The CIA is working to improve overseas spying through more high-risk operations and less reliance on foreign intelligence services, according to CIA Director Porter J. Goss.
“The CIA credo is that the U.S. must always have the place of primacy among our interests,” Mr. Goss said of CIA plans to conduct more “unilateral” spying operations.
In a meeting Thursday with CIA employees, Mr. Goss was critical of the agency’s Directorate of Operations, which intelligence officials say has been opposing reform efforts by Mr. Goss and his key aides. The No. 2 official in the directorate, Robert Richer, resigned in protest last week because he disagreed with Mr. Goss’ operations-related reforms.
Mr. Goss said the CIA is “doing better” at conducting unilateral operations and is working to place more spies around the world under different disguises than in the past.
“When I say we need to be global, this is an admission that we are not in all of the places we should be,” Mr. Goss said. “We don’t have this luxury anymore.”
Conducting spy operations today requires “different capabilities in different places,” he said.
“One size fits all doesn’t work and neither does a lot of the old technology,” he said. “We may need a case officer with a CPA to work in Europe against terrorist funding, we might need a pretty good engineer or physicist someplace to work proliferation issues.”
“Hiring and deploying the right case officers, with the right capabilities — this is exactly what I have directed the DO leadership to do,” Mr. Goss said.
The CIA has been under fire from critics for failures related to the September 11 terrorist attacks, and improperly assessing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs before the 2003 military operation against Iraq.
The agency will begin using new forms of cover to mask its overseas officers, in addition to using traditional cover as embassy officials in pinstripe suits, Mr. Goss said.
Other intelligence officials have said CIA bureaucrats within the directorate and in the new office of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte are opposing Mr. Goss’ reforms, asserting that the hiring and deployment of case officers should only be done by the deputy director of operations, or DDO, and not the politically appointed CIA director.
Mr. Goss was asked about Mr. Richer’s resignation by an agency employee, but CIA spokesmen would not say how he answered it.
Mr. Goss said the CIA has been designated the lead agency in conducting human spying operations and thus should be the “gold standard” for such spying.
The agency, however, has a very poor record of planting or recruiting spies in foreign governments or terrorist organizations, according to current and former officials.
Mr. Goss said the agency is trying hard to improve its spying record and that he is encouraging more “risk-taking” by agency operatives. He promised to back CIA officers who attempt high-risk spying operations that are not successful.