Judging Spies and Eyes

During the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, a youthful intelligence officer frequently appeared before U.S. officials and reporters and traced the Soviet missile bases on huge blowups of aerial photographs taken over Cuba. So it was perhaps fitting that the same man—John T. Hughes, now 54 and a deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency—picked up his pointer again to conduct last week's briefing on Nicaragua's military buildup. Hughes' performance was professionally impressive, yet questions remained about the reliability of the evidence he was called upon to interpret.

The most solid evidence the...

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