CIA has lost dozens of agents: What needs to happen in order to stop it?

On Balance with Leland Vittert

CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The nation’s most secretive agency is running short on agents. According to The New York Times, top counterintelligence officials sent a memo to every CIA station worldwide, warning that dozens of CIA informants have been killed, arrested or compromised in the last several years. 

Chad Sweet, former Department of Homeland Security chief of staff, says he’s not surprised to hear this news. 

“The increasing danger to agents is something the CIA already knows,” Sweet said during an “On Balance” appearance Wednesday.

Though the CIA undoubtedly realized that a memo sent to offices worldwide might leak, “I think that the cost-benefit analysis is that we have to up our game,” he said, noting the importance, in the “world of new technology, (that) the United States is a leader.” 

According to the report from the Times, CIA officers were often promoted for recruiting spies, but not taking into account the success, quality or performance of those they recruit. The report also says countries such as Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan have been hunting down CIA sources, and in some cases, turning them into double agents.

Sweet suggested that the U.S. should take a page out of its adversaries’ book and stop promoting people simply on the number of people they recruit. Instead, promotion should be focused on the number of opposing spies that agents have tracked down, he said, noting that intelligence agencies do this as well. 

“Intelligence services like the Pakistanis and the Cubans have been extremely effective in this effort,” he said.

The message, which was sent in a top-secret cable, also noted that a number of agents have been killed by rival intelligence agencies, which is rare. 

Sweet said, “We look at the advances in technology, whether it’s facial recognition, biometric scans for fingerprints and other forms of artificial intelligence combined with cyber hacking and surveillance, it’s just much harder to do human (information gathering) today than it was even five years ago.” 

The CIA has not commented on the report.

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