A former top U.S. intelligence official Friday called for the Central Intelligence Agency to be stripped of its spying role and left with the sole job of analyzing information gathered by other government agencies.
Retired Adm. Bobby Ray Inman, former deputy director of CIA and director of the National Security Agency, proposed that the job of recruiting agents abroad should go to a new agency, which he suggested could be called the International Operations Agency.
Appearing before a 17-member federal commission charged with making recommendations for the future of all intelligence agencies, Inman said the CIA’s spying can skew its analysis because the agency naturally defends the information gathered by its agents.
“You want independent judgment of the reliability of the information collected,” he said, noting that CIA analysts at times challenged reports from the NSA but failed to apply the same scrutiny to intelligence gathered by their own agency.
Inman’s proposal would radically alter the intelligence community by transferring control of all U.S. spies overseas, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, to the new agency. “It will be expensive,” he added. “You can’t do effective clandestine collection on the cheap.”
The former NSA director also said the United States must put more emphasis on recruiting and training agents who work abroad under “non-official cover,” posing as businessmen or engineers, for example, rather than diplomats.
Concentrating all agents in an embassy can be risky, Inman said. When militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, the hostages included all the American spies in Iran. “We were essentially blind,” he said.
Inman was one of half a dozen former top government officials who suggested changes in the way the United States conducts its spying during a daylong hearing before the commission.