THE CIA WANTS authority -- for what reason we are naturally, not told -- to go back to spying on Americans.
The want to infiltrate domestic organizations. They did that without permission for many years, we found out later. Okay, it's nice of them to ask, and we've got the perfect opener for them. How about infiltrating their own Old Boy Network?
Let them break out the red wigs -- you remember, they provided one for old grad Howard Hunt for his famous hospital interview with Dita Beard. Let them get the voice-altering devices, and send them to The Company's alumni meetings.
Maybe they could find out how many retired spooks are in touch with two former employes, Edwin P. Wilson and Frank Terpil, who are engaged in some mysterious but highly lucrative business with Col. Muammar Qaddafi, the Libyan dictator the Reaganites all love to hate.
The CIA can't do a thing with Wilson and Terpil, who are under indictment for exporting explosives to Libya. They are also engaged in recruiting U.S. pilots and mechanics to fly and service airplanes.
Actually, there would be noting illegal about an investigation of Wilson and Terpil. In 1975, as a consequence of the Rockefeller Report -- which was commissioned to look into revelations about the kind of activities that the CIA wishes to resume -- an executive order was issued that would "permit surveillance on anyone associated with the CIA past or present, for security purposes."
So far the agency has used that paragraph to muzzle former agents like Victor Marchetti and to impoverish Frank Snepp, two ex-agents who wrote books critical of the CIA.
Surely, Wilson and Terpil, who train terrorists, would qualify for a "security" probe. Their employe, according to former President Jimmy Carter, whose brother had dealings with him, is "almost subhuman," and to former President Gerald Ford is a "cancer" and to former President Richard Nixon "a desert rat." Vice President George Bush calls him "an egomaniac" who is capable of starting World War III just for laughs.
Plainly a bad hat. And Wilson and Terpil are helping him every way they can. Maybe they even broke in the death squad which was dispatched to Rome to "terminate with extreme prejudice" our amassador to Italy, Maxwell D. Rabb.
The CIA can do nothing to stop them. It is absolutely powerless. The New York Times has been looking into the matter. Its reporters do not have red wigs or voice-altering devices, but they have managed to find out a great deal about Wilson and Terpil. They have traced their agents to a little town in Alabama, where a Green Beret recruiter waves big bills at innocent southern boys and tells them there's more for them if they go to Libya.
The Times, which maintains no safe houses, conducts no drug experiments, also discovered that Wilson has helped one other CIA Old Boy to get a start in business. It also found out that Wilson has several posh pads in London and a country house, where an operative suspected of involvement in the attempted murder of a Libyan student in Colorado was sheltered while on the run.
The CIA Director William J. Casey made patriotic appeals to them to cease and desist? Has the Old Boys Network Newsletter written a withering editorial about them and sent it to Tripoli where Terpil and Wilson live in luxurious exile?
Of course, if you really want to be paranoid about it -- and after "Operation Chaos," why shouldn't you be? -- you can entertain the possibility that, under a terrifically elaborate cover, Wilson and Terpil are really still working for the CIA.
Is it possible that the agency has already let out a contract on Qaddafi, and that their two alumni got it? Is some poisoned diving suit being even now being constructed in the cellar at Langley? Have the makings of a toxic cigar already been shipped? Will Wilson and Terpil put on red wigs and put in voice-altering devices, steal into Qaddaffi's lair, tell him they are from the KGB and must take him immediately to Moscow to be interviewed as a successor to Brezhnev -- without mentioning they are going to drop him off the plane en route?
You would think that if the CIA really disapproved of what Wilson and Terpil are doing, they would find a way to say so. But the State Department, confonted with ccounts of widespread recruitment, says weakly, that "Some Americans may be involved in civil aviation in Libya." May be? Times reporters have talked to Americans who were involved. So, incidentally, has the FBI -- which the CIA doesn't think is up to the domestic investigating job.
Maybe they ought to drop it for a while and concentrate on infiltrating the Alumni Society. Before unleashing their like upon us, they ought to figure out a way to control Wilson and Terpil -- or at least find out what they're doing.