November 22, 2005

Reforming the CIA

Hatched by Dafydd

I'm not an expert in intelligence. I don't even play one on the internet. But that's never stopped me from tossing in my 2.38 ¥ worth... just so long as you understand I'm a complete ignoramus in this area, and my opinion is literally worthless. In fact, you're probably wasting your time reading this -- stop playing on the internet and get back to work!


What I would really like to see is the CIA broken up. All analysts should be split between realtime military-intelligence analysts (people who say "shoot this target now"), who would be transferred to the Pentagon; and longer term, strategic-intelligence analysts. The latter should be shifted to a special Intelligence Analysis Directorate, which would receive input from the CIA Provisionals (see below), the NSA, and all the military intelligence agencies, which would copy the Intel Directorate on all received intel -- other than specific targetting intelligence.

Much of the money currently spent on the CIA should go into the CIA Provisionals, to be spent recruiting, training, equipping, and supporting American citizens to infiltrate other countries' militaries, governments, businesses, universities, think tanks, and (ideally) intelligence services. Most of the remainder of the current CIA budget should follow the personnel, either into the Pentagon, the Intel Directorate, or wherever else functionality went.

The CIA Provisionals

The CIA Provisionals would consist almost entirely of undercover agents -- human-intelligence officers with no official cover. Nobody who works for an embassy, or any other job where the host country would routinely assume them to be CIA. The Provisionals would comprise only those agents whom nobody knows as agents: these will be our James Bonds.

Besides foreign-country intelligence agents, the Provisionals would also include our frontline agents for infiltrating non-state actors: terrorist organizations, multinational corporations, NGOs, the UN, and everything else that seems a likely source of intelligence. They would need some administrative personnel and some managers; but other than that, the rest are "secret agents."

The Provisionals would be organized as 4-, 6-, or 12-person teams in a classic cell structure (size determined by mission). Each person would know only a handful of other people, and then only by nickname. By and large, these would be unmarried men and women who have shown extraordinary reliability, loyalty, and courage. Every such agent would be given a $1 million life insurance policy -- and like in Mission: Impossible, everyone is told that if he is captured or killed the CIA will deny all knowledge of his existence.

The Intel Directorate

All the official-cover personnel (and we'll still need such) will be under the Intel Directorate -- which would therefore comprise all civilian intelligence analysts and openly known contact points... the people who can proudly drive their cars, with CIA stickers, into the Langley facility in full view of God and everyone. They would be organized into teams (about platoon sized) and would report up the chain; but on a rotating basis, each team lead would be taken in turn to the White House and/or a joint meeting of the House and Senate intelligence committees and questioned in secret.

This last is just to avoid the problem of the "disinformation pyramid," where each underling tells his boss only what he thinks the boss wants to hear, and tells his own subordinates only what will benefit his power. During these secret meetings, the team leads will be asked what they have been seeing, what they speculate it might all mean, what they told their supervisors, and so forth. The White House and Congress use this as a check to ensure that what the low-level analysis teams are seeing actually makes its way into the National Intelligence Estimate.

Data mining will be actively encouraged. Anybody in Congress or among the public who objects will be formally told to get stuffed.

Budgeting, Monitoring, and Recruitment

Of the $45 billion or so currently spent on the CIA budget, I would love to see at least $15 billion directed entirely to the Provisionals: salary, insurance, medical, and support activities, including insertions, extractions, satellite communications time, satellite launches if necessary (so the covert op can use a sat-phone), bribes, exotic weaponry and spyware, money for establishing unofficial cover, and so forth. Even military activities to serve as distractions or cover for a mission. This should be plenty enough money to recruit as many people as we could actually find who fit the profile.

In turn, Provisional cell-teams will have budgets to hire local thugs, terrorists, turncoats, traitors -- or technical support personnel, and so forth. Who they hire is entirely up to the team. How the team makes tactical decisions is entirely up to the team, though the team lead will be responsible for reporting up the chain. The team will be judged by the quality of its intel, not by how savory are the contacts it hires.

Obviously, there has to be someone in the Intel Directorate monitoring the Provisional teams, to make sure they don't go rogue (like Col. Kurtz in Apocalypse Now). I'm not sure how one goes about this, but I'm sure there are experts who specialize in such areas.

Especially heavily recruit from special-forces soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines; but the Provisionals should not be confined to big, buff men. We need women and more normal looking people too, all in good shape, but not necessarily built like the Rock.

Bonuses should be structured such that a Provisional can retire (or shift into a more open lifestyle in the Directorate) in ten or fifteen years; but they will be offered an annual stipend if they remain in the region even after retirement. If an agent opts instead to go into the Directorate, he cannot remain in the region (for obvious reasons).

Long-Term Geographical Stability

The idea is that the Provisionals settle into a geographical region and become one with their surroundings. They must know in advance that they will likely spend the rest of their careers in that one place -- unless their cover is blown. In which case, they're extracted post-haste and must leave the Provisionals. They can go into some other intelligence area or leave the agency entirely... but once blown, I think that's it. Too much danger of being recognized.

The point of remaining in a single spot is to get to know the area almost as well as a local, and also to become well-known and trusted by the locals. They will be trained in the local language so that accent is reduced to the absolute minimum necessary. Special bonuses for recruits who already speak the language, especially as a native. But every Provisional, without exception, must be an American citizen, must have no irregularities in his or her background, and must pass a background check at the highest level.

Well, anyway, those are my thoughts -- for whatever little they may be worth!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 22, 2005, at the time of 3:42 AM

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The following hissed in response by: wfgn

I am not a specialist in Intelligence either but I'm a big fan of spy stories.

Just like the OSS, obsolete after WWII, was replaced by the CIA, the CIA became obsolete after the Cold War and should be replaced by something belonging to the new realities of the 21st C. and kept isolated from the dozens of Intelligence commision members leaking like the colander I use to drain my spaghetti.

I am sure that many countries in the world have what you call Provisionals and we don't hear much about them, because they are what they should be, i.e. secret.

Very interesting post, by the way.

The above hissed in response by: wfgn [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 22, 2005 10:37 AM

The following hissed in response by: Bill Faith

Interesting suggestion, Dafydd. I've linked to it from Time to crack down hard on the CIA? -- Part 2 but I'm hesitant to be too optimistic till the White House follows your earlier suggestion to sic "Prince Alberto" and his Justice Department minions on the portion of the Langley crowd that think they know more about foreign policy than the elected leadership of the country.

The above hissed in response by: Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 22, 2005 7:00 PM

The following hissed in response by: stackja1945

"The failure of Washington authorities to keep in mind the peculiar peril to Pearl Harbor that both Secretaries, the Chief of Staff, and WPD had pointed out from time to time and, more especially, the particular peril to the U. S. Fleet moored there periodically, can be traced to estimates of Japan's intentions that were arrived at late in 1941."
"For a week in September 1997, some of the surviving Viet Minh forces of Ho Chi Minh and veterans of the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS), who collaborated in 1945 near the end of World War II, met for a second "reunion" in New York City. Some of these same men and women had met in 1995 in Vietnam to begin an oral history project sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the Vietnam USA Society."
Then 9/11

The above hissed in response by: stackja1945 [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 24, 2005 3:58 AM

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