Let me be very clear–we need a clandestine service that collects intelligence from foreign nationals who occupy key positions in their respective governments. That was supposed to be the mission of the CIA, but it is failing and the failures are killing people who thought we would protect them. It is time for the CIA to be dismantled and a new organization that knows how to properly protect foreign spies be created.
The New York Times broke the story on Tuesday, October 5:
Top American counterintelligence officials warned every C.I.A. station and base around the world last week about troubling numbers of informants recruited from other countries to spy for the United States being captured or killed, people familiar with the matter said.
The message, in an unusual top secret cable, said that the C.I.A.’s counterintelligence mission center had looked at dozens of cases in the last several years involving foreign informants who had been killed, arrested or most likely compromised. Although brief, the cable laid out the specific number of agents executed by rival intelligence agencies — a closely held detail that counterintelligence officials typically do not share in such cables.
The primary mission of the Central Intelligence Agency is to convince foreign government, military and intelligence officials to betray their country and give us their most sensitive intelligence. We want to know what the human beings who are in ruling other countries are really thinking. We want to know if they are trying to destroy us.
The individuals who are recruited by a CIA Case Officer to give us the inside dope are dubbed as assets of the CIA. If their relationship with the CIA is discovered by their own government they are traitors and are treated accordingly. This usually means the spy is executed.
The CIA is doing a terrific job of protecting itself and hiding its failures. The NY Times article, which details many of the failings, is more prima facie evidence that the CIA cannot protect its supposed secrets:
It would behoove them to all come back home and point the search lights in. A high rate goods beings compromised in a common box store with good cameras and security means only one thing; It’s your own “valued” employees.
CIA loves publicity. It lives in its own dream of James Bond style notoriety. They have lost the basic skills involved in recruiting and running agents. These skills are transmitted from one generation to another while in service. If the chain of familial teaching is broken, it is pretty much impossible to recreate. The US needs a small clandestine intelligence service dedicated, not to liaison with foreign services, but to making recruitments of of key foreign personnel who can provide information that is hidden from SIGINT and overhead IMINT, basically intentions at the national leadership level. All of that is needed for strategic analysis. That does NOT mean that the US needs CIA.
Apologies for going slightly off topic. This made my (jar)head hurt, so I would appreciate thoughts from you “worthies.”
SLI – Self Licking Ice Cream is what they should have named CIA to begin with.
Was the CIA every really an INTELLIGENCE organisation?
Or was it always a dirty tricks organisation pretending to be an intelligence organisation?
It was modeled on the SOE an then OSS. Question answered?
As I thought. Alan Dulles hanging around in Switzerland dreaming of making history.
Good article, Larry. I agree with everything you said. Here’s a few of my observations.
The CIA’s problems in clan ops does extend back a long way. Their emphasis on liaison ops over unilateral ops is at least 30 years old. My team in Germany had several German nationals targeting the USSR and then Russia. The only time I was ever in an embassy was when I was summoned to Bonn by the CIA to explain why we were running unilateral ops with German nationals. It was a long and contentious meeting with mostly a pack of assholes, but we were allowed to continue our ops unilaterally. I had the same problem when 3 of my agents were in London at the same time. I didn’t send them or task them, but Bonn was in a tizzy again. I convinced them that my agents were not there operationally and they remained undeclared to MI-6. Two of them ended up providing some excellent reporting when I debriefed them. Untasked, of course.
After 9/11, the CIA was all about “capture-kill.” Between liaison ops and capture-kill ops, clan intelligence collection took another hit. The GWOT also caused a drop in our ability to conduct clan ops and employ proper tradecraft. We became dependent on shallow official cover and interpreters.
Conducting clan ops out of an embassy and using official cover offers unprecedented access to high value leads, but I believe it’s also limiting. We, in Army clan intel (except those Colonel Lang and his compadres ran), were never allowed to use official cover. Our ops all began in commercial cover. Our access to quality leads was limited so we had to be doubly imaginative in our ops. The advantage was that we were far more quiet and secure in our ops. We even learned to recruit and run agents while remaining in commercial cover. Of course, we had no diplomatic immunity, either. Our agents’ asses were always on the line, but ours were also on the line to a lesser extent.
Finally, technology has dealt a heavy blow to clan ops. Gone are the days when we could operate in Europe in cash. Coin pay hones are gone. Cameras are everywhere. Smart phones are everywhere. Fenster Omas and local police were our biggest concern. Using computers and the internet brought huge changes to agent communications. Those changes weren’t all good. Those common systems lead to the roll up of a lot of agents in Iran and China. Non-technical commo is just so tedious to new case officers. We recruited many agents just to support this non-technical commo with our agents in denied areas.
Technology also offers new opportunities. I was one of the pioneers in conducting online ops. That began back in the days of BBSs and FIDONet. Those were good days. Cover is totally different as is the idea of recruiting and running sources. Targets are also different. But these ops work and work well.
In my 71 years in this earth these clowns have brought me at least the Bay of Pigs, the Missile/Bomber Gap, JFK, WMD in Iraq, drug running through Mena,Ar, and I’ve forgotten the rest.
I recall vividly the slick paper 50+ page backgrounder describing the new Soviet programs, weapons, industrial production etc that required immediate action or the world as we know it would end. This was on my desk as the telescreen in the USN command center 50 feet away showed the Red Hammer and Sickle flag being hauled down from the Kremlin flagstaff. It takes Ivy Leaguers to miss this badly.
George Smiley, pls call your office!