The Human Factor: Inside the CIA's Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture

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Description from Amazon.com, excerpts from the Kindle edition.

A note from the excerpter (Mike Best):

"There is simply no financial accountability mechanism to deal with waste and fraud at the CIA. This point was highlighted by a 2001 report from the Government Accountability Office, which audits government spending. The GAO said: 'We have not actively audited the CIA since the early 1960s, when we discontinued such work because the CIA was not providing us with sufficient access to information to perform our mission. . . . [W]e have made a conscious decision not to further pursue the issue.'" Location 113

"[A] perception in Washington that the staffers on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees are former CIA employees who are beholden to the Agency. In fact, a minority of staffers are former CIA employees, and these people, having experienced the bureaucracy up close, are the ones most open to reform. The staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee are more attuned to the democratic process because they work directly for individual senators. The staffers on the House Intelligence Committee, by contrast, are permanent employees of the committee and do not work directly for individual members of Congress. The reasoning seems to be that because a House member’s term is shorter, members’ personal staffs will have a harder time grasping complex intelligence issues and obtaining security clearances. The use of permanent employees without direct connection to elected politicians makes House staffers disconnected from the accountability that elections provide. They form a much more closed society, more closely linked to the CIA bureaucracy and resistant to intelligence reform." Location 128

"Traditionally the CIA has been perceived as a gang of right-wingers seeking to topple leftist governments. Some regard it as the hand behind worldwide conspiracies and dirty tricks. The CIA actually encourages this viewpoint because underlying it is the assumption that the Agency is ruthlessly efficient. I wish it were efficient enough to aggressively confront leftist governments, but it’s not." Location 137

"The second important group that can make a difference are journalists. Despite the growth of internet news and talk radio, the New York Times and the Washington Post retain enormous power. Their reporters have developed excellent sources among top CIA managers. These sources illegally provide classified information on such things as torture/interrogations and Iraq WMD intelligence failures, and the journalists in exchange will not attack the CIA bureaucracy because to do so would be to attack their sources. A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee told me that he met with CIA officials to propose improvements in clandestine operations, and the CIA fought back through a Washington Post column the very next day. By ignoring the issue of intelligence reform, journalists who cover the CIA build careers and win prizes, but the newspapers are failing their readers." Location 153

"Often you’ll hear the CIA accused of being risk averse. I agree. Risk aversion is a complex concept, however. The Agency will sometimes conduct risky operations in order to achieve a more important goal: looking busy. An example of this type of operation is the Abu Omar operation, in which twenty-one CIA employees flew into Italy to abduct a single terrorist suspect who was already under surveillance by the Italian police. As an eminent scholar commented, it was “twenty-one people to get one fat Egyptian!” Those twenty-one people stayed in five-star hotels and chatted with Headquarters on open-line cell phones, all at great expense and with awful tradecraft. But it was a successful operation in that it spent a lot of money, made a lot of people look active, and suggested the CIAʹs willingness to take risk." Location 176

"That broke an unwritten Agency rule from back when many spies were embassy diplomats. Diplomats don’t charge into scientific conferences and scrutinize nametags. They’re expected to sidle up casually to people at cocktail parties, make small talk, and set a date for tennis." Location 296

"Although the Soviets had learned of the tunnel from George Blake, their own human source within the British SIS, well before the tunnel was even built, the Soviets chose to let us continue the project in order to protect Blake’s identity. Some information gained from the tunnel operation had been useful, but it had also been given up willingly. (Several CIA memoirs, including those by Hitz and Helms, rate the operation as a strong success. I would rate it more soberly as an expensive, low-risk, and people-intensive operation.)" Location 619

"The deputy studied the appointments I’d made and allowed me to call my contacts back to postpone—except in the case of an Israeli military officer. I had to cancel that meeting. Israel was theoretically an intel target, but in practice we didn’t target Israelis. The deputy explained that the complexities of US/Israeli politics precluded any realistic operations. (Close liaison with Israeli contacts produced one of the Agency’s clearest strategic intelligence successes. An Agency team under the direction of expert CIA officer Waldo Dubberstein had provided an uncannily accurate prediction of the starting date, length, and outcome of the Arab/Israeli Six Day War in 1967.)" Location 943

"The FBIʹs work was easier to measure than the Agency’s—either they caught criminals or they didn’t—and I thought this gave their organization a clearer sense of purpose." Location 998

"A person’s curiosity is a good test—if a person is innocent, and knows nothing of the accusation, he’ll ask a lot of questions about why he’s been arrested." Location 1265

"Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Agency searched for new missions, and one of the ideas was economic intelligence." Location 1819

"We’ve found this information using the Agency’s new Due Diligence computer software. This information gives you an idea of how much can be learned about a person from publicly available databases." Location 2173

"Although the Agency later said Ames had been tracked down by a group of clever spy catchers within HQs, Ames was actually revealed as a traitor through information provided by a Russian source." Location 2288

"The purge had nothing to do with security in the aftermath of Ames and Nicholson—that it was strictly budget-driven. The non-State Department program had overspent and in an era of big budget cuts something had to give. Pulling officers out of the field and moving them back to HQs collapsed expenses. I discounted this theory at first because it sounded too conspiratorial—surely none of our managers could be so devious. But as time went on, two top HQs mandarins, both division chiefs, confirmed this theory to me in separate, private conversations, and today I am convinced the purge was the result of bureaucratic agendas. The Godfather, after all, had not been purged, and his identity was known to multiple hostile intelligence services. (The sheer volume of the Godfather’s intelligence operations and his recruitments of such a large number of foreign spies had left foreign governments with no choice but to acknowledge that the Godfather was probably a CIA officer.) The purge, in the end, cut half of our non-State Department officers overseas." Location 2352

"The Agency’s bureaucrats hated Deutch; they chewed him up and spit him out. When he left after his brief tenure as director, Agency security officers searched his personal computer and found 17,000 classified documents on it." Location 2743

"In 1995, the French government, possibly for its own internal political purposes during an election season, closely surveilled our station in Paris. The French gathered detailed information on our station’s activities, including the identities of case officers and agents. Our tradecraft was poor and our people hadn’t realized they were under surveillance. The former CIA inspector general Frederick Hitz also describes 'a female American spy who was operating in Paris under private business cover. Reportedly, she involved her Swiss-Brazilian lover in efforts to cultivate well-placed French officials, but all the time, he was reporting her contacts to French intelligence.'" Location 3130

"HQs never told me to do anything about these weapons. The Agency’s mission statements, assembled by committee, ran to many pages, full of looping and turgid sentences. There was nothing of John F. Kennedy’s lapidary 'Put a man on the moon' or the Marine Corps’s, 'Locate, close with, and destroy the enemy.'" Location 3472

"According to Alibek, the Soviets may have used tularemia against German soldiers just prior to the battle of Stalingrad in 1942 and possibly Q fever against German soldiers who were on leave in the Crimea in 1943. ... Alibek suggests the Soviets may have used biological weapons in Afghanistan in 1982 and 1984." Location 3480

"The Agency told Congress it would build up its non-State Department programs, but it actually began to cut the numbers of non-State Department officers in the field. The logic of the Agency’s contradictory move is difficult to explain. Maybe it reasoned that it could first make a clean sweep of the non-State Department program, followed by a big build-up. Whatever the reason, pressures on non-State Department officers intensified." Location 3976

"A clever bureaucrat at HQs realized that non-State Department officers had come to think of the computers as their personal property and had forgotten the items were the property of the US government. Although the officers were allowed to use the computers for personal use, the bureaucrat knew one thing for sure: The officers weren’t allowed to use the computers to look at pornographic web sites. When officers came through Washington, D.C., this fellow asked to see their laptops and then he performed a forensic search of the computers for pornography. Computers retain information on the websites they have visited, for instance, even when the user thinks he has covered his tracks. About 10 percent of the computers had been used to visit pornographic web sites and HQs used these findings to torpedo the careers and the overseas assignments of about 10 percent of our officers." Location 3983

"Newspaper reports suggesting Plame had been involved in intelligence operations overseas as a non-State Department officer are false. Plame spent nearly all of her career in training and HQs desk assignments, and trainees and HQs desk officers are not assigned to overseas intelligence missions." Location 4193

"During the postwar debate, many people accused President Bush of lying about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and leading us into a war there based on that lie. But no one was lying. There weren’t any human sources to tell us about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The information sent to President Bush was all guesswork. All the analysts at HQs, all the layers of managers, were making guesses based on exactly zero information from human sources." Location 4231

"Following the attack, the retirees were re-hired at $150,000 to $200,000 per year, in addition to their pensions of about $75,000 per year. Agency retirees’ incomes put them in the top 1 percent of family incomes for Americans, at a time when the median household income in the US was $43,000 a year. If the retirees were OFTPOTs, their combined take from the Agency could be as high as $600,000 per year. It was great money for eight hours a day of chatting with friends at HQs and drinking coffee. Harry and Roger, my instructors from training, were still working at HQs. I saw them walk by, frail and halting, but still taking $225,000 a year each from the Agency." Location 4553

"Other companies sought contracts for operational duties. The thinking was that contractors could perform the lower-risk intelligence missions that active-duty case officers were too busy to perform. The companies operated access agents." Location 4570

"The Edwin P. Wilson case gives an insight into the contracting world. Wilson, in cahoots with former and current CIA officers, set himself up as a contractor who set up fake companies for the CIA. Skimming the contracts, he built a fortune in the tens of millions of (1970s) dollars. Wilson didn’t deal in human sources—there’s no money in that. He took money to set up offices that never appeared, to make shipments designed to give CIA cover companies legitimacy, supplying weapons and materiel as part of his operations. Wilson ultimately went to jail in 1982 not for his corruption in CIA contracts, but for illegally supplying Muammar Qaddhafi with 21 tons of C-4 explosive, supplying the Libyans with weapons that they used to assassinate dissidents and to conspire to murder federal prosecutors and witnesses." Location 4581

"The military can place 30 trained case officers in non-State Department positions nearly anywhere in the world within a matter of days. The Agency, with billions of dollars at its disposal, couldn’t do this in a decade. The military’s abilities intimidated the Agency; Agency gatekeepers worldwide felt intensely threatened by the military’s tendency to carry out operations without seeking their approval or assistance." Location 5701