Intelligence agencies need a return to old-fashioned spying

It’s been clear for awhile that U.S. intelligence agencies need an overhaul. Too much reliance has been placed on technology, with old-fashioned spying taking a back seat. Recently, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said that is about to change.

More intelligence agents will be sent out into the field, Pompeo told reporters. He did not provide details, but said his goal is to cut through red tape and change the CIA’s culture. “If you are in a process and you’re not adding value, get out of the way,” he said in summarizing his philosophy during a speech at George Washington University.

“This risk of the absence of agility and speed is a price our agency can’t afford to pay,” Pompeo added. “It’s one that America cannot afford, either.”

Like any enormous arm of government, our intelligence agencies — the CIA, National Security Agency, FBI and others — are at risk always of succumbing to the same bureaucratic inefficiency that permeates Washington. Pompeo seems to be indicating he believes that has happened already.

While technology can be and has been very effective in giving us information about America’s host of enemies, it cannot do the job alone. Only human spies, often operating at great risk to themselves, can finish the job.

Pompeo seems to understand that. Both the White House and Congress need to get behind him in reforming the CIA — and overcoming the inevitable resistance he will encounter from powerful, entrenched bureaucrats. The nation’s intelligence agencies are our first and, in many ways, most important protection against those who would subjugate and kill us. They need to be as effective as possible.

COMMENTS