RELIGIOUS GROUPS expressed concern February 22 about a loophole in CIA rules that allows the U.S. spy agency to use clergy and missionaries, as well as journalists and Peace Corps workers, for covert work overseas.
The rules forbid the CIA from hiring or establishing any intelligence relationships “with any U.S. clergy or missionary whether or not ordained, who is sent out by a mission or church organization to preach, teach, heal or proselytize.” But the Washington Post has reported that a little-noticed provision within those rules allows the CIA director to waive the ban in extraordinary circumstances.
The rules covering CIA recruitment of missionaries were adopted in 1977 after an intense campaign by religious and civil liberties groups. The groups had raised objections to disclosures that the CIA had used clergy, journalists and academics in covert operations.
Religious groups across the theological spectrum sharply criticized the loophole provision allowing the CIA to establish working relationships with missionaries, contending that such a move could endanger the lives of church workers in politically sensitive situations and undermine efforts at reconciliation and conflict resolution.
World Vision, which has several hundred Americans overseas at any given time, declared in a statement that it often cooperates with government agencies but “forbids its staff to have any relationship with, or provide information to, any intelligence service or agency. The use of even one missionary to gather intelligence can cast suspicion on all Christian workers, foreign or national.”
How many pastors and missionaries working in the jungles of Orissa, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh are CIA agents? How many of them are directing the Maoists and offering them strategic guidance? Who is providing the Maoists with training manuals of the American army? Why did US establish consulates at Chennai and Hyderabad? Why did it bypass Bangalore and chose Hyderabad instead for its new consulate?