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Member # 604

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Okay, there has been a lot of talk lately that touches on the CIA: it's role in the start of the war, it's lack of correct input, whether it's input was altered or pressured in any way, and other things, like Valery Plame being named. I've mentioned in several posts about the low state the CIA and all our intel community has been reduced to, and have pleaded for patience as it slowly rebuilds itself. Tenet has briefed Bush every day since he became President, as opposed to only two or three times during Clinton's entire administration. It was reduced to only having SigInt and Electronic Intercepts as a means of gathering information and had almost all ground HumInt removed by Presidential fiat. The Executive Orders that tied the CIA's hands to the point where they couldn't even hire nationals to gather info make fascinating reading. We were reduced to a laughingstock in the world of intelligence-gathering, and many experienced agents threw up their hands and quit.

I'm reading in many places that Tenet is actively rebuilding the CIA to a working, functional agency again. I'm also hearing about American agents in Syria and Saudi-Arabia now - and am starting to see respect creep back into our international allies as we staff up. I love studying the intelligence community. The Bond books were fun, but had little bearing in reality. My favorite Intel book is Spycatcher by Peter Wright, the first scientist-agent (Who was the model for Desmond Llewelyn's "Q".) It was banned in Britain because it supposedly told more than MI6 wanted to divulge.

Anybody have any good inside intel stuff? Or any books you recommend?

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I'm curious as to what your sources are for claiming what level of capability the CIA had both past and present. What sort of reporting went on both during this and past administrations, etc.

The CIA has a very strong motivation to spread disinformation about its capabilities, especially HumInt. There are really only two perceptions that are of value - near omnipotence or utter incompetence. The view of omnipotence results in paranoia and avoidance of using legitimate resources for fear of discovery. The view of incompetence results in laxer security, and over reliance and usage of such resources. The CIA is generally percieved to be nearly omnipotent when it comes to SigInt and ImInt, while that is an exageration there is little CIA can do to change the image one way or the other. However, its HumInt is largely an unknown and making it be percieved as horrid, would make the ability to gather useful HumInt much easier.

The reality is, we likely have no idea what the capabilitys of the CIA are regarding HumInt and it has a strong motivation to ensure that public knowledge and assessment of those capabilities are wrong.


[ February 19, 2004, 09:24 PM: Message edited by: LetterRip ]

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LetterRip That's why it is so much fun to read about the intel community and fit together the pieces. First off, read Spycatcher, it's worth the time invested. Wright's father worked alongside Marconi (They both thought he was an ass who ripped off Tesla.) He was the guy sent over "to the Colonies" to study what we were doing compared to what they were up to. Fascinating stuff.

As for the state of the CIA, you're right - it's a mess of disinformation, but they purposefully let certain things slip every now and then. Sometimes the info comes from other places. I was browsing through Executive Orders - and various commentaries written about them. (You know what an opaque mess that is also.) I first learned there was unrest by the intel veterans in the commentaries about EO's and found almost all the ones mentioned weren't availble to even be read. Most are available in some form now, but I still haven't seen the actual EO where Clinton forbade the hiring of anyone - citizen or foreign national who had ever had a record. Imagine a covert operative in a foreign land who was recruited because he was a saint!

Debka.com probably has the most info on what is happening with our intel agencies. Sometimes a statement that sheds some light on our HunInt appears embedded in a story about the Mossad or some happening in Syria or Saudi Arabia, etc. The biggest light dawned on me when I came across a story about 150 new field handlers were currently being trained at Langley when there were ony 3 prior to Bush being elected. Each handler is trained to run up to 20 or so agents. The cold war ending was one thing - but pulling in almost all our agents seems so misguided. I can't believe there was all that much fear of KGB moles identifying all our assets.

I'm sorry, it's totally useless trying to go through the CIA newly unclassified documents, and all the retirement dinner speeches given by old hands as they say good-bye to others trying to find anything specific on what I'm looking for. I pull up some accidental account like This one of Uncle Joe bugging Roosevelt and it gets too interesting to put down. sorry.

I'll try to post what I can when I come across it - but the stuff is all too much fun to focus on any one thing at a time.

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Well - interesting. FDR was still a great man. And we really did need Russia's help in WWII - they took the brunt in defeating the Germans. Its kind of strange that he would think Stalin would help him in building a world of 'peace and democracy' after the war ended, though. Harry Truman also was echanted by Stalin, and thought he was a fair and just man. Stalin, for his part, thought Truman was 'worthless'. And hey, Bush seems to be as enchanted with Putin as FDR was with Stalin. This whole 'American presidents being suckered by Russians' is a regular thing [Razz]

[ February 20, 2004, 02:01 AM: Message edited by: Anonymous24 ]

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Yeah, Anon it is interesting - but you have to get some more background to find out how we were bugging them at the same time. In Spycatcher Wright talks about a strangely shaped piece of wood, without any electrical connections that would act as a microphone in some mysterious manner. His agents made up a trophy with this wood as the centerpiece and awarded it to the Soviet ambassador to London who after having it thoroughly X-rayed by his scientific weenies placed it on his desk in his guarded office which was swept for bugs daily.

Sometimes the covert world was deadly - other times it was great fun!

[ February 20, 2004, 03:37 PM: Message edited by: WmLambert ]

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It turns out that the State Department had a much more accurate assessment of Iraq, more so than the CIA or anyone else.

Their reward?

The GOP has excluded them from the annual threat hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Even though their assessment was best. Even though they have been participating in the meetings since the 1990's. Why? Republicans say it is because senators like to question the representatives of the CIA and FBI more. Which, of course, makes no sense. If State has a better analysis, they merit more attention. To actively exclude them is outright nonsensical.

More likely is that Republicans prefer scary analyses rather than accurate ones. You get more votes that way.

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Here is a list of recommended intel books I've come across so far:
  • Spycatcher - by Peter Wright
  • Code Name Kindred Spirit: Inside the Chinese Nuclear Scandal - by Notra Trulock (Encounter Books)
  • A Convenient Spy - by Dan Stober
  • Breakdown - by Bill Gertz
  • Losing Bin Laden - by Richard Miniter
  • The Man Behind the Rosenbergs - by Aleksandr Feklisov, Sergei Kostin, Alexander Feklisov, Serguei Kostine, Ronald Radosh
  • The Main Enemy - by James Risen, Milton Bearden
  • Tritium on Ice: The Dangerous New Alliance of Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power - by Kenneth D. Bergeron
  • None So Blind - by George W. Allen
  • Charlie Wilson's War - by George Crile
  • Wedge: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11 - How the Secret War between the FBI and CIA Has Endangered National Security - by Mark Riebling
An interesting point on Codename Kindred Spirit is how important a book it is purported to be, and how little attention it has received by the establishment media.
(edited to remove bad info.)

[ February 22, 2004, 02:12 PM: Message edited by: WmLambert ]

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