RSS

The world's newest spy service

February 19, 2013, at 3:57 PM
 

The world's newest spy agency is now open for business. The Defense Clandestine Service now has its own website, a motto, and, finally, money from Congress to operate. The DCS, in its own words, "conducts human intelligence (HUMINT) operations to answer national-level defense objectives for the President, the Secretary of Defense, and senior policy-makers." DCS case officers "conduct source operations in every region of the world, alone or in teams. They use their innate intellect, flexibility and creativity — augmented by knowledge of the culture and comprehensive training — to recruit and manage HUMINT sources whose information answers national-level defense objectives."

Sounds like boilerplate, but let's unpack it.

The DCS has a simple goal: steal secrets to help warfighters fight. The CIA steals secrets, but its products are aimed at providing strategic warning. A large percentage of the CIA's National Clandestine Service deploys alongside warfighters today to help provide more tactical, defense-related information. In theory, the DCS will help the CIA rebalance its own objectives. More Russia, more China, more cyber-intelligence; more narcotics, more proliferation.

The DCS will deploy case officers "alone" — which means they'll be under deep or "non-official" cover, assuming identities unconnected with the local embassy. They'll also deploy in teams — a DCS cadre is already assigned to the Special Operations Command, for example, and its officers are already working with SOCOM's intelligence and operational branches to determine what requirements — that's an intelligence word — the case officers will begin to fulfill. Every combatant command will get its own "Rotational Support Team."

One reason why the Department of Defense wants its own secret service is because traditionally, its own spies have been soldiers, and thus subject to different and more stringent rules of conduct, and because the Defense Intelligence Agency hasn't generally been the place where talented would-be intelligence operatives would base their careers. Many HUMINT officers serve transiently. With the DCS, it's a lifetime job. Case officers will spend about 60 percent of their time overseas, according to the DIA, in many cases in "austere, remote" environments where family members are not permitted. But the salary, benefits, and excitement, DCS promises, will make the job worth it. One other twist: the DCS will ask case officers to sign a mobility waiver, which allows the DoD to transfer them into warzones at the drop of a presidential order.

The DCS will recruit between 200 and 300 new case officers over the next few years, augmenting its operations with HUMINT personnel transfered in from other defense intelligence entities.

 

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Facebook

Twitter

RSS

Subscribe to the Week