Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


To make a spy

Today the former CIA analyst Lindsay Moran writes in the The New York Times and questions CIA's new drive to recruit spies and beef up its HUMINT capability in 'More Spies, Worse Intelligence'.

The former CIA officer really has some interesting points - especially considering how Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (Danish Defence Intelligence Service) recently has sought after new 'collectors' and comparing it with Søren Staunings criticism of the service's organization. Lindsay Moran first points out the traits the new applicants should have and then shows how organisational weaknesses can undermine otherwise good operatives:

'A good officer relies on a particular set of personality traits: he must be smart and able to think quickly on his feet; he must possess uncommon intuition and unflappable common sense; he must be outgoing, likable yet firm; he must have integrity, but also be willing to blur his moral and ethical parameters such that he doesn't mind preying upon people, asking them to commit treason and then ending the relationship once they have outlived their usefulness.'

'After all, in my training class, more than 10 percent left within five years - most of them after 9/11. We used to joke about people on what we called the "five-year plan": recruits who would join the agency, go through two years of costly training, serve one overseas tour and then promptly quit. Some left the agency for personal reasons, but more often they resigned because of a disheartening realization that the directorate of operations was poorly managed to the point of near dysfunction.

I never thought I would become one of those people on the five-year plan. But I did. After one overseas tour I resigned, almost exactly five years after I'd joined. An inside look at the clandestine service had me convinced that this was no place to make a meaningful career, or any significant contribution to my country. I was not the only one who felt this way. As one former officer tells me: "It was the less accomplished that stayed behind. Most of us saw the writing on the wall and found the work uninspiring and unchallenging. The careerists we met were cynical, bored and negative."

Simply put, the directorate of operations needs to clean up its own act before it can recruit and, more important, retain quality employees.

Part of the problem is that the agency's culture rewards quantity over quality. Career advancement depends on the number of foreigners an officer is able to recruit, rather than the quality of information derived from them. '


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