Inside the Ring: Senate blocks DIA spy growth

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The Senate Armed Services Committee wants to block a major effort by the Pentagon to expand the Defense Intelligence Agency’s human spying operations.

A provision in the Senate’s version of fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill would prohibit the DIA from using any funds to launch the ambitious human spying expansion program.

A committee report on the provision states that the agency’s efforts to beef up spying were based on “longstanding problems.”

“These problems include inefficient utilization of personnel trained at significant expense to conduct clandestine HUMINT [human intelligence]; poor or non-existent career management for trained HUMINT personnel; cover challenges; and unproductive deployment locations,” the report said.

“Multiple studies since the end of the Cold War document these deficiencies, and they led the Commission on the Roles and Capabilities of the United States Intelligence Community, chaired by two former secretaries of defense, to recommend transferring to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) all responsibilities for the clandestine recruitment of human sources, utilizing military personnel on detail from the DOD [Department of Defense] as necessary.”

The criticism of DIA’s human spying is a rare public acknowledgment of problems at the agency.

During the George W. Bush administration, the number of CIA case officers increased by 50 percent, and, since the Sept. 11 attacks Pentagon, spies have increased “substantially,” the report said.

“The committee is concerned that, despite this expansion and the winding down of two overseas conflicts that required large HUMINT resources, DOD believes that its needs are not being met,” the report said.

The reference to the winding down of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raises the question of whether Congress is seeking to block an increased effort to spy on China, as part of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia.

“The committee concludes that DOD needs to demonstrate that it can improve the management of clandestine HUMINT before undertaking any further expansion,” the report said.

The Senate also suggested that DIA, by using current resources more effectively, could cut its investments in human spying, rather than planning for them to remain steady or increase, as part of Pentagon budget and personnel “challenges,” an apparent reference to budget-cutting efforts under way.

The legislation, if passed in its current form, would cap DIA human spying to the number of operatives as of April.

The bill also would require two reports to Congress — one from the office of cost assessment and program evaluation and the office of undersecretary of defense for intelligence — on DIA’s human spying programs.

Asked about the provision, DIA spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas F. Veale told Inside the Ring: “We continue to work with our oversight committees.”

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About the Author
Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz

Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.

He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.

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