According to some insider estimates, most of the CIA’s recruitment of foreign spies now takes place in the United States. Hundreds of CIA officers working out of cover offices and companies in areas where foreign students and scientists abound -- such as Boston, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and the like -- try to make contact with their marks and send them back home as spies.
Advocates say it’s a lot easier, and safer, than trying to recruit agents in places like China, under the scrutiny of Beijing’s secret police and counterspy service, not to mention in places like the Middle East and Pakistan.
But the strategy has its critics, too, especially former CIA operations officers who say the spy agency is playing it too safe -- and not delivering the goods to U.S. commanders who need strong intelligence in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“Move more CIA officers outside the diplomatic/embassy system,” he added. “Congress has directed this and has been providing massive funding for years, but the CIA has not complied. Establish strict accounting and audit procedures for federal funds, as is already required by law.”
We were moved to bring this up by an apparent kerfuffle set off by an AP report that noted the CIA’s participation in the new High Value Interrogation Group, kind of a multiagency flying squad for domestic terrorism cases.
That, in turn, generated a headline on Josh Gerstein’s Politico blog, “CIA sees no legal bar to joining U.S. interrogations,” based on a conference call with an official who spoke only on the basis of anonymity.
That would be the "conventional wisdom," yes, and how wrong it is.
In the telling, you’d think the CIA’s domestic operations were pretty limited to listening outside the interrogation room as FBI agents questioned suspects like Faisal Shahzad, scrupulously observing the legal prohibitions against CIA operations here.
Which is not to point a finger at Gerstein or Dozier, of course.
Indeed, a former CIA official hinted at reality by telling Gerstein that
Any more than that, however, the CIA is very, very reluctant to own up to.
As for the statement by Jones, a deep-cover operative for 18 years, about the large bulk of CIA assignments being made at home, agency spokesman George Little says, “That’s not true.”