Intelligence: February 26, 2004


: The CIA removed it's Baghdad station chief last December, because of questions about his ability to lead that station. The CIA's Baghdad station is now the largest in agency history, but the main problem confronting the Baghdad station was security constraints that affect operatives' mobility. The agency has been too focused on troop protection in Iraq and not spending enough effort recruiting local spies. 

According to the Baghdad newspaper Al-Shira, local CIA agents and the US military launched a major campaign to arrest former Mukhabarat (Iraqi Intelligence Service) agents who had been in charge of the Weapons of Mass Destruction program. They were specifically targeting anyone associated with Iraqi Intelligence's Al Ghafiqi project, the Criminal Directorate and the Intelligence Security Directorate. 

Stretched thin searching for Osama bin Laden and Iraqi insurgents while trying to cultivate ties with Afghani warlords, the CIA has struggled to fill key overseas posts. In Afghanistan, a number of remote CIA bases have been closed in recent months because of security concerns. With a massive shortage of Arabic speakers and qualified case officers willing to take dangerous assignments, the CIA has been forced to hire dozens of retirees and to rely on hired translators. Many agents taking sensitive overseas assignments are only willing to serve 30-to-90-day rotations, an insanely short revolving-door approach that makes getting a handle on the local situation nearly impossible. 

Efforts to fill the vacuum are being pursued at the lowest levels. Thousands of US military personnel are now taking instructions in Arabic (although probably only covering basic language skills), to overcome the critical language barrier thwarting US efforts to stabilize Iraq. The Marines have already pushed 400 of their people through the course and CENTCOM's goal is to have an Arabic speaker in every single combat unit in Iraq.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Pentagon's desire to use the Army's Special Forces as 'spies' (instead of the CIA) for preparing the battle space. A leaked briefing chart illustrated the Pentagon's thinking on how the new spy training will enable more special operations personnel to enter countries undercover and survey targets or set up networks of informants, missions normally executed by CIA paramilitaries. The courses cover creating a network of sources, planning meetings that do not endanger the informant's life and keeping track of funds paid out to informants. 

The effort stems in large part from the Pentagon's frustration with how much the military was forced to rely on the CIA in the opening stages of the war in Afghanistan. The CIA supposedly has around 500 case officers, which simply aren't enough. However, intelligence training in the special operations community was seen as a key to success in filling the CIA's gaps in the Afghanistan.

In March 2003, the Pentagon was planed to assemble its own network of several hundred spies to be posted around the world, collecting intelligence on terrorist organizations and other military targets. This Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) managed program would draw from all four branches of the military, with an emphasis on attracting those with special forces backgrounds. However, it could be years before a force that size is functional.

The DIA also started recruiting counter-terrorism analysts with special forces backgrounds, thereby enabling them to work alongside special operations units on missions. While SF have always had intelligence officers in their ranks, this 'new breed' of analyst would be equipped to link directly to national intelligence centers with secure satellite communications. They would undergo the same training as CIA case officers at the agency's southern Virginia training facility.

The new SF training is part of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's overall goal of developing more "actionable intelligence" (a Pentagon buzzword for information leading to military operations). In September 20001, Rumsfeld characterized America's current intelligence apparatus as developed, fashioned and arranged over decades to deal with the Cold War problems (focusing primarily on Warsaw Pact countries). While good at what it did during the Cold War, those days are gone and the targets are now multiple, global and much more complex. 

The Threat (al Qaeda, etc.) has access to the free flow of technologies, very powerful weapons and the means to deliver them - all of which has made the intelligence gathering task vastly more difficult. The decision cycle also requires information far faster than before, when the lines between NATO and the Warsaw Pact were essentially stagnant. So Rumsfeld started to refashion America strategy towards the capability to arrange, train, organize and equip the country's military capabilities to deal with constantly changing threats (rather than orienting them solely to a specific country or a specific threat). This means that the people capable of figuring out the puzzles have to be further forward than in the past, since a lot of nuances can be lost in transmission over digital communications. 

One benefit of having Special Forces do battle space preparation is that the administration would not be required to submit a "finding" or notification to Congress under Title 50 of the US code. Considering the number of partisan leaks that have sprung up in Congress over the last few years, this should wind up keeping more Americans alive. Simply the fact that the Pentagon's efforts in this area have been reported in the open source media for over a year now are evidence that too many people are still talking too much. - Adam Geibel

See also:

CIA Support to the US Military During the Persian Gulf War (16 June 1997), 

Inside the CIA's Covert Forces

The Structure of the Mukhabarat (Iraqi Intelligence Service - IIS), online at:




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close