Central Intelligence Agency Director George Bush said yesterday that he is "appalled" by leaks of a new government report on long-range Soviet military intentions and that those who leaked the information violated security agreements and lacked discipline.
I'm a little disillusioned because I never thought that we could be in this kind of phantom duel where you're battling with unnamed sources," Bush said in a television interview.
"I just thought that we were more disciplined within the intelligence community," he said.
The report, the National Intelligence Estimate on the Soviet Union, is an annual U.S. estimate of Soviet strategic objectives over the next 10 years. The estimate is classified top secret.
However, it has been widely reported that an outside panel, commissioned last June to challenge the judgement of government intelligence analysts, concluded in the current estimate that the Soveits are seeking military superiority over the United States.
The articles said the conclusions of the outside panel differed from those of the U.S. analysts, who have contended that the Soviets are seeking military parity with this country, not superiority.
Bush refused to confirm or deny any of the reported conclusions.
"I'm not discussing the conclusions," he said. "The worst thing a director of central intelligence could do is to come here and appear on this program and discuss sensitive conclusions of national intelligence estimates.
"I'm simply not going to do it," Bush said. "To the degree a member of the team (responsible for analyzing the intelligence estimates) is giving out a conclusion, he is violating a security agreement, and I don't want to be a party to that," Bush said.
The CIA director said he appeared on the interview program, "Face the Nation" (OBS, WTOP) in part, to "gun down" speculation that the CIA was coming up with a tough estimate of Soviet military plans, and then allowing it to be leaked to the press as part of a plan to dissuade President-elect Jimmy Carter from seeking to cut the defense budget.
That speculation "just couldn't be farther from the truth," Bush said.
"That gets to the integrity of the process," he said. "And I am here to defend the integrity of the intelligence process . . . The CIA has great integrity. It would never take directions from a policymaker - me or anybody else - in order to come up with conclusions to force a President-elect's hand or a President's hand," he said.
Bush said that though he was "disillusioned" about the leaks surrounding the intelligence estimate, he would not do away with the concept of having outside experts come in to review and analyze official intelligence data.
"The concept . . . of challenging conclusions by outside expertise has enormous appeal to me," he said. He added that he is "considering a plan" and will recommend to his successor, Theodore Sorensen, that outside experts be used in a similar capacity.
"I still feel that, to the degree outsiders with expertise can critique estimates, the policymakers are apt to have a finer (intelligence) product."
Asked to give his opinion about whether the Soviets are seeking military superiority over the United States, Bush said: "There are some worrisome signs that are being looked at very, very closely - worrisome signs that are being reviewed with a ferocity, or an intensity, this year that weren't examined with the same intensity last year."