to tolerate the shipment of Iranian arms to Bosnia in 1994 that contravened a United Nations arms embargo.

The image of liberal academic that Lake himself promoted after leaving government at the end of the Carter administration has led many to believe he is opposed to covert action. Yet several officials said he had supported the CIA's secret operation to help foment dissent in northern Iraq and cause trouble for Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. He also did not object when current CIA Director John M. Deutch repeatedly called for an expansion of covert operations to undermine terrorism and narcotics trafficking.

Those are Lake's key national security concerns. "Absent a reversal in Russia," he said in a 1993 speech, "there is no credible near-term threat to America's existence. Serious threats remain: terrorism, proliferating weapons of mass destruction, ethnic conflicts and the degradation of our global environment."

Reservations about Lake within the intelligence community are based more on questions about management style than any perceptions about his attitude toward the CIA's work. Several senior officials have questioned whether Lake's professorial style is well suited to an agency that operates on tight deadlines and often requires fast, efficient action. They said that at the White House, Lake imposes little discipline on the operation of the National Security Council staff, and has tolerated or even provoked lengthy delays in decision-making.

Critical assessments are fiercely disputed by loyalists on Lake's staff, who described him yesterday as a principled but pragmatic official who was always first to see hidden pitfalls and potential dangers in policy decisions.

They said Lake has put into practice the principle that U.S. diplomacy can only be effective when backed by a credible military force. It was Lake, one aide said, who insisted that no deadline be set for the departure of Haiti's military rulers until Clinton made a commitment to bring it about by force if necessary.

Deutch had high praise for his successor, saying in an interview that "the single most important characteristic [for] the director of central intelligence . . . is a relationship with the president. . . . Tony Lake has the confidence of the president, has access to the president, he is of course extremely smart, and has an interest in the subject."

But Deutch, whose bold and opinionated style frequently broke eggs, agreed that Lake clearly has "one very different personality from mine . . . I'd be the first to grant you that."

Lake said yesterday he was "very enthusiastic" when Clinton raised the prospect of taking over from Deutch. Immediately after the announcement he went out to CIA headquarters in Langley to introduce himself.

Lake's interests, an NSC staffer said, "make him a great consumer of intelligence. He'll be asking what will happen in the next few weeks . . . what will be the next move on the chessboard?"

While such interest fits into the needs of CIA's analytical side, one colleague yesterday acknowledged that "he doesn't know much about [the] shadowy world" of the agency's clandestine spying.

One advantage Lake will have is the help of CIA deputy director George J. Tenet, a former NSC assistant of Lake's who is expected to remain in the job and has spent most of his time at the CIA with the clandestine operatives. Another asset Lake brings to the job is loyalty to the president and a history with Clinton that goes back to his days as a senior foreign policy adviser to the 1992 presidential campaign.

Lake's instinct, one colleague said, "will be to marry the White House to the intelligence community." He also wants to get more public support for its activities and "restore its image," this colleague added. With CIA case officer Harold J. Nicholson in jail charged with being a Russian spy, and a CIA inspector general's panel studying why younger clandestine operatives are leaving the agency, Lake will have his work cut out for him.

Deutch made strides in rationalizing the complex and costly problems associated with intelligence satellites, but was far less successful in raising morale at CIA in the wake of the Aldrich H. Ames espionage case.

In the early days of the Clinton administration, when then-Director Woolsey had trouble getting to see the president, senior CIA officials labeled Lake the roadblock, calling him a State Department figure who did not trust the agency's analysis.

Reflecting his understanding of that reputation, Lake yesterday went out of his way to praise the agency. "I firmly believe that in the post-Cold War world the role of the CIA is more important than ever in defending Americans against the threats of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."

Lake graduated from Harvard in 1961, studied international economics at Cambridge and got his Ph.D. at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

He joined the Foreign Service in 1962 and did two tours in Vietnam in the 1960s. In 1969 he became then-national security adviser Henry A. Kissinger's special assistant, but resigned the next year along with two others on the staff over the invasion of Cambodia.

Lake later joined the presidential campaign staff of then-Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine), who was preparing to run against President Richard M. Nixon in 1972. Lake was one of several former Kissinger aides whose telephones were tapped in a Nixon White House effort to track down leaks. In Lake's case, however, the tap on his home phone also provided information on the Muskie campaign. Lake later sued Kissinger, who had authorized the tap, and finally settled for a 1989 letter from the former secretary of state who admitted his action had been "unconstitutional."

After serving in the Carter State Department as the director of policy planning, Lake moved to a farm in western Massachusetts where, based at Mount Holyoke, he taught international relations at five area colleges.

Staff writer R. Jeffrey Smith contributed to this report.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Co.

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