Intelligence officials yesterday announced establishment of a National Clandestine Service at the CIA, saying the step is necessary because of the dramatic expansion in U.S. human intelligence collection abroad since Sept. 11, 2001.
The NCS, which will be based at the CIA, will carry out that agency's espionage, taking over what has been called the Directorate of Operations, and will coordinate, though it will not actually direct, the increasing spying and covert activities conducted worldwide by the Pentagon and FBI, officials said.
"This is another positive step in building an intelligence community that is more unified, coordinated and effective," Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte said in a statement yesterday.
President Bush had ordered increases of 50 percent in the number of CIA case officers and analysts, and there has been similar, if not greater, growth since the late 1990s in Pentagon and FBI human intelligence collection operations, the officials noted.
That growth requires greater coordination of efforts and "has for the first time since 1947 forced us to redraw the lines," said a senior intelligence official, one of two who briefed reporters yesterday on the condition they not be identified by name. One official was from Negroponte's Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees all U.S. intelligence agencies; the other was from the CIA.
Yesterday's announcement gives CIA Director Porter J. Goss another title, national humint manager, incorporating the intelligence community's shorthand for human intelligence, which refers to information collected from people rather than from technical sources such as electronic intercepts. The director of the National Clandestine Service will report to Goss, but the new agency's work will be overseen by Negroponte's staff.
One official said creating the new clandestine service office at the CIA -- instead of within the DNI's office -- reflects an endorsement of the agency by Bush.
John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, yesterday praised the new setup.
"This decision reaffirms the agency's status as the nation's premier human intelligence organization and gives the director of the CIA the tools he needs to ensure an effective and coordinated effort across all agencies involved with human intelligence," he said.
The intelligence committee's Republican majority, however, citing the CIA's failures before Sept. 11, 2001, and the 2003 invasion of Iraq, had wanted the NCS job to be located within the DNI's office, not at the CIA.
While the new agency will be part of the CIA, national intelligence director Negroponte's deputy, Mary Margaret Graham, a former CIA operations officer, will oversee the NCS and all human intelligence collection overseas.
But the officials said Negroponte's office will not get involved in setting targets or running or approving specific covert operations. The DNI's role is "to set policy," one official said, "and [he] will not be a command chain for decisions on operations."
The DNI will set priorities for those who collect intelligence and those who analyze it, appointing "mission managers" to make certain the intelligence community is focused on what is important.
One official said the DNI's plan is to bring together collectors and analysts from all intelligence agencies concerned to work out the best way to tackle specific problems. Each agency -- the CIA, the Pentagon, the FBI, the State Department Intelligence and Research Bureau and others -- can contribute to such prioritizing. Then it will be up to Goss and the NCS director to coordinate the operations.
The director of NCS will supervise such coordination, but "he will not tell the FBI or DoD [Defense Department] what they can do; they will do their own operation business," one official said. The CIA station chief in foreign countries will be fully briefed on all proposed operations, and any disagreements are to be worked out primarily at the local level.
"Deconfliction," the process of making certain there is no overlapping or conflict among clandestine operators, "is best handled in the field," one of the officials said.
The director of the NCS will have two deputies, one to run CIA clandestine operations and the other to coordinate activities of other overseas operators. The second deputy will also set standards for training by all agencies involved in intelligence, including tradecraft and the vetting or validation of foreign agents or sources being recruited.
Common training, with CIA, FBI and Pentagon officers in the same classes, is already taking place, the officials said.