Published: Monday, 13 June, 2005, 11:55 AM Doha Time
WASHINGTON: The CIA and the FBI have for the first time in two decades reached a new wide-ranging agreement on how to co-ordinate their intelligence activities in a post-September 11 world of increasingly blurred divisions of duty, officials say.
A classified memorandum of understanding, which is under review by senior Bush administration officials, redefines the relationship by which the two agencies have operated worldwide since the Cold War era of the 1980s, officials said.
The document, which was jointly negotiated several weeks ago, is expected to be submitted for approval to the new director of national intelligence, John Negroponte. It is also awaiting the signatures of CIA Director Porter Goss and FBI Director Robert Mueller.
A congressional official who was briefed on the agreement by CIA and FBI representatives said the memorandum marked a major step toward implementing the interagency co-ordination and information-sharing reforms enshrined in two main post-September 11 laws – the USA Patriot Act and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.
“It deals with who’s responsible for recruiting and running human assets both in the United States and overseas,” the official said without elaborating.
The heart of the agreement appears to address questions of jurisdiction in cases where individuals of interest to FBI and CIA agents cross international boundaries, the congressional official said.
“If you have a scientist from Botswana who’s an expert in biological weapons, and we know he’s going to visit New York, do you have the FBI approach him for recruitment or do you have the CIA? That’s the kind of thing it addresses,” the official said.
“They have a pretty good idea of who does what, where. But they want to make sure it’s all properly co-ordinated so that if the CIA has a counter-terrorism asset coming into the United States, they can make sure the FBI doesn’t arrest him.”
The need for an official working agreement was prompted by the FBI’s heightened concentration on counter-terrorism after the September 11, 2001, hijacked airliner attacks on New York and Washington, officials said.
Ambitious efforts by the FBI to recruit foreigners as spies for use inside the United States, as well as its growing counter-terrorism involvement overseas, have been cited by intelligence officials recently as a cause of friction.
“It underscores the need for co-ordination and co-operation, on which both agencies agree,” a CIA official said.
An FBI official described the pact as a basic agreement that was reached several weeks ago.
The FBI and CIA officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement deals with classified material and is not yet final.
Some officials have referred to a rift between the CIA and FBI and the Defence Department due to increased pressure on the federal government to enhance its post-September 11 intelligence capabilities.
Few details of the memorandum’s contents were made available, including how the two agencies would modify their traditional relationship which placed the FBI in charge of domestic counter-terrorism and counterintelligence activities while the CIA was limited to overseas operations.
Former CIA officer Melissa Boyle Mahle noted in her recent book, Denial and Deception: An Insider’s View of the CIA from Iran-Contra to 9/11 that the FBI and CIA signed a broadly worded memorandum of understanding on counterintelligence co-ordination in 1988.
Lawmakers in the US House of Representatives took steps to shore up the CIA’s role in overseas human intelligence last week by proposing a bill that would put all such activities under the CIA director.
“That’s mainly aimed at DOD,” the congressional official said. “Overseas, the FBI willingly says the CIA has primacy.” – Reuters
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