Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Congress Smashes Pentagon’s New Den of Spies


If the Pentagon’s not careful, it’s going to find its new network of spies rolled up by Congress.

The Defense Clandestine Service was supposed to be the Defense Department’s new squad for conducting “human intelligence” — classic, informant-based spying. The idea was to place up to 1,600 undercover operatives and military attachés around the world, collecting tips on emergent battlefields. The problem was that the U.S. already had a human intelligence crew: the CIA. Almost immediately after the Defense Clandestine Service was introduced, an array of outside observers began to loudly question its value.

Add the House Armed Services Committee’s intelligence panel to that list of skeptics. In its revision of next year’s Pentagon budget (.pdf), released Tuesday, the representatives said they would withhold half of the DCS’ funding until the Pentagon proves that the service “provide[s] unique capabilities to the intelligence community.”

The Defense Intelligence Agency, which runs the DCS, is trying to cast the move as a positive one for the service. “We appreciate the HASC’s support in allowing us to proceed in meeting [our] mission, and we welcome the HASC’s language that will allow us an opportunity to demonstrate further that we are proceeding smartly and as good stewards of taxpayers’ money,” Lt. Col. Thomas Veale, a Defense Intelligence Agency spokesman, tells Danger Room in an e-mail.

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