Spies Like Them

Spies Like Them

Mini Teaser: If you want to improve America's intelligence, don't read the 9/11 report. Read Buchan's Greenmantle or Kipling's Kim. We need agents of daring and skill, not better bureaucrats.

by Author(s): Richard L. Russell

If Congress wants an aggressive, risk-taking CIA, as the SSCI report suggests, then letting NOCs earn a decent living is certainly one way of redressing this longstanding challenge. The prospect of hefty incomes, moreover, would help the NOC program recruit Americans with the technical and scientific expertise needed to target weapons of mass destruction programs, skills that are not nurtured inside the CIA's bureaucratic walls.

The CIA needs to work hand-in-hand with the FBI to collect human intelligence from hard-target expatriate communities in the United States. This recommendation, of course, raises alarm bells over the prospect of eroding American civil liberties. But some balance must be struck between civil liberties and the fact that the United States offers a rich environment for running human intelligence sources. It's a safe bet that American universities are unwittingly training foreign scientific and engineering cadres that will staff in the near future the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs in India, Pakistan, Iran, China and Egypt, to name just a few states. And terrorists from Al-Qaeda, Hizballah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad still walk American streets, despite the post-9/11 security measures.

The CIA's DO and the FBI still operate in the Cold War prism of a sharp dividing line between domestic and international operations, but in the era of globalization, no such line exists, and the world at large lives in the United States. American human intelligence collection operators would be derelict in their responsibilities not to run human operations and solicit walk-in information from foreign communities in the United States. Such operations, moreover, would be inherently easier to run in the United States than abroad in the hard-target countries themselves.

Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL), President Bush's nominee to become the next DCI, just might have the skills to tackle these challenges. Given his experience on the House intelligence committee, he is an expert on the infuriatingly complex IC. Equally important, Goss's decade of experience as a DO case officer--a unique qualification in the halls of government power--should give him credibility among the CIA's rank and file, especially in the DO.

In the past, the DO all too readily dismissed DCIs armed with reform agendas as naive outsiders. This is clearly not the case with Goss, who, though a strong backer of the CIA, has not shied away from criticizing it when criticism has been due. While some argue that Goss is too "political", his political savvy would be invaluable for garnering the political capital necessary to fix the CIA. Whether or not an NID post is created, revamping the CIA's human intelligence collection capabilities will be a critical task for the next DCI.

Defenders of the CIA's performance argue that no matter how diligent, intelligent and creative the CIA may be, intelligence failures are inevitable. There is a grain of truth in this defense in that, as is the case in all of human affairs, complexity rules supreme, and human beings are incapable of perfect and routine clairvoyance. Nevertheless, the argument too easily becomes a way to escape responsibility for the CIA's dismal intelligence performances and too readily provides cover for dodging tough decisions needed to undertake major, not cosmetic, reforms. The remedy for CIA's "broken corporate culture and poor management" does not lay in conducting business as usual in the high-risk post-9/11 environment. Only a new, energetic and aggressive DCI, empowered by the president and Congress to overhaul the failing CIA, can deliver the spies the United States needs to defend itself.

Essay Types: Essay