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[infowar.de] CSM 24.04.02: Spy Networks Being Rebuilt For Terror War
Christian Science Monitor April 24, 2002
Spy Networks Being Rebuilt For Terror War
Head of military intelligence calls for 'more aggressive, offensive attitude.'
By Ann Scott Tyson, Special correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
WASHINGTON - Flooded with more than 60,000 applications since Sept. 11, the
Central Intelligence Agency and its Pentagon counterpart are beefing up the
ranks of spies reversing a decade of cutbacks to hire hundreds of new
recruits from Arabic speakers to counterterrorism experts.
The CIA plans to increase the number of "case officers" who work for the
agency's clandestine side the Directorate of Operations by 30 percent
over the next five years. Already, since September, it has doubled the
manpower of its counterterrorism center. The Pentagon is also enlarging its
corps of covert intelligence officers who specialize in gathering military
"We want to both expand and enhance our capabilities to go after tough
targets," says Vice Admiral Thomas Wilson, who heads the Pentagon's
intelligence effort and directs one of its largest wings: the Defense
Intelligence Agency (DIA). "We have a rush of people interested in applying
for jobs in the intelligence community it's true across the board," he
said in an interview.
The buildup reflects a dramatic shift of emphasis for the US intelligence
community from an imperfect, warnings-based approach to the terrorist
threat to a more robust, wartime offense, senior officials say. "The big
change for us is not only being concerned about warning and defending, but
how we put together the intelligence necessary to attack worldwide," says
Admiral Wilson, adding that future warning failures may be inevitable. "On
the collection side, a more aggressive, offensive attitude is important."
No overnight fix
Yet critics say the intelligence shortfalls symbolized by the successful
Sept. 11 attacks are symptomatic of deep, longstanding deficiencies in the
clandestine networks of the CIA and DIA, and improving their capabilities
will require more than a quick fix of new bodies and funds. Agents need
both exhaustive training and support to pursue difficult and obscure
targets for the long haul.
After the end of the cold war, US human-intelligence capability "HUMINT"
in spy talk atrophied. Since 1991, the CIA's manpower has fallen 20
percent, while the Pentagon's intelligence workforce has shrunk 33 percent,
from roughly 24,000 posts to 16,000. "From 1991 to 1998, we virtually
ceased hiring," says CIA spokesman Tom Crispell.
The Pentagon downsized its HUMINT services and consolidated them under DIA
in 1995. The move divorced the agents from their role of supporting
warfighters and "depleted morale," says a senior DIA official whose
identity is protected.
At the CIA, critics say a diminished Directorate of Operations grew
risk-averse and complacent, with some operatives filling quotas by
recruiting worthless field agents. The agency operated "less like a
hard-core intelligence organization and more like a back-channel State
Department," writes Bruce Berkowitz, a government intelligence consultant
and former CIA analyst.
"HUMINT is very important. It's something we ignored," says one
Meanwhile, agencies made dramatic technological leaps in gathering and
sharing intelligence, but these advances often overshadowed and outpaced
the work of spies and analysts.
Over the past decade, the quantity of data collected by satellites and spy
planes has surged. Moreover, the Pentagon has installed an elaborate
information-network including secure online links for thousands of
intelligence officials and users and a videoconferencing system connecting
hundreds of officials from the Secretary of Defense down to soldiers in the
field. The system allows for real-time sharing of maps, photos, and other
data, so disparate officials can collaborate on targeting, battle damage
assessment, and other analysis.
Deficiencies before Sept. 11
Yet, while more information is moving more places faster, progress in
understanding it has lagged behind. Analysts are "stretched too thin" to
mine it, Wilson says. As a result, the US spy service was ill-prepared to
counter an array of new, unconventional threats, including terrorism. In
Jan. 2001, for example, an official probe of the Oct. 2000 bombing of the
USS Cole in Yemen concluded that Pentagon intelligence priorities had
shifted from the cold war to emerging threats "only at the margins."
Today, with the overall US intelligence budget expected to rise 7 percent
in fiscal year 2002, the CIA and DIA are bolstering their ranks, poring
over hundreds of new online applications a week to find Americans with
everything from obscure language skills to chemistry backgrounds and MBAs.
Scores of ex-CIA veterans are back, Mr. Crispell says.
Yet nurturing skilled agents requires years of mentoring, and the CIA's
more aggressive approach, while welcome, is already leading to mishaps in
the field, says Robert Baer, a veteran Middle East operative who worked at
the CIA until 1997. "The CIA is taking many more risks now," he says. "A
lot of people are going out and making mistakes and being sent back to
So far, calls to centralize US intelligence-gathering by placing three
Defense Department agencies under the director of Central Intelligence have
been resisted by top Pentagon officials, who say more intelligence sources
are better. Says Wilson: "I don't see any need for a big reorganization."
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