Change Expands Eligibility for Intelligence Hires

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has taken steps to make it easier for U.S. intelligence agencies to recruit first-generation Americans with foreign relatives.

In an Oct. 1 directive, McConnell removed a requirement restricting access to "sensitive compartmented information," the highest level of classified information, to employees whose family members or close associates were U.S. citizens. In the past, there had to be a formal waiver of the citizenship requirement and a "compelling need" to hire people who did not meet the condition.

The fear was that foreign governments or groups might subject relatives or friends to physical or mental stress or torture to gain information from a U.S. intelligence employee.

With the changes, McConnell continues implementing a proposal he offered more than 18 months ago during his confirmation hearing. At the time, he said he wanted to be able to employ individuals "who might have native language capabilities" but are barred from serving "in some of these very sensitive positions in the intelligence community."

The new directive was first disclosed by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists on his Secrecy News Web site.

McConnell also disclosed yesterday that spending on national intelligence activities rose to $47.5 billion over the past 12 months, about 9 percent more than the $43.5 billion reported in fiscal 2007. The figure was disclosed in response to a law passed last year. It does not include spending on the military services' intelligence activities, which remain classified and run in excess of $10 billion, according to administration and congressional sources.

Intelligence spending has risen sharply since fiscal 1998, when then-Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet announced that total spending that year was $26.7 billion.

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