Spy Vs. Spy

Intelligence Agencies’ Turf War

It’s the spookiest scandal in D.C.: America’s two intelligence chiefs are in a battle over control of foreign posts, according to government officials. National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair has asked to choose his own representatives at U.S. embassies, instead of relying on CIA Director Leon Panetta’s station chiefs to serve as his eyes and ears in foreign nations. For four years, CIA station chiefs have been Blair’s eyes and ears (his job was created after the 9/11 attacks to improve foreign intelligence). If Blair’s proposal is approved, he will likely rely on CIA chiefs for intelligence in most foreign nations, but will have the added option of assigning NSA officers to countries where CIA presence is low. CIA officials worry that dual command agencies will ultimately be harmful to intelligence operations. Some went so far as to describe Blair’s request as an attempt to undermine the CIA’s authority and its position in foreign operations, and CIA veterans said it could hinder missions that require officials to act quickly. The feud has gone so far that National Security Adviser James L. Jones has stepped in to mediate—but, like almost everything in the intel business, the mediation’s details are under wraps.