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A Never-Ending Necessity

The Ten Commandments of Counterinteffigence


James M. Olson

0 that thou hadst hea;he;icd In allegations that China had stolen IS

nit cnninia;icline;itc! //iuu 1:1(1(1 neiclear weapons secrets.

It?) peacc /xcnl as a ,ei~ aiid tin

rie~i7!(()i,s)les.c a.c the uaees n/the Paul Rednu mel. the f rnier Assi )ei

sea ate I )eputv I )irector 1)1 Operath )ns


f )r (4 )unterl ntell igenci at the CIA.

tsaiali 15:15 U )Id tIle lii use lerma nent Select


(4 )tnmittee in Intelligence in ea rlv
2001) that a total of at least 41 coun
Ihe need for cc )unterinteli gene e
tries trying to spy on the I nited
are
(CI) has not gone away, nor is ir
States. Besides uienth )ning Russia.
likely to. ihe end of the Cold \Var
The United States, as the China, and Cuba. he also cited se~
has not even meant an end to the eral friends, including France,
worlds only remaining Cl t I treat from tie former Societ C reece, Indonesia Israel. the Phil
superpower, will be the I, liii )fl. Ihe h )reign i ntell igence
ippines. South korea. and laiw;tn.
constant target of ser\ tee of t lie new elenic cratic Rus lIe warned of (:1 threat
a pervasive
sia. the SIi,zhbci ~iw.c/iri~ I?azi edI~i to the I nited States.
jealousies, resentments,
Rossi (SVRIfl. has remained active
rivalries.. .This inevitably
against us. It ~ as the S\RR that Ihe I nited States, :is the c~ orlcls
means that the United only ill he
took o~ er the hi.tndling ot AIciriLli remaining superpower, .~

States will be the target of Ames fr )m its predecessor. the tire constant target of jealoetsies.
the SVRR that resentments, ri~a Iries. mid cliti I
large-scale foreign It. in 1991. It ~ as a

ran CIA officer I lar( )ld Jan les lenges to its vcononiic wellbeing.
espionage. securin. and in the
~~dcIiolson against its from I 99t to leadership
world. lhis inevitably that
9~ 19%.

handling
It was

FBI
the S\R R

special
t tat was

agent Earl Fitts


the I. n heel States \il I lie
means

tIre target

\\lIen he was arrested for espu


or largescale foreign espu )nage

nage in 19%. It was the SVRR that

phi tited a listening device in a con


A Choice Assignment
fere lice l( )( )iii ( )f the State

I )epartinent in \Xasliingt( m in t lie


\Xlicn the of
I joined CIA, one my
surnmei of 1999. And it ~ as the
first interim assignments was with
SV R R t I tat was handling HIt spe
lie old ( ~l Staff. I i( )lttiel it fasci nat
cial agent Robert I ianssen when he
ing. I was assigned to write :1

was arrested on charges of espit )


history of the Rote Kapellc. the
nage in Fchrua cv 2001 Soviet espionage net~c ork in Nazi

occupied \\e stern 1 n pe el u ring


The Russians are not :tk mc. il ere
\Xorld \Xar ~l.
have been sertoets. well- puhlicii.ed
James M. Olson served in the
1 )irectorate o( ( concerns about Chinese espionage With its expa ncleel
)pcra Ut ns and is ct )rnpum(r ~( iwer.
in the I nited States~ 1)epart lhe thie,tctu~tl
iii iw the f~tc iilt~ of the Gec irge
on NSA was breaking out

Bush School of ( overoflient and mini or Energy significantly sent between die NK\l)
messages
Public Service at Iexa~. A~S~M increased security at its national center in \Iuscow arid the clanele.s
~ niversitv. laboratories last year iii response to tine radros of the , ariotis cells in

81
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Studies in Intelligence. Volume 45, No. 5, Fall-Winter 2001, No. 11
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CI Commandments

When the meeting with


Angleton] was over... I

vowed to myself that I


~~stern Europe. incredibly, these 1 leadqiiarters. ~~here the photos of
would never go
messages came to me. all former CIA counterintelligence
anywhere near CI again. chiefs are displayed. Ihere I am.
There I was, a brand new junior I did not keep that vow. number seven in a row that begins
officer, literally the first person in
with Angleton.
the CIA to see the
he from these life-and-death
daytoday traf
9
So. alter a career that ended up
operations I was deeply affected
by the fear, heroism, and drama in being far more Cloriented than I

these messages. Above all, I felt methodically attacked every one of could ever have imagined. I would

privileged to have been given such my conclusions. Didnt 1 know the like to offer 5( ane personal obser
an opportunity. raffic was a deception? Hadnt it vations in the form of The len
occurred to methat Leopold lrep G ndments of Counterintelli
)lllma

Building on an earlier study of the per. the leader of the Role Kapelle,
I have chosen the form of
gence.
Rote Kape/le by the Cl Staff, I com was a German double? lie went
conimanthne,il.c because I believe
pleted a draft several months later on and on, getting further and fur
the basic rules of Cl aie immutable
that incorporated the new mate ther out.

rial. To my great this and should be scrupulously fol


surprise,
study was well received by my Even I, as a brand new officer. lowed. In my view, it makes little
immediate superiors, and I was told could tell that this great mind, this difference whether the adversary is
that I was to be rewarded with a Cl genius. had lost it. I thought he the Russians, the Cubans. the East
personal interview and
congratula was around the bend. It was one
Germans. the Chinese, or someone
tions from lames Jesus Angleton. of the most bizarre experiences of
else. It likewise makes little differ
the legendary head of the Cl Staff my career.
ence whether we are talking about
from 1954 to 1974.
\Xhen the meeting was over. I was
good (.1 practices in 1985 or in

office the 2005. 1 nfortunately, as I watch IS


Angletons was on sec glad to get out of there, and I
ond floor of theOriginal vowed to myself that I would never (:1 today. I am increasingly con

Headquarters Building. 1 was first go anywhere near Ci again. I did cerned that the principles I
ushered into an outer office, where not keep that vow. In my over c( nsider fundamental to effective
Angletons aides briefed me on seas assignments with the Agency, I
Cl are not being followed as care
how to conduct myself. Then I found myself drawn toward Soviet
fully and consistently as they
went alone into the inner sanctum. Ci operations. Nothing seemed to
should be.
quicken my pulse more, and I was
The room was (lark, the curtains delighted when I was called back
ilo,se commandments were not
were drawn, and there was just one to I leadquarters in 1989 to join the

small desk. handed d( ~wn to me from a moun


lamp on Angletons I new Counterintelligence Center

later heard that Angleton had eye (GIG) as Ted Prices deputy. When taintop. and I make no claim that

trouble and that the light hurt his led moved upstairs in early 1991 to they art inspired or even dehni
eves. but I was convinced the real become the Associate Deputy tivt. Tliey are simply the
reason for the semidarkness was to Director for Operations. I was culmination, for what they are
add his mystique.
to it certainly named chief of the Center.
worth, of my experience. They are
worked on me~
intended primarily for my felk)\v
Today, many years after that initial
I nervously briefed practitu )ners in Cl today. but also
Angleton on my disagreeable encounter with CI, I
study. and he listened without find it hard believe that it is for an~ younger officers in the
to actu

interrupting, just nodding from time ally my picture on the wall of the Intelligence CommLinity (IC) who
to time. When I finished. he GIG conference room at CIA might someday want to join us.

82
CI Commandments

The truth is that CI


officers are not

The First Commandment: Be


popular... They usually have been
(:1 professionals not

Offensive bring bad news. And favored, to the extent they


they are easy marks to deserved, with promotions. assign
CI that is passive and defensive svill criticize when things go ments. a~ ards. praise. esteem, or

fail. \Vc cannot hunker down in a other rec( )gnitic ~n. lhie truth is that
wrong.
cleknsive 1w)de and sv ut for things CI officers p pular. llmev
are not

to happen.
ing far t( )O
1 believe
niuch money
we are

( )fl
spend
fences.
~9 are not

walk in.
always welconie when they
11mev usually bring bad
safes. alarms and other purely news. Ilie) are easy marks to criti
defensive measures to protect our cize when things go wrong. Their
secrets. lhat is mu h ~w we have matter what it takes, we hirse to successes are their failures. If they
been liLirt in recent veiirs. Spies have penetrations. catch a spy. the are roasted for
have hurt us. ( )iir CI nindset having taken so long. If they are
should I )e relentlessly )ffensive. We should operate aggressively not catching anyone. why not?
We need to go after oi r Cl against the nontraditu)nal as well as What have they done with all that
adversaries. the traditional adversaries. I ios~ money they spent on Ci? it is no-

many examples do we need of win.

Aggressive (k)uhie agent ( I)~\) oper operations against Americans by so-

ations are essential to .in~ Ci called friendly countries to con For much of my career, many of

program. hut not the 1redictahle. vince us that the old intelligence our best pec )ple ~iV tided becoming
hackne~ ed kind we have so often adage is correct: there are friendly Ct specialists. (:1 was not presti
pursued. We need to push our nations. hut no friendly intelli giolis. It had a bad reputation. It
I )right and imaginative people to gence services. If we suspect f~r was not fast track. It did not lead

produce clever new scenarios for whatever reason that the opera to promotions or good assign
controlled operations. and we need tives of a foreign intelligence ments. Angleton left a distasteful
more of them. the oj )position ser service, friend or foe. are operating legacy that for years discredited the
vices should be kept onstantly off . against us, we sI iould test them. CI profession. Ted Price did more

guard so that they suspect


ne~ er We should dress up an enticing than anyone else in the Agency to
that we have actually controlled the morsel, made to order f~r that spe reverse that trend and to rehabili

operatlo ins the~ hel eve the~ initi cific target. and send it by them. If tate CI as a respected professional
ated from the I )egi nning. \Vhen time they take it. we have learned some discipline.
req uiremnents. ninthis operaizth. and thing we needed to kno~~ .
and we

pers~ ma I ity objectives of the T)A ha~ e an Operation. if the) reject it. Nevertheless, that battle is still not

operati( in have been a chieved. we as true friends should, we have completely won. Xe have to do
should in a greater flu rnber of cases learned something. to). In either more to get our CI people pro
pitch the opposit i( in cisc officer. If es ent. becali5e we are testing a moted. recognized. and respected
only one out of 10 or 20 of these friend. plausible deniahil itv has to so that our best young officers will
recruitnients takes, it is worth it. he strictly preserved. Fvery for.. be attractecl to follow us into what

And CI professionals. of course. eign service is a potential we know is a noble professh in and
should not rely exclu~.ively on their no in traditional adversary: no ser where the nerd is so great.
o\~ n efforts. lhcv should con vice should get a lifetime pass front
stantlyprod their lit ~llNl ~i of fensis e Cl operations.

colleagues to identify. target. and The Third Commandment: Own


recruit officers from the opposition the Street
intelligence services. llie key to Ci The Second Commandment:
success is penetration lor every Honor Your ProfessionaLs Ibis is so fundamental to Cl, but it
American spy, there are several is prohahl the least folb )wed of
members of the opp ) sition service It has been true for yearsb vary the commandments. Any Cl

who knos~ ssiio he om she is No ing degrees throctgh mt the ICthat pr( gram w )~t 11) 1 )f the name has t

83
CI Commandments

I do not think it would be


excessive as a rule of
thumb in a top notch CI
he able engage the opposition
to The Fifth Commandment: Do
the Street. the held of play for
service to be evenly
on Not Ignore Analysis
espionage. And when we do go to
divided between
the street, we have to he the best
operators and analysts. Analysis has too often been the
Service there. If we are beaten on stepchild of (:1. lhroughout the Cl
the

ing
street. it is worse

been there at all.


than not hav
,, cotllTnunitv. we

consistently understaffed it.


have fairly
We

have 5( )Tnet i ines tried make it up


to

For years, we virtually conceded failures in most cases are well doc as we go ak)ng. We have tried to
the streets of the worlds capitals. umented. but the lessons~ ~~re lost if do it on tile cheap.
including the major espionage cen our officers do not read the Ci
ters, to the KGB. the GRU. and the literature. Generally speaking. operators make
East European services because we bad analysts. We are different
either did not know how to do it or I find it inconceivable that any Cl kinds of people. Operators are

we were not willing to pay tile could his actors. doers. movers and shakers;
practitioner today ply or

price for a tllor( )ughly professional.


her trade without indepth an
we arequick. maybe a little impul
reliable, fulltime, local surveil sive, maybe a little cowboy. Our
knowledge of the Angleton era.
lance capability. best times are away from our
I lave our officers read Mangokl?
desks. We love the street.
I lave they read I.eend and Wilder
Opposition intelligence officers Research and analysis is really not
,l~.c ~ Do they know the
have to be watched, known meet our thingand when we have tried
l.()ginov case. I TONET()l,,
ing areas have to he observed, and. to do it. we have n( )t been g~ )Od at
MFICI lAOS Nosenko, lollard, and
when an operation goes down
,

it.
often on short noticeundetect Sltadrin? Are they familiar with
able surveillance has to cover it, Aspillaga and tile Cuban DA deba Irtie analysts are different. They
identify the participants. and obtain cle? I lave they examined our love it. lliev arc more cerebral,
evidence. mistakes in the Ames and 1-loward patient, and sedentary. lhey find
cases? At-c they staying current things we could not. They write
Ibis capability is expensiveselec with recent releases like The I )etter.

tion, training, vehicles, photo gear. Mi! ru/thin Archiie and The
video, radios, safe apartments, Haii iied Wood? A lot of (:1 programs in the past
observation posts. and on and on have tried to make operators dou
but, if we do not have it, we will I believe it is ble as their own analysts. As a
an indispensable part
he a second-rate CI service and will of the formation of any American result, in the United States, Cl anal
not break the major cases. vsis historically has been the
CI officerand certainly a profes
weakest part of the business. Pro
sional obligationto study the CI
fessional CI analysts have been
failures of the past, to reflect on
The Fourth Commandment: tinderval ued and underappreciated.
them, and to make sure they are
Know Your History
not repeated. A good (21 program will recruit and
I am discouraged when I talk
very train true analysts in sizable num
The many CI courses being offered
to young Cl officers today to find bers, I do not think it would be
now are a positive step, hut there
how little they know about the his excessive as a nile of thumb in a

of American CI. will never he a substitute for a per he


tory Cl is a top notch CI service to evenly
difficult and sonal commitment on the part of divided between operators and
dangerous discipline.
Many good, well-meaning CI peo our professionals to read their
Cl analysts. \ery few of our US CI

ple have gone wrong and made history, usually on their own time agencies come anywhere close to

horrendous mistakes. Their at borne. that ratio.

84
CI Commandments

More harm probably has


been done to US CI over

the years by interagency


Wonderful things happen when extensive, regular, and specialized
good analysts in sutficient num
sniping and obstruction (:1training (an ~ duce t hem.
bers pc )re over our I )A reports, than by our enemies. Such training is expensive, so
udio and whenever possible should do it
presence lists, SIGINT, we

tcltap transcripts. maps. travel data, 9, on a Community basis to avoid

and ~urveiIlance reports. find duplication and to ensure quality.


They
the clues, make the connections,
afld beLls efforts the age other Cl supervisors ar mod the (:1 is a congh )merate of several dis
our in areas

community to do the same. ciplines and skills. A typical


that will be roost productive.
operation, for exainple. might
CI is so difficult, even in the best of include analysts. surveillance spe
~\1any parts of the I. S (.1 commu

have gotten the message and circumstances, that the only wa~ to cialists, case officers, technical
nity
do it istogether. We should not let experts, and DA specialists. Each
have incorporated trained analysts
into their operations. bi it others personalities, or jeak)usies, or turf area requires its specialized
own

battles get in the way of our com training curriculum. It takes a long
have not. Across the hoard, we still
mon mission. Our colleagues in time to develop Cl specialists, and
have serious shortfalls in good.
our sister services are as dedicated. that means a sustained investment
solid Cl analysis.
professional, hardworking, and in CI training. We are getting bet
patriotic as we are, and they ter. but we are not there yet.

The Sixth Commandment: Do


deserve our respect and coopera
tion. The best people I have
Not Be Parochial
known in my career have been CI The Eighth Commandment: Do

people, regardless of their or~afliZa Not Be Shoved Aside


M )re harm probably has been done
tR)nal affiliation. So let us 1
to I. S CI over the years by inter
a l legial. There are people in the intelli
agency sniping and obstruction
gence business and other groups in
than by our enemies. ] remember
the LS Government who do not
when the CIA and the PHI did not
The Seventh Commandment: particularly like Cl officers. CI
even talk to each otherand both
Train Your People officers have a mixed reputation.
had disdain for the miltary sei
\Ve see ptohlems everywhere. We
vices. It is no wonder that CI was
CI is a distinct discipline and an can be overzealous. We get in the
a shambles and that some incredi
acquired skill. It is not automati way of operations. We cause head
bly damaging spies went uncovered
cally infused in us when we get our aches. We are the original black
for ~ long.
wings as case officers. It is nor just hatters.
a matter of applying logic and com

Occasionally in my caraer. I
their operations
mon sense to operations. hut is Case officers want
encountered instances of sarcasm
instead highly specialized
a way of to be bona lide, Senior operations
or outright bad mouthing of other
seeing things and analyzing them. managers do not want to believe
I. IS Government agenc:es by my CI has to he learned. that their operations are controlled
officers. That kind of attitude and the opposition.
or penetrated by
cynicism infected our junior offic I do notknow how many times in There is a natural human tendency
ers and got in the way of my career I have heard. No, we do on the part of both case officers
cooperation. These c mments not really need a separate Cl sec and senior operations managers to
often were intended t flaunt our tion. ~ are all Cl officers: well do resist otttside CI
scrutiny. lhev
supposed superiority by demean our own CI. That is a recipe for believe that they are practicing
ing the capabilities of the other compromise and failure. good CI themselves and do not
organizations. I dealt with these welcome being second-guessed or
situations by telling the officers to There are no substitutes for profes told how to run their operations by
knock it off, and 1 would encour sional CI officers, and only so-called CI specialists who aie not

85
CI Commandments

If there were ever to be a

mascot for US

directly involved in the opera


counterinteffigence, it build in n )tatR)nal assignments out

ti()ns. I have seen far more should be the pit bull. side CI for its CI specialists. Ihev
examples of this in my Cl career sh iukl go spend two or three years
than I care to remember. with lie operators or with the other
t

groups they are charged to pro


By the same token, defense and tect. lhev ~~ill come hack
intelligence contractors and bureau walls: A steady diet of C! can be refreshed, smarter. and less likely to

crats running sensitive CS dangerous to your health. f~il into the nether world of profes
Government programs have too sr()nal CI: the school of
often tended to minimize Cl threats I do not believe anyone should doublethink, the us-against-them
and to resist professional Cl inter make an entire, uninterrupted mindset. the nothing-iswhat-it
vention. CI officers, in their view, career of CI. We all who work in seems syndrome. or the wilderness
stir up problems and overreact to CI have seen it: the old Cl hand of mirrors.

them. their successes in prevent who has gotten a hit spooky. It is

ing problems are invisible and


CI hard to immerse oneself daily in

impossible to measure, hut their the arcane and twisted world of CI The Tenth Commandment:
whistle blowing when problems are without falling prey eventually to Never Give Up
uncovered generate tremendous creeping pa (listort ion. warp
ma n( )ia

heat. It is not surprising that the~ ing, and overzealoiisness in ones TI ie tenth and last commandment is
are often viewed as a net nuisance. thinking. It is precisely these traits the most important. What if the
that led to some of the worst C! Ames mole hunters had quit after
When necessary. a CI service has to disasters in our history. Angleton eight years instead of going into the

impose itself on the organizations and his coterie sadly succUmbed. ninth? \Xhrat if, in my own experi
and groups it is assigned to pro with devastating results. Others in ence, we had discontinued a

tect. A Cl professional ~~ho is the CIA and elsewhere have as certain surveillance operation after
locked out or invited in only when well. lhe danger is always there. five months instead of continuing
it is convenient to the host cannot into the sixth? CI history is full of

do his oh. My wife, who was working at the such examples.


CIA when I met her, was well
.\Iv advice to my Cl colleagues has acquainted with this reputation of lhe FRI is making cases against
always been this: If you are CI and the stories about its practi Aniericans today that involved espi
hkxked liv some senior, obtuse, tioners. When I was serving onage committed in the 1960s and
anti-Cl officer, go around him or overseas and recei\ ed the cable 1 970s. The Armys Foreign Coun

through him by going to higher offering me the position as Ted terintell igence Activity is doing the

management. And ckcument all lrices deputy in the new Counter same. The name of the game in CI
instances of denied access, lack of intelligence Center. I discussed it is persistence. CI officers who are

cooperation. or other obstruction to with her that evening at home. I Icr not patient need not tppjy There
carrying out your Cl mission. If response, I thought. was right on is no statute of limitations for espio

flOt. ~~lien soniething


goes wrong. tIre mark: Okay. hut do not stay nage. and we should not create one

as it likely will in that kind of situa t( )o long. Nv ( )ur o\vn nact iofl. Iraitors
tion. you in Cl will take the blame. should know that they will never

Sensible and productive CI needs be safe and will never have a

lots of ventilation and fresh think peaceful nights sleep. I applauded


The Ninth Commandment: Do ing. there should he constant IUV (:1 colleagues in the FBI when I

Not Stay Too Long flowthrough. ~sonCI officers read not 1 )ng ago of their arrest in

should he brought in regularly on Fl )r i cIa ( )f a f rmer t S Am iv

Cl is a hazardous profession. There rotational tours. I also believe it is Reserve col( )nel for alleged espio
slioLild be warning signs on the iniperative that a g(x)d CI service nage against the United States

86
CI Commandments

niany years earlier. Th.~y obvi In Conclusion even the priorities. What we

ously never gave up. should agree on, however, is that


Ihese aremy ten commandments strong CI has to he a national prior
It we keep a (:1 investigation alive of Cl. Other Cl professionals will ity. Recent news reports from l.os
and stay on it, the next defector, have their own priorities and Alamos. \Vashington. and else
tile next penetration, the next tip, exhortations and will disagree with where have again underscored the
the next surveillance, cr tile next mine. Ihat is as it should he. continuing need for Cl vigilance.
clue will break it br u~. because as a country and as an

Intelligence Community we need a

U there were ever to be a mascot vigorous debate on the fLitlire


for t ~S counterintelligence, it should direction of US Cl. Not e~ervone

be the pit bLill. will agree with the speciFics, or

87