Wednesday, February 10, 2016

This really is a big freaking deal

To paraphrase the soon-to-be Democratic nominee for President.

Anyhow-- this story is a couple of months old but it has not received the attention it deserves

CIA Fooled by Massive Cold War Double-Agent Failure

All recruits in East Germany, Cuba, and Russia fooled agency

The CIA was fooled by scores of double agents pretending to be working for the agency but secretly loyal to communist spy agencies during the Cold War and beyond, according to a former CIA analyst, operations officer, and historian.

The large-scale deception included nearly 100 fake CIA recruits in East Germany, Cuba, as well as the Soviet Union (and later Russia) who supplied false intelligence that was passed on to senior U.S. policymakers for decades.

“During the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency bucked the law of averages by recruiting double agents on an industrial scale; it was hoodwinked not a few but many times,” writes Benjamin B. Fischer, CIA’s former chief historian.
Fischer’s article was published here.

It seems to me that a lot of journalistic history is in need of revising. All those books and articles that decried the “paranoia” of CIA’s counterintelligence branch under James Angleton now look suspect.

One of the counts against Angleton was that he turned away intelligence sources because he feared that they were double-agents dispatched by the Soviets to spread disinformation.

But it isn’t paranoia if they really were double-agents.

Most of the sources journalists used for those stories were CIA officers who later ‘vetted’ these double-agents, approved them, and fed their disinformation to government policy-makers.

So, a lot of “intelligence experts” look pretty silly now. (As usual Bill Clinton’s favorite girl journalist is a charter member of this group.)

Even worse, many in CIA tried to cover-up their mistakes and, in some cases, kept distributing the disinformation to avoid embarrassment for themselves and their agency.

These revelations make Tennent Bagley’s Spy Wars and Spymaster even more persuasive. (I reviewed Spy Wars here)

This is a matter of more than antiquarian or historical interest. As Gertz notes, the disparagement of counterintelligence at CIA (a legacy of William Colby and Stansfield Turner) continues to this day and can cost lives.

Critics have charged the agency with harboring an aversion to counterintelligence the practice of countering foreign spies and the vetting of the legitimacy of both agents and career officers. Beginning in the 1970s, many in the CIA criticized counter-spying, which often involved questioning the loyalties of intelligence personnel, as “sickthink.”

The agency’s ability to discern false agents turned deadly in 2009 when a Jordanian recruit pretending to work for CIA killed a group of seven CIA officers and contractors in a suicide bombing at a camp in Afghanistan.
Joby Warrick’s book on the deadly fiasco at Khost (FOB Chapman) is a great read and a first-rate piece of reporting.

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