Skip to content

CIA on Alert for Capture and Assassination of Informants Abroad

CIA en Alerta

Available: Español

[Leer en español]

The top brass of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has alerted all of its stations around the world to a disturbing and growing number of overseas informants being captured or killed, reports The New York Times.

According to reporters Julian E. Barnes and Adam Goldman, who disclosed the agency’s alert, in recent years the CIA‘s Counterintelligence service has had to deal with dozens of cases of overseas informants being killed, arrested or compromised.

In the warning statement the CIA gave exact information on the number of informants who have been executed in foreign countries — a figure they normally do not disclose.

The message also reveals the problems the CIA has in recruiting agents in countries where there is considerable operational risk. In recent years CIA informants have been intensively pursued in countries such as Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan. In some cases these informants have become double agents.

"*" indicates required fields

Do you believe the FBI was planting evidence during the Mar-A-Lago raid?*
This poll gives you free access to our premium politics newsletter. Unsubscribe at any time.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Paul Whelan, un ciudadano americano acusado de espionaje en Rusia, la eficacia de los servicios de contrainteligencia extranjeros tiene a la CIA en alerta. (EFE)
Paul Whelan, an American citizen accused of espionage in Russia. The effectiveness of foreign counterintelligence services has the CIA on alert. (EFE)

Within the message the CIA acknowledges a problem they have had for years: they have focused too much effort on concluding the mission and too little on counterintelligence to prevent informants abroad from being compromised.

One of the most notorious cases has been that of Paul Whelan, an American citizen, who was placed under arrest by Russian authorities and charged with espionage. Although the CIA denied any link with Whelan, the Russian justice system sentenced the alleged spy to 16 years in prison with hard labor.

On alert for infiltrators among informants and retired officers

The CIA is also concerned about the leak of brains from the agency who, after retiring, decide to become consultants. In August, the intelligence agency sent emails to its former officials warning them of a “degenerative trend” of “foreign governments, either directly or indirectly, hiring former intelligence officials to build up their spying capabilities.”

Intelligence agencies’ concerns about U.S. intelligence leaks to foreign powers have become latent since former CIA agent Kevin Mallorey was found guilty of spying for the Chinese government in 2018.

The Mallorey case caused such an impact among American intelligence services that they even made a short clip explaining how former agents can become contacted by China, which can be found on the FBI’s website, The Never Night Connection.

“Chinese intelligence has profiled thousands of individuals in the United States and other Western nations for recruitment using social media platforms. Those profiled include former and current government officials, business people, academics, researchers or anyone with access to the information they desire,” warns the sleazy FBI clip.

Although the memo revealed by The New York Times reports the number of informants arrested or killed, it acknowledges that the number of double agents now spying for foreign powers is unknown.

A robust network of double agents feeding false information to the CIA could wreak havoc on national intelligence and security systems. Although the agency has different methods of getting information — from hacking to researching other countries’ public data — its network of informants continues to be the backbone of espionage.

In his book The Recruiter, Douglas London, a former CIA operations officer, argues that since the agency shifted the focus of its strategy to funding paramilitary groups and covert operatives, the agency undermined its own ability to execute traditional espionage.