04 October 2015

What Happens When Your Intelligence Service Thinks Itself a Breed Apart………

It turns out that the CIA's unwillingness to play nicely with other US Agencies left a trail of bread crumbs that the KGB used to identify covert operatives:
As the Cold War drew to a close with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, those at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, finally hoped to resolve many long-standing puzzles.

The most important of which was how officers in the field under diplomatic and deep cover stationed across the globe were readily identified by the KGB. As a consequence, covert operations had to be aborted as local agents were pinpointed and CIA personnel compromised or, indeed, had their lives thrown into jeopardy.

………How could these disasters have happened with such regularity if the agency had not been penetrated by Soviet moles?

The problem with this line of thought was that it did not so much overestimate CIA security as underestimate the brainpower of their Russian counterparts.

A name soon emerged from the KGB undergrowth: that of Yuri Totrov, a veritable legend who soon became known with grim humor as the shadow director of personnel at CIA.

The Cold War over, a senior and very experienced officer was dispatched to Japan to seek out Totrov and offer him a vast sum of money for his “memoirs.” Totrov’s retort was typically blunt. “Have you not read what is on my file at Langley? It says, ‘Not to be Pitched.'”


So how, exactly, did Totrov reconstitute CIA personnel listings without access to the files themselves or those who put them together?


What Totrov came up with were 26 unchanging indicators as a model for identifying U.S. intelligence officers overseas. Other indicators of a more trivial nature could be detected in the field by a vigilant foreign counterintelligence operative but not uniformly so: the fact that CIA officers replacing one another tended to take on the same post within the embassy hierarchy, drive the same make of vehicle, rent the same apartment and so on. Why? Because the personnel office in Langley shuffled and dealt overseas postings with as little effort as required.

The invariable indicators took further research, however, based on U.S. government practices long established as a result of the ambivalence with which the State Department treated its cousins in intelligence.

Thus one productive line of inquiry quickly yielded evidence: the differences in the way agency officers undercover as diplomats were treated from genuine foreign service officers (FSOs). The pay scale at entry was much higher for a CIA officer; after three to four years abroad a genuine FSO could return home, whereas an agency employee could not; real FSOs had to be recruited between the ages of 21 and 31, whereas this did not apply to an agency officer; only real FSOs had to attend the Institute of Foreign Service for three months before entering the service; naturalized Americans could not become FSOs for at least nine years but they could become agency employees; when agency officers returned home, they did not normally appear in State Department listings; should they appear they were classified as research and planning, research and intelligence, consular or chancery for security affairs; unlike FSOs, agency officers could change their place of work for no apparent reason; their published biographies contained obvious gaps; agency officers could be relocated within the country to which they were posted, FSOs were not; agency officers usually had more than one working foreign language; their cover was usually as a “political” or “consular” official (often vice-consul); internal embassy reorganizations usually left agency personnel untouched, whether their rank, their office space or their telephones; their offices were located in restricted zones within the embassy; they would appear on the streets during the working day using public telephone boxes; they would arrange meetings for the evening, out of town, usually around 7.30 p.m. or 8.00 p.m.; and whereas FSOs had to observe strict rules about attending dinner, agency officers could come and go as they pleased.
It is very interesting to see that many of the CIA's failures during the cold war appear not to be the result of treason, or of individual incompetence.

They are the result of a toxic and dysfunctional organizational culture, and the events since then, torture, spying on congressional staffers investigating them, etc. has indicated that if anything, the problem has gotten worse.


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