CIA Spy Program Has Been a “Colossal Flop”

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 8 2013 1:09 PM

CIA Spy Program Has Been a “Colossal Flop”

138076003
A man crosses the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) logo in the lobby of CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the CIA began a big push to expand its spy program. Specifically, the agency wanted to increase the number of operatives working under what’s called “non-official cover,” meaning they do not work inside an embassy but rather as undercover agents in businesses and universities. The whole effort “was a colossal flop,” a former CIA official tells the Los Angeles Times. After spending at least $3 billion on the program, the Agency has little to show for the effort that increased the number of deep undercover spies from dozens to hundreds. Only a few of the deep undercover officers have actually been successful.

The program suffered from numerous shortcomings, including bureaucratic hurdles. Although the CIA paid a lot of attention to Iran, Tehran was always good at exposing operatives. But mostly the deep-undercover agents suffered from “some of the same shortcomings as other CIA officers—too few spoke Urdu, Pashto, Dari or other necessary languages, or could disappear in local cultures,” notes the Times.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.