Clandestine Operations 101
Here’s how to create a clandestine service that is not the laughing stock of the planet:
00 Stop confusing secure field operations with any need for access to official secrets. The primary reason CIA is such a mess is the ascendance of security ignorance and myopia combined with sedentary overly fearful managers unable to do anything from outside an official cover safety net.
01 Recruit mid-career US citizens who have unwittingly created their own cover and access. Do not assign them anything requiring more than 10% of their time.
02 Recruit mid-career non-US citizens, same as above, they never visit HQS or touch secrets not collected by themselves.
03 Get back in the business of Principal Agents (PA) from all countries, same selection concept as above (mid-career, have the cover and access desired).
04 Start doing multinational regional clandestine stations, using indigenous case officers (the Australians and Cambodians seem to have this down pat) while providing close-in technical, money, and leads from the constellation.
05 Be more aggressive (with appropriate caution) in doing what one of my mentors termed “it’s just business.” One time offers based on outcomes, no polygraphs, no approvals from HQS people out of touch with reality, etcetera.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE
It has come to my attention that someone describing themselves as one of my classmates has said that I nearly killed people in El Salvador, had an accident, and was effectively non-operational from 1982 on. Since half my class quit within five years, by my calculation there should be no more than one or two of my graduating class (I skipped interims and jumped one class, I remember no one from my EOD class.
Below are the facts, without any grudges. What I learned from my experiences within CIA remains priceless and has informed my persistent efforts to reform US intelligence.
01) Yes, I had an accident. I was alone, in the middle of the night, one block from my residence. The car was still drivable. The repairs cost the government $750. As a first-tour impoverished officer, I was deeply grateful to the Chief of Station for his forgiveness on that one.
02) Shortly thereafter, I was directly threatened with assassination. I found out later I was not unique, 18 Embassy officers were so threatened by the extreme right, to the point that I was told Vernon Walters had to go down to El Salvador and read the riot act to the extreme right. [I was assigned the leftist target, and perceived to be another leftist Embassy officer sympathetic to the left.] It may also have become known that when I met with Ambassador Robert White, I briefed him on my 1979 graduate thesis on predicting and remediating revolution, and the phrase that may have gotten out and aggravated the threat to me was “Before you can moderate the left you must control the right.”
03) This was a serious enough threat to warrant my going under-ground, along with my companion, who herself became a case officer several years later. A couple of days into this we received a cable from HQS informing us that they could not pay for both my housing and a hide-away hotel room. The COS response was memorable: “What part of assassination are you not understanding?”
04) While in El Salvador I had the global story line down so well that HQS got out of the way and authorized direct transmission of the weekly story line to 17 Stations world-wide. I was doing the job of Covert Action Staff for that particular issue area, from the field, in addition to my assigned duties in helping re-establish a Station closed by short-sighted people years before.
05) In light of the threat, rather than leaving me in El Salvador, I was transferred to Venezuela, and the COS there was asked by C/LAD to train me up (what first tour officers should be doing–I should not have been in El Salvador as a first tour officer) and recommend disposition. Several months into my temporary duty another officer quit to marry a Venezuelan, the Chief liked me and I completed my first tour time and then did a second tour in Venezuela. While there I wrote the first ever Standard Operating Procedures for a Clandestine Field Station, as well as Managing the Support Account, and one of my fitness reports observed that I was responsible for one third of the Station’s recruitments and production–it was a large Station. One of my technical operations was sent to the Farm as a model–it was long, complex, and ultimately unsuccessful because of political decisions vice operational possibilities.
05 From there I went to Panama, receiving a third tour because my first wife had completed CT training and needed a first tour. While in Panama it was my pleasure to do many interesting things, one of which was personally briefed to President Reagan by Alan Fiers on an “ears only” basis.
06) Returning to HQS I refused an assignment to Covert Action Staff, and joined Alan Fiers in CATF. I had a mix of good (John S.) and not so good (the petty little man) bosses there, handling two full time jobs and working seven days a week many weeks. I was pulled out of CATF and sent to the Office of Information Technology (OIT) Artificial Intelligence Staff (AIS) in the DA by request of soon to be DDA Bill Donnelly, after I told Ted Price I did not fancy doing any more clandestine work–I was seriously pissed off by the little man telling me to go down the hall and “case officer” another case officer. He was telling me to lie, cheat and steal against another government employee, in my own agency, in my own service. When Bill Casey died, prospects for modernizing DO/DI analytics died with him, at least in my time frame. I got to go to Mid-Career Course 101 as a reward for doing my best, and then transferred to the DI, where I planned to remain, working for one of the very best people in the DI, Boyd Sutton, in CRES/APEG, the Holy of Holies.
07) It was at this point that Ted Price, then C/CMS/DO, decided he wanted to run me out of the agency. It was also at this point that the USMC asked me to design and help create the Marine Corps Intelligence Center (MCIA). I had a rank in person at CIA of GS-12, but had been in GS-14 jobs for the last three years. CIA Personnel certified that, I resigned and jumped to USMC, earning a two-grade promotion overnight since DoD is rank in position. As most know, it was my MCIA experience that led to my being the foremost proponent of OSINT.
08) I suspect that my file at CIA reads “resigned in lieu of action.” That is not correct, but that is what Ted Price was trying to accomplish. The Employee Review Panel (ERP) that Price had scheduled never met and therefore there is no “action” that is legitimately on the record. Had I not had the offer from the Marine Corps, I would have asked the DI to waive the one-year rotation, which they did when warranted, and that would have been the end of it–I am one of the few US intelligence professionals who has actually created four strategic analytic models (cultural intelligence, predicting revolution, expeditionary environment, and world brain), and while I enjoy righteous clandestine operations, and would love to set up several multinational stations that do both clandestine and overt operations as well as open and secret analysis, my forte does appear to be on the analytic side. Still and all, it distresses me to be reminded of the unethical behavior of Ted Price and a few others, and to recognize that still today the DO and the DI continue to try to intimidate and harass individuals who question illegitimate authority. DoD is full of former CIA employees who were too good for the CIA–one in particular, an SES today, was interrogated aggressively by CIA security for having the temerity to call a Central Asian country to speak to an academic about her analytic area of interest. She left the agency for DoD shortly thereafter….as have many others.
From where I sit, I was active within CIA until June 1988, and not just active, but in the one vault at the end, the DCI’s vault for all external technical programs, that had every codeword clearance. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant of the facts. The true litmus test, however, is this: I remain friends of my respective top bosses in the DO, the DI, and the USMC.
My sanitized book profile and resume are below. My first two books had Forewords by the past and then serving Chairman of the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence. I am perhaps the first US officer to actually “get” 21st Century intelligence, and my vision for 21st Century intelligence is outlined in the third item below, “The Craft of Intelligence,” as well as the HUMINT Trilogy.
It is hard enough being the foremost advocate for restoring intelligence and integrity to the US Government, without having to deal with slander from someone who does not know me–has not even encountered me since our class graduated–or my actual record. I held TS/SCI for 30 years (1976-2006), and my OPM investigation for a new start was completed on 15 March. If anyone has questions, I will respond to them at whatever clearance level is on the table. I’ve had a rich and useful life, and I find it troubling that an alleged classmate without a clue would speak ill of me without actually knowing anything at all about the facts.
Robert David STEELE Vivas
* HUMINT Monograph cleared for publication by both CIA and DoD.