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Evaluating "Humint": The Role of Foreign Agents in U.S. Security
Unformatted Document Text:  terrorism or China’s economic might. Cameras mounted on satellites or airplanes are unable to peer inside the canvas tents, mud huts, or mountain caves in Afghanistan or Pakistan where terrorists plan their lethal operations, or into the deep underground caverns where North Koreans construct atomic weapons. “Space cameras cannot see into factories where missiles are made, or into the sheds of shipyards,” writes an intelligence expert. “Photographs cannot tell whether stacks of drums outside an assumed chemical-warfare plant contain nerve gas or oil, or whether they are empty.” xxix As a U.S. intelligence officer has observed, we need “to know what’s inside the building, not what the building looks like.” xxx Many of the best contributions from spy machines come not so much from pricey satellites as from the far less expensive UAVs. On occasion, though, sophisticated sigint satellites do capture revealing telephone communications, say, between international drug lords. Moreover, the photography that imint satellites produce on such matters as Russian and Chinese missile sites, North Korean troop deployments, or the secretive construction of nuclear reactors in Iran, are of obvious importance. In the case of terrorism, though, one would like to have a human agent well placed within the Qaeda organization; for America’s security, such an asset could be worth a dozen billion-dollar satellites. The value of techint, though often exaggerated, cannot be denied. Yet, most intelligence experts agree, clandestine human collection has a place at the table, too. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the WMD errors in Iraq, both the Kean and the Silberman-Robb Commissions expressed their faith in humint by criticizing the lack of a sufficient number of assets in key parts of the world; and President George W. Bush authorized a 50 percent increase in the number of operations officers, leading in 2004 to the largest incoming class of clandestine officers in the CIA’s history. xxxi On the diplomatic front, former DCI Stansfield Turner (1977-81) has further

Authors: Johnson, Loch.
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terrorism or China’s economic might.  Cameras mounted on satellites or airplanes are unable to 
peer inside the canvas tents, mud huts, or mountain caves in Afghanistan or Pakistan where 
terrorists plan their lethal operations, or into the deep underground caverns where North Koreans 
construct atomic weapons.  
“Space cameras cannot see into factories where missiles are made, or into the sheds of 
shipyards,” writes an intelligence expert.  “Photographs cannot tell whether stacks of drums 
outside an assumed chemical-warfare plant contain nerve gas or oil, or whether they are 
  As a U.S. intelligence officer has observed, we need “to know what’s inside the 
building, not what the building looks like.”
Many of the best contributions from spy machines come not so much from pricey 
satellites as from the far less expensive UAVs.  On occasion, though, sophisticated sigint 
satellites do capture revealing telephone communications, say, between international drug lords. 
Moreover, the photography that imint satellites produce on such matters as Russian and Chinese 
missile sites, North Korean troop deployments, or the secretive construction of nuclear reactors 
in Iran, are of obvious importance.   In the case of terrorism, though, one would like to have a 
human agent well placed within the Qaeda organization; for America’s security, such an asset 
could be worth a dozen billion-dollar satellites.  
The value of techint, though often exaggerated, cannot be denied.  Yet, most intelligence 
experts agree, clandestine human collection has a place at the table, too.  In the aftermath of 9/11 
and the WMD errors in Iraq, both the Kean and the Silberman-Robb Commissions expressed 
their faith in humint by criticizing the lack of a sufficient number of assets in key parts of the 
world; and President George W. Bush authorized a 50 percent increase in the number of 
operations officers, leading in 2004 to the largest incoming class of clandestine officers in the 
CIA’s history.
  On the diplomatic front, former DCI Stansfield Turner (1977-81) has further 

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