Bush approves tough new plan to battle spies
Bush approves tough new plan to battle spies
By Bill Gertz
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Nearly 80 Americans have been caught spying since 1985, and the Bush administration has launched a more aggressive anti-spying effort to better combat foreign intelligence activities, according to a new strategy report made public yesterday.
Back to basics, and about time too.
The National Counterintelligence Strategy was approved March 1 by President Bush, marking the first time that the U.S. government has sought to formulate a comprehensive counterspy program, said Michelle Van Cleave, head of the office of the national counterintelligence executive, a White House-level intelligence post.
This is a good first step.
The strategy calls for "specific counterintelligence policies for attacking foreign intelligence services systematically via strategic counterintelligence operations," stated the report, which was released yesterday.
Again, about time; a unified, or at least coordinated approach would be helpful, but will take a heap of doing.
The new strategy "will require substantial changes in the conduct of U.S. counterintelligence," Miss Van Cleave said.
Too true, for example, the FBI will need to have agents who can wrap their brains around intelligence and counter-intelligence outside of the law enforcement context.
"These changes include a renewed intelligence focus on hostile services and intelligence capabilities, including those of terrorist groups, and proactive efforts to defeat them," she said.
Yes. Renew that focus. Please.
The strategy will call for the FBI, CIA and other intelligence components to "identify, assess, neutralize and exploit foreign intelligence activities before they can do harm to the United States."
Again, this is a textbook counterintelligence mission statement. Regretably it's needed, but fortunately it's being reiterated at a very high level.
The 22-page report said the Americans arrested for passing classified data to foreign governments caused strategic damage that, in a time of war, could have been worse.
The spies included the 1980s spy ring headed by John A. Walker Jr., which supplied U.S. military code secrets to Moscow for more than 17 years; the Army spy ring led by Sgt. Clyde Lee Conrad that passed NATO secrets to the Soviet Union for more than 18 years; and espionage by CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames, who sold secrets to Moscow for more than nine years.
Other damaging spy cases in recent years include the case of FBI Agent Robert Hanssen, who gave Russia vital intelligence secrets for more than 21 years, and the case of Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Ana Montes, who spied for Cuba for more than 15 years until her arrest in 2001.
The report stated that the spy cases "reveal a systemic vulnerability" and lack of a "comprehensive focus" on protecting U.S. secrets.
This is called "speaking truth to power." Nice to see it's not gone out of fashion.
U.S. counterintelligence "must be transformed into a more coordinated, communitywide effort to help neutralize penetrations of our government," the report said. In addition to protecting secrets, the new strategy aims to protect U.S. technology from theft by adversaries.
The biggest possible draw-back for this approach is the same as has been identified for the National Intelligence Director; to wit, adding an additional layer of bureaucracy over an already over-bureaucratized intelligence system. The fundamental difference would be that the the Director, CIA, was already supposed to be the Director of Central Intelligence, and fulfilling this role. There's really never been a central coordination of counterintelligence activities above the agency or service level. So long as it doesn't lead to a strangling or stifling of the individual service CI missions by taking too much of a big-picture strategy, this should be an improvement.
"Today, more than 90 countries target sensitive U.S. technologies," the report said, noting that in addition to secret operations, foreign governments use businessmen, scientists and foreign students to steal trade secrets and other high technology.
The new strategy calls for replacing the current counterintelligence system, which is fragmented, lacks centralized leadership and focuses too much on individual spy cases, the report said.
In addition to policies aimed at attacking foreign spies, the new system will have an array of human, technical and computer counterintelligence activities.
Taking a purely parochial view of this, hopefully it won't lead to the further emasculation of Army CI activities. The overbearing influence of the CIA has done quite enough of that already.