THE CIA: An Old Salt Opens Up the Pickle Factory

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No one knows whether CIA spooks wind up in heaven or hell when they die, but wherever they are, they must be rattling their bones in protest. Barely a decade ago, almost no high officials in Washington talked directly about the Central Intelligence Agency. It was obliquely referred to as "the pickle factory" or "our friends" or "across the river" or, more openly, "the agency" or "the company." When the CIA's $46 million headquarters opened along George Washington Memorial Parkway in suburban Langley, Va., in 1961, the deceptive highway sign said only BPR, for Bureau of Public Roads. Even Soviet KGB agents laughed at that. Finally the sign was changed to read: CIA. Now candor has gone further. For the first time, a photographer—from TIME—has been allowed to take some pictures of the people and operations inside the pickle factory. Guided public tours of Langley may soon be held, if only on Saturdays, but agents unready to come in out of the cold will be warned to stay out of sight to avoid a happenchance recognition by touring friends.

Visitors will find that Langley looks much like other airport-modern Government office buildings. It has more guards than most (including some behind thick glass walls on the executive floor), more desktop boxes with various-colored covers to conceal their contents, more plastic wastebaskets whose contents are for burning, more locked cabinets, steel vaults and restricted areas. Tourists presumably will not see the more arcane laboratories, operations and communications centers, and photo-interpretation rooms.

The agency, hurt by revelations of its abuses of power both abroad and at home, is on a much needed public relations campaign. Of greater significance, the CIA is sailing on more open waters under its new director, Admiral Stansfield Turner, 53. As he told TIME Correspondents Strobe Talbott and Bruce Nelan in an interview, "We operate well when the public is well informed. The information we have which need not be classified should be in the public domain. The public has paid to get it."

In Turner's view, the CIA is indeed like a company. He says that it has "a product"—international information and analysis—which it should share with its "customers": the nation's military strategists, its civilian policymakers, headed by the President, and, at least in some instances, all Americans. Explains Turner: "I think we need to sell our product to our customers more, and I think we need to expand our service to other customers—including the public."

The notion that public relations is a legitimate CIA function worries many oldtimers. Though the agency has always had a p.r. official of some sort, it did not formally admit so, and he was rarely helpful to the press. But as the CIA was drawn into public controversies, the office became more professional and more open. Now p.r. is expanding to an 18-member staff under Herbert E. Hetu, a retired Navy captain.

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