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November 18, 2004
Time to Spy

According to the USA Today, CIA Director Porter Goss told the new chief of operations to be aggressive. Sounds like a cheer from my high school cheerleading days . . . Be aggressive! Be, be aggressive! But I digress.

Seriously, what have our spies been doing if not spying? Well, theres been tell-all books to write and a Kerry campaign to support with dramatically-timed leaks. Theyve been much too busy to actually spy on our enemies and need a well-placed boot in the [explicative deleted]. Granted, there are many hard-working, self-sacrificing, patriotic agents out there, but the agency as a whole has been ineffective and lately, almost treasonous.

A source tells the USA Today that Goss new espionage plan involves deploying undercover officers to penetrate terrorist groups and rogue states such as North Korea and Iran. The paper reports:

The risky new strategy would be a sharp departure from the CIA's traditional style of human intelligence, in which field officers under flimsy cover as diplomats in U.S. embassies try to recruit foreign spies and gather tips from allied intelligence services. Those methods don't work with terror groups or in countries where the United States has no embassies, such as prewar Iraq or present-day North Korea and Iran.

The new strategy is dangerous - agents could gather much better information but would run a much higher risk of being killed if found out. Goss hinted at this strategy during his confirmation hearing and has told agency officials it is key to his effort to revamp the agency to meet new and unconventional threats.

Former CIA agent Reuel Marc Gerechts Weekly Standard article from July 2004 is instructive when it comes to shaking up the intelligence service. (Hat tip: Belmont Club) He offers the following concrete suggestions for reform:

Successful espionage operations against al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist organizations would be defined by the efforts of a small group of men who seed themselves into these organizations. Some, probably most, of these men would need to be actual case officers--CIA employees--not foreign agents the CIA has recruited. The complexity of the task, target, and culture demands a level and reliability of information that would come much more easily from case officers acting as jihadists. The CIA will be a serious espionage organization ready for the twenty-first century only when its professional ranks are dominated in numbers and influence by such officers, who operate far away from U.S. embassies and consulates.

This means the days of operating under State Department cover are over, at least for some agents. But counter espionage is just not suited for the average CIA recruit, and this will demand a change in hiring practices.

The entire system for finding, training, and deploying overseas case officers of this type needs to be completely overhauled. The "farm," the legendary training ground for case officers in the woody swamps of Virginia, ought to be abandoned. It has never had much relevance to the practice of espionage overseas. It is a symbol of the Agency's lack of seriousness. This new cadre needs to be a breed apart. Their operational half-life in the field might be at most ten years. It is hard to imagine them married and with kids. It is also hard to imagine their coming into being unless these jihadist moles are well paid. A starting salary of a quarter of a million dollars a year would be reasonable. Outsiders will know such a change is afoot when there are rumors of case officers' regularly dying abroad.

There are many young, physically courageous and loyal Americans, and its up to the CIA to seek them out and employ them. But this cant be a politically-correct process, especially when it comes to infiltrating Islamic terrorists groups. The CIA will have to recruit young men of Arab origin instead of white women from Ivy League grad schools.

This change is long, long overdue. Better late than never, though.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Whiskey at November 18, 2004 7:30 PM

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