Subj: The C.I.A. and the failure of American intelligence.
Date: 1/19/02 2:42:13 PM Pacific Standard Time
From: (American Patriot Friends Network)
To: (APFN Yahoogroups)

     The C.I.A. and the failure of American intelligence.

                by SEYMOUR M.  HERSH

          Issue  of 2001-10-08 Posted 2001-10-01 After more  than
     two weeks of around-the-clock investigation into the Septem-
     ber 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,
     the American intelligence community remains confused, divid-
     ed,  and unsure about how the terrorists operated, how  many
     there  were, and what they might do next.  It was that  lack
     of solid information, government officials told me, that was
     the  key  factor behind the Bush  Administration's  decision
     last  week not to issue a promised white paper  listing  the
     evidence  linking  Osama  bin Laden's  organization  to  the

          There is consensus within the government on two issues:
     the terrorist attacks were brilliantly planned and executed,
     and  the  intelligence community was in no way  prepared  to
     stop them.  One bureaucratic victim, the officials said, may
     be  George Tenet, the director of the  Central  Intelligence
     Agency, whose resignation is considered a necessity by  many
     in  the  Administration.  "The system is after  Tenet,"  one
     senior officer told me.  "It wants to get rid of him."

          The  investigators  are  now split into  at  least  two
     factions.   One, centered in the F.B.I., believes  that  the
     terrorists  may  not have been "a cohesive  group,"  as  one
     involved  official put it, before they started training  and
     working together on this operation.  "These guys look like a
     pickup basketball team," he said.  "A bunch of guys who  got
     together."  The  F.B.I.   is still trying to  sort  out  the
     identities  and backgrounds of the hijackers.  The fact  is,
     the official acknowledged, "we don't know much about them."

          These investigators suspect that the suicide teams were
     simply  lucky.  "In your wildest dreams, do you  think  they
     thought  they'd  be able to pull off four  hijackings?"  the
     official  asked.   "Just taking out one jet and  getting  it
     into  the ground would have been a success.  These  are  not
     supermen."  He explained that the most  important  advantage
     the  hijackers had, aside from the element of surprise,  was
     history: in the past, most hijackings had ended up safely on
     the  ground  at a Third World airport, so  pilots  had  been
     trained to covperate.

          Another view, centered in the Pentagon and the  C.I.A.,
     credits  the  hijackers with years of advance  planning  and
     practice,  and  a deliberate  after-the-fact  disinformation
     campaign.  "These guys were below everybody's radar  they're
     professionals,"  an  official said.  "There's no  more  than
     five or six in a cell.  Three men will know the plan;  three
     won't know.  They've been 'sleeping' out there for years and
     years."  One military planner told me that many of his  col-
     leagues  believe  that the terrorists "went  to  ground  and
     pulled  phone  lines" well before September  11th  that  is,
     concealed traces of their activities.  It is widely believed
     that  the terrorists had a support team, and the  fact  that
     the  F.B.I.  has been unable to track down  fellow-conspira-
     tors  who were left behind in the United States is  seen  as
     further  evidence of careful planning.  "Look,"  one  person
     familiar with the investigation said.  "If it were as simple
     and  straightforward as a lucky one-off  oddball  operation,
     then the seeds of confusion would not have been sown as they

          Many  of  the investigators believe that  some  of  the
     initial  clues  that were uncovered  about  the  terrorists'
     identities  and preparations, such as flight  manuals,  were
     meant  to be found.  A former high-level intelligence  offi-
     cial told me, "Whatever trail was left was left  deliberate-
     lyfor the F.B.I.  to chase."

          In  interviews  over the past two weeks,  a  number  of
     intelligence officials have raised questions about Osama bin
     Laden's capabilities.  "This guy sits in a cave in Afghanis-
     tan  and he's running this operation?" one C.I.A.   official
     asked.   "It's so huge.  He couldn't have done it alone."  A
     senior  military officer told me that because of  the  visas
     and  other documentation needed to infiltrate  team  members
     into the United States a major foreign intelligence  service
     might  also have been involved.  "To get somebody to fly  an
     airplane to kill himself," the official added, further  sug-
     gests  that  "somebody paid his family a hell of  a  lot  of

          "These people are not necessarily all from bin  Laden,"
     a Justice Department official told me.  "We're still running
     a  lot of stuff out," he said, adding that the  F.B.I.   has
     been inundated with leads.  On September 23rd, Secretary  of
     State  Colin Powell told a television interviewer  that  "we
     will put before the world, the American people, a persuasive
     case"  showing  that bin Laden was responsible for  the  at-
     tacks.  But the widely anticipated white paper could not  be
     published, the Justice Department official said, for lack of
     hard facts.  "There was not enough to make a sale."

          The  Administration justified the delay by telling  the
     press that most of the information was classified and  could
     not  yet be released.  Last week, however, a  senior  C.I.A. 
     official  confirmed that the intelligence community had  not
     yet  developed  a significant amount  of  solid  information
     about  the terrorists' operations, financing, and  planning. 
     "One day, we'll know, but at the moment we don't know,"  the
     official said.

          "To  me," he added, "the scariest thing is  that  these
     guys"  the  terrorists "got the first one free.   They  knew
     that the standard operating procedure in an aircraft hijack-
     ing was to play for time.  And they knew for sure that after
     this  the security on airplanes was going to go way up.   So
     whatever  they've  planned for the next round  they  had  in
     place already."

          The  concern  about  a second attack  was  repeated  by
     others  involved in the investigation.  Some in  the  F.B.I. 
     now  suspect  that the terrorists are following a  war  plan
     devised by the convicted conspirator Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who
     is  believed to have been the mastermind of the  1993  World
     Trade  Center  bombing.  Yousef was involved in  plans  that
     called for, among other things, the releasing of poisons  in
     the air and the bombing of the tunnels between New York City
     and  New Jersey.  The government's concern about the  poten-
     tial  threat from hazardous-waste haulers was heightened  by
     the Yousef case.

          "Do they go chem/bio in one, two, or three years?"  one
     senior  general  asked rhetorically.  "We must  now  make  a
     difficult transition from reliance on law enforcement to the
     prekmptive.  That part is hard.  Can we recruit enough  good
     people?"  In recent years, he said, "we've been hiring  kids
     out of college who are computer geeks." He continued,  "This
     is  about  going back to deep, hard dirty work,  with  tough
     people going down dark alleys with good instincts."

          Today's C.I.A.  is not up to the job.  Since the break-
     up  of  the Soviet Union, in 1991, the  C.I.A.   has  become
     increasingly  bureaucratic and unwilling to take risks,  and
     has  promoted officers who shared such values.   ("The  con-
     sciousness of kind," one former officer says.) It has stead-
     ily reduced its reliance on overseas human intelligence  and
     cut the number of case officers abroad members of the  clan-
     destine  service, now known formally as the  Directorate  of
     Operations, or D.O., whose mission is to recruit spies.  (It
     used  to be called the "dirty tricks" department.)  Instead,
     the agency has relied on liaison relationships reports  from
     friendly intelligence services and police departments around
     the worldand on technical collection systems.

          It  won't  be  easy to put agents back  in  the  field. 
     During the Cold War, the agency's most important mission was
     to recruit spies from within the Soviet Union's military and
     its  diplomatic  corps.   C.I.A.  agents  were  assigned  as
     diplomatic  or  cultural officers at American  embassies  in
     major cities, and much of their work could be done at diplo-
     matic functions and other social events.  For an agent  with
     such  cover,  the consequence of being exposed  was  usually
     nothing more than expulsion from the host country and tempo-
     rary reassignment to a desk in Washington.  Today, in Afgha-
     nistan,  or  anywhere in the Middle East or  South  Asia,  a
     C.I.A.  operative would have to speak the local language and
     be  able to blend in.  The operative should  seemingly  have
     nothing  to  do  with any Americans, or  with  the  American
     embassy,  if there is one.  The status is known  inside  the
     agency as "nonofficial cover," or NOC.  Exposure could  mean

          It's  possible that there isn't a single  such  officer
     operating  today inside Islamic-fundamentalist circles.   In
     an  essay  published last summer in  The  Atlantic  Monthly,
     Reuel Marc Gerecht, who served for nearly a decade as a case
     officer  in  the  C.I.A.'s Near East  Division,  quoted  one
     C.I.A.  man as saying, "For Christ's sake, most case  offic-
     ers live in the suburbs of Virginia.  We don't do that  kind
     of  thing." Another officer told Gerecht,  "Operations  that
     include diarrhea as a way of life don't happen."

          At  the same time, the D.O.  has been badly hurt  by  a
     series  of  resignations and  retirements  among  high-level
     people,  including four men whose names are little known  to
     the  public  but who were widely  respected  throughout  the
     agency:  Douglas  Smith, who spent thirty-one years  in  the
     clandestine service; William Lofgren, who at his retirement,
     in  1996, was chief of the Central Eurasia  Division;  David
     Manners, who was chief of station in Amman, Jordan, when  he
     left the agency, in 1998; and Robert Baer, an Arabic speaker
     who  was  considered perhaps the  best  on-the-ground  field
     officer  in  the  Middle East.  All left  with  feelings  of
     bitterness over the agency's procedures for running clandes-
     tine operations.

          "We'll never solve the terrorism issue until we  recon-
     stitute the D.O.," a former senior clandestine officer  told
     me.   "The first line of defense, and the most crucial  line
     of defense, is human intelligence." Baer, who was awarded  a
     Career  Intelligence  Medal after his resignation,  in  late
     1997, said, "You wouldn't believe how bad it is.  What saved
     the  White  House on Flight 93" the plane  that  crashed  in
     Pennsylvania  "was a bunch of rugby players.  Is  that  what
     you're paying thirty billion dollars for?" He was  referring
     to  the  federal budget for intelligence.  He and  his  col-
     leagues aren't surprised that the F.B.I.  had no warning  of
     the  attack.   "The bureau is wonderful  in  solving  crimes
     after  they're committed," one C.I.A.  man said.  "But  it's
     not good at penetration.  We've got to do it."

          Today,  the C.I.A.  doesn't have enough qualified  case
     officers  to  man  its many stations and  bases  around  the
     world.   Two  retired  agents have been brought  back  on  a
     rotating basis to take temporary charge of the small base in
     Karachi,  Pakistan,  a focal point for  terrorist  activity. 
     (Karachi was the site of the murder, in 1995, of two  Ameri-
     cans, one of them a C.I.A.  employee, allegedly in  retalia-
     tion  for the arrest in Pakistan of Ramzi Ahmed  Yousef.)  A
     retired agent also runs the larger C.I.A.  station in Dacca,
     Bangladesh,  a Muslim nation that could be a source  of  re-
     cruits.  Other retirees run C.I.A.  stations in Africa.

          One hard question is what lengths the C.I.A.  should go
     to.   In an interview, two former operations officers  cited
     the tactics used in the late nineteen-eighties by the Jorda-
     nian  security  service, in its successful effort  to  bring
     down Abu Nidal, the Palestinian who led what was at the time
     "the  most dangerous terrorist organization  in  existence,"
     according  to the State Department.  Abu Nidal's  group  was
     best  known for its role in two bloody gun and  grenade  at-
     tacks  on check-in desks for El Al, the Israeli airline,  at
     the  Rome  and Vienna airports in December,  1985.   At  his
     peak,  Abu  Nidal  threatened the life of  King  Hussein  of
     Jordan whom he called "the pygmy king" and the King respond-
     ed, according to the former intelligence officers, by  tell-
     ing his state security service, "Go get them."

          The Jordanians did not move directly against  suspected
     Abu Nidal followers but seized close family members  instead
     mothers  and brothers.  The Abu Nidal suspect would  be  ap-
     proached,  given a telephone, and told to call  his  mother,
     who  would say, according to one C.I.A.  man, "Son,  they'll
     take  care  of me if you don't do what they  ask."  (To  his
     knowledge,  the official carefully added, all  the  suspects
     agreed  to  talk  before any family  members  were  actually
     harmed.)  By  the  early nineteen-nineties,  the  group  was
     crippled by internal dissent and was no longer a significant
     terrorist organization.  (Abu Nidal, now in his sixties  and
     in poor health, is believed to be living quietly in  Egypt.)
     "Jordan  is the one nation that totally succeeded  in  pene-
     trating  a  group," the official added.  "You  have  to  get
     their families under control."

          Such tactics defy the American rule of law, of  course,
     and the C.I.A.'s procedures, but, when it comes to Osama bin
     Laden  and his accomplices, the official insisted, there  is
     no alternative.  "We need to do this knock them down one  by
     one,"  he  said.  "Are we serious about getting rid  of  the
     problem instead of sitting around making diversity quilts?"

          A  few  days  after the  attacks,  Vice-President  Dick
     Cheney  defended  the C.I.A.'s director,  George  Tenet,  on
     television, saying that it would be a "tragedy" to look  for
     "scapegoats."  President Bush subsequently added a  note  of
     support with a visit to C.I.A.  headquarters.  In an  inter-
     view  last  week,  one top C.I.A.   official  also  defended
     Tenet.   "We know there's a lot of  Monday-morning  quarter-
     backing going on, but people don't understand the conditions
     that George inherited," he told me.  "You can't penetrate  a
     six-man cell when they're brothers and cousins no matter how
     much  Urdu you know." The official acknowledged  that  there
     was much dissatisfaction with the C.I.A.'s performance,  but
     he said, "George has not gotten any word other than that the
     President  has full confidence in him." He went on,  "George
     wouldn't resign in a situation like this."

          I  was informed by other officials, however,  that  Te-
     net's days are numbered.  "They've told him he's on his  way
     out,"  one  official said.  "He's trying to  figure  it  out
     whether  to go gracefully or let it appear as if he's  going
     to  be  fired."  A White House  adviser  explained  Cheney's
     public endorsement of Tenet by saying, "In Washington,  your
     friends always stab you in the chest.  Somebody has to  take
     the  blame  for this." It was his understanding,  he  added,
     that  "after a decent interval whenever they get some  trac-
     tion on the problem he will depart.  I've heard three to six
     months."  Even one of Tenet's close friends told  me,  "He's

          Tenet's standing was further undermined, after  Septem-
     ber  11th,  by what proved to have been a series  of  wildly
     optimistic  claims about the effectiveness of  the  C.I.A.'s
     Counter  Terrorism Center, which was set up in 1986 after  a
     wave  of  international bombings, airplane  hijackings,  and
     kidnappings.   The idea was to bring together  experts  from
     every American police agency, including the Secret  Service,
     into a "fusion center," which would covrdinate  intelligence
     data on terrorism.  In October, 1998, after four men  linked
     to bin Laden were indicted for their role in the bombings at
     the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, reporters  for
     Newsweek were given a tour of the center.  The  indictments,
     Newsweek reported, "were intended as a clear message to  bin
     Laden  and his fugitive followers: the United  States  knows
     who they are and where to find them..  ..  The story of  how
     the  C.I.A.   and F.B.I., once bitter  bureaucratic  rivals,
     collaborated  to  roll up bin Laden's elusive network  is  a
     tale of state-of-the-art sleuthingand just plain luck."

          But  in fact the C.T.C.  was not authorized to  recruit
     or  handle  agents overseas that task was left to  the  D.O. 
     and  its  stations in the Middle East, which had  their  own
     priorities.   The C.T.C.  was bolstered with more money  and
     more manpower after the World Trade Center bombing in  1993,
     but  it remained a paper-shuffling unit whose officers  were
     not required to be proficient in foreign languages.  Many of
     the C.I.A.'s old hands have told me that the C.T.C., despite
     its  high  profile, was not an assignment of  choice  for  a
     young  and ambitious D.O.  officer.  The C.T.C.  and two  of
     the other major intelligence centers dealing with  narcotics
     and  nuclear-nonproliferation  issues  are  so  consumed  by
     internecine  warfare that the professional analysts find  it
     difficult  to  do their jobs.  "They're all  fighting  among
     each other," said one senior manager who took early  retire-
     ment and whose last assignment was as the director of one of
     the centers.  "There's no concentration on issues."

          In 1986, Robert Baer, freshly arrived as a case officer
     from  Khartoum, was drafted into the Counter Terrorism  Cen-
     ter,  a  few months after it was set up,  by  its  director,
     Duane  (Dewey) Clarridge.  A draft of a memoir  Baer  wrote,
     which  will  be published by Crown this fall,  depicts  what
     happened next:

          The  first few months was about as exhilarating  as  it
     can get in the spy business.  Dewey had authority to  pretty
     much  do anything he wanted against the terrorists.  He  had
     all  the  money  he wanted..  ..  It  wasn't  long,  though,
     before  the politics of intelligence  undermined  everything
     Dewey  tried  to do..  ..  It was too risky.  A  botched  or
     even  a successful operation would piss off a friendly  for-
     eign  government.  Someone would be thrown out of his  cushy
     post.   Someone could even get killed..  ..  You'd ask  [the
     C.I.A.  station in] Bonn to recruit a few Arabs and Iranians
     to  track the Middle East imigri community in West  Germany,
     and  it would respond that it didn't have  enough  officers. 
     You'd ask Beirut to meet a certain agent traveling to  Leba-
     non,  and it would refuse because of some security  problem. 
     It was nothing but bureaucratic foot-dragging, but it effec-
     tively  hamstrung  anything Dewey tried to  do.   After  six
     months, Dewey could put his hands on only two Arabic  speak-
     ers another officer and me.

          Many  people  in the intelligence community,  in  their
     conversations with me, complained bitterly about how  diffi-
     cult it was to work with the Directorate of Operations, even
     during a crisis.  "In order to work on a problem with D.O.,"
     a former senior scientist told me, "you have to be in  D.O."
     Similarly,  a congressional observer of the C.I.A.  came  to
     understand  the bureaucratic power of the D.O.  "To  succeed
     as director of Central Intelligence," he said, "you have  to
     ingratiate yourself with the D.O." Other intelligence sourc-
     es  have  told me that the D.O.'s machinations led,  at  one
     point, to a feud with the National Security Agency over  who
     would control the Special Collection Service, a joint under-
     taking of the two agencies that deploys teams of electronics
     specialists around the world to monitor diplomatic and other
     communications  in moments of crisis.  The  S.C.S.'s  highly
     secret  operations,  which produced some of the  Cold  War's
     most valuable data, are usually run from secure sites inside
     American  embassies.   Competence  and  sophistication  were
     hindered  by an absurd amount of bickering.  A military  man
     who  in  1998 was involved in a Middle  East  signals-intel-
     ligence  operation told me that he was not able  to  discuss
     the  activity  with representatives of the C.I.A.   and  the
     N.S.A.   at  the same time.  "I used to meet with one  in  a
     safe house in Virginia, break for lunch, and then meet  with
     the other," the officer said.  "They wouldn't be in the same

          If  the current crisis does lead to an overhaul of  the
     agency, the Senate and House intelligence committees are not
     likely  to  be of much help.  Lofgren, Smith,  Manners,  and
     Baer,  among  others, repeatedly met  with  legislators  and
     their  staffs and testified before Congress in an effort  to
     bring about changes.  But nothing was done.

          Not  surprisingly, Republicans and Democrats have  dif-
     fering  explanations  for what went wrong.   One  Republican
     staff member said that Senator Richard C.  Shelby, of Alaba-
     ma, who was the committee's chairman until early this  year,
     understood  that the problem was at the top of  the  agency. 
     "We  do have guys in the field with great ideas who are  not
     supported by the establishment," the staff member said.  But
     none  of the senior Democrats, he said, wanted to  embarrass
     the  director, George Tenet, by holding an inquiry or  hear-
     ings  into the various complaints.  (Tenet had  spent  years
     working  for the Democrats on the committee staff,  and  had
     served  as  a  member of Bill  Clinton's  National  Security
     Council staff before joining the C.I.A.'s management team.)

          One  Democrat, however, blamed the process  within  the
     Senate  committee,  which, he said, neglected  terrorism  in
     favor  of  more politically charged issues.   "Tenet's  been
     briefing about bin Laden for years, but we weren't organized
     to  consider what are threats to the United  States.   We're
     chasing whatever the hell is in the news at the moment."

          Former Senator Bob Kerrey, of Nebraska, who served  for
     four years as the Intelligence Committee's ranking  Democrat
     and is now the president of the New School, in New York,  is
     one of Tenet's defenders.  But Kerrey also acknowledges that
     he no longer knows "how well we did our job" of  legislative
     oversight.   "Nobody with any responsibility can  walk  away
     from this.  We missed something here."

          Kerrey  remains  angry about the  U.S.   policy  toward
     Afghanistan  in  the years after its defeat  of  the  Soviet
     Union.   "The Cold War was over, and we shut down  Afghanis-
     tan"  that  is, ceased all intelligence  operations.   "From
     Bush to Clinton, what happened is one of the most embarrass-
     ing  American foreign-policy decisions, as bad as  Vietnam,"
     Kerrey said.  He cited a botched 1996 C.I.A.  plot to  over-
     throw President Saddam Hussein of Iraq: "We also had a half-
     baked  Iraqi  operation  and sent a signal  that  we're  not

          Last June, Shelby, after a tour of the Persian Gulf and
     a  series of intelligence briefings, told a Washington  Post
     reporter that bin Laden was "on the run, and I think he will
     continue  to be on the run, because we are not going to  let
     up."  He went on, "I don't think you could say he's  got  us
     hunkered  down.  I believe he's more hunkered  down."  After
     the bombing, however, Shelby was among the first to  suggest
     publicly that it was time for Tenet to go.  "I think he's  a
     good  man,  and he's done some good things, but  there  have
     been a lot of failures on his watch," Shelby told USA Today. 
     Tenet,  he  said,  lacked "the stature to  control  all  the
     agencies.  In a sense, he is in charge, but in reality  he's

          One  friend and former colleague of Tenet's  says  that
     his  refusal to urge the Senate leadership to deal with  the
     hard  issues  was  symptomatic of  his  problems  as  C.I.A. 
     director.   "He's  a politician, too," that person  said  of
     Tenet.  "That's why he shouldn't have been there, because he
     had  no  status to tell the senators, 'You don't  know  what
     you're talking about.' "

          In  his  memoir, Robert Baer describes the  "fatal  ma-
     laise"  that came over the Paris station of the  C.I.A.   in
     the  early nineties: "Case officers weren't  recruiting  new
     agents.   The agents already on the books were old.   They'd
     lost their access.  And no one seemed to care." Many in  the
     agency  were shocked in early 1992 when Milton Bearden,  the
     head of the Soviet-East European division he had also played
     a  major role in the C.I.A.'s support for the Afghan  rebels
     in  their brutal war against the Soviet Union  informed  his
     overseas stations that Russia would now be treated like  any
     other  friendly  nation,  such as Germany  or  France.   The
     C.I.A.   was no longer in the business of recruiting  agents
     to spy against the Russians.  In addition, C.I.A.   surveil-
     lance  apartments  were  closed  and  wiretaps  turned   off
     throughout  the Middle East and Europe.  "We'll  never  know
     the losses we had in terms of not capitalizing on the Soviet
     collapse,"  a  retired  official  said.   Former  high-level
     Soviet officials with intelligence information or other data
     were  rebuffed.  "Walk-ins were turned away.  It  was  stun-
     ning, and, as far as I knew, nobody fought it."

          Little changed when Bill Clinton took office, in  1993. 
     Baer,  now  assigned,  at his request, to  the  tiny  C.I.A. 
     outpost  in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, near the Afghanistan  bor-
     der, watched helplessly as Saudi-backed Islamic fundamental-
     ists  the  precursors of the Taliban  consolidated  training
     bases  and  began to recruit supporters and  run  operations
     inside the frontier nations of the former Soviet Union.

          In  1995,  the agency was widely criticized  after  the
     news  came out that a paid informant in Guatemala  had  been
     involved  in  the murders of an American innkeeper  and  the
     Guatemalan husband of an American lawyer.  The informant had
     been kept on the C.I.A.  payroll even though his  activities
     were  known to the Directorate of Operations.  John  Deutch,
     the C.I.A.'s third director in three years, responded to the
     abuses,  and  to the public outcry, by issuing  a  directive
     calling  for  prior approval from  headquarters  before  any
     person  with  criminal  or human-rights  problems  could  be
     recruited.  The approval, Deutch later explained, was to  be
     based on a simple balancing test: "Is the potential gain  in
     intelligence  worth the cost that might be  associated  with
     doing business with a person who may be a murderer?"

          The "scrub order," as it came to be known, was  promul-
     gated  by Deutch and his colleagues with the best of  inten-
     tions, and included provisions for case-by-case review.  But
     in  practice  hundreds  of  "assets"  were  indiscriminately
     stricken  from  the  C.I.A.'s payroll,  with  a  devastating
     effect on anti-terrorist operations in the Middle East.

          The  scrub  order led to the creation of  a  series  of
     screening  panels  at C.I.A.  headquarters.   Before  a  new
     asset could be recruited, a C.I.A.  case officer had to seek
     approval  from a Senior Review Panel.  "It was like  a  car-
     diologist  in California deciding whether a surgeon  in  New
     York  City  could cut a chest open," a  former  officer  re-
     called.   Potential agents were being assessed by  officials
     who  had  no  firsthand  experience  in  covert  operations. 
     ("Americans  hate  intelligence just hate it,"  Robert  Baer
     recalls  thinking.) In the view of the operations  officers,
     the most important weapons in the war against  international
     terrorism were being evaluated by men and women who, as  one
     of  the retired officers put it, "wouldn't drive to  a  D.C. 
     restaurant  at night because they were afraid of  the  crime

          Other  bureaucratic  panels  began  "multiplying   like
     rabbits,  one after another," a former station  chief  said. 
     Experienced  officers who were adamant about  continuing  to
     recruit spies found that obtaining approval before making  a
     pitch had become a matter of going from committee to commit-
     tee.   "In  the old days, they'd say, 'Go get them,'  "  the
     retired officer said.  Yet another review process, known  as
     A.V.S. the asset-validation system was put in place.  Anoth-
     er  retired  officer told me, "You'd have to write  so  much
     paper that guys would spend more time in the station writing
     reports than out on the street."

          "It  was  mindless," a third officer said.   "Look,  we
     recruited  assholes.   I  handled bad guys.   But  we  don't
     recruit  people  from the Little Sisters of  the  Poor  they
     don't  know anything." He went on, "What we've done to  our-
     selves  is criminal.  There are a half-dozen good  guys  out
     there trying to keep it together."

          "It  did  make the workday a lot easier,"  Robert  Baer
     said of the edict.  "I just watched CNN.  No one cared." The
     C.I.A.'s  vital  South Group, made up of eight  stations  in
     central Asia all threatened by fundamentalist organizations,
     especially  in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, with links to  the
     Taliban  and  bin Laden had no agents by  the  mid-nineteen-
     nineties, Baer said.  "The agency was going away."

          Unlike  many senior officials at C.I.A.   headquarters,
     Baer  had  lived undercover, in  the  nineteen-eighties,  in
     Beirut and elsewhere in the Middle East, and he well  under-
     stood the ability of terrorist organizations to cover  their
     tracks.   He  told me that when the C.I.A.   started  to  go
     after the Islamic Jihad, a radical Lebanese group linked  to
     a  series  of kidnappings in the Reagan years,  "its  people
     systematically went through documents all over Beirut,  even
     destroying student records.  They had the airport wired  and
     could pick the Americans out.  They knew whom they wanted to
     kidnap  before  he landed." The terrorists  coped  with  the
     American  ability  to intercept conversations  worldwide  by
     constantly  changing  codes  often doing  little  more  than
     changing the meanings of commonly used phrases.  "There's  a
     professional cadre out there," Baer said.  Referring to  the
     terrorists  who  struck on September 11th, he  said,  "These
     people are so damned good."


FBI Advises Security Review Of Web Content


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