Former CIA Director Deutch ’60 Speaks on Security
Issue   |   Wed, 11/02/2016 - 01:27

John M. Deutch ’60, former director of the CIA, spoke to a packed audience in Pruyne Lecture Hall on Saturday, Oct. 29. The event, which was part of Family Weekend, was open to students and their families and sponsored by the Amherst Political Union and the Office of Alumni and Parent Programs.

Deutch began his talk, titled “Classified: A Conversation with Former CIA Director John Deutch,” by speaking about the history of American intelligence, which he divided into the periods before and after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Before 9/11, he said, intelligence agencies had clear divisions of responsibility, with the FBI managing issues in peacetime and in the western hemisphere and the CIA managing all other issues. After 9/11, the distinctions between these agencies became more blurred.

President George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, which was supposed to have access to and be responsible for all American intelligence. Today, Deutch said, intelligence officers no longer expect secrets to remain secrets and must pay more attention to more electronic communications now.

Near the end of his talk, Deutch also spoke on major threats to the U.S., new technology, terrorism, Russia and ISIS.

In the question and answer session that followed, Deutch explained the issues of the Iraq invasion. The U.S., Deutch said, imagined an Iraqi “Jeffersonian democracy” that did not separate Shia and Sunni. According to Deutch, the U.S. should have chosen terms of engagement and, in advance, set conditions under which forces would withdraw.

In response to a question about women working in intelligence, he replied that the field includes many women, including in high ranks.

Asked about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Deutch said that Snowden damaged U.S. relations with foreign countries.

Another audience member asked if the Middle East was more volatile today than it was in the past. Deutch replied that the Middle East must be divided into distinct regions when talking about issues facing it and that treating it as an uniform entity is also problematic. He said that with such issues, the U.S. has wanted serious engagement — in this case, however, there was nothing that U.S. could do.

Deutch also spoke more about NATO. He opposed the idea of the organization expanding to Eastern European countries because if, for example, if Russia attacked Lithuania, then the U.S. would have to go to war.

On the nuclear threat from Russia, Deutch said that there is much less polarization between the U.S. and Russia today than during the Cold War, so the threat has decreased from its peak.

Patrick Friend ’20, who attended the talk, said that he enjoyed hearing about Deutch’s insights into relevant American issues today. “It was fascinating to hear Director Deutch’s unique insights as he offered up his opinions on domestic issues, foreign threats — and, of course, a few jabs at Williams,” Friend said.

David Atkins ’17, one of the presidents of the APU, said that the organization had been in contact with Deutch for a few years because of his political prominence. Following the talk, Atkins said that he was humbled by Deutch’s dedication to service and struck by his accomplishments.

“Hearing about the CIA would have made for a great event,” Atkins said. “But hearing about the CIA from someone like Director Deutch can’t be beat.”