Former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger joined Central Intelligence Agency Director Gen. Michael Hayden yesterday in Gaston Hall to kick off a symposium on the life of former CIA director Richard Helms.

Kissinger delivered the keynote address in the first session of the symposium, reflecting on his experiences in U.S. intelligence and the legacy of Helms’ service.

“It means a great deal to me to be invited to make some remarks about my friend Dick Helms,” Kissinger said. “His service was impeccable [and] a credit to our country.”

Hayden, who was the keynote speaker of the second session, focused on the prominent role that Helms played in shaping the modern intelligence community.

“Richard Helms, perhaps more than anyone at that office, has made a lasting influence [on the CIA],” he said.

Hayden further described Helms as the “first truly modern CIA director” and credited him for opening up the lines of communication between the CIA and the American public.

The symposium, hosted by Georgetown University Library Associates, the Georgetown University Center for Peace and Security Studies and the CIA, complemented the opening of the exhibit “Richard Helms: A Life in Intelligence,” located on the fifth floor of the Lauinger Library in the Gunlocke Room.

Helms’ wife, Cynthia, made the exhibition possible by recently donating personal papers, photos and other items to the university that had belonged to Helms, who passed away in 2002.

During the symposium, Kissinger also discussed the difficulties etched in to the intelligence community – particularly the challenges the intelligence community faced during Helms’ tenure.

“What a layman will find hard to understand when they read about CIA directors and CIA activities is the amount of work that has to be done by the agency,” he said. “I have always regretted, and publicly regretted, the manner in which these patriotic people were vilified by events – the purpose of which was to protect American security and none of which reflected any selfish motives.”

The former secretary of state added that Helms later became mired in this sort of controversy.

“Of course, Dick became a victim of this toward the end of his career,” Kissinger added.

Helms was convicted of lying to Congress over CIA undercover operation activities in 1977, and was sentenced to the maximum fine and a suspended two-year prison sentence.

Hayden spoke about his own experiences as the current CIA head, emphasizing the importance of its role in government and in foreign policy.

Unlike policymakers, though, Hayden drew the distinction that intelligence officials have the responsibility of finding the tough and often unpopular answers.

“We only get the hard [questions], the ones surrounded in secrecy,” he said. “Even when we are at the top of our game, we can provide policy advice with insight, with context, but we cannot guarantee absolute certainty of our insight.”

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