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[infowar.de] LAT 04.03.03: Military Wants Its Own Spies
Los Angeles Times
Military Wants Its Own Spies
Moving onto the CIA's turf, the Pentagon is seeking a cadre of operatives
for global reconnaissance and the fight against terrorism.
By Greg Miller
Times Staff Writer
March 4, 2003
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is planning to assemble its own network of spies
who will be posted around the world to collect intelligence on terrorist
organizations and other military targets, moving squarely into a
cloak-and-dagger realm that has traditionally been the domain of the CIA,
according to Department of Defense officials familiar with the plans.
Officials said the aim is to form a deep roster of intelligence operators
capable of handling a range of assignments from reconnaissance for military
operations to long-term clandestine work in which Pentagon spies would
function like CIA case officers, working undercover to steal secrets and
The number of spies is expected to be in the hundreds, although officials
cautioned it could be years before a force that size is in position.
The program would be managed by the Defense Intelligence Agency, a
little-known Pentagon spy shop that mostly conducts intelligence analysis.
Recruits would be drawn from all four branches of the military, with an
emphasis on attracting those with special forces backgrounds. All would
undergo the same training as CIA case officers at the agency's southern
Virginia training facility for clandestine service, known in intelligence
circles as the Farm.
The effort stems in large part from frustration within the Pentagon over
the extent to which the military was forced to rely on the CIA in the
opening stages of the war in Afghanistan. It also reflects concern that
there are too few CIA officers deployed around the world, and that they are
not adequately focused on collecting intelligence that is useful to the
military, several officials said.
"The CIA doesn't have the number of assets to be doing what the secretary
of Defense wants done," said one Pentagon official familiar with the plans.
"This is a capability the secretary wants the Department of Defense to have."
Pentagon officials stressed that the plans are being pursued in close
coordination with the CIA, and that Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld
and CIA Director George J. Tenet have discussed the matter. Officials at
the agency declined to comment.
Still, the Pentagon effort marks a particularly aggressive incursion by the
military at a time when the Pentagon and the CIA are increasingly
encroaching on one another's turf.
"The predominant effort will be" with the CIA, said Richard L. Haver, a
special assistant to Rumsfeld on intelligence matters. But he and others
made it clear that the Pentagon wants its own people in global hot spots.
Alluding to the military's lack of presence in Afghanistan before the war
there began, Haver said, "We can't have a situation where the military sits
there in total ignorance."
Haver indicated that budgeting for the Pentagon spy program is already
taking shape. "I've seen budget lines, billet numbers, etc.," though he
declined to be more specific, saying he "wouldn't want to tell the enemy
too much about exactly what we're doing here."
Congressional aides said intelligence committee members in the Senate and
House have yet to see details of the plans. But they noted that there is
broad support among lawmakers for expansion of the nation's ability to
collect human intelligence an area identified as a major shortfall by
investigators of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Intelligence experts said the new program is a logical step at a time when
the Sept. 11 attacks and the ongoing terrorist threat have exposed
inadequacies in the nation's intelligence capabilities. But some said there
is also cause for caution.
"There is an institutional concern about locating intelligence functions in
a mission-oriented agency," said Steven Aftergood, an intelligence policy
analyst at the Federation of American Scientists, "because often the result
is you get intelligence that is influenced or deformed by the mission."
Though the CIA increasingly conducts its own paramilitary operations, the
agency's fundamental mission is to serve as an unbiased gatherer of
intelligence to inform policymakers. The Pentagon exists to carry out
operations, and may seek to gather intelligence that justifies those missions.
Recasting the old saying that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail,
Aftergood said, "when you've got a Stealth fighter, everything looks like a
Indeed, officials said a major objective of the new spy plan is to produce
more "actionable intelligence," a Pentagon buzzword for information leading
to military operations. Last year, Rumsfeld gave the U.S. Special
Operations Command which includes the Army Green Berets and the Navy SEALs
the lead among military organizations in the hunt for Al Qaeda.
The capture in Pakistan on Saturday of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, an Al Qaeda
leader, was a credit to the CIA and the FBI. But many in the spy community
say that Rumsfeld is frustrated with the performance of intelligence
agencies on a number of fronts, including the pace in finding other Al
Qaeda figures and the lack of information on the whereabouts of biological
and chemical weapons in Iraq.
Rumsfeld, who came into the job convinced of the need for significant
reform in the intelligence community, has engineered a number of spy
Last year, he pushed through Congress the creation of a new senior position
at the Pentagon, undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, that will have
broad authority over most of the 14 separate agencies that constitute the
Although the CIA director is nominally in charge of coordinating the
efforts of those agencies, the Pentagon controls about 85% of the nation's
spy spending, including the budgets of the Defense Intelligence Agency and
the National Security Agency.
Some see the move as an effort by Rumsfeld to consolidate control over the
nation's spy community at a time when some lawmakers, considering
post-Sept. 11 reforms, were pushing to give expanded authority to the CIA
The Pentagon has made other recent moves to challenge the CIA's influence.
Last year, the department set up a separate intelligence analysis unit to
study links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, at a time when the CIA was more
skeptical that there were such links.
But the CIA is also expanding into turf that has traditionally belonged to
the military. The agency is in the midst of a major expansion of its own
paramilitary force, known as the Special Operations Group, for which it
often lures away members of the military's special forces.
The CIA's firing of a hellfire missile on a car full of terrorist suspects
in Yemen in November also served as a reminder that the Pentagon no longer
has a monopoly on striking targets from the sky.
The military has always had human intelligence-collection capabilities,
traditionally built into each branch of the service. The various programs
were consolidated in the early 1980s into what is known as the Defense
Human Intelligence Service, a component of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Pentagon officials said the so-called Humint service now accounts for about
1,000 of the agency's 7,000 employees. But only a portion of the officers
in the service work overseas, and the vast majority of those are military
attaches diplomatic officials who work in embassies recognized by their
host countries, and overtly gather information on other nations' militaries.
A tiny fraction of those in the Humint service are covert or clandestine
operators, working undercover to steal secrets. That is the segment poised
for major expansion in a program run by Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton, director of
intelligence operations at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Dayton was
formerly a military attache in Moscow.
Officials said the plans reflect a recognition that the military had become
too reliant on satellite imagery, electronic intercepts and other technical
means of collecting information.
Officials said those techniques worked well during the Cold War but are of
limited use in penetrating terrorist networks that don't have tank columns
to track and can communicate by messenger or encrypted e-mail.
The CIA is in the midst of its own major expansion of its clandestine
service. Officials say recent recruiting classes have been among the
largest in agency history. Still, former CIA officials said there are
probably no more than 500 or so CIA case officers positioned around the
world. Pentagon officials said that simply isn't enough.
The consequences of the shortage came to a head in the early going in
Afghanistan, when the CIA had to dip into the ranks of retirees to find
officers to send to the country to link up with Northern Alliance leaders
and coordinate their efforts with U.S. air support.
The agency had "a cadre of people that could do that," Haver said. "The
problem was that cadre wasn't huge. You wanted to do X, Y and Z but found
out you couldn't get to Z because you didn't have enough assets to connect
up with the right people in the right way."
Even if there were an abundance of CIA case officers, Haver said they
aren't always focused on the military's priorities.
A network of spies drawn from the armed services "will know intuitively
what to look for," Haver said. "Instead of looking for how the economy is
performing, or whether the steel industry is producing advanced steel or
not, which is the sort of thing the CIA [collects], we're talking about
whether bridges can withstand" the weight of U.S. tanks.
Former CIA officers acknowledged that they rarely focused on collecting
intelligence of tactical value for the military, and that an expanded
roster of Pentagon spies could fill key gaps.
"Maybe that means getting eyes on some terrorist place in the Bekaa Valley
in Lebanon," one former official said. "Whereas we would try to recruit a
guy who sells fruit near the terrorist's house to give us a report on
what's going on there, these [Pentagon] guys would just go in there and
look at it from a soldier's perspective. When do the guards change? Who
goes in and out?"
An Arab American soldier might slip in and out of such locations disguised
as a tourist or dressed as a native. The problem may come, however, if the
military begins competing with the CIA for positions in U.S. embassies or
other cover arrangements in global trouble spots.
"You cannot just establish yourself in a country without having a reason to
be there," the former CIA official said. "What are they going to do? Set up
shop in Damascus? As what? The only cover we have in Damascus is the
embassy, and that's about the size of a breadbox."
Pentagon spies could pose as arms dealers or use other cover arrangements
to build contacts with warlords and strongmen around the world. But they
would likely be shunned by foreign intelligence services, many of which
quietly cooperate with the CIA but could not afford the political fallout
if their citizens learned they were linked to the U.S. military. As Haver
said, "Spying on them is one thing; dropping 2,000-pound bombs on their
heads is another."
The Pentagon's plan may also face internal, cultural impediments. As one
Pentagon official said, the long-standing view of many in the military has
been that the fastest course to advancement is to be a "trigger-puller,"
that is, directly involved in the execution of offensive operations.
Traditionally, military intelligence assignments have been considered
The detours could last a decade or longer if recruits for the new program
are required to undergo intelligence training and language training and
then be stationed for years in a far-off locale, the minimum time
commitment required to master cultural nuances and become an effective spy.
While Pentagon officials said the program is still in the planning stages,
the Defense Intelligence Agency is already making other changes to raise
its profile in the war on terrorism. The agency is recruiting a new
contingent of counter-terrorism analysts who have special forces training,
enabling them to work alongside commando units as they execute missions.
Special Forces units have always had intelligence officers in their ranks,
but the new analysts are said to be equipped to link directly to national
intelligence centers in suburban Virginia using secure satellite
communications and other technologies.
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