The CIA will retain its role as chief coordinator of overseas spying by U.S. intelligence agencies under a plan approved by the White House that sources said was scheduled to be announced today.
The plan envisions creation of a National Clandestine Service within the CIA under Director Porter J. Goss, sources said. The chief of the new service will supervise the CIA's human intelligence operations and coordinate -- but not direct -- similar activities undertaken abroad by other parts of the intelligence community, including the FBI and Defense Department agencies.
The plan was drafted by Goss, based on a suggestion made last March by President Bush's commission on intelligence. It keeps the CIA's traditional position as leader of U.S. "human intelligence" collection overseas as the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency and military services are increasing their clandestine operations around the world as part of the terrorism fight. Human intelligence refers to information collected from people, rather than from technical sources such as electronic intercepts.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence -- citing past CIA failures in averting the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and in overstating Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- recently concluded in a report that coordination of human intelligence should be moved to the office of the director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte. The director of intelligence position was created in the intelligence-community revision by Congress last year.
If the coordinating "role had not remained in CIA, it would have been bad for agency morale, which already is down," a former senior intelligence official said yesterday. "Despite the recent faults of CIA, it is more disciplined and sophisticated on human intelligence than elsewhere" in the intelligence community, he said.
Although the intelligence director's office will not directly coordinate the human intelligence activities, it will exercise oversight. Negroponte's deputy in charge of collection, Mary Margaret Graham, a former CIA operations officer, will oversee all human intelligence collection overseas and will set broad requirements for what information needs to be collected, sources said. The CIA, the FBI and Pentagon agencies will work out who carries out the clandestine collections, with the clandestine services chief coordinating their activities.
"This is not a bad idea now that there is so much human intelligence activity across the community," said a former senior intelligence official who has been briefed on the program. In the past, he said, the CIA's deputy director for operations, who ran CIA clandestine operations, had a similar coordinating role, but at a time when other agencies had fewer overseas spy operations.
As currently envisioned, the clandestine services director will have a deputy who would not only coordinate overseas spying operations, but also ensure that agencies do not overlap one another in recruitment or operations, described by one official as "deconflicting" activities in the community. The deputy will also supervise establishment of common standards for training all human intelligence collectors in tradecraft, including the recruitment, vetting and handling of sources.
Another clandestine services deputy will run CIA's clandestine operations, as the deputy director for operations does now. The president's commission had originally proposed creating the position to free the deputy director for operations to concentrate on increasing the capability of CIA's operations, which were found lacking based on the agency's performances in failing to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks and to gain accurate information on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Sources inside and outside the government said yesterday they expect that the CIA's current deputy director for operations, referred to as "Jose" because he is still under cover, will be the first NCS director. "He is a team builder," said one of Jose's former colleagues.
In a speech last month to CIA employees, at which Goss received unusually sharp questioning about the agency's future, he predicted that Negroponte would approve his plan and keep the agency as overall coordinator of human intelligence.