The Value of 'Private Spies'

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

R.J. Hillhouse's July 8 Outlook article on "private spies," "Who Runs the CIA? Outsiders for Hire," was way off base. It suggested that the use of contract personnel by intelligence agencies such as the CIA is somehow damaging to national security. Quite the contrary -- we could not accomplish our intelligence missions without them.

U.S. intelligence agencies were dramatically downsized in the 1990s, in some cases by as much as 40 percent. Whatever else their pre-Sept. 11 failings, our agencies simply did not have enough people to do the job. In the months after Sept. 11, 2001, contract personnel emerged as our "reserves," allowing us to surge to meet unprecedented mission demands.

Why not just hire more civilians? We have, but it takes years to train and develop intelligence analysts and case officers. In the interim, contract personnel have filled the gap, in many cases with decades of priceless experience.

Our workforce has recovered to the point that we can begin to shed some contract personnel or shift them away from core mission areas, and the CIA is leading the way in this. But contract personnel will remain a vital component of the intelligence community, working side by side with government employees to keep our nation safe.

RONALD P. SANDERS

Associate Director of National Intelligence

Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Washington


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