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Politicized espionage (continued)

This issue of support for CIA officers prompts concern from old hands about another part of the agency in serious need of fixing — and, more precisely, the person Goss has put in the post that likely will be responsible for fixing it. Whenever CIA-specific intelligence reform is discussed, inevitably most of the talk focuses on the DO or DI. Rarely mentioned is what used to be known as the Directorate of Administration (DA). Given the bland connotation of the name, this isn’t exactly surprising; compared with the DI’s focus on poring over raw intelligence and casting it into classified reports, and the DO’s sexy spy-running and paramilitary operations, "administration" is hardly a term that captures the imagination.

Yet doing some kinds of "administration" for the CIA is unlike doing administration just about anywhere else — particularly for what was once known as the DA’s Management General (MG) service. Disbanded in the 1990s, the MG service was an elite cadre of no more than 200 intelligence officers. These officers were given the same training as DO recruits at "the Farm," the agency’s main training facility at Camp Peary, Virginia. But unlike DO officers — whose focus has always been on handling espionage agents — the DA’s MG officers in the field were responsible for providing DO officers with everything they needed to recruit and run spies.

Descriptions of a CIA station’s operations usually focus on the power and responsibilities of the chief of station (COS) and his deputy. But, in addition to those officers, stations are also staffed by an executive officer — in a bygone era, traditionally someone from the MG service — who administered the logistics of spying. The portfolio of an executive officer is, if nothing else, expansive, though an executive officer’s staff generally isn’t; often, there may be no staff at all. Among other things, the executive officers’ role is to find, set up, maintain, and protect all the station’s safe houses and vehicles; recruit, vet, and train foreign nationals who function as support agents for surveillance teams; and make sure all the case officers’ cover arrangements are protected. They — and only they — have the combination to a safe in the station that contains millions of dollars in multiple currencies and commodities (gold, diamonds) for the payment of agents, and they must ensure that all the money that goes out of the safe, as well as case officers’ expenses, is accounted for. They also function as the principal liaison between the CIA station housed in the embassy and the embassy’s State Department personnel. And if a case officer needs something for an operation that isn’t on hand, the exec is responsible for getting it from Langley or wherever else it may be.

UP UNTIL the mid 1990s, the Directorate of Administration was a fairly straightforward outfit, responsible not only for coordinating and providing support for field operations from Langley, but also for running the agency’s personnel, medical, and finance operations, among others, out of simple, dedicated offices. The 1990s, however, saw multiple "restructurings" of the DA that included the disbanding of the MG service.

"The reason you had an MG service was so you had fully trained support officers who understood how DO operations worked and what it took to make them work, but then it became ‘Anyone can do the job,’ which isn’t true," says a former case officer. "And the culture back at the DA in Langley changed to become the worst combination of political correctness on the one hand and Stephen Covey bullshit on the other. To give you an example, one time an exec called Langley with an urgent need and no one was there to do anything about it because the entire office was off on some ‘effective teamwork’ seminar. Little did we know it would get worse."

"Worse" came, according to many, in the form of A.B. "Buzzy" Krongard, an investment banker with no intelligence experience, whom George Tenet appointed CIA executive director (ExDir). While it’s well-known that the director of central intelligence is both the CIA chief and nominal head of the entire US intelligence community, what’s less well-known is that the person who essentially runs the CIA day to day is not the DCI or his deputy, but the ExDir. Once appointed to the post, Krongard eliminated the DA, and then fractured and reconstituted its various elements directly under his control in a manner that, in the view of many, was nothing short of disaster.

Krongard was sacked almost immediately after Goss’s arrival, and was going to be replaced with Goss crony Michael Kostiw. Alas for Kostiw, some old agency hand chose to share with the press his recollection that Kostiw’s CIA career had been cut short in 1981 after Kostiw was caught attempting to shoplift a side of bacon from a grocery store. In lieu of Kostiw, Goss has chosen as the next ExDir one K. Dusty Foggo. The good news is that unlike Goss’s staff cronies — most of whose CIA experience was brief and long ago — Foggo has been a DA officer for the past 22 years, and belonged to the late MG service. But while many old hands consider this an improvement over Kostiw, they’re somewhat underwhelmed with the choice of Foggo.

"Dusty came into the agency through the Presidential Management Intern program, and he was one of four interns brought into the MG service, and turned out to be the weakest of the four — his contemporaries did better than him," says an intelligence officer knowledgeable about Foggo’s career. "He’s never gotten the big jobs, like chief of administration in an area division of the DO or up in the DA hierarchy, even after Buzzy ‘reorganized.’ He’s only served in a variety of small and midlevel stations and as the number-two or -three man on some administrative staffs, and hasn’t had enough experience managing large staffs or interacting with people outside the agency to prepare him to be ExDir. And while he’s smart enough to get some things, his personality is going to be what undermines him."

According to the officer and others with both CIA and State Department experience, Foggo — who until recently was running the agency’s approximately 200-strong Middle East support base in Frankfurt, Germany — does not have a history of getting on easily with others. In one tour as station executive officer, his relationship with the station’s top case officer was so hostile that Langley "had to send a senior officer out to sit Dusty down and read him the riot act"; in another post he so antagonized a US embassy administrative counselor that no small amount of inter-agency diplomacy was required to preserve the CIA station’s ability to operate.

While Foggo reportedly had been discussing putting the DA back together along traditional lines but with never-implemented innovations recommended by in-house studies, many are skeptical that he can pull it off. "He’s something of a loose cannon who thinks he can do everything on his own, and you just can’t do that as ExDir," the veteran officer says. Some speculate that Foggo’s "loose cannon" quality could be a force for good if he puts institutional concerns before Goss’s political ones, but that’s a dubious notion, given that Foggo owes his elevation to Goss. Unfortunately for the nation, Goss’s unflinching support for his Hill imports, and their own two-fisted partisan backgrounds, augurs little good for the CIA.

Jason Vest can be reached at jav3603@aol.com.

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Issue Date: December 3 - 9, 2004
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