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Posted: 5/11/2004 7:16:59 AM EST
The NY Times didn't want to mentioned by name that their fair-haired boy Bill C cut the CIA's budget etc.


May 11, 2004

Caution and Years of Budget Cuts Are Seen to Limit C.I.A.

WASHINGTON, May 10 - Even now, 32 months after the Sept. 11 attacks, America's
clandestine intelligence service has fewer than 1,100 case officers posted
overseas, fewer than the number of F.B.I. agents assigned to the New York City
field office alone, government officials say.

Since George J. Tenet took charge of the Central Intelligence Agency seven years
ago, rebuilding that service has been his top priority. This year, more new case
officers will graduate from a year-long course at Camp Peary in Virginia than in
any year since the Vietnam War. They are the products of aggressive new
recruiting aimed in particular at speakers of Arabic and others capable of
operating in the Middle East and South Asia.

But it will be an additional five years, Mr. Tenet and others have warned,
before the rebuilding is complete and the United States has the network it needs
to adequately confront a global threat posed by terrorist groups and hostile
foreign governments. In an interview on April 30, James L. Pavitt, who as the C.I.A.'s
deputy director for operations oversees the clandestine service, said he still
needed 30 to 35 percent more people, including officers based overseas and in
the United States, supervisors and support workers.

"I need hundreds and hundreds, thousands," Mr. Pavitt said. At a time when the
United States is fighting a war on terrorism and a war in Iraq, he said, "we are
running hard to get the resources we need."

On Capitol Hill and among former intelligence officers, most experts agree that
the clandestine service needs improvement, but there is some debate about
whether the agency is addressing the right problems.

"The question is, should you require better before you get bigger?" said a
senior Congressional official, describing a question on Capitol Hill that he
said had been prompted by inquiries into intelligence failures involving Iraq
and the Sept. 11 attacks.

The size and scope of the clandestine service, whose overseas officers recruit
and supervise spies and work with foreign intelligence services but rarely try
to infiltrate foreign targets themselves, has always been among the government's
most closely guarded secrets.

But as the dimensions of the intelligence failures on Iraq and Sept. 11 have
come to light in recent months, so too has a picture of American spying
operations stretched thin through the 1990's and only now recovering.

In numbers, Mr. Pavitt said in the interview, the clandestine service hit a low
point in 1999, when its ranks had been trimmed by 20 percent from its highs
during the cold war. And in morale and sense of mission, other experts say, the
clandestine service suffered through the 1990's because it was slow to shift its
sights from cold war targets, and in some ways became more cautious.

"I cannot tell you the amount of information we didn't get, the operations we
didn't undertake, the number of good sources we didn't recruit," Representative
Porter J. Goss, the Florida Republican and former C.I.A. case officer who is
chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of the 1990's. "We did hurt

From the agency's failure to anticipate India's nuclear test in 1998 to the as
yet unsubstantiated reports about Iraq's illicit weapons capabilities, the
weakness of the agency's human intelligence operations has been manifest in
repeated embarrassments. At critical junctures, intelligence officials have
acknowledged in recent testimony and interviews, the C.I.A. has proved unable to
recruit agents who could provide reliable information about Saddam Hussein's
government and Al Qaeda, and has had to rely extensively on foreign intelligence
services whose information is often unreliable.

A year before the invasion of Iraq, a top intelligence target for more than a
decade, the C.I.A. had just four human sources of intelligence in the Iraqi
government, senior intelligence officials now acknowledge.

"If we had been able to successfully penetrate Al Qaeda, imagine what that would
have meant!" said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel of the agency. "If
we had been able to penetrate Saddam Hussein's government, imagine what that
would have meant!"

A Program 'in Disarray'

In his own recent public remarks, Mr. Tenet has blended defiance with candor. "To
be sure, we had difficulty penetrating the Iraqi regime with human sources, but
a blanket indictment of our human intelligence around the world is simply wrong,"
he said in a speech in February at Georgetown University in which he called
attention to the role played by human intelligence in the capture of leading
Qaeda figures.

Still, in testimony this month before the independent commission on the Sept. 11
attacks, Mr. Tenet was scathing in describing the clandestine service he
inherited when he took charge in 1997. "The infrastructure to recruit, train and
sustain officers for our clandestine services - the nation's human intelligence
capability - was in disarray," he said.

In interviews, current and former intelligence officials along with senior
Republican and Democratic lawmakers were blunt in acknowledging weaknesses of
human intelligence operations stemming from the Clinton administration, even as
they insisted that improvements were being made and praised the courage and
sacrifices of clandestine officers abroad. The officials and lawmakers said they
understood that it would take time to complete the overhaul.

They said the problems were a product in part of inadequate personnel, after a
six-year stretch of Congressional budget cutting during the early and mid-1990's
in which some C.I.A. stations and bases overseas were closed and the number of
officers was slashed.

But they also cited a culture of "risk aversion" that was intensified by a 1995
directive by Mr. Tenet's predecessor, John M. Deutch, amid a scandal over C.I.A.
activities in Guatemala. The order was widely interpreted by the agency's
officers as a warning against consorting with unsavory individuals.

"I'm not going to succeed against terrorism unless I recruit terrorists," Mr.
Pavitt said. "I'm not going to succeed in terms of the tough issues in this
business unless I'm right in the middle of it."

The officials also pointed to a lack of nimbleness within what is still a highly
bureaucratic organization, whose clandestine officers remain primarily white men
posted in embassies overseas. In the large majority of cases they pose as
diplomats or other government officials under what is known as official cover,
an arrangement that some critics say limits the officers' ability to operate
outside diplomatic circles.

"Ideally, within 10 years, 50 percent of case officers should be under
nonofficial cover," said Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. officer who
referred to a more elaborate arrangement in which officers assume identities as
bankers, consultants or other professionals. Mr. Gerecht, who served in the
Middle East, has criticized the embassy-centered structure for its lack of
success in recruiting spies capable of penetrating terrorist groups.

Removing Hurdles

Mr. Smith, who served as the C.I.A.'s general counsel under Mr. Deutch and who
drafted the guidelines for him, said the guidelines had been intended as a "hunting
license" to establish a formal process for the recruiting of questionable new
agents and allow case officers to work with them without worrying about being
disciplined. But in retrospect, Mr. Smith said, he regarded the guidelines as a
mistake, in part because "many in the field resented the guidelines and some may
have used them as an excuse when they were not able to recruit sources in
terrorist groups."

"Management tried to address this by encouraging risk," Mr. Smith said, "but
were not successful because it became a kind of mantra that the guidelines were
a tremendous hindrance to recruiting. My understanding is that post 9/11, that's
all in the past."

The directorate of operations "is aggressively recruiting and management is
fully supporting their efforts, including encouraging great risk taking,'' he
continued. "To my mind, this shows the folly of trying to manage intelligence
activities by looking at scandals in the rear view mirror. We tried to fix one
problem and created another one. Hopefully, it's now been solved."

Even now, intelligence officials acknowledge, the agency's success in hiring
case officers fluent in critical languages and comfortable in foreign cultures
has been limited by a system that generally requires that new officers be no
older than 35 and that they qualify for a top secret security clearance. That
entails a background check that takes at least six months and in which recent
drug use, a criminal record or questionable integrity can be disqualifying.

The intelligence officials also said the impact of the aggressive hiring has not
been felt immediately because of the time it takes to teach new hires, which
includes not only the course at Camp Peary but often extensive language training,
sometimes overseas. Some former intelligence officials said that at least some
of these rules should be loosened, but in an interview, a senior intelligence
official said a decision had been made "not to lower the bar."

Because even the C.I.A.'s overall budget and staffing levels remain classified,
agency officials declined in interviews to say how much the agency or the
clandestine service had grown in recent years.

By all other accounts, there has been an extraordinary surge in spending and
hiring since the Sept. 11 attacks across the vast intelligence community, which
spans some 15 agencies and has an overall budget that is nearing $40 billion a

"Budgets and recruitment efforts are dramatically improved, but I don't think we
are where we need to be," said Representative Jane Harman of California, the top
Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

Producing New Officers

Still, recent public statements by Mr. Tenet and others, along with comments
made by Mr. Pavitt in the interview, have described a major turnabout since 1995,
when Mr. Tenet came to the agency as deputy director and found that only 25 new
officers were emerging from that year's two graduating classes - a rate Mr.
Tenet publicly called "unbelievably low." In the last year, more than 300 people
have graduated, former intelligence officials say.

The C.I.A. will not confirm that number, or even the existence of the training
facility at Camp Peary. But in an interview, officials in charge of recruiting
at the agency, including Bob Rebello, the chief human resources officer, said
that the number of hires into the clandestine service was still rising, at a
rate at least 20 percent a year for the last two years.

The directorate of operations, with an overall staff estimated at 5,000, is only
one of the C.I.A.'s three main branches. (The others include the directorate of
science and technology, and the directorate of intelligence, which is in charge
of analysis.) Along with case officers and others who recruit and supervise
agents, the directorate includes professional and support staff and groups
responsible for covert and paramilitary operations and other so-called "special

But the role played by its case officers is regarded by intelligence
professionals as particularly critical, in that their mission aims to obtain
from human sources the kind of information that no spy satellite or listening
device can provide.

"Having reliable sources that can get to the plans and intentions information is
the core mission; it always has been," Representative Goss said.

A Turnaround

It was Mr. Pavitt, a career spy with bushy white hair who has spent more than 30
years at the C.I.A., who recently provided the clearest indication of how
limited the agency's overseas foreign presence remains.

"We cover a terrorist target around this globe using a cadre of case officers
that is smaller than the number of F.B.I. officers who work in New York City
alone," Mr. Pavitt said in a "written statement for the record" that accompanied
his testimony on April 14 to the Sept. 11 commission. It was rare public
testimony from a clandestine service chief.

An F.B.I. spokesman said that about 1,100 agents are assigned to the New York
field office, which includes the city's five boroughs, Long Island and six
counties north of the city. In the interview on April 30, Mr. Pavitt declined to
expand on his written statement, but other officials confirmed that fewer than 1,100
officers were assigned overseas.

Today, Mr. Pavitt said, 50 percent of the funding in the directorate of
operations and 30 percent of personnel within the clandestine service are
focused on terrorism, representing an enormous change from 15 years ago, when
the vast bulk of the agency was oriented to the Soviet Union. "Every station in
the clandestine service has counterterrorism as its top priority," Mr. Pavitt
said in his April 14 testimony.

In the interview, Mr. Pavitt said it would be wrong to regard the agency as risk-averse.
But he also described as "unnecessary" the directive that was issued by Mr.
Deutch, which was rescinded under Mr. Tenet in 2002. Mr. Pavitt said the C.I.A.
was only now "turning around" what he called a mistaken perception among some
officers that they could not deal with criminals and other unsavory individuals.

"I worry immensely that there are people who are trying to kill us as we sit
here and talk," Mr. Pavitt added. "It is an extraordinary threat."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
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