Remaking U.S. Intelligence - Part III: The Spies
One constant struggle is over how to deploy the community's precious "collection" assets. Satellites can cover only limited areas. An even scarcer resource is HUMINT, or human intelligencespies. It has been difficult to increase the number of CIA case officers much beyond about 1,200, sources say. "The challenge, of course, is that the resources that you have in today's world are heavily tilted at Iraq, Afghanistan, and the war on terrorism," says the DNI's Graham. When war broke out between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon this summer, for instance, DNI officials worried over whether they needed to shift already scarce human spies and satellites to cover the conflict.
To better marshal resources, the DNI appointed six "mission managers" to assess and try to fill intelligence gaps on the hardest targets, including one for Iran, one for North Korea, and one for Cuba and Venezuela. In the days after North Korea's recent nuclear test, the DNI put mission manager and CIA veteran Joseph DeTrani at the center of the developing crisis. Along with issuing a twice-daily intelligence summary, DeTrani served as a "traffic cop," coordinating analysis, briefing the White House, and tasking spies on what to target, says a senior intelligence official.
In the wake of the intelligence failures on 9/11 and Iraq's banned weapons programs, the CIA, FBI, and Pentagon intelligence agencies have been under pressure to raise their standards of tradecraft. The DNI's answer was to rename the CIA's storied Directorate of Operations the National Clandestine Service and expand its role in defining and monitoring spying standards across the intelligence community. At the same time, officials pushed for the creation of the new National Security Bureau at the FBI, to help integrate the law enforcement agency more fully into the intelligence community and enable it to better detect and counter domestic threats. One result: FBI agents are currently taking the months-long CIA case officer tradecraft course at the "Farm," the CIA's top-secret training campuswhere they are taught skills like detecting surveillance and recruiting clandestine sources. A fifth of the current entry-level training class at the Farm is today, in fact, made up of trainees from agencies other than the CIA.
But the new National Clandestine Service has its critics, who say that little has changed beyond the nameplate on the door. "The CIA is a player-coach when it comes to coordinating human operations," says a congressional staffer who works on intelligence issues. "When the CIA comes to your door to coordinate these issues, there is a lot of distrust and suspicion." CIA officials counter that they are working on a set of common standards for the community, on everything from the training curriculum to ensuring the quality of informantsone big reason for the faulty prewar intelligence on Iraq. DNI officials are also considering a controversial effort to create a registry of all the most sensitive clandestine sources in order to prevent overlap by different agencies.
Other concerns center on reports that the Pentagon is pushing into the CIA's traditional realm of overseas spying. Hayden strongly rejects any talk of ambiguity. "I'm the national HUMINT manager," he says, stressing that his role is to coordinate, evaluate, and "deconflict" human spying operations. "If you were collecting information from human beings for foreign intelligence purposes, you just slipped into the box that the national HUMINT manager governs." Hayden says the Pentagon has been working cooperatively with him. Stephen Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, agrees that after a year's hard work by both sides, the CIA's and Pentagon's spy programs are finding ways to coordinate better. "The battlefield is a crowded, chaotic place," Cambone says. "We did not want to have people falling over each other, competing for sources."
Recruiting poses another challenge. In the midst of a massive drive to shore up the ranks of spies, it is still difficult for the intelligence community to recruitand get security clearances forfirst-generation Americans who speak foreign languages and can better blend into the cultures of important target countries. Because it's tough to do background checks on people who have family in Damascus or Tehran, security officers have found it easier to just screen them out. "We haven't got the right kind of people," admits Mark Ewing, a senior DNI official.
NEXT: Part IV: The Computers