Title: InSIDer's View of History: Testifying Before Congress... Who Turned Out the Lights?

Release Date: 2016-12-07

Document Date: 2004-05-10

Description: The deputy director of SID shares an anecdote from 1986 about being nervous while testifying before a closed session of Congress for the first time. He was testifying about the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty.


(U) InSIDer's View of History : Testifying Before Congress... Who
Turned Out the Lights?
FROM: Charlie Meals
Signals Intelligence Deputy Director
Run Date: 05/10/2004
FROM: Charlie Meals
Signals Intelligence Deputy Director
(U//FOUO) When I was asked to contribute a story
from my career for this SID today series, the
incidents I remembered the best were the ones
that were rather comical! One that immediately sprang to mind
took place in 1986, when I was NSA's SINIO for Strategic Programs
& Arms Control.
(U//FOUO) At the time, the U.S. and Soviets had negotiated the
Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which was
groundbreaking in that it was the first treaty to bring about the
complete elimination of an entire class of nuclear weapons, and the
first-ever agreement which would permit "on-site inspectors" from
each country to monitor the other country's compliance. This
treaty was highly controversial and deemed extremely important
by the Reagan Administration; consequently the oversight for
support in stewarding this treaty through the legislative process
was extremely tight... nothing would be left to chance and all
efforts would be carefully orchestrated.
(U//FOUO) Congressional approval was expected to be a significant
challenge and the Intelligence Community had the charge of
ensuring that compliance could indeed be verified. To assist them
in their deliberations leading to a vote on ratification, Congress
called for closed-door hearings with the heads of the Intelligence
Agencies. The NSA Director, LTG Odom, was summoned, along
with the heads of DIA (Lt Gen Perroots), INR (Ambassador
Abramowitz), and the DCIA (Judge Webster). General Odom, never
one to conform when he had a better idea, made it known that he
didn't want to testify, and informed Ralph Adams, NSA's Legislative
Affairs Chief, that the SINIO for Strategic Programs & Arms Control
(that was me) would go in his place. To make this relatively lowranking bureaucrat acceptable for this forum, the ever-resourceful
Mr. Adams decided that I should be given an important-sounding
title, and I was subsequently dubbed the "NSA Director for Arms
(U//FOUO) It was my job to draft the NSA testimony that would
focus in great detail on our ability to monitor compliance with the
provisions of the treaty. It was a lengthy and complex statement
and when it was done, it was also my job to coordinate and gain
approval not only within NSA, but also from the Secretary of
Defense. Once I completed the NSA coordination gauntlet I took it
to the Pentagon for Secretary Weinberger's approval. I never
actually met him, but did cool my heals in his outer office for an
extended period of time while he presumably read and approved
every detail of the text.
(U//FOUO) When the day came to appear before the committee it
actually turned out to be a joint session of the Senate Select

(U) InSIDer's View of
History '04
1. InSIDer's View of
History ... A Lesson
in Personal
2. InSIDer's View of
History : How a Four
Star General Once
Waited for a Lowly
Captain to Finish
Eating Lunch
3. InSIDer's View of
History : In SHAPE,
In France
4. InSIDer's View of
History : 'Soviet
Rocket' Strikes
5. InSIDer's View of
History: Onboard Air
Force Two Bound for
6. InSIDer's View of
History : Testifying
Before Congress...
Who Turned Out the
7. InSIDer's View of
History : Resourceful
NCOs at Goodfellow
8. InSIDer's View of
History : Desert One
- The Iranian
Hostage Rescue
9. InSIDer's View of
History : SIGINT
Appearing in the
10. InSIDer's View of
History : Meeting
President Reagan
11. InSIDer's View of
History : 'Local
Support' as Stress

Committee for Intelligence and the Senate Armed Forces
Committee. I admit to being more than a little nervous - We
entered the SSCI secure briefing room, which is aptly called the
"Vault" and actually has a huge, bank style vault door and I was
even more intimidated. Seated around the room were very famous
people I had previously only seen on TV; including John Glenn, Dan
Quayle, Sam Nunn, Bill Bradley, David Boren and William Cohen,
among others. After I was shown to my seat at the table reserved
for testimony, I introduced myself to a very pleasant man seated
next to me who identified himself as Bill Webster (also known as
the DCI Judge William Webster). After a short exchange of
pleasantries and small talk, he introduced me to the other
members of his "Team" - the Director of DIA and INR.
(U//FOUO) What happened next has almost nothing to do with the
proceedings, but was very interesting and humorous. One of the
"Team" who will remain unnamed, abruptly and somewhat urgently
asked for his briefcase. The entire back row energized and very
quickly there was a scuffling noise in the corner and a briefcase
appeared, and it was passed hand-to-hand over people's heads
until it reached the VIP Team member. I fully expected him to pull
some highly sensitive papers out, but instead he took the briefcase
placed it on the chair and sat on it, presumably to have a better
view of the surroundings from a more lofty perch.
(U//FOUO) Next, the CIA Legislative Affairs Officer approached the
witness table and announced that there had been a change of plan:
Judge Webster would testify, and the rest of us would sit in the
back row. When I conveyed the change of plans to the SSCI staff
chief, a Mr. George Tenet, he said something like "over my dead
body" and quickly put the kibosh on that idea and after a short
discussion with the committee Chairman Senator Boren we were
quickly back to the original format. As the hearing began, a
number of people from NSA were watching the proceedings and
observing this august gathering; the joke that dominated the home
crowd was "We all recognize Charlie, but who are all those other
guys?" Meanwhile, people elsewhere in the Intelligence Community
were no doubt wondering who the unknown guy without curly hair
was sitting with the three Directors.
(U//FOUO) Judge Webster was first to testify and he read his
prepared text, which was rather long and some might say factual
but dry. Then Chairman Boren announced that the NSA Director for
Arms Control would speak. "That's me!" I remembered and as I
was about to begin, he said, "Mr. Meals I understand you have
some graphics to show us" (In those days NSA was rather famous
for always using very polished and elaborate graphics with their
presentations). He then instructed the staff to turn out the lights.
It was pitch dark in the vault - so dark, in fact, that I couldn't see a
word of my written testimony! What to do? I could ask them to
turn on the lights... or I could wing it. I decided to wing it.
(U//FOUO) The graphics appeared on the screen, and as if by
magic, words came out of my mouth describing the details behind
what everyone was seeing. I spoke completely off the cuff and to
my surprise, the Senators became very engaged and showed a
great deal of interest in how SIGINT would play in all of this. After I
finished the brief, there were a number of questions and comments
and to be honest, I must admit my initial anxiety had disappeared
and I was enjoying my "time on stage". While it appeared that my
extemporaneous remarks were well received, it also occurred to
me, that I might not have been totally precise in terms of the very
specific testimony I had approved by Secretary Weinberger. It was

12. In SID er's View of
History : Quite a
13. In SID er's View of
History : The
Adventure Continues
-- Evacuation from

at this point the cold sweat returned and I knew I could be in real
hot water. Fortunately for me, George Tenet came up to
congratulate me for presentation and I confided to him that I was
only "paraphrasing" my testimony and the recording would not
match what the SECDEF had approved. Coming to my rescue he
told me to relax and that he would simply submit a copy of the
written testimony for the record and I wouldn't get fired after all.
(U) I'm not sure that there's any real moral to this story, but I did
learn one important lesson: never bring slides along when
testifying before a closed session to Congress!
(U) ...and the rest of the story! The INF treaty was ratified, in no
small part because of the high level of confidence in verification
(i.e. intelligence). In the end this resulted in the destruction of an
entire class of nuclear weapons systems that were perceived by
both the Soviets and NATO as being extremely dangerous and a
hair trigger in many respect - all in all a good ending.
(U//FOUO) See other editions of InSIDer's View of History :
A Lesson in Personal Accountability
How a Four Star General Once Waited for a Lowly Captain to
Finish Eating Lunch
In SHAPE, In France
"Soviet Rocket" Strikes Chicksands
Onboard Air Force 2 Bound for Moscow
(U//FOUO) Do YOU have a story to tell? We want to hear it! Please
see the kickoff article for details.

"(U//FOUO) SIDtoday articles may not be republished or reposted outside NSANet
without the consent of S0121 (DL sid_comms)."



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