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Senator Nunn. Director Webster, we appreciate you being here this morning, and you mentioned that your definition of defector is a narrow definition. We are using the term defector to cover a much broader group that you are. By your very definition, you are interested as an agency in what you call a defector; is that right?
Director WEBSTER. That is certainly true, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Nunn. There are a large number of people that don't meet that definition, and you call those resettlement cases.
Director WEBSTER. For purposes of this discussion, I do.
Senator Nunn. How do you go about drawing the line between those, and how much screening do you do of the resettlement cases to determine if, indeed, they meet the definition of defector?
Director WEBSTER. I think we have a kind of working definition of defectors, partly influenced by the statutes which permit us to take special action with respect to getting permanent status for them.
It is more a process, I think, of elimination. We are interested in those who have potential intelligence value to the United States. We are interested in those whose information may be important to us in national security terms and to a lesser but, nevertheless, important degree, we are interested in identifying and processing those who have a potential political value to the United States government.
It may not be our responsibility to exploit that, but at least in the process of identifying those individuals, we look for such things. Beyond that and at the other extreme are the large numbers of emigres who are over here simply to lead private lives, who had no special information, who are of no particular individual political view, and for whom we have no charter of responsibility.
Senator Nunn. What I guess I am getting at, is there a sifting process so that on one end comes out a few people you are interested in, but in terms of looking for those people, you sift through an awful lot of information about thousands of others?
Director WEBSTER. We do sift, but we don't undertake or represent that we start at the other extreme and that we screen each individual emigre coming to this country. I think that's outside our charter or outside our resources and our capability.
To the extent that we have identified those we are interested in, of course, they get very special attention. The entire intelligence community is alerted in various ways to identify those coming in.
Whether or not that sifting process can be improved, I can't say at the present time. It depends a lot upon resources and our ability to function with other agencies. I suspect there is room for improvement.
Senator Nunn. For example, we have heard in the staff statement that there was a Polish commercial attaché in Angola that had never been interviewed by the government. If that is accurate—and you may want to reflect on your records and come back to us with your own records of that-but if that is accurate, you would think that at least that individual would have been put through some sifting process before a decision was made that that individual was not, indeed, what you would call a defector.
Director WEBSTER. I can't comment on that in this forum, Mr. Chairman, but I will certainly agree that likely candidates should be carefully sifted or vetted before they come to the United States or in the process of their coming.
Senator Nunn. We also heard about Ethiopian Ambassadors not having been interviewed, former Ethiopian Ambassadors, by anybody in government. It seems to me just on the face of it, those would be the type people that you want to at least make some deliberate decision about.
Director WEBSTER. I would be very much surprised to hear that an ambassador from an important country that we were very much interested in was not interviewed. Certainly, it should be done.
Senator Nunn. What we will do is furnish you with some of the information we have for you to cross check it and get back to us, and we will keep classified wherever these are classified.
Director WEBSTER. Fine.
Senator Nunn. But I would like to know more about your process and, for instance, if 100 people are deemed defectors a year, how many people would have been put in that category of resettlement cases and how many of those resettlement cases would have been given at least preliminary screening to determine if some of them appropriately fitted in the definition of defector.
Can you tell us without going into any details or particulars of the case what has come about after the Yurchenko case within the CIA?
Director WEBSTER. Yes, I think I can, Mr. Chairman. Much of what I say is covered by, would ordinarily be covered by classified restrictions, so I have to say only in the most broadest terms. There were a number of inquiries, both internal and external, within the Executive Branch and of course, the questions were asked and responded to in the Congress.
There has been a substantial increase in the numbers of officials, officers, intelligence officers assigned to this work, a shift in emphasis and attitude that I think is positive and constructive, and I can assure you that I will be watching this very carefuly in the future because the defectors that we are able to recruit can be of enormous value to us, and any loss of them is a potential major loss to American security.
Senator NUNN. Do you believe that the subcommittee staff has testified this morning that outside this what you would call the narrow category of defectors, that there is a vacuum that exists in terms of governmental assistance for this program through private agencies or governmental direct involvement? Do you perceive a vacuum here?
Director WEBSTER. There certainly appears to be one.
Senator Nunn. Do you have any particular thoughts on the subject as to what the U.S. Government should do, if anything, in this area?
Director WEBSTER. I think your staff has tendered up some pretty good suggestions. Clearly, we know from our own experience in dealing withour own defectors that contact and caring are not intermittent, but, rather, constant, as indicated. Self-respect and self-esteem are very important to gifted people who come to this country, and for them to be shut out from the professional level of their society simply because no one is paying attention is a potential loss to our country in not having the information, the insights and the intelligence that they can bring to bear in our behalf.
Senator Nunn. So you believe there is a more vigorous role for the government in this respect?
Director WEBSTER. I think that is a policy issue that you have to confront in how much government is involved here, but these private agencies are doing heroic work on very limited resources. This is sort of like the difference between raising money in a university for the medical school and the dental school. Very few people die of toothaches.
I think the same problem is present in private funding for defectors. It is not a universally-understood problem that results in their getting sufficient resources, coordination or even access to information from the government that would help them in their work. So I think better coordination and funding it to the extent it can be made available is in order.
Senator NUNN. Senator Roth?
Senator Roth. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Later on in these hearings, it is my understanding that we will hear testimony from witnesses about incidents of harassment of defectors.
I wonder how great a problem this is and to what extent it depends on the country of origin.
Director WEBSTER. It is a problem. I am trying, I am groping to answer the question about from where they come. We do know that there is a considerable amount of this coming from Soviet and Soviet Bloc countries, particularly directed to those emigres who leave family members behind.
Unlike our society, we can stand up to someone deciding to leave home and go somewhere else, those family members can be, in turn, subjected to considerable harassment. Their pensions can be suspended; their jobs may not be available to them. They may lose various types of seniority.
They may not be able to stay in particular housing that had been made available to them, and the emigre over here is painfully aware of all of these techniques that can be brought to bear against their family members, so that these letters, communications, and even people within the emigre community who have somehow aligned themselves back home for reasons of their own, can bring a great deal of pressure to bear on them.
Senator Roth. Is part of the harassment with the individual residing in America? Do the Soviets harass directly the people here, or is it primarily, would you say, treatment directed to the defector's family back home?
Director WEBSTER. I think with the Soviet and Soviet Bloc countries, it is my recollection that that system does far more subtly than through official harassment, but official harassment is possible in various ways, and I guess I probably just can't talk about it in detail here.
Senator Roth. Could you comment as to what the purpose of the harassment is?
Director WEBSTER. In some cases, it is to assure that they do not become of value to the United States. In other cases, it is to discourage movement. This is hard for us to understand in this country, where the right to move, the right to travel is a very treasured right, and it is one of the reasons why we react so violently to terrorist attacks around the world; it interferes with our right to leave and to travel.
When you see the defenses along the border between East and West Germany with the barbed wire pointing in to keep their own people in, you understand we are dealing with a different kind of culture than we have in this country.
And they simply do not like to have their people, as a general principle, leave.
Senator Roth. I would assume perhaps another purpose is to try to get them to redefect back to the homeland.
Director WEBSTER. Certainly. That is a major political propaganda victory whenever people return home. There is also something I think I could mention in general terms but can't discuss in detail here. It is an avenue for recruting intelligence services from those who are unable to resist the pressure of what may happen back home.
Senator Roth. Do you have any recommendations about what we might do to try to reduce or minimize the number of redefectors?
Ďirector WEBSTER. I think some of the suggestions that the staff report contained are worthy ones. I think we need, perhaps, better means of assuring that the emigres, the resettlement people, find their way into the American world-I am talking about the melting pot of this country-instead of having to rely exclusively on the little clusters of settlements of people who speak their language and who can talk to them but may not be of much help to them, because they often share the same problems and, occasionally, the same disillusionment.
We need more people with language skills who can get in there and be helpful to them; ways in which they can find their way out into our society. I mentioned a few areas where better educated people can find their way more quickly into our society and make useful contributions.
There are other people who are here without those skills that, nonetheless, could make good citizens if they have the means to become Americans instead of emigres living in America.
Senator Roth. My last question, Mr. Chairman. I understand that sometimes defectors are not debriefed by our government. Why is this? Are we failing to utilize an untapped source of intelligence because of such failures?
Director WEBSTER. Senator Roth, if you are referring to the broader group of people rather than the intelligence-oriented defectors-
Senator Roth. I was.
Director WEBSTER (continuing). Who were very carefully briefed and extensively and over long periods of time, the only thing I can say is that the State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service have their rules and procedures and also their cost limitations on what they can do. There may be shortfalls and gaps in that area; I am not prepared to comment on them.
We try to maintain an interface so that any individuals who may not have come through us but have come through in other ways become identified by those agencies who have the primary responsibility for immigrants. They find that they do contact us and let us get into the picture or the FBI, whichever is an appropriate agency.
Senator Roth. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Director, we are dealing a little bit with semantics. As I understand it, we in the subcommittee are using the term "defector" broadly, and as far as the agency is concerned, there is a difference between a resettlement case and a defector.
[At this point, Senator Roth withdrew from the hearing room.)
Senator SASSER. Let me ask you this, for purposes of my own information. Let's take the case of a famous ballerina who leaves the troupe in New York. Would she be classified as a defector or a resettlement case?
Director WEBSTER. Well, for the purpose of our providing fast or expedited relief under the statutes that we have, the two particular statutes, I doubt very much that she would be considered a defector
a for purposes of those statutes unless she also had some intelligence value to us.
On the other hand, if there is a major artistic star of world renown, her reasons for defecting are of obvious interest to us and have great potential value for sending a signal to the rest of the world about the differences between our free society and their closed society.
So that I am confident that she would be and should be given very close and supportive attention by the proper agencies. It probably would not be the FBI or the CIA.
Senator SASSER. A fair characterization, I suppose, would be if an ambassador from an Eastern Bloc country left, he would be classified as a defector.
Director WEBSTER. I think that is certainly true, because there is an obvious person who is a representative of that government who is now choosing.
Senator SASSER. That would have sensitive information.
Senator SASSER. Then a Jewish refusenik, who came out under legal procedures, will certainly be a resettlement case.
Director WEBSTER. I think that is true. He may or may not have information, and if he did, depending on his background and work history, he could be brought within the category of defectors.
Senator SASSER. And a determination would be made at that time as to whether he would fall into a category in which he would be interviewed and debriefed to a certain extent?
Director WEBSTER. That is right.
Senator SASSER. Using the term “defector” generically, as we are using it here in the subcommittee, and in so doing, we lump in both defectors with sensitive political information and those who come out and who had a more mundane career in the Soviet Union. What is the biggest problem that these defectors here in the United States, in your judgment?
Director WEBSTER. I mentioned a number of others, a number of them in my earlier statements. This is my own personal opinion,