Calls Mount for Rehabilitation of Intelligence Agencies ; Improvements in Analysis, More Eyes on the Ground, and Internal Restructuring Are among Needed Reforms

Article excerpt

Does the CIA have enough spies out stealing secrets around the world?

That's one of the most critical questions facing US intelligence - and some key members of Congress think that almost three years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks US human intelligence manpower remains underfunded.

In a stinging slap at CIA officials, the House Select Committee on Intelligence judges in a recently released report that espionage manpower is in an "entirely unacceptable state of affairs."

It's a rebuke that reflects Capitol Hill's increasingly aggressive oversight of US espionage performance.

This week alone will see the beginning of congressional hearings meant to examine the intelligence provided to the Bush administration prior to the war on Iraq, as well as the continuation of meetings of a special commission appointed to examine intelligence failings that might have led to Sept. 11, and report to the public.

"The nation's security would benefit from fundamental structural and management changes within the intelligence community," concludes the report accompanying the fiscal 2004 House intelligence authorization bill.

The most-needed reforms, according to the committee report, are in the arena of human intelligence (HUMINT in the intelligence community's lexicon). More eyes on the ground, more effective management of them, more diversity, and more advanced skills - especially in languages - are needed.

Without providing specific numbers and examples, the report points out the scarcity of spies in critical areas. And it points out that when crises occur - such as in Afghanistan and Iraq - spies are reassigned from their areas of expertise to focus on the current crisis.

The report acknowledges that the gaps in human intelligence are due, in large part, to congressional underfunding during the 1990s.

But since the mid to late 1990s, the CIA has focused on rebuilding its clandestine network. In April 2002, Jim Pavitt, deputy director for operations at the CIA, gave a speech at Duke University.

"I have more spies stealing more secrets than at any time in the history of the CIA," he said. "I ask you to take me at my word. We're stealing more secrets, providing our leadership with more intelligence than we've ever done before."

Mark Mansfield, a CIA spokesman, says he can't be specific, but, "Are we deploying more officers in the field? …