More than 1,600 new Defense Department agents will collect intelligence and report findings to CIA, said to be overstretched
The news is likely to heighten concerns about the accountability of the US military amid concerns about the CIA’s drone programme. Photograph: US navy/Reuters
The US military plans to send hundreds more spies overseas as part of an ambitious plan that will more than double the size of its espionage network, it was reported Sunday.
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Pentagon’s military intelligence unit, is aiming to recruit 1,600 intelligence “collectors” – up from the several hundred overseas agents it has employed in recent years, sources told The Washington Post.
Combined with the enormous growth in the CIA since 9/11 attacks, the recruitment drive will create an unprecedented spy network. “The stars have been aligning on this for a while,” an anonymous former senior US military official involved in planning the DIA transformation told the Post.
The news is likely to heighten concerns about the accountability of the US military’s clandestine programmes amid mounting concerns about the CIA-controlled drone programme.
The United Nations said last month that it intends to investigate civilian deaths from drone strikes. The US has refused to even acknowledge the existence of a drone programme in Pakistan. The US military is not subject to the same congressional notification requirements as the CIA, creating yet more potential controversies.
With the US pulling out of Afghanistan and operations in Iraq winding down, government officials are looking to change the focus of the DIA away from battlefield intelligence and to concentrate on gathering intelligence on issues including Islamist militant groups in Africa, weapons trades in North Korea and Iran, and the military build up in China.
“It’s the nature of the world we’re in,” said the senior defense official, who is involved in overseeing the changes at the DIA. “We just see a long-term era of change before things settle.”
The DIA’s new recruits would include military attachés and others who do not work undercover. But US officials told the Post that the growth will be driven a new generation of spies who will take their orders from the Department of Defense.
The DIA is increasingly recruiting civilians to fill out its ranks as it looks to place agents as academics and business executives in militarily sensitive positions overseas.
Officials said the sheer number of agents that the DIA is looking to recruit presents its own challenge as the agency may struggle to find enough overseas vacancies for its clandestine agents. “There are some definite challenges from a cover perspective,” a senior defense official said.
Dominic Rushe in New York
The Guardian, Sunday 2 December 2012 17.03 GMT
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