How the CIA Forgot the Art of Spying

Alex Finley: “Over the past 15 years, this ‘global war on terror’ mindset has become the default at the CIA. After accusations that it was stuck in the Cold War, the agency began to trade concealment devices and human sources for military hardware. Under a directive from President George W. Bush, it expanded its ranks to fight terror. It bulked up its abilities to track and target a dispersed enemy fighting an asymmetrical war. Gone were the days, it seemed, of risky brush passes in a heart-pounding, adrenaline-filled four-second period when an officer was “black”—meaning free, just for a moment, from hostile surveillance and able to pass a message to an asset. The Cold War was over; we had a new enemy to defeat.”

“The CIA finds itself in a tough spot. Having remade itself for the 21st century, it still has the 20th century tugging at its sleeve. Will the agency be able to keep tabs on Russia’s plans? Will it be able to persuade people to provide information that would put their lives at risk? Will it be able to entice those sources without anyone—particularly Russia—knowing? Although the agency has been slow to adjust to new realities in the past, its officers certainly recognize how high the stakes are now. The pivot back toward traditional espionage will be a shock to the system, but a necessary one if the United States wants to gauge Russia’s true intentions. Putin brought his empire roaring back. I hope the CIA will prove it can do even better.”

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