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From the October 27, 2003 issue: Everything you know about the CIA's clandestine work is wrong.

Oct 27, 2003, Vol. 9, No. 07 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
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Setting up front companies to feed Saddam's hunger for biological, chemical, and nuclear weaponry is better. Congressmen on the intelligence committees and their staffs should compare the methodology used against Iraq with that now being used against the weapons of mass destruction programs in Iran. Intelligence reports by case officers on Iraq's and Iran's WMD efforts should all be reviewed. Who were the foreign agents behind these reports? Did they volunteer or were they recruited? What was the cover and methodology of the recruiting case officer? Were the reports really any good?

The intelligence committees should be even more rigorous in scrutinizing CIA efforts against al Qaeda. It is obvious that the CIA made no decisive recruitment within al Qaeda before the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 through September 11, 2001. The Counterterrorism Center has grown enormously since 9/11. Has the cover and methodology of CIA officers overseas changed? Are most counterterrorism case officers abroad still using official cover as they were before 9/11?

The intelligence committees should make the clandestine service explain the operational mechanics of its officers overseas. How does the cover used aid the directorate in penetrating al Qaeda and other allied Islamic militant organizations? Or is the Agency really depending upon foreign liaison intelligence services to fight al Qaeda on the ground? If so, how many case officers targeted against Islamic radicalism are declared liaison officers working with a foreign intelligence or internal security services? What exactly is being done by the other non-declared or "unilateral" case officers, who run CIA-only operations. According to active-duty CIA officials, "unilaterals" still represent the vast majority of the CIA's hundreds of counterterrorist case officers.

America's clandestine-service officers would be much more likely to defend us effectively against the threats coming from the Middle East and elsewhere if Congress, the White House, and the press took cover much more seriously. Ambassador Wilson is, at least on this one issue, unquestionably right. It is, as any NOC will tell you, the fundamental building block of any successful operation.

Reuel Marc Gerecht is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard. He is a former case officer in the CIA's clandestine service.