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Mr. Clarridge, a 33-year veteran who helped set up the CIA Counterterrorist Center, said the most important step to improve spying on the ground would be to reform what he called the CIA’s overly bureaucratic directorate of operations, as the espionage branch is called, which he said is hamstrung by risk-averse lawyers.

“We need to get back to the basics: human intelligence and getting the lawyers out of the operational chain of command,” Mr. Clarridge said. “People have got to understand that when you operate abroad as an agent or spy, you’re breaking that country’s law. So why do you need a lawyer in the chain of command?”

Also needed are “real leaders” of U.S. intelligence who are closely tied to the president, he said. “We don’t need so-called leaders who nave never been involved in taking risks, read [signals intelligence] officers, for example,” Mr. Clarridge said.

“A businessman who has had profit-and loss-responsibilities knows what prudent risk-taking is all about,” he said. “Get the lawyers out of the operational chain of command; lawyers by training abhor risk and always seek to mitigate it. Get back to Spying 101.”

One way of training spies, he said, is to supply each new case officer with a copy of the 1949 book by secret agent Alexander Foote, “Handbook for Spies.”

“It tells you all you need as a case officer.”

CIA spokesman George Little said any suggestion the agency is risk-averse is “absurd.”

“The operations undertaken by the CIA, ranging from counterterrorism to counterproliferation, demand that the agency take bold, intelligent risks, and we do,” Mr. Little said. “If the remarks by Mr. Clarridge, who left the CIA years ago, are recorded accurately, he doesn’t have a clear picture of what happens here now.”

Mr. Clarridge was indicted in 1991 for perjury in connection with the illegal diversion of funds to the Contras in the mid-1980s. President George H.W. Bush pardoned Mr. Clarridge in 1992 before his trial ended.

China on UAVs

Chinese Embassy spokesman Wang Baodong responded to the item in this space two weeks ago on China’s development of an advanced unmanned aerial vehicle.

“I don’t know what document you’ve obtained, but as I understand, UAV is a kind of very common flying object,” Mr. Wang said in an e-mail. “Many countries in the world, including the United States, use a lot of such tools for military or civilian purposes,” he said. “And it’s no secret that some units in China are involved in researching and developing such vehicles.”

Mr. Wang said he wanted to “stress that China develops such vehicles only for the purpose of serving the welfare of the people and self-defending its national security and territorial integrity, which will constitute no threat to anyone else.”

The internal Chinese document described a crash program by China to build a high-altitude, low-speed, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle in two years. The state-run company in charge of the program is a major Chinese weapons manufacturer, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC).

The document said China plans to compete with the United States and Israel on UAVs and noted that both countries “have mastered the technology central to this type of aerial vehicle, and they have imposed a technology blockage to other countries and have exerted especially strict control with regard to our country.”

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