CIA's Panetta Shakes up His Spy Corps

The CIA director is working to make the agency more agile and quick to respond.

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In a major shift to reinvigorate the post-9/11 spy world inside the Central Intelligence Agency, Director Leon Panetta has decided to change how the agency's National Clandestine Service operates, potentially impacting up to half the CIA's workforce. The shift is part of Panetta's long-range "CIA 2015" reorganization plan and should make the agency much more agile and quick to respond in the war on terror and other national security flare-ups.

Up until now, the NCS, created after 9/11 out of the old CIA Directorate of Operations to focus on human intelligence, covert operations, and spy recruiting, had divided officers into regions of the world or issue-focused centers. That means that those assigned to cover Latin America, for example, spent their career on issues there. Under the new plan, the NCS will retain those divisions but allow the nation's spies to move more easily from one group, issue, or region to another when needed.

One intelligence insider told Whispers, "These changes will enable to NCS to move its people to where they're needed most, whether it's to fight terrorism or to focus on an emerging hot spot." According to our insider, the change is being welcomed by clandestine operatives, who see it as a natural step away from the CIA's Cold War past—where officers would spend entire careers watching the USSR—to a more agile agency.

It's also seen as a morale booster for those spies who want the flexibility to move around the globe.

It is just the latest effort by Panetta to improve the efficiency and work environment at the agency. Panetta has also moved to make the super-secret agency a bit more accessible to the public to bolster the CIA's image. Just this week, for example, the agency announced that it was adding links on the CIA.gov homepage to social media sites like YouTube and Flickr. "The idea behind these improvements is to make more information about the agency available to more people, more easily," Panetta said. "The CIA wants the American people and the world to understand its mission and its vital role in keeping our country safe."

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