Pentagon aiming to build huge espionage network to rival CIA
The Pentagon is set to send hundreds of additional spies overseas as part of an ambitious plan to assemble an espionage network that rivals the CIA in size, U.S. officials have said.
The project is aimed at transforming the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which has been dominated for the past decade by the demands of two wars, into a spy service focused on emerging threats and more closely aligned with the CIA and elite military commando units, the Washington Post reports.
According to the report, when the expansion is complete, the DIA is expected to have as many as 1,600 'collectors' in positions around the world, an unprecedented total for an agency whose presence abroad numbered in the triple digits in recent years.
U.S. officials have however said that the growth will be driven over a five-year period by the deployment of a new generation of clandestine operatives, it added.
According to the report, they will be trained by the CIA and often work with the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command, but they will get their spying assignments from the Department of Defense.
Among the Pentagon's top intelligence priorities, officials said, are Islamist militant groups in Africa, weapons transfers by North Korea and Iran, and military modernization underway in China.
"This is not a marginal adjustment for DIA," the agency's director, Lt. General Michael T. Flynn, said at a recent conference, during which he outlined the changes, but did not describe them in detail.
According to the report, unlike the CIA, the Pentagon's spy agency is not authorized to conduct covert operations that go beyond intelligence gathering, such as drone strikes, political sabotage or arming militants.
But the DIA has long played a major role in assessing and identifying targets for the U.S. military, which in recent years has assembled a constellation of drone bases stretching from Afghanistan to East Africa, the report said.
The DIA project has been spearheaded by Michael G. Vickers, the top intelligence official at the Pentagon and a veteran of the CIA, the report said.
CIA officials including John D. Bennett, director of the National Clandestine Service, have backed the DIA's plan.