The Pike committee bumped into an embrassing sliver of the iceberg last year when it wrote in its final report on the Central Intelligence Agency:
"Taxpayer monies were spent to provide heads of state with female companions . . . "
The annoymous allusion was to Jordan's King Husseing, who, The Washington Post disclosed yesterday has been getting secret annual payments from the CIa totaling millions of dollars over the past 20 years.
The now defunt House intelligence committee headed by Rep. Otis G. Pike (D.N.Y.) never realized that. The interim Senate intelligence committee under Frank Church (D-Idaho) didn't know it either. The permanent Senate Intelligence Committee headed by Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) will not, true to form, even say what it knew, but it clearly knew less than was printed.
When it comes to the nation's intelligence community, the quality of congressional oversight is still highly strained. In the case of the CIA, Congress still wants, deep down, not to know too much.
The cash payments to King Hussein, which began in 1957 under President Eisenhower and totaled some $750,000 last year under President Ford, are simply the latest illustration of that premeditated ignorance. No one on Capitol Hill seems to have asked just the right questions. And despite all the promised reforms of the last three years, the CIA always has been loath to volunteer answers.
The Pike committee came clos - close enough, in the view of some of its investigators, that it should have been told. According to informed sources, the inquiry did turn up, for example, the CIA-financed companioship between Hussein and a young Jewish woman that reportedly blossomed for a time into intercontinent of romance.
Aaron Donner, who was chief counsel for the House committee, won't talk about that, but he does feel that the committee went "into the question of payments and other favors and gifts to heads of state sufficiently that, while the question (of annual payments to Huessin) was not asked specifically, the failure to supply such information would be in the nature of withholding information."
The House investigation often encountered such frustrations, all the more so because Chairman Pike steadily refused to let the CIA whisper secrets for his ears only. Donner elaborated:
"When we stumbled on things - and 'sutmbled' is literally the work - we would then open up areas, but the areas opened up by virtue of indirection almost. We would come across certain operations, if you will, by virtue of an investigator seeing a list of merchandisc purchased and wondering why they purchased so much in that time frame."
The payments to Hussein were not unique. "We were told in some instances of (regular payments to) other heads of state," Donner recalls. "Some had ceased and some were apparently on going. The exact mechanism can vary, but ultimate someone winds up with a bundle of cash."
So why wasn't the committee told of Hussein?
"I can't imagine," Donner replied, "except for the fact that in most of the other instances where we found out, we asked a specific question where they had to sya yes or no. We did not draw up a list of heads of state all over the world and submit it to them.I guess we should have."
Despite the limited discoveries which it bowdlerized in its final report, the House ordered even that suppressed - and then launched an expensively inconclusive investigation when it leaked out anyway. The episode left Pike, for one, more disappointed about the quality of congressional oversight than about the CIA's lack of candor.
"I read the (Hussein) story with interest but bot astoundment," Pike said yesterday.
"If Congress had been made aware or if our committee has been made aware of theis particular thing, then we would have have had to share in the responsibility of deciding whether it was right or wrong. That kind of responsibility is not eagerly grasped by the Congress and that is why we don't have much oversight.
"I said all through our hearings I wasn't sure we had the stomach for real oversight, because real oversight involves sharing responsibility instead of just second-guessing when thing go wrong."
no one at the Senate Intelligence Committee had anything to say about the Hussein disclosure.
"We looked into covert actions in six different countries, but Jordan wasn't one of them". one Senate the obligation or necessity (for the committee ) to be informed world-wide."
Under legislation enacted in 1974 the CIA was required by statute to report its covert operations in a timely fashion to "the appropriate committee of the Congress."
It's subjective as hell, I know,' said one source, but if they were doing little thing', they weren't reported."
Pike observed, "According to your story, Priesident Ford was advised (about the money for Hussein) and made a judgement that it was not wrong. That judgement would not be my judgement, but still that is the kind of responsibility we (in the Congress) tend to be happy to leave to others.'