A top-secret cable from the Central Intelligence Agency has been released in which the agency admits dozens of informants and agents have been killed over the last few years. The cable was sent to counter-intelligence stations all over the world, according to the New York Times.
The unknown author of the cable claims that the CIA’s counter-intelligence mission center has looked at dozens of cases run over the last few years which involved the killing compromise, or arrest of foreign informants. It included a precise claim on the number of agents who have been killed by other counter-intelligence agencies, an inclusion that the NYT says is unusual.
The cable also mentions that the CIA has had trouble recruiting informants and agents recently. It also mentions a number of the threats currently faced which originate from Pakistan, Russia, China, and Iran.
The CIA refused to comment when the NYT reached out with questions about the cable. Former CIA operative, Douglas London, responded saying, “No one is being held responsible when things go wrong with an agent.” London is the author of “The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence.”
He went on to say, “Some things are beyond our control but there are also instances of neglect and sloppiness, and the people in senior positions are never held responsible.”
Without London’s comments, we might look at the cable and shrug. After all, the common perception of spies and spying is that it is dangerous. Much like the perception of soldiers in a war, intelligence agents are presumed to be surrounded by enemies and intrigue. But if we reflect on the lectures of Yuri Bezmenov, we are reminded that these common romantic perceptions about spies are largely the creation of Hollywood.
Bezmenov, a former KGB agent tells us that the work of spy-craft is much more about influencing the cultures of enemy nations than it is about cloak and dagger. Looking at the state of American politics, public life, and culture it would be easy and reasonable to presume that Anti-American spycraft has succeeded in demoralizing and de-Americanizing the American people.
If that is the case, one might ask why it’s so dangerous to be a spy in this day and age. If the work of spies is not to get embroiled in 007-like adventures, but is more about infiltrating the institutions of enemy nations, then why is it so dangerous?
London says senior intelligence people are not being held responsible. This would seem to indicate they are sending agents and informants into unreasonably dangerous situations. Is it even remotely conceivable that a Soviet infiltrator working his way up the hierarchy at an American university would ever risk his life in the line of duty?
Then again, the title of London’s book is “[…] the Lost Art of American Intelligence.” Clearly, our intelligence agencies are doing something wrong. But is their failure the result of misconceptions about geopolitics, or might something closer to the willful sabotage of our intelligence capabilities from the inside explain these deaths?