As a tool for national security, counterintelligence is as important as the armed services, if not more so. By definition, counterintelligence means to counter the information gathering efforts of a hostile intelligence agency. Along side its sister service, intelligence, counter intelligence, helps defend a nation from both internal and external aggression. This is generally done by guarding information storage sites, or by capturing enemy spies. Also, counterintelligence is interchangeably used with counterespionage. Counterintelligence is generally considered the younger, less attractive sister agency to intelligence.
While Intelligence is considered to have a gentlemanly air about it; counterintelligence is generally considered to be full of professional paranoids. This is mainly because counterintelligence operatives must operate with the highest level of mistrust and secrecy. In fact, at one time it was believed in the Central Intelligence Agency that the counterintelligence staff operated under the assumption that the KGB (Soviet intelligence agency) had penetrated many high levels of the government (CIA and the Cult of Intelligence).
This also tends to portray the attitude the rest of the intelligence community holds for counterintelligence operatives. The intelligence community tends to believe counterintelligence operatives are underhanded and unnecessarily paranoid. This attitude does not affect the need for a strong counterintelligence ability in any national intelligence community. Without a strong counterintelligence ability, any intelligence gained about any target may prove to be useless. This happens because the target in question may have the ability to penetrate the surveying intelligence agencys operation, and find out what information has been gathered.
Then, the target will be able to completely change their strategy. Thus, counterintelligence as a tool for national strategy is unequivocal. In the United States, for example, intelligence and counter intelligence are broken up into two broad categories, foreign and domestic. Each of these categories falls under the jurisdiction of two different agencies. All foreign intelligence and counterintelligence activities fall under the control of the Central Intelligence Agency (here out, referred to as CIA).
While all domestic intelligence and counterintelligence activities are the responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (here out, referred to as FBI). While the missions are the same, each agency has adapted different methods of engaging in these activities. This difference has occurred because the two agencies operate in different environments. On one hand, the FBI is able to take a strong-arm approach. The FBI is able to do this because they are operating on native soil. They do not have to worry about a foreign government finding out about their operation and shutting it down (along with other adverse consequences).
While on the other hand, the CIA is not afforded the same luxuries. The CIA must operate in foreign, and sometimes hostile, nations. This forces the CIA to adopt a more covert mode of operating, while the FBI is able to freely tail their subjects. The CIA must split their effort to survey the target AND themselves (for security reasons). While neither agency admits it, they are both woefully behind in the counterintelligence department. For example, if the CIA has such a strong counterintelligence department, how could Aldrich Ames spy for the Soviet Union for nearly thirty years?
This sort of incident screams for counterintelligence improvement. Eleven CIA case officers in charge of Aldrich notice several warning signs (White House press release, February 22, 1994), some of which included alcohol abuse, but none of them notified any of the proper authorities (namely the counterintelligence department, or internal security). To this day the United States is unsure how damaging Aldrich was to national security. Some may wonder why the United States has let its counterintelligence abilities become so weak, but in the world of political correctness it is quite clear.
Some suggestions have been made: Admitting the need for counterintelligence is suggesting that security measures are, and have been, inadequate. It also brings up the sticky assumption that there are individuals within the framework are not to be trusted. Both of these issues tend to conflict with egos that may be in-charge. A third and more insidious suggestion is that the powers that be may believe counterintelligence has no place among their departments. What they do not realize is that timely and effective intelligence is highly dependent on counterintelligence.
In a perfect situation, counterintelligence would not be necessary. But, since life is filled with imperfect situations, counterintelligence is a necessity to the intelligence community. A perfect example of this is the former Soviet KGB. The KGB was so successful in securing the Soviet Union; they actually forced the CIA to rely on any source that may find its way out of the country. For example, at one time the CIA spent three weeks debriefing (interrogating) a Soviet tank platoon lieutenant to find out he new nothing about what they wanted to know, short of his immediate area of expertise (CIA and the Cult of Intelligence).
Also, the KGB was able to recruit double agents among CIA operatives. Once again pointing to a huge sore spot, Aldrich Ames is a perfect example of a double agent. The CIA thought Mr. Ames was a mid-level worker in their counter narcotics division, while he was really supplying the KGB with vital American secrets. Finally, the KGB was able to institute a constant state of security involving: incredibly detailed background checks of all employees, physical security of all compounds and structures, and electronic countermeasures.
All of these measures combined to thwart nearly every attempt the CIA made in penetrating the Soviet Union to gather intelligence; while maximizing the KGBs efforts to simultaneously gather intelligence on the US. While the CIA may not have been able to institute the same level of secrecy and security, they were able to institute a similar level. However, other nations were much more successful. This was because they realized the need for counterintelligence. They also were able to identify what counterintelligence units must be able to perform.
A properly functioning counterintelligence unit should be able to minimally perform the following services. A counterintelligence unit should be able to conduct risk analysis on projects or persons considered vulnerable from an information security perspective. They should also be able to serve as a repository of information pertinent to counterintelligence, including methods believed to be employed by those seeking to penetrate the organization. These are passive functions of a counterintelligence unit. The exotic functions should also be desirable to a counterintelligence unit that looks to maximize national security.
Exotic functions include the recruitment of double agents. These double agents use their already attained positions in whatever area has been deemed important to gain knowledge useful in the operation of the threat intelligence agency. The exotic functions, are just that, exotic, it should be remembered that these should not be relied on or fixated upon to perform the Counterintelligence function (Master Chief Anderson, USN. Interview). This information is then used to circumvent the threat agencys attempts at blocking other agencies or departments in gathering intelligence.
Another useful function that should be sought is the agent provocateur. This specially trained agent feigns exploitation to a threat intelligence agency. The threat agency then attempts to recruit this person. The counterintelligence unit then attempts to entrap or expose or even turn this enemy operator. Sometimes, the counterintelligence unit may even ask the agent provocateur to cooperate with the enemy agency to learn more about what the agency is attempting to collect, and why they are trying to collect it.
The counterintelligence unit may even decide to feed the enemy agency with misinformation, merely to waste the enemy agencys time and resources on a dead-end project. Another aggressive use of a counterintelligence unit is to find and enemy agencys double agents, and use them for their own purposes. This is most likely to tie up resources and time by feeding the double agent misinformation, or to provoke the opposition. As always the most desirable effect of counterintelligence unit is to negate any and all attempts by an enemy agency to gather information.
This is why counterintelligence was once referred to as, A Dantean Hell with ninety-nine circles (Cold Warrior. James Jesus Angleton: The CIAs Master Spy Hunter). Historically, the most effective counterintelligence units have been the most paranoid. The KGB is probably the most successful of all intelligence agencies, including the vaunted Israeli Mossad. The KGB has had the majority of its successes chalked up to effective counterintelligence. The KGB aggressively attempted to recruit double agents and make penetrations in foreign intelligence agencies.
While at the same time denying other intelligence agencies the same opportunities. No other agency has been able to achieve the number and magnitude that the KGB had. The United States intelligence efforts, lead by the CIA, were generally considered sad and pathetic. This has been because the CIA directors neglected the agencys counterintelligence department. While not alone in the counterintelligence department, they generally acted as though they were. Along with the CIA counterintelligence department, the FBI also acted on the national counterintelligence level.
However, the FBI was considered to be little more than a national police force. Instead of actively pursuing recruitment, the FBI tended to merely want to arrest or deport the uncovered spys. As it was, the FBI did not contribute to the national counterintelligence role except as an unimaginative group of detectives (CIA and the Cult of Intelligence). In a broader view, the Soviet Union was able to remain behind a curtain of secrecy. While at the same time they were able to look into Americas most vital secrets and take the appropriate initiatives.
As it was, the United States was not able to accurately formulate the disposition of certain strategic aspects of the Soviets. The United States therefore had to act blindly in its strategic decisions. In a different situation this is generally considered a disaster waiting to happen. This is not a small disaster either. This is a disaster possibly involving thousands of nuclear weapons, or just involving millions of conventional military forces. All of that could have been somewhat mitigated had the United States pursued a more aggressive counterintelligence strategy.
In retrospect this should force the United States to realize that counterintelligence is a valid and important part of national security. In fact most proposals for the twenty first century are pointing to a modernization of the United States counterintelligence abilities (Intelligence and Counterintelligence: Proposal for the 21st Century). They realize that along with a strong intelligence gathering capability, the United States must be able to protect this information, along with being able to know what her opponent is doing.
They must at the same time be able to aggressively prevent espionage and other intelligence activities by maintaining a strong preventive and detective counterintelligence capability. In short, they must be able to perform various identification checks, control internal and external travel, and be able to censor both public and private publications for sensitive intelligence material (Studies in Counterintelligence). One of the most important aspects of counterintelligence comes in the form of debriefing intelligence sources. This is otherwise referred to as interrogation.
Interrogation proves vital because it allows the counterintelligence agency a first-hand look at the enemy, and gives them first hand intelligence. It is also possible that the captured agent may be able to provide other sources of intelligence. Overall, interrogation must be included in the charter of any effective counterintelligence unit. All of this comes together to perform as policy makers wish, to stop trouble before it starts. Basically, that is what counterintelligence is about, stopping whatever the enemy decides to do before it goes into the operational phase.