Professor Diane Snyder
January 6, 1997
I pledge my honor that this paper represents my own original work
in accordance with Princeton University Honor Code Regulations.
Where Does Human Intelligence Fit Into the Post Cold War Puzzle?
Human Intelligence (HUMINT) refers to the gathering of information by human sources, rather than through modern technical apparatuses, such as satellites (TECHINT). HUMINT can be sub-divided into two categories based on the method of collection. Overt HUMINT is defined as the open gathering of information through human sources, and occurs in one of three ways. The de- briefing of emigrants, defectors, and American citizens traveling abroad is considered overt HUMINT. Official contacts with foreign governments and correspondence with their intelligence and security services are a second non- secretive form of human data collection. A third method of overt HUMINT is through the open data collection activities of civilian and military personnel assigned to American diplomatic and consular posts. This paper, however, will focus on the second category, the clandestine collection of information through human sources. This "covert" HUMINT, designed to obtain secret information through spying and espionage, is conducted through case officers who recruit "agents", or sources who are uniquely qualified to obtain and provide the desired information.
The Post Cold War era presents unique and troubling threats to our internal security. Prior to 1989, our national security threats were limited in scope. The intelligence community allocated the vast majority of its resources and manpower to neutralizing the Soviet Union as a military threat, and more generally to the containment and abolition of Communism. The end of the Cold War ushered in an era marked by transnational threats, including terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, narcotics trafficking, global crime, and information warfare.
As policy-makers and intelligence analysts scramble to diversify their intelligence analysis and consumption, it is increasingly evident that HUMINT will play a critical role in providing the information necessary to make informed policy decisions. Numerous studies have documented the reliance of policymakers on information that human intelligence is uniquely able to provide. The IC21: Intelligence Community in the 21st Century study commissioned by the House Permanent Select Committee cited the conclusions of the 1994 Strategic Intelligence Reviews: "Within several important subject areas, HUMINT's contribution is particularly strong, such as in reporting on the transnational issues that are now among the highest priorities of the IC: terrorism, narcotics, proliferation, and international economics." After examining the SIR's, the staff members of the House Permanent Select Committee noted: "In summary, it would appear to be safe to conclude from the Reviews that HUMINT is unsurpassed as a source of critical intelligence to the national policymaker."
In addition to providing original information to policymakers, human sources are necessary to clarify or explain the data gathered through more technical means of collection. Although technology breakthroughs have enabled TECHINT to shoulder an increasing share of the information collection burden in the Post Cold War era, policymakers should be wary of measures that upset the delicate synergy between HUMINT and TECHINT. As Jeffrey Richelson notes:
The increasing capability to collect intelligence via technical means has reduced reliance on human sources; however, human sources are not inconsequential. Such sources can be used to fill gaps - in some cases important gaps - left by technical collection systems.
For example, a satellite camera with one meter resolution can pinpoint and photograph a group of suspicious buildings outside Baghdad in great detail. However, without a human source to confirm whether the buildings are weapons factories, or to comment on what military technologies Iraq is trying to develop, the pictures themselves have limited use. Our SIGINT technology is capable of intercepting coded messages transmitted almost anywhere in the world. But it invariably requires a human agent privy to the structure of the code for considerable SIGINT efforts to bear fruit.
Since HUMINT will play a critical role in combating the threats to America's security in the Post Cold War era, it is important to inquire as to the health of our human collection mechanism. The good news is that there are no inherent problems with HUMINT that severely impede our collection efforts or substantially reduce the quality of information we receive through human sources.
Nevertheless, there is cause for concern. The Cold War perception of the Soviet Union as a powerful military threat united the public and the American government behind the Intelligence Community. However, the disintegration of the Soviet Union, coupled with the more distant nature of transnational threats, resulted in a marked attitudinal shift toward America s intelligence agencies. Increasingly distrustful of CIA methods and objectives, American citizens and their congressional representatives have levied intense political pressure on the Intelligence Community to reform the nature of its clandestine activities. Unfortunately, these external pressures threaten to restrict the freedom of case officers to pursue the information our country needs more than ever in the fight to defuse terrorism, halt the spread of nuclear weapons, thwart global crime efforts, and reduce the volume of narcotics trafficking.
While minor adjustments may be necessary in the structure of our human collection mechanism, the education of case officers, and the scope of human collection activities, a thorough examination of our HUMINT capabilities reveals an explosive running back, if you will, needing only a few key blocks (of external influences) downfield to pave the way for future success.
HOW DOES HUMAN INTELLIGENCE WORK?
The Central Intelligence Agency is composed of four directorates: Administration, Science and Technology, Intelligence, and Operations. Several branches within the Directorate of Operations (DO) have responsibilities pertinent to human collection. The National HUMINT Requirements Tasking Center (NHRTC), established in 1992, reviews all intelligence requests requiring HUMINT to determine whether human collection is uniquely capable of collecting the desired information. The Office of Military Affairs, also created in 1992, is charged with improving the quality and responsiveness of HUMINT to military requests. The Foreign Intelligence Staff works to establish the authenticity of sources and information, aids the NHRTC in screening HUMINT requirements, and reviews the budget requirements of HUMINT projects. Finally, the National Resources Division recruits foreign citizens residing in the United States to aid CIA initiatives in their native countries.
Once the human collection requirements are tasked, responsibility for managing the logistics and implementation falls to the appropriate area division. The six area divisions oversee operations in Central Eurasia, Latin America, Europe, East Asia, Africa, and the Near East.
Outside of the DO, the Human Resources Committee undertakes many of the overall HUMINT management functions. Established originally as an ad hoc task force commissioned by Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Richard Helms to study HUMINT problems, it currently exists as a permanent committee assigned by federal directive (DCID 3/7) to:
1. Examine problems and consider possible improvements in collection and procedures for dissemination of intelligence obtained by human resources and to provide recommendations to the DCI related thereto;
2.Encourage and promote collection activities and coordination among human resources collection agencies concerning the allocation of effort and responsibility for the satisfaction of foreign intelligence needs.
The Central Intelligence Agency defines the "intelligence cycle" as the process by which information is acquired, converted into intelligence, and made available to policymakers. The five phases of the intelligence cycle include planning and direction, collection, processing, production and analysis, and dissemination. The first phase, planning and direction, is also known as "tasking". The process of tasking involves targeting the specific information to be gathered and determining which agencies and/or methods should be employed to carry out the assignment. The Director of Intelligence (DDI), the top analyst in the CIA, is considered the original "point man" for intelligence requests from policy makers. The DDI plays a major role in every stage of the intelligence cycle, coordinating the needs of policy-makers with the collection capabilities of the Intelligence Community. However, when the determination is made that a human mode of collection is required to produce the desired information, jurisdiction shifts from the DDI to the Director of Operations (DDO).
Historically, there are three major difficulties with intelligence requests from policymakers. The first, as Glenn Hastedt notes, is that policy makers "often treat intelligence as a free good". Many intelligence consumers are ignorant of the costs associated with collection and the limited resources available to provide intelligence. Satisfying some of the more obscure requests from policymakers would require enormous overhead costs to establish or re-tool an entire human intelligence network. Secondly, policymakers assume, as Hastedt reiterates, "that it [intelligence] is something which can be accessed at any time, and turned on and off in accordance with the policy-makers' interest in a problem". Finally, items on the intelligence wish lists of policymakers are often couched in such broad terms that it is difficult to narrow the scope of their requests into a single task or project feasible enough to be accomplished. A Senator on the Foreign Relations Committee may ask for a brief on the military capabilities of Iran. Of course, a request in these terms is impossible to satisfy. Is the senator referring to conventional or unconventional military capabilities? The time reference is unspecified: Does the senator mean at this moment, or an estimate looking one, two, five, or ten years into the future? Given the impracticality of scouring the country for weapons, is the senator concerned with developments on a specific border, or with reference to a specific conflict? Often, as it turns out, the intelligence consumers themselves are uncertain of exactly what information they desire.
In order to relieve the considerable burdens on the human collection system, the DDO in his capacity as the National HUMINT Collection Manager established the NHRTC in 1992. When requirements for human collection are levied by intelligence consumers, the NHRTC allocates the job to the "most appropriate, least risky collection mechanism available". The NHRTC is responsible at all times for being aware of the information available through open-source and other less risky methods of collection, in order to verify that HUMINT is uniquely able to satisfy the intelligence requirement and that the risk entailed in gathering the information is justifiable.
The budgeting process for most departments and agencies within the executive branch is relatively straightforward. Two years in advance of the target fiscal year, the President submits general budgetary guidelines for each executive department and agency to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The OMB translates the President s general requirements into specific budget recommendations for individual branches and programs within the large executive agencies. The OMB provides a copy of its recommendations to each executive agency and often engages in a process of political horse-trading, in order to clarify agency priorities and attempt to reach mutually agreeable numbers. After the tedious process of compromise with the executive agencies, the OMB submits its final budget plan to Congress on behalf of the President. Once in Congress, the OMB s budget figures are further re-worked until Congress produces a budget plan the President is willing to sign into law. Creating a budget plan for intelligence activities, however, is complicated by two additional factors. Normally, executive agencies receive monies through an annual budget plan tailored uniquely to them. However, since the annual budget for intelligence activities transcends individual department and agency lines, funds for intelligence activities are dispersed through three resource aggregations. The National Foreign Intelligence Program (NFIP) funds all foreign intelligence and counterintelligence activities, including all TECHINT and HUMINT programs, and accounts for roughly two-thirds of the total intelligence spending. The remaining one-third is divided between the Joint Military Intelligence Program (JMIP), which funds defense-wide intelligence needs, and the Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities (TIARA) Program, which subsidizes strategic military intelligence projects and combat support units that are not centrally managed. The intelligence funds appropriated through NFIP are originally earmarked for the Department of Defense and thereafter distributed to the departments and agencies which maintain intelligence programs with national responsibilities. In order to qualify for NFIP funds, managers of the component programs within the Intelligence Community (i.e. IMINT, SIGINT, MASINT, and HUMINT) assemble budget proposals and submit them to the DCI for approval.
It is at this stage of the budgeting process that HUMINT programs compete with TECHINT projects for limited NFIP funds. According to Loch Johnson: The end result of the budget battles over the years has been for HUMINT to come up with the short straw when compared to TECHINT (with all of its expensive hardware) by a ratio of about one to seven. There are two explanations typically offered to explain the disparity between HUMINT and TECHINT expenditures. The first is that policymakers prefer to fund programs that yield tangible results. Congress funds TECHINT projects confidently, assured of their investment in actual satellites they can touch, or imagery technology that produces impressive graphics in the intelligence reports they read. An investment in HUMINT, however, never guarantees actual results; and Congress is fully aware they may have no return to show for their investment at the end of the day. Former Senator William Cohen, President Clinton s popular nominee for Secretary of Defense, once complained during a congressional hearing on Iraq:
When Senator Boren and I were chair and co-chair of the [Senate Select] committee, we provided a great deal of additional money for human intelligence capabilities - but it seems to me that this is not necessarily the answer to defending ourselves or protecting ourselves against terrorism. More and more money doesn t necessarily translate like more aircraft or more tanks or more military personnel, into more capability.
The low level of funding for HUMINT relative to TECHINT is also attributable to a lack of advocates for increasing HUMINT resources. As Loch Johnson explains:
The giant aerospace corporations and laboratories persistently lobby for surveillance-hardware contracts, with skills finely honed through experience in weapons contracting with the Department of Defense. HUMINT has no such external advocate, and remains the stepchild of the collection process.
The second unique aspect of the intelligence budget process is the legal responsibility of the Director of Central Intelligence to provide guidance to elements of the Intelligence Community for the preparation of their annual budgets. Therefore, once the OMB submits general monetary figures to the intelligence agencies, the DCI, often working in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense, examines the intelligence priorities of the President contained in Presidential Decision Directive - 35 (PDD-35), statements from the executive branch concerning national security policy, and their own analyses of intelligence gaps and projected future needs. Together, the DCI and the Secretary of Defense piece together a budget proposal, iron out discrepancies with the OMB figures, and finally submit the finished product to Congress.
Clandestine operations . . . will often require associating with individuals of unsavory reputations who in some instances may have committed crimes . . . and should be acceptable as long as the likely benefits outweigh the certain moral and potential political costs of the association. In 1995, Representative Robert G. Toricelli (currently Senator-Elect Toricelli) accused the CIA of conspiring with Guatemalan Army Colonel Julio Robert Alpirez in the murder of an American innkeeper and the torture and murder of the Guatemalan husband of an American citizen. Although a White House investigation found no evidence linking the CIA to the murders themselves, or to Colonel Alpirez, an oversight board found that agency officers were insensitive to human rights abuses in Guatemala, and that several agents recruited by the CIA were alleged credibly to have taken part in the abuses.
The political fallout from the allegations led DCI John Deutch to develop guidelines in June 1995 to make case officers more selective in their recruiting. The guidelines, according to Director Deutch, establish standards for determining the value of informants with clouded histories before accepting them as recruits. Intelligence officials cited in the Washington Times verified that the new regulations require case officers to obtain a waiver from CIA headquarters before working with any agent whose background includes assassinations, torture, or serious criminal activities. The Washington Times, quoting officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, also reported that Deutch s guidelines obligate case officers who forego the waiver process to sign a written statement affirming that, to their knowledge, the recruits have never engaged in serious criminal activities.
The controversy triggered by the Deutch regulations boils down to two significant issues. The first is whether the new rules restrict the quantity and quality of effective intelligence sources available to case officers. The Clinton Administration, under attack from Republicans who claim the White House is soft on terrorism, insists that the CIA recruiting regulations have not hindered efforts to penetrate terrorist groups. Jeffrey Smith, former general counsel for the CIA and the author of the guidelines, was adamant during a recent interview with Defense Week that the regulations do not hamper the recruiting capabilities of case officers: There may be a perception out there that this has impaired recruitment but we don t think it has impaired recruiting . . . We d be fools to adopt something that impaired our recruiting.
However, a mounting body of evidence suggests that the guidelines do indeed have a measurable influence on the recruiting process. Smith s remarks in Defense Week were in response to findings by a task force directed by retired U.S. Army General Wayne Downing to assess the facts and circumstances surrounding the June 25, 1996 bomb attack on Khobar Towers:
Precise warning of terrorist attacks depends on HUMINT to identify specific targets and the time and nature of the attack. The United States must invest more time, effort, and resources into developing these crucial sources of information. Moreover, policy restrictions on recruitment of sources may hamper the efforts of national intelligence agencies and must be reexamined.
In an interview with the Washington Times, an officer close to the issue who chose to remain anonymous concurred with the view that the policy restrictions have a negative influence on recruiting: The rules have had a real chilling effect. The fact that people know they can be fired for this has reduced the zeal to go out and recruit. Even DCI John Deutch was quoted in the Los Angeles Times admitting that recruiting in the new era marked by policy guidelines would be a balancing act: You are going to have to balance the character of the individual with respect to the intelligence you are gathering. And I don t know that there has been an understood agency policy on that in the past.
Historically, employee evaluations and promotions within the HUMINT service were based on the number of agents recruited and managed by the case officer. Case officers were given broad discretion to recruit agents and were rewarded for recruiting as many sources as possible. The new directives appear to revamp the incentive structure for case officers, and they are likely to increase tentativeness among CIA personnel unwilling to risk their job or their future prospects on a single source with a shady past. While the ultimate judgment of any increase or decrease in the quality of HUMINT lies with the policymaker, it is irrational to suppose that the new regulations have not complicated the recruiting methods employed by case officers.
The second significant issue at the heart of the controversy is this: Assuming that the policy restrictions do influence the methods and results of case officer recruiting, are these restrictions desirable? In an era of increased terrorist attacks against the United States, many policymakers feel uncomfortable treading the moral high ground in the clandestine collection arena. Representative Bill McCollum, a Florida Republican and member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, echoed the views of many policymakers: If they [the policy restrictions] are an impediment, then they have to be removed. We have to have better human intelligence to deal with terrorism.
If the policy restrictions imposed on case officers are so unpopular, why do they exist? The intelligence profession is often characterized as a discipline driven by practicality, efficiency, and urgency. Although sensitivity and human rights awareness are important, it appears improper for these considerations to take precedence over efforts to increase our nation s security through improved information collection. Unfortunately, in a Post Cold War Era where the most immediate threat to the United States is a small-scale terrorist attack, the American public is willing to limit the capabilities of the clandestine services in order to keep the country s nose clean and reinforce ideals of human rights, morality and ethics in the international community. Under such conditions, a single incident in Guatemala created the requisite pressure to force John Deutch into enacting a policy that handicapped his case officers. Vincent Cannistraro, a former counter-terrorism operations director, criticized the CIA for backing down in the face of political adversity: The problem is that the CIA was driven by politics to adopt new rules that make sense only in a specific situation in Guatemala, but make no sense when you are trying to penetrate a terrorist group. It s a major failing of the CIA.
Should The CIA Recruit American Journalists Overseas?
In 1977, Congress enacted a law barring the CIA from recruiting American journalists to perform interviews on behalf of the Intelligence Community. However, the law was created with a loophole that allows the DCI to waive the ban in rare or unique circumstances. George Lardner, a journalist for the Washington Post, created a frenzy when he uncovered the loophole in an article written on December 3, 1977. Although the ruckus gradually subsided, Richard N. Haas, the project director for the Council on Foreign Affairs, recently re- kindled the controversy with his recommendation in the Council s report that legal and policy constraints on the clandestine services be re-examined in their entirety. Washington Post staff writer Walter Pincus fueled the fire by pointing out that the loophole also allows the CIA to recruit clerics, missionaries, and Peace Corps workers in extraordinary circumstances. In fact, the only group of people completely immune to CIA overtures are congressional staff members.
Ironically, considering all the attention the waiver receives, it has been exercised only sparingly since 1977. Former DCI Stansfield Turner acknowledged that during his tenure as Director of Central Intelligence he authorized the use of journalists three times, but none were actually put to work for reasons that remain classified. However, the very fact that the loophole potentially allows the CIA to recruit journalists strikes fear into many members of the profession.
There are compelling arguments on both sides. Journalists argue that their effectiveness depends on their integrity and the integrity of their profession. Foreign sources with valuable information would never come forth if they suspected they were talking to a spy, rather than a journalist. Many members of the media argue that in addition to damaging a journalist s ability to do his job, the waiver lends credence to the widely-held perception overseas that American journalists are an extension of the U.S. government. This perception compromises the safety of American citizens overseas and in some cases endangers their lives. These dangers were illustrated emotionally by Terry Anderson, a former Associated Press foreign correspondent in the Middle East who was kidnapped and held hostage for seven years before being released in December of 1991:
I couldn t count how many times I ve been accused of being a spy. I think it is appalling, stupid, and very arrogant for the CIA to even think about violating this policy no matter what the situation. Some countries believe all Americans are spies, especially journalists, because we are always asking questions. I think if Deutch had to look at the end of a gun and have some hairy person say, Spy!, Spy! he would never violate this policy and truly understand its danger.
Finally, the media supports their opposition to the waiver by adamantly arguing against the supposition that the waiver is justified, since only journalists willing to cooperate with the CIA would place themselves at risk. During a congressional hearing on the issue of recruiting journalists, U.S. News & World Report chairman and editor-in-chief Mort Zuckerman addressed these remarks to Senate Select Committee Chairman Arlen Specter:
It is not enough to say that if an individual consents, that he therefore should be available as a resource to, or an asset for, intelligence service, because the effects of his individual decision go way beyond what this individual may or may not be involved in. I think that it affects the role of the press, it affects the security of the press, it affects the integrity of the press, it affects the credibility of the press, and all of these, in my judgment are critical enough so that they should be maintained through a greater prohibition.
While the agencies of the Intelligence Community are sympathetic to the concerns of the media, they also have a vested interest in maintaining the waiver that allows American journalists to be recruited in extraordinary circumstances. In the eyes of many, the privileged access of journalists to sensitive and valuable information justifies prima facie the existence of the waiver. If an American journalist has access to information that could save lives or help the United States dodge a future security crisis, any policy preventing the CIA from securing this information through the journalist is inappropriate and potentially dangerous. After a Senate Select Committee hearing on the issue, Senator Bob Kerrey argued:
I simply don't see why any profession should be completely and permanently excluded. The determining factors should be the situation and the willingness of the individual. When lives are at risk, or a vital national interest is at risk, I don t see why any American patriot should be forbidden to cooperate with an American intelligence agency.
After cutting through the emotional rhetoric on both sides, the essential question remains: In what situations would the Director of Central Intelligence and/or the President deem it necessary to invoke the waiver? In question and answer sessions with the House Permanent Select Committee, DCI John Deutch was deliberately vague, avoiding attempts by the Committee to pin down the exact criteria justifying use of the waiver. Nevertheless, answering the question empirically, he mentioned three situations where he believed the recruitment of an American journalist overseas would be appropriate: 1) an imminent terrorist attack, 2) a hostage situation, and 3) any situation involving the possible use of weapons of mass destruction.
Recognizing the valid arguments on each side, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1997 included language that struck a compromise between the two positions. Although the waiver remains viable, it can only be invoked when
the President or the Director, as the case may be, makes a written determination that the waiver is necessary to address the overriding national security interest of the United States. The Permanent Select Committee of the House of Representatives and the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate shall be notified of any waiver under this subsection.
However, the Authorization Act included a voluntary cooperation caveat providing that the language restricting the use of the waiver shall not be construed to prohibit the voluntary cooperation of any person who is aware that the cooperation is being provided to an element of the United States Intelligence Community. In ratifying the clause, Congress apparently rejected the arguments of Mort Zuckerman and others that the actions of one individual potentially taint the entire profession.
Stop Playing With My Friends!
Recruiting Conflicts Between the CIA and FBI Overseas
Following World War II, the primary threat to the United States was a single foreign enemy competing with us for world leadership and global ideological influence. To better prepare the United States for the struggle against the Soviet Union and the spread of Communism, the CIA established and operated stations in strategic locations overseas. In the Post Cold War era, however, the primary foils to our national security are transnational threats that not only strike at America s sovereignty but also undermine our ability to enforce domestic laws. Therefore, the CIA is no longer alone in assuming jurisdiction for security threats instigated by parties outside our borders. For example, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is responsible for fighting overseas narcotics trafficking, while the FBI strives to bring global crime syndicates to justice. These new kids on the intelligence block are rapidly expanding their presence overseas in order to more effectively carry out their missions. As the FBI in particular works to establish a presence in traditional CIA strongholds overseas, the two agencies have, predictably, engaged in bureaucratic turf struggles.
One manifestation of this conflict is a lack of communication in the recruiting arena between the CIA s case officers and FBI law enforcement officials. The uncoordinated recruiting efforts of the two agencies result in two undesirable scenarios. The first occurs when the CIA and the FBI recruit the same people as informants. According to Walter Pincus of the Washington Post: The growing FBI overseas contingent is establishing liaison relationships with foreign police and intelligence groups that already have relationships with CIA personnel. The FBI agents abroad also try to develop their own clandestine informants, sometimes recruiting individuals who work for the CIA
When multiple intelligence agencies knock on the door of a potential source, the agent is placed in an awkward position. Often, an informant will become confused by two parties who represent the same government, yet recruit him/her independently, with different purposes in mind. A confused informant is unlikely to be of much use to either agency. A more sinister foreign source, piecing together tidbits from multiple intelligence agency representatives, could conceivably triangulate the information to draw accurate and threatening insights into United States clandestine policies. For example, a government official in Colombia, recruited by the DEA to provide information on the locations of drug factories owned by hypothetical drug kingpin Ernesto Escobedo , would consider the request nothing more than a typical intelligence query. However, the FBI, recognizing this official as a potentially valuable informant, may ask him for information on the foreign bank accounts through which Escobedo launders his drug money. Suppose that the CIA also attempts to recruit the same official to provide blueprints of Escobedo s house and grounds. The nature of three requests, taken individually, mean very little to the Colombian official. Taken together, however, they might tip the informant off to an undercover American sting operation to overthrow and apprehend Ernesto Escobedo. This insight puts the government official in a powerful position to blackmail one or more of the intelligence agencies, or to thwart American policy and benefit financially by warning Escobedo of the undercover operation.
A second undesirable outcome resulting from a lack of overseas coordination occurs when an intelligence agency recruits an agent with whom another agency may already have had a negative experience. According to a government source quoted anonymously in the Washington Post: The FBI already has tried to recruit people the CIA dropped as untrustworthy. The possible consequences of uninformed recruiting range from the relatively benign - wasting manpower and resources - to the more troubling possibility of blowback that could result in misguided policies.
The CIA and the FBI have legitimate business overseas and should mutually benefit from America s increased intelligence presence. There are no longer deep-seated animosities between the two agencies that preclude a healthy, cooperative relationship. Nevertheless, strong, impartial leadership is necessary to facilitate open communication and smooth coordination of each agency s recruiting activities. The problem is determining exactly where this new leadership should come from. Ambiguity in the hierarchy of the overseas intelligence structure makes it difficult to determine where the buck stops when intelligence decisions must be made.
Through a letter written to a newly-appointed ambassador in 1961, President John F. Kennedy unquestionably established the ambassador as the ultimate American authority overseas:
You are in charge of the entire United States Diplomatic Mission, and I shall expect you to supervise all of its operations. The Mission includes not only the personnel of the Department of State and the Foreign Service, but also the representatives of all other United States agencies which have programs or activities in [country s name classified].
Successive U.S. Presidents have maintained the allocation of these responsibilities to the ambassador, who today is institutionalized as the undisputed director of all American activities within the host country. Unfortunately, many ambassadors have neither the time nor the expertise to micro-manage intelligence activities. The only other American official potentially qualified to lead a united intelligence effort overseas is the Chief-of-Station (COS), the ranking CIA officer in each foreign country, who currently coordinates all CIA intelligence activities within the station s geographical jurisdiction subject to the goodwill of the ambassador.
Although little initiative has been taken to actually include FBI and other American intelligence agency activity within the Chief of Station s sphere of control, the two agencies recognize that expanding FBI activity will exacerbate uncertainty about overseas authority unless a mutually agreeable solution is reached. Walter Pincus documented the most recent efforts of the two agencies to resolve their differences:
At the U.S. Embassy in Rome last month, FBI and CIA agents stationed in Europe met to establish ground rules to coordinate their operations against global organized crime, terrorism, and drug trafficking. The meeting was set up to address recruiting problems and turf clashes between FBI legal attaches and CIA chiefs of station.
Global Reach vs. Global Presence
Prior to 1990, our human collection capabilities occupied a global presence, defined by the IC21 study as: having a station in every country that could reasonably be of interest. However, significant cuts within the Directorate of Operations made it impossible to sustain a worldwide human intelligence network. Since 1990, the number of deployed, officially covered case officers working in the DO has been reduced by over thirty percent and continues to decline at a rate of almost ten percent a year. Large numbers of overseas stations have been closed, and the average station that remained open was reduced in size by over sixty percent. This reduction in resources forced the DO to eliminate lower-priority HUMINT objectives and triggered a mass exodus of human resources from stations in marginal countries. Our diminished HUMINT capabilities are referred to, perhaps euphemistically, as a global reach , defined by the IC21 study as: the withdrawal from many marginal countries, but trying to maintain some sort of access and capability that can be, presumably, reconstituted and expanded it needed.
In light of recent events in the international community, it may be time to re-evaluate the wisdom of limiting our HUMINT capability to a global reach. There are clear empirical examples of situations in which a lack of accurate intelligence forced the United States to implement expensive, curative policies to remedy international incidents that might have been defused in advance with proper human intelligence.
Zaire, certainly considered a marginal country from an intelligence point of view, suddenly became front page news as refugees from Rwanda poured into the eastern half of the country, only to be trapped in a war-zone among Tutsi-led Zairian rebel troops, Hutu guerrillas, and Zaire s national army. According to the New York Times, an international relief effort to rescue the refugees was faltering: The biggest problem faced by an intervention force is that there is little if any reliable information about where the million refugees who have been scattered by fighting in the last three weeks have gathered or what condition they are in No one believes that accurate and timely HUMINT would have allowed U.S. policymakers to reconcile the conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis. Nevertheless, it would certainly have bought time for U.S. and international forces to divert the flow of refugees, and/or resulted in increased political pressure to force Rwanda s Tutsi government to improve the conditions for returning Hutus. Unfortunately, the lack of reliable information rendered international relief workers helpless as the situation continued to deteriorate. As the New York Times reported: American troops are about to walk into an explosive situation, an unstable and ungoverned country, where a bewildering array of armed factions are still fighting each other, and thousands of refugees are caught in the middle, threatened with disease and famine
The bombing of Al-Khobar Towers in Dharan, Saudi Arabia is another tragedy that many attribute to a dearth of human intelligence. General Wayne Downing s task force stated explicitly:
U.S. Intelligence did not predict the precise attack on Khobar Towers . . . Human Intelligence is probably the only source of information that can provide tactical details of a terrorist attack. The U.S. Intelligence community must have the requisite authorities and invest more time, people, and funds into developing HUMINT against the terrorist threat.
Why would we allow our human intelligence mechanism to falter when so much is at stake? Admittedly, human intelligence saps resources from other intelligence programs. The rigors of trying to penetrate hard target societies like Saudi Arabia require an extra commitment of personnel and resources that policymakers were reluctant to fund within a global reach framework for HUMINT. The New York Times observed:
The challenge of understanding the opposition to a friendly Government is made much more difficult because of the limitations of American intelligence- gathering techniques in Saudi Arabia, a closed society, where the United States has allowed itself to depend largely on the King and the top princes for information.
The American government, unwilling to subsidize the HUMINT vaccine, now shoulders responsibility for the terrorist disease that cost the lives of nineteen American soldiers and exposed the vulnerability of America s military presence abroad.
Finally, critics of the Intelligence Community have charged that an over- reliance on technical methods of collection and a corresponding lack of HUMINT is culpable for grossly inaccurate estimates of Iraq s nuclear capabilities. Following the Persian Gulf War, one intelligence analyst remarked:
In spite of the massive intelligence-gathering means at the disposal of several nations, including overhead reconnaissance and electronic intercepts, there seems to have been serious deficiencies in the general assessment of Iraq s nuclear program . . . Such deficiencies may be the result of an inadequate devotion to human intelligence and an overreliance on technical collection
While the threats posed by Iraqi nuclear capabilities are unclear at this point, it is likely that policymakers informed of the dimensions of Iraq s nuclear progress would have pushed for stricter enforcement of embargoes and increased pressure on American allies to halt exports of nuclear materials to Iraq.
The three empirical examples mentioned above are unique in that an undesirable outcome can be traced in part to a shortage in HUMINT resources and personnel. Often, the availability of information through human sources is one factor among many that influence the success or failure of American policies and missions. Even when this is the case, however, we can gauge the importance of HUMINT using the what if barometer of Loch Johnson:
What if the United States had been able to recruit a Japanese embassy official in Washington. D.C., in November 1941? What if the United States had worked harder at placing agents in the religious movements led by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini before the revolution of 1979 in Iran . . . Such what ifs will assure that monies will continue to be available for HUMINT, though how much funding to provide remains a topic of heated debate
Upgrading our HUMINT capabilities from a global reach to a global presence will never guarantee favorable policy outcomes in the international community. Nevertheless, increasing HUMINT will increase the likelihood that the critical information required by policymakers to make informed decisions will be available. In light of the consequences of America s recent intelligence failures, the additional funds needed to ensure a global HUMINT presence should be a small price to pay for the Congressmen who control the purse strings of the IC s budget.
Spies must steal secrets with integrity
-DCI John Deutch
February 16, 1996
Aldrich Ames. Harry Jim Nicholson. Earl Pitts. Three men who betrayed their country for money and whose treasonous acts caused many to question the loyalty and commitment of the clandestine services. Although the three traitors are exceptions to the hundreds of unheralded clandestine service operatives whose actions are marked by devotion and patriotism, critics and former CIA employees have gone public claiming that qualities inherent in the nature of the clandestine services create an atmosphere devoid of ethics and sensitivity. Russel Wiggins, former editor of The Washington Post and President Johnson s ambassador to the United Nations, lambasted the CIA for nurturing an environment of immorality in the clandestine services:
Employees of the CIA live in a corrosive moral environment . . . Secrecy shields the wrongdoers and prevents their disclosure by the inhibitions that it puts upon the open, candid, and public conduct of normal employees. The ethics that govern spying corrupt the frankness, the cordiality, the openness of many people.
Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA, approaches the issue with more objectivity. While his conclusions are consistent with those reached by Wiggins, Smith believes the answer is not to restrict the use of the clandestine services but to reform the methods of educating CIA employees:
The constant pressures of the clandestine service can try the moral ballast of the most honest man or woman. The CIA must insure that its officers have received the training and absorbed the values that can help them withstand these pressures.
Notwithstanding the arguments of Wiggins and Smith, many CIA veterans believe that the actions of a few bad apples do not reflect declining ethical standards within the CIA, but rather a need to re-focus the perspectives of CIA personnel. Dr. Gary Goodrich, a former Assistant Director of the Science and Technology Directorate and a member of a six-month task force established to create an ethics program within the CIA, believes that the pieces of a potential ethics program are currently in place. Various courses and educational units that comprise the training regimen for all incoming CIA employees plant the seeds of ethical considerations. What is lacking, however, is a unifying curriculum to cement the connection between ethics and intelligence in the minds of each CIA operative.
If such a curriculum were to exist, what exactly would it teach? And how would it be implemented? Mr. Burton Gerber, a thirty-nine year veteran of the CIA and a crusader for ethical awareness within the agency, believes that any curriculum, quite simply, should teach case officers how to think. The question: Why do you recruit? is one that all case officers should be forced to ask himself/herself for two reasons. First, many CIA employees confront personal crises when they believe that the actions they take on behalf of the Intelligence Community and their country are morally wrong. At the other extreme, there is a danger that case officers will become dulled by extended tours of duty in the field and recruit as a reflex, or merely as a means to achieve promotions and other career incentives. The cure for both of these conditions is to force each case officer individually to establish an ethical paradigm as a reference tool with which to process situational circumstances and options. The goal is not to standardize the responses of CIA employees in the field, but rather to instill in each case officer the intellectual hardware necessary to systematically justify or invalidate a potential decision using the same consistent criteria.
While the term ethical paradigm may be nebulous to the layman, there are concrete examples of criteria systems that are appropriate for case officers to adopt. An example posed by Mr. Gerber is the Just War Theory advanced by St. Augustine that holds each action to a standard of non-aggression - the action must be defensive in nature, rather than provocative - and proportionality - the magnitude of the damage inflicted on the perpetrator must be roughly equal to the damage of the original action. Adapted to the realm of intelligence gathering, a case officer working with this paradigm could be expected to take actions in which the means and ends are in consonance and therefore ethically justifiable. A second, more contemporary alternative offered by Dr. Gary Goodrich is the declassification standard. Assuming that in N years documented records of a case officer s actions will be de-classified and released to the public, will the public s reactions be favorable? This paradigm, which is somewhat more flexible to allow for changing circumstances, employs the standard of public opinion to reinforce in the operative s mind the fact that his/her actions do not occur in isolation and should be harmonized with the perceived ethical and moral constructs of the American public at large.
The belief that officers must develop a unique style of intellectual processing in order to confront their job responsibilities has important ramifications. It appears to de-legitimate broad CIA directives, including DCI John Deutch s 1995 regulations regarding the recruitment of unsavory characters. Whether or not a case officer can justify recruiting an agent with a questionable past must depend on his/her own ethical paradigm, rather than a sweeping order from above. Standardized, politically-motivated, and broadly implemented guidelines from the top threaten to undermine any effort to install a unique ethical thought process in each operative; implying that the powers that be have little confidence in the training of their own officers. A second ramification is the possibility that case officers taught to think independently and implicitly trusted by their superiors are less likely to become traitors. Burton Gerber, who personally worked with Aldrich Ames and Jim Nicholson, stresses: Operatives who become traitors are often motivated by the desire to show they are smarter and more clever than everyone else, and only indirectly by greed. An ethics program that works to build a relationship of trust between the employee and the superior and delegates important responsibilities to the operative in the field will hopefully instill strong loyalties within the clandestine service and reduce the chances of betrayal.
How and when would such a program be implemented? Those familiar with the inner workings of the clandestine services are concerned that few programs exist to re-educate operatives once their initial training is completed and they are sent out into the field. Jeffrey Smith asserts in his New York Times op-ed piece: One of the CIA s biggest shortcomings is the mostly woeful education of experienced officers. The training of new recruits is very good, but the agency does not have a mid-career program of real consequence. Cognizant of these criticisms, the task force in which Dr. Gary Goodrich participated explored the possibility of a three-tiered education system. Ethics would be introduced in three mandatory courses at the entry level, while a more advanced curriculum centered around case studies and group discussion would be required for all employees at the mid-career level. Finally, in order to be promoted to a senior level or executive service position, a re-certification process requiring work outside the agency would be implemented. Such a requisite for promotion reflects the belief of many that periodically stepping out of the clandestine world is necessary to restore some sense of perspective to secret operatives. As Jeffrey Smith insists:
CIA officers would benefit greatly if they were required to step out of the secret world periodically to reflect on national security issues and debate ideas in an academic setting. It is easy to forget that being a successful officer requires more than bravado in secret operations. It also demands an understanding of the role of the CIA in our democracy.
Reformers seeking to develop an ethics program at the middle and advanced career levels will undoubtedly encounter resistance. In the Directorate of Operations, for example, where the existing culture is characterized by many as arrogant and elitist, high-level supervisors and bureaucrats are generally contemptuous of efforts to re-train or rehabilitate field officers. Nevertheless, such initiatives hold great promise and deserve further consideration.
The Defense HUMINT Service
In October of 1995, the human intelligence components of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines were merged to create the Defense HUMINT Service (DHS). According to the Aspin-Brown Commission, the four HUMINT services were combined in order to reduce bureaucratic costs and organizational hassles. Unfortunately, the military is encountering the same problems on a larger scale as the DHS begins its second year of existence. After receiving feedback from members of both the military and intelligence communities, the Aspin-Brown commission reported:
A number of those interviewed by the Commission urged that the Defense HUMINT Service be discontinued and left entirely to the CIA. They contended that over the years such activities have produced little of value and are difficult for the military to conduct. They argue that the cost of maintaining a separate infrastructure to conduct clandestine HUMINT operations is simply not justified by the limited results.
Currently, eighty percent of DHS activity is devoted to overt collection, raising questions about whether a clandestine HUMINT service is capable of providing significant benefits to military commanders. According to the IC21 study: Clandestine HUMINT-type operations are usually poor at providing immediate, on-the-ground support, that is, telling a commander what he most wants to know: what is going on over the next sand dune or has a SCUD just been launched?
There is presently a strong initiative among policymakers to simultaneously alleviate the burden of the DHS on the military and strengthen the Intelligence Community s clandestine services by transferring the DHS to the CIA s HUMINT capacity. A merger between the two organizations offers substantial benefits. The influence of the rigidly structured DHS should provide a positive example for the CIA s human intelligence service, which some regard as slightly undisciplined. The new HUMINT conglomerate should also be more responsive to the limited clandestine intelligence requests from the military.
Unfortunately, cultural problems and military bureaucracy have thus far thwarted attempts to assimilate the DHS into the CIA s HUMINT capacity. Although policymakers agree with the substance of the Brown Commission s recommendation that the clandestine recruitment of human sources, now carried out by the Defense HUMINT Service, be transferred to the CIA , Congressional supervision of the merger lacks authority and motivation. Meanwhile, the Post Cold War Era is presenting challenges that the Intelligence Community s short-handed HUMINT service is unable to tackle successfully. The increased personnel and resources of the DHS are sorely needed in the CIA, and the recommendation of the Brown Commission should be adopted without further delay.
Increase resources, budget, and personnel to facilitate a global presence of HUMINT.
A slight decrease in the percentage of resources allocated to TECHINT projects should be sufficient to fund the global expansion of HUMINT. Completing the anticipated merger of the Defense HUMINT Service into the CIA s HUMINT capacity should provide much of the extra personnel necessary to establish a global presence.
Budget cutbacks in the State Department have resulted in the closing of many overseas posts. Therefore, providing a new influx of case officers with diplomatic cover in American embassies is no longer practical, since embassies do not exist in many of the locations where case officers must be stationed. Therefore, two alternatives should be examined. Increasing the use of Non- Official Covers (NOC s) should be given serious consideration to make it possible for case officers to operate in areas without an official home base . A second potential option involves the absorption of CIA officers into international diplomatic stations overseas, and the provision of diplomatic cover to American operatives through these institutions.
A final concern of policymakers is that an increased number of case officers overseas will increase the likelihood of political embarrassment or treasonous activity. Although the benefits of a global presence far exceed these threats, it is worth mentioning that if a strong internal ethics program for clandestine personnel is instituted in conjunction with a global presence initiative, any additional risk from increased personnel should be minimal.
Evaluating the success of a global presence initiative is somewhat difficult, since HUMINT is one factor among many that influence outcomes in the international community. Intelligence consumers should be polled to determine whether the accuracy, quality, and timeliness of information received through human sources increases. Empirically, international situations in which the United States is caught completely off-guard should be reduced measurably.
Eliminate the guidelines for recruiting unsavory characters imposed by Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch in June 1995.
The nature of the transnational threats faced by the United States in the Post Cold War Era necessitates the recruitment of unsavory characters. It is unfair to ask case officers who strive to protect America s security to affirm the integrity of every source they recruit. Often, the information policymakers need about terrorist groups, drug lords, and global crime syndicates can only be obtained through those with associations to these groups, who almost by definition are people of inferior moral character. The recruitment regulations were a knee-jerk response to a mistake in Guatemala and are no longer appropriate to an era in which any policy restricting the flow of information can have dire consequences. On a positive note, a program instilling ethical awareness in clandestine service personnel should improve the discretion of case officers in situations where the benefits and costs of recruiting unsavory characters must be carefully balanced.
While the implementation of this recommendation may not be feasible in today's political environment, policymakers would do well to heed the warning of the Downing Assessment Task Force: Policy restrictions on recruitment of sources many hamper the efforts of national intelligence agencies and must be reexamined. If the United States proves incapable of responding, terrorism will continue to be a threat to the nation. Hopefully, policymakers will not wait for another terrorist tragedy to claim the lives of more innocent Americans before lifting the restrictions.
Maintain the waiver allowing the recruitment of American journalists overseas in accordance with the language in the 1997 Intelligence Authorization Act.
The Intelligence Authorization Act provides a reasonable compromise between the Intelligence Community and journalists concerned for their safety and reputations. Requiring a permission process similar to obtaining findings for covert action will restrict the use of the waiver, yet the DCI has the comfort of knowing it is there when extraordinary situations call for its use.
The voluntary cooperation clause in the authorization act is a tough pill for the media to swallow. Some would argue that the clause should be removed from the bill to force the CIA to seek a waiver each time it wishes to correspond with a member of the media. It is contradictory, however, for a piece of legislation to allow the CIA access to journalists under severe circumstances while simultaneously preventing a journalist with critical information from approaching the CIA voluntarily.
Institutionalize the Chief of Station as the person responsible for coordinating the recruiting of the FBI, CIA, and/or additional intelligence agencies overseas.
The Chief of Station should be firmly established one step beneath the ambassador in the overseas intelligence hierarchy. By delegating authority to the COS to coordinate recruiting activities among the intelligence agencies, cultural and logistics problems between the CIA and the FBI should be dramatically reduced, if not eliminated. While FBI officials would prefer to have the ranking member of their agency coordinate inter-agency activity, the COS should get the nod for being more experienced in matters of overseas intelligence and for possessing seniority. In his capacity as the primary intelligence authority within each station, the COS should be kept fully informed of United States policy priorities, so that when agency interests conflict, he can make an informed decision consistent with the desires of American policymakers.
Implement a three-tiered ethics program for clandestine service personnel consisting of 1) mandatory ethics classes for entry and middle level employees, and 2) required tours of duty outside the agency for middle and senior level officers.
Improving the ethical awareness of the employees in the clandestine service is essential before the Intelligence Community can confidently send increasing numbers of case officers into the field to maintain a global presence of HUMINT, or trust clandestine service personnel to consider the pros and cons of recruiting sources with unsavory characters. Although the entire Intelligence Community would benefit from exposure to ethical issues, any potential program should operate on an experimental basis before investing considerable resources in a community-wide ethics curriculum. Rotational requirements and re-education programs will be unpopular among middle and upper-echelon personnel within the DO. Nevertheless they are necessary to restore a sense of perspective to officers who work within the high-pressure atmosphere of the clandestine services.
How will the success of an ethics program be measured? According to Dr. Gary Goodrich, it cannot be measured simply by an increase or decrease in treasonous activity at any given time. The quality of input from clandestine personnel during classes and discussion sessions is certainly a useful yardstick, as is the priority accorded to ethical considerations by supervisors with the Directorate of Operations.
Complete the process of merging the Defense HUMINT Service into the CIA s Human Intelligence capacity.
Currently, there are substantial bureaucratic obstacles as well as cultural differences between the military and the intelligence community that preclude the smooth transfer of the Defense HUMINT Service. While these concerns should be addressed, obstinate children sometimes need to be pushed into the pool before they can learn to swim. Congress must be willing to provide the necessary push considering that the stakes are high and time is of the essence. The personnel and resources of the DHS are critical to any effort to expand America s HUMINT capabilities to encompass a worldwide presence and should immediately be made available to the CIA.
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