2021-10-05 20:50:20 C.I.A. Admits to Losing Informants

C.I.A. Admits to Losing Informants

According to those who have read it, the warning was primarily aimed at front-line agency officers, who are directly involved in the recruiting and vetting of sources. The cable reminded C.I.A. case officers to focus on security issues such as vetting informants and evading adversarial intelligence services, in addition to recruiting sources.

According to people familiar with the document, one of the reasons for the cable was to prompt C.I.A. case officers to consider steps they could take on their own to do a better job managing informants.

Former officials stated that there needs to be a greater emphasis on security and counterintelligence among both senior leaders and frontline personnel, particularly when it comes to recruiting informants, also known as agents by C.I.A. officers.

“At the end of the day, no one is held accountable when things go wrong with an agent,” said Douglas London, a former agency employee. “Sometimes things are beyond our control, but there are also instances of sloppiness and neglect, for which people in senior positions are never held accountable.”

Mr. London stated that he was not aware of the cable. However, in his new book, “The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence,” he contends that the C.I.A.’s shift toward covert action and paramilitary operations has undermined traditional espionage, which relies on securely recruiting and handling agents.

According to former officials, global messages to C.I.A. stations and bases highlighting troubling trends or problems, or even warnings about counterintelligence issues, are not uncommon. Nonetheless, the memo detailing a specific number of informants arrested or killed by adversarial powers is unusually detailed, indicating the gravity of the current problems. Former officials said that counterintelligence officials typically prefer to keep such details hidden, even from the rest of the C.I.A. workforce.

A C.I.A. spokeswoman declined to comment on the memo.

Sheetal T. Patel, who became the C.I.A.’s assistant director for counterintelligence last year and leads that mission center, has not been shy about issuing broad warnings to the C.I.A. community of current and former officers.

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C.I.A. Admits to Losing Informants