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Howard Hart
Former CIA Clandestine Serivice Officer
"Can Today's CIA Conduct Tomorrow's Espionage?"
December 3 , 2004

The most junior CIA case officer abroad, male or female, is very often passed with the most difficult, dangerous, sensitive cases we have. And everything is a case; we're like the lawyers. We have cases in projects. But every single individual we deal with is a case. I have often had ambassadors look me cold in the eye, and thank God I have always had wonderful ambassadors to work with, who say to me, "Your junior officers or you guys, in general, have more ability to make a mess out of American relations with this country than I do." And that is true. And that is why we have long, long held, as a creed to go into the service that we will train you, and train you, and train you, but we're counting on you down deep inside to be sensible, smart people and don't screw it up. Because if you screw it up, you get embarrassed, your country can be horribly embarrassed. Your ambassador will take you out behind the woodshed and somebody will die because people in other countries in terrorists groups and in narcotics rings, when they found out that they have been betrayed by one of their own, the rules that apply in this country and in some other western countries are off.

You all may remember a CIA case, terrible spy case internally, a guy named Paul Ridge Haymes turned out to be a spy working for the Russians. Paul Ridge Haymes, who we should have sorted out because he a manner of personal deficiencies that we did pick up. For some reason, the system let him get through and all of a sudden, he had access to our most sensitive Soviet operations. I was Chief of Station Germany at that time and all of a sudden because we were running three of these most sensitive operations; those operations started going bad. How could this happen? No one in my station knew about the operations, knew the identity of this man except two of us. Anyway, we did not know this; we went to every kind of precaution. We said is this our fault? Have we done something here to compromise this man? It turned out that it was Paul Ridge back in Washington passing stuff along in empty beer cans to a guy from the Soviet downtown in the Washington, Soviet Embassy. That man, one of those cases, the man who was compromised had been working for us for almost fourteen years. He was a Russian employee in the McCoyian Byzine Bureau. He handed us, for every one of those eleven years, the Soviet's complete test results of all their fancy, new airplanes. The status of all their research and on and on and on. And this information enabled us, us U.S. government, to not have the Air Force discovered. The skies are black with Soviet bombers, when there weren't any bombers, etc. etc. Saved us billions of dollars and gave us a very sense of confidence because we knew precisely what they can do.

Today, the North Koreans are busily sitting over there on their little peninsula, sharpening up and presumably increasing the number of nuclear weapon warheads they have, expanding development of their long range missiles and making more of them. Today our GI's, men and women, will die in Iraq. Today the problem of the dissemination and proliferation of chemical and biological warfare, weapons is continuing all over the world. Produced by some of the giants of chemical industry and in people's backyards. Today the Iranians are busily beavering away, I don't care what they signed with the E.U., making their nuclear weapons and working towards missiles that will go longer and farther. That's happening today. And as people kind of say wearingly, "CIA is the first line of defense in these matters." Yeah. We have long accepted that. But in the way, and when the journalists hop on us, and when anybody hops all over the Clan Destined Service of the United States. And I want to make this clear; I didn't join the CIA after getting out of college. I joined the Clan Destined Service. There are all those other folks that are in the CIA, but the service was my business. There are far, far fewer Clan Destined Service personnel serving overseas as I speak now than that are on the payroll of the faculty of the University of Virginia. Let's get it in perspective. Far, far fewer. The New York field station of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is bigger than our entire overseas worldwide presence.

So we're talking about a few people, we are not talking about a lot of folks. And I want you to think about that a little bit. And the reason there are so few people is Congress through the years has refused to increase our P.O.s, give us more slots, nor have Presidents gone to bat for it. And they have been Congress inopportune for decades. I have done it myself - please give us more people cause it takes us years and years to create young officers who can go forward and become competent, trusted operators in the world of espionage. And the requests have been denied. The two primary committees in the Congress, the House and the Senate, were put together to presumably jointly work with the intelligence community, not just CIA, to improve the quality, to ensure the proper funding and staffing of our agencies so it's a little weird when you read in the papers today that the former Chief of the House Committee comes over and says we're just a bunch of dysfunctional jerks. We, I am sorry, it is hard to leave. I've been retired thirteen years. I'm sorry. My heart will be buried with the Clan Destined Service and I am very proud to say that. It's crazy. And the subject of what's going on in the building today and what's happening, it’s incredible. I have given you, I hope, some sense of how thin we are on the ground and how big these problems are.

I want to talk first of all about the difficulty of penetrating the most difficult targets we have. When you're sitting at Clan Destined Service, you remember a bunch of things. The first thing, it is the business of anybody's spy service to find the five to ten percent of information that is not available publicly. Everyone in this room is in the intelligence business. Everyone who writes or reads a newspaper is in the intelligence business. Information and intelligence are virtual synonyms except intelligence has come to take the spin, the nuance of having to do with national security. But if you’re working about which stocks you're gonna buy, are you in the intelligence business? We're very much, all of us, everyday involved in intelligence, but when you get into the collection of nationally important secret information that people are trying to keep from you, and I say in that sense - U.S. government, you've got a serious problem coming up against that wall. Now let me tell you a few examples. The Pakistani nuclear weapons program and the Indian nuclear weapons program were underway for under some years and thank you, we were pretty aware about it. But what you do is if you, lets say you are a country working up weapons programs, as the Iranians are doing today, as Libya tried to do, as I assume the South Koreans will soon be doing, the Taiwanese will soon be doing. For all I know, the good people of Surinam, cause it ‘aint that hard.

You bottle up your research facilities; everyone involved with your program is put in a specified, geographic location. You literally wrap it up with barbed wire, you do not allow anyone to go in or out and you watch every single one of them. If they travel to Aunt Mary’s birthday, they are survellied by members of the security staff of their organization. That’s the polite wall that surrounds it. You can’t get access to those people. How do you go to my friend here who is busily building an Irani nuclear weapon and get him to commit reason when you can’t even get to him physically? You have physical security that is incredible.

The second thing that you have, and you’ve got to recognize, committing treason is not just well, I guess I’ll take a walk. Committing treason is the ultimate sin in almost all societies. I have and the CIA has been in the Counter-Terrorism business for decades. Now we invented it but of course they all say it in Washington, “We’ve got to get after terrorism.” Yeah Right! I have pitched, attempted to recruit, attempted to commit treason, have a guy commit reason as a member of a highly dedicated Islamic radical terrorist movement and failed. And why do you fail? Several reasons. First of all, he is committed. I mean big time committed. I mean he by far and large, he has a commitment that is based on religious grounds, on a distorted view of history that he has, on an anger about his own government, on a feeling of absolute inability by the Arab nation to do its thing; lot so factors are involved in this. But down deep inside, and I had one tell me this candidly one day. He said, “You don’t understand. If I were to work for you and betray my organization, which I won’t, but let’s just say I was willing to do that, do you realize what that means to me? First of all, you’ll expose me because you Americans always wind up exposing your best agents”. And historically, there’s a lot in what he says, in the press usually. “You’ll expose me, you’ll compromise me, you will burn me”. Which , is true. It’s an espionage term. You’ll burn me; use me up. Because if I come in and tell you we’re gonna hit Pan Am whatever it is next week, you will take that information right away and prevent that from happening and guess what? You’ll start an internal counter-intelligence investigation on my little group and they’ll find me. So you’ll throw me away in order to save people. That is true. We have done that. We will do it again. But he said, “You don’t understand that if I am caught working for you, it’s bad enough what they’re gonna do to me – a long painful death – no court, no justice. But I do happen to like my wife and I really don’t want to see her dead. Or our children. And I am also fond of her parents and mine and they’re dead”. So you gotta understand that you’re up against the toughest thing in town and what we sort of see in Washington these days is a lot of sniping and attacking against the backdrop of how hard it is to do this. Against the backdrop of how hard it is to get people to work for us to do this who are both competent, trained, and willing. We’re told, “You just fail”. I guess we can throw out the entire cancer research structure of the United States because they haven’t found a cure yet. It’s hard. This is not as an excuse; it’s fact.

CIA’s Clan Destined Service can be criticized for not having done as well as it should have. That is a fair statement because we have people who just don’t pull their weight and the reason most of them are there is because we have no way to replace them. And here’s something that is very important. Not just the total number of people we’ve got. CIA’s intake every year of junior officers, male and female, into the Clan Destined Service is a straight vertical line. You bring in so many here and up it goes and then as time takes its toll, it narrows. So what you’ve got fifteen or twenty years from now is what you took in today. Now for years, in the Clinton era we were bringing in, for example in 1995, twenty-five junior case officers trainees for the year. More Clan Destined Service officers died of natural causes than that. In the Jimmy Carter era, we got the same thing. Chronically unaware Stansfield Turner comes over and we have no recruitment. And until the Ron Rescue crisis, which I am sorry to say, a man I have enormous respect for - former President Carter discovered that the world is full of bad people. And we had been decimated. So there is a lot that needs to be done. And some people used to ask me, not in a rhetorical way, “What would you do if you were in charge?”. And I’d say, “I’d probably have a lot of people leave.” And we don’t have what the military has. The military has a big pyramid and they take in all these junior officers at the bottom and they take them up and up and there is an absolute winnowing out at the level of colonel; if you don’t make colonel after twenty years you’re out. But see what they have in their system, is you have redundancy of people. So in the agency, we have no redundancy. And somebody like Alridge Haymes, who’s a guy we’ve already figured, is simply not an acceptable officer, gets put into a responsible position because there is nobody else to put there. It’s that simple. I’ve sat around and what we laughingly call the barrens, you know the guys who run the service, and say, “Does anybody got an extra body?” Just someone so we can fill a slot. Silent.

I just want to reiterate the targets that the Clan Destined Service now has are the most difficult in the history of the world. And defensive postures by the people we are trying to work against are absolutely, staggeringly effective. It was a piece of cake to recruit Soviet KGB officers compared to North Korean nuclear scientists. Trust me. Against that, the agency is not well enough staffed and a lot of terrible things are happening that is going to make it a mess. And the topic of this lecture was “Can CIA meet the Ongoing Threat?” My answer until this moment is no, absolutely not. I don’t care how hard everybody tries to work. And there are badly demoralizing this week because CIA works on two things: it works on raw nerve and a sense of what we do must be done.

Let me tell you about recruitment a little bit. We go out to young Americans and say we want you to sign up for a job where it is our agency’s decision where you go. Where you go, you may never drink the water and live. Where you go, you may be up to your ears trying to recruit terrorists would like to kill you or narco-terrorists who will like to kill you if you get in the way. You may find that you’re never ever able to see your wife and kids as much as you want. Or if you are a wife and a case officer, see your husband and your children. There’s just one huge thing after another. There was only one time in my career that I thought that I just might have to quit it. My younger son Guy was about four and he’d gotten away at a birthday party and he had some ice cream and the birthday party was hosted by some dear friends of ours. The ice cream was made commercially made locally. It gave him instantly, desperately bad dysentery. At night at eleven o’ clock we pulled him out of his bed, took his temperature, it was one hundred five degrees and I called our physician who was an Indian who lived across town. He said “Howard, get the child in a bathtub and fill it with ice cubes. We must break the temperature.” And until twenty minutes when he [the physician] could drive across town, the little boy is in this bathtub and he turns blue from cold and his teeth are shattering and he said, “Daddy, why are you doing this to me?” Well you know I don’t mind going out and getting my ass kicked for the Republic, but I mind when my kids do. It is a gift of God to be able to work for this republic. It really is. What the hell more could you want? But you know, you gotta be able to have a little back up and do it right.

Q. Does the new leadership of the CIA understand the depths of the problems they are confronting and will it indeed take five to seven years to get the Clan Destined Services close to the level that you think they need to be at?
A. I am going to take the easy one first. Yes it will take five to seven years at least. To take a man or woman who comes to us well trained out of our university systems with probably some splattering of a language, but not a working level of a language. To teach that woman the nuts and bolts of espionage, because it’s a trade and like all trades, it has discipline, it has techniques that you have to learn, to let them grow up a little bit understanding how the whole headquarters system works, then to get them out in the field in their first overseas job where in fact, that first three or four years is where you learn your job. We cannot produce, I don’t care how smart they are, with the best training, and mentoring, and everything else, a really proper Clan Destined office in less than six years, seven. I am talking a whole cycle. Then you have someone you can really begin to rely on, a case officer. And then after that, where most people rise up, most of them deserve it, some don’t – some are complete idiots who do not deserve to be there – but when you rise up in the service, you are building what we call gut instinct. You can smell something wrong. Running an intelligence operation is a very carefully planned thing; it’s as well planned as any military operation you want. You’ve got so many things t consider, who are the bad guys/where, right down the list so it takes us that long. The new management has approached the IA most remarkably by saying you are a pack of idiots and we are going to fix you. By saying you don’t take enough risks. Just for the hell of it in the middle of the Clinton administration when some guy Doych was over as the DCI, he put out a mandate saying “do not recruit people of doubtful character”. That let us debate it. Terrorism was definitely out. This is the truth. I’ve got to tell you that the way that the new crowd has taken over the building ought to be studied by any number of graduate business schools for how you don’t do it. Imagine if you took over Motorola, ta da. It blows my mind.

Q. Would you share with us, your thoughts on the reliance on electronic intelligence versus human intelligence?
A. Electronic intelligence comes from several brands. You have Elent, electronic emissions. When Soviet launches missiles goes up, or North Korean missiles, they eliminate telemetry, we gotta grab that telemetry and see if we can interpret it. It’s always encrypted. You may be referring to intercepting of messages. We, and now I am essentially saying NASA, and I have been out of the loop for a very long time now, but the biggest challenge to the Nation Security Agency are listeners, is as big as I have just briefly tried to describe for CIA. And I will tell you why. Everyone in this room can get on the internet and purchase encryption software that is very likely to be beyond the ability of our code breakers to crack. That is a fact. So that’s a problem. Now the third thing you may be referring to is overhead, what we call imagery, satellites, pictures. Tremendously important. There has been a wonderful seen up in Washington in the last few weeks about the Defense Department complaining that some of the suggestions made by the 9-11 Commission that the military would lose its capability to fight war is sort of suggesting that private stockholder will not be able to say I need a satellite to photograph down he block. That is disinformation, it is blowing smoke, it is anything you wan to call it; they don’t want to lose control of anything. Our technical intelligence, let’s shovel it all together, is very important, very useful and faces extraordinary challenges now because of the ability to defend against it. And that ability grows everyday, by the bad guys.

Maintained by Brittany Brown
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Copyright 2003 by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia