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In our readings for this week we delve into a newly emerging concept: strategic counterintelligence. What is this concept? How might it be flawed? Should the US pursue the real creation of a discipline in strategic counterintelligence? The readings for this week by Van Cleave and Harber give us a sense that counterintelligence is having a sort of renaissance in an age of cyber operations and unauthorized disclosures. Strategic counterintelligence is considers proactive efforts to counter the flow of vital national security data to enemy actors. As you consider the question above, keep these thoughts in mind and recognize each one can be taken a level deeper. For example, as we discuss strategic counterintelligence as a discipline, what are the workroles that might exist in this new world of digital operations? Forum entries need to be submitted using an essay-type format. Students will cite the work in their forum and provide references. Forums need to have an introduction with thesis sentence, 2-3 supporting paragraphs, and conclusion. The conclusion needs to summarize your key points. 250 words Chicago style
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Harber, Justin R. 2009. “Unconventional Spies: The Counterintelligence Threat from Non-State
Actors.” International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 22, no. 2: 221-236.
This article was downloaded by: [68.7.43.36] On: 18 February 2013, At: 09:01 Publisher: Routledge
Informa Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office: Mortimer
House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence Publication details, including instructions
for authors and subscription information: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ujic20 Unconventional Spies:
The Counterintelligence Threat from NonState Actors
Justin R. Harber Version of record first published: 12 Mar 2009.
To cite this article: Justin R. Harber (2009): Unconventional Spies: The Counterintelligence Threat from
Non-State Actors, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 22:2, 221-236 To link to
this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08850600802698200
JUSTIN R. HARBER Unconventional Spies: The Counterintelligence Threat from Non-State Actors In the
wake of the 11 September 2001 (9=11) terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.â??when
overseas experience and Arabic language credentials became so crucial to the Global War on Terrorism
(GWOT)â?? Nada Nadim Prouty appeared to be the ideal candidate for operations work at the Central
Intelligence Agency (CIA).1 Prior to joining the Agency in 2003, the Lebanese-born Prouty served as a
special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).2 At the Bureau, according to her plea
agreement, the 37-year-old Prouty accessed FBI files without authorization regarding Hezbollah, the
Lebanese terrorist organization with representatives in the Lebanese government, and exfiltrated
classified documents to her home.3 Of particular concern is Proutyâ??s brother-in-law, Talil Khailil Chahine,
who had earlier fled to Lebanon. In 2002, Chahine attended a fund-raising event, with Hezbollahâ??s
former spiritual leader in attendance. Today he stands accused of funneling $20 million from Detroitarea restaurants he owns back to Lebanon.4 While, technically, Hezbollah is part of the Lebanese
government, the Prouty affair highlights an increasing, if not well publicly-documented, concern for
intelligence officials: the counterintelligence (CI) threat from violent non-state actors (NSAs). How
prevalent is the CI threat from these groups? How seriously is the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC)
considering this challenge to U.S. national security? What policy prescriptions can mitigate the potential
damage from this menace? Justin R. Harber is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, with an M.A.
in Security Studies from Georgetown University and currently lives and works in Washington, D.C.
International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, 22: 221â??236, 2009 Copyright # Taylor &
Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 0885-0607 print=1521-0561 online DOI: 10.1080/08850600802698200 AND
COUNTERINTELLIGENCE VOLUME 22, NUMBER 2 221 Downloaded by [68.7.43.36] at 09:01 18 February
2013 COUNTERINTELLIGENCE PENETRATIONS BY NON-STATE ACTORS Recent history is peppered with CI
penetrations, ranging from Aldrich Ames of the CIA to Robert Hanssen, Katrina Leung, and Leandro
Aragoncillo of the FBI. Overall, however, CI has been largely characterized as a â??â??neglected elementâ??â?? of
the intelligence discipline.5 Denigrated as less intellectual than analysis, less thrilling than foreign
intelligence collection, contrary to the notion of democratic norms, it is usually considered, at best, a
necessary evil to support operational security.6 In a 2000 article surveying the intelligence challenges of
the twenty-first century, thenâ??Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George J. Tenet never mentioned CI
in his assessment, let alone the unique challenges posed by NSA penetrations.7 Indeed, at first glance,
NSAs make unlikely candidates as spies to infiltrate the U.S. federal government. Dissimilar from their
state-level counterparts, they are significantly less capable of mustering the enormous financial,
technical, and training resources necessary to infiltrate the national security architecture of foreign
powers.8 Traditional state-level adversaries, such as Russia and China, constitute a more plausible CI
threat because these countries operate their own intelligence apparatuses that, in a diffracted way,
mirror Americaâ??s own intelligence infrastructure. They have whole ministries with burgeoning
bureaucracies and a dedicated cadre of intelligence officials willing to commit millions of dollars to
collect intelligence on American targets, whereas the collection capabilities of non-state actors are
largely relegated to gathering intelligence for operational purposes, such as downloading information on
aerial spraying for biological or chemical agents, or casing potential bomb targets. Yet, given the
renewed impetus in thwarting terrorism after 9=11, U.S. CI efforts against belligerent NSAs have enjoyed
a newfound limelight. The 2007 U.S. National Counterintelligence Strategy explains the threat quite
clearly: The United States faces a wide range of threats to its security from foreign intelligence activities,
terrorist elements, and other nontraditional adversaries designed to achieve advantage over US military,
diplomatic, and economic interests at home and abroad. … Foreign intelligence collection
establishments and terrorist groups acquire resources, train and deploy personnel, and execute both
clandestine and covert intelligence operations against us.9 [emphasis added] The Strategy goes on to
characterize CI as an integral component to the counterterrorism agenda: â??â??To further support
counterterrorism, the counterintelligence community will review operations and intelligence 222 JUSTIN
R. HARBER INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INTELLIGENCE Downloaded by [68.7.43.36] at 09:01 18
February 2013 reporting to detect attempts by terrorist entities to penetrate and manipulate us.â??â??10 In
the same vein, the 2005 Silberman-Robb Commission, more commonly known as the WMD Commission,
argued that it â??â??is not only major nations which employ aggressive intelligence services. Terrorist groups
like Hezbollah and al-Qaâ??ida also conduct intelligence operations within the United States.â??â??11 Given
their scarce resources and the daunting challenges intrinsic to intelligence collection against foreign
governments, why would NSAs seek penetrations against the U.S. national security infrastructure?
William Rosenau of the RAND Corporation offers at least two reasons. First, much like foreign
intelligence services, NSAs can garner â??â??invaluable information about the governmentâ??s capabilities,
intentions, and weakness.â??â??12 In addition, NSAs may exploit infiltrations for their own CI purposes:
â??â??penetration can give terrorists and insurgents opportunities to plant false information, redirect the
stateâ??s potentially lethal gaze, force the authorities to misallocate resources, and otherwise derail the
stateâ??s campaign.â??â??13 Today, CI officials fear that terrorists may employ some of the same tradecraft in
intelligence collection as state adversaries.14 Indeed, alleged al-Qaeda training media include lessons on
how to collect open source intelligence, conduct surveillance, interrogate detainees, and recruit agents
working in a foreign government.15 As one Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) official
commented: â??â??It would be naı¨ve to believe that terrorists werenâ??t infiltrating the Navy.â??â??16 Currently,
the CIA is concerned that a number of its recent applicants may have been foreign agents.17 As
reported in The Christian Science Monitor, â??â??This would fit Al Qaedaâ??s pattern, according to Michael
Scheuer, a former top CIA counterterrorism official. Al Qaeda operatives, he says, have already
penetrated several security agencies in Middle Eastern countries.â??â??18 Perhaps more troubling than the
thought of an actual terrorist getting beyond the screening process and being hired is the notion of a
violent NSA recruiting an asset who already works in the IC. Again, given these groupsâ?? relatively sparse
financial resources, enlisting the help of an insider through material incentives seems unrealistic. Yet,
violent Islamist NSAs may employ other inducementsâ??namely a sense of kinship or a common religious
identityâ??to persuade potential recruits. Two variables, in particular, interact to raise the chances of this
threat from belligerent Islamic extremist groups: the increased need for intelligence officers with
specific cultural and language credentials, and the practice of â??â??ethnic recruiting.â??â?? First, given the
heightened tempo in counterterrorism and military operations in Africa, the Middle East, and Central
Asia, the IC has an THE COUNTERINTELLIGENCE THREAT FROM NON-STATE ACTORS 223 AND
COUNTERINTELLIGENCE VOLUME 22, NUMBER 2 Downloaded by [68.7.43.36] at 09:01 18 February 2013
increased need for intelligence officers (not unlike Prouty) who can navigate the cultural geography of
these regions and speak their languages fluently. These officers, despite being U.S. citizens, will have a
greater chance of being raised abroad and may retain familial ties and some vestige of loyalty to their
respective cultures.19 Second, as former CI officer Frederick L. Wettering has observed, the majority of
foreign intelligence services that seek to collect against American targets â??â??practice ethnic recruiting,
that is, seek to recruit persons of the same ethnic background as the foreign intelligence officer.â??â??20
These vulnerable individuals â??â??may more often become motivated to do so [commit espionage] due to
feelings of obligation or loyalty to foreign country or foreign friends and relatives.â??â??21 Many Middle
Eastern and Central Asian states are governed by autocratic despots who have garnered little domestic
legitimacy during their tenure. Sympathy for dissident groups that violently oppose these regimes (and
the nations that support them, such as the U.S.) may be traced in part to public animosity toward the
decadence, secularism, and apathy of the ruling powers. Without any sense of loyalty or patriotism for
these autocrats, terrorists may then employ Islam, or an ambiguous sense of cultural identity, as the
vehicle of public support to forcefully oppose these governments. By extension, belligerent NSAs may
seek to convince potential recruits that they are serving the interests of their common religious or
ethnic identity by spying on the U.S. They may argue that, by serving in a government that colludes with
the despotic repressor of their homeland, the recruit is betraying his or her own peopleâ??he or she is
literally aiding the war against Islam and supporting the oppression of their fellow countrymen. Political
or ideological recruitment methods are not unknown to NSAs. Islamic extremist training material
attributed to alQaeda specifically references â??â??political orientationâ??â?? as a potential tool for
recruitment.22 Though Ana Montes of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) spied for Cuba, her case
illustrates â??â??that a strong sense of obligation to serve the needs of a â??world homelandâ?? can, under some
circumstances, provide sufficient motivation for espionage.â??â??23 As indicated by Lisa Kramer and Richards
Heuer, the former DIA officer attributed her espionage â??â??to her belief in the moral righteousness of her
actions, [and] expressed no remorse for helping Cuba â??defend itselfâ?? against what she described as unfair
and oppressive U.S. foreign policies.â??â??24 Thus, as the U.S. Intelligence Community sees a growing need to
fill its ranks with officers with firsthand knowledge of regions pertinent to the GWOT, non-state actors
may perceive better opportunities to recruit insiders sympathetic to religious or ideological ploys. 224
JUSTIN R. HARBER INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INTELLIGENCE Downloaded by [68.7.43.36] at 09:01 18
February 2013 INTELLIGENCE LIAISONSâ??THE FRIEND OF MY FRIEND MAY BE MY ENEMY The 9=11
terrorist attacks fundamentally altered the ICâ??s center of gravity as it pertains to intelligence liaisons
with foreign services. As before, the U.S. remains staunch allies with the Commonwealth nations (UK,
Australia, Canada, and New Zealand), but has now embraced a whole host of other foreign intelligence
services to combat global terrorism.25 These new relationships include even adversarial countries such
as Syria.26 As Ste´phane Lefebvre has noted, â??â??With 9=11 and the initiation of military operations against
al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, these established relationships had to be complimented with vigorous new
ones involving Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries, often making for strange alliances.â??â??27 While
the United States has vast technical collection platforms at its disposal, the Global War on Terror
demands human intelligence expertise in specific languages and cultures for which these new alliance
partners are in some cases better suited. Many of these countries were only all too eager to embrace an
American partnership. As Lefebvre also points out: No one agency can do and know everything. … The
United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom are particularly attractive partners for less
fortunate services that can trade human intelligence for the more sophisticated and expensive technical
products to which they would not otherwise have access.28 To be sure, these new intelligence liaisons
may reap a bountiful harvest in human intelligence, yet they also burden the IC with at least two
significant CI risks exploitable by non-state actors. First, foreign intelligence partners may find lower
security thresholds tolerable, and feel no need to exercise high CI standards or operational integrity. In
fact, little doubt remains that belligerent NSAs have penetrated the foreign governments of American
allies. Jamaat-e-Islami, a Bangladeshi terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda, is suspected of either
recruiting or seeding Jamaat sympathizers into the highest echelons of the Bangladeshi government.29
In 2006, al-Qaeda claimed that it had infiltrated the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).30
Terrorism expert Lorenzo Vidino adds that, if the penetration were true, â??â??it …reveals that even though
they are our friends, al Qaeda seems to have people on the inside in the UAE, just as it has in Saudi
Arabia, Pakistan, Qatar, and Kuwait.â??â??31 Finally, senior military leaders in Colombia have come under
suspicion for supplying intelligence to the narcotrafficking Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC), as well as to the Norte del Valle drug cartel.32 The leaked intelligence included â??â??the secret
positioning of U.S. naval vessels and aircraft in the Caribbean early [in 2006], part of a THE
COUNTERINTELLIGENCE THREAT FROM NON-STATE ACTORS 225 AND COUNTERINTELLIGENCE VOLUME
22, NUMBER 2 Downloaded by [68.7.43.36] at 09:01 18 February 2013 carefully coordinated web
designed to stop cocaine from reaching the United States, according to high-ranking Colombian military
officials.â??â??33 Regardless of the benefits, by pairing with these compromised services, the U.S. puts its
own intelligence operations at risk. Second, many of these new or reestablished liaisons may not
necessarily be penetrated by violent NSAs, yet parochial interests within the services themselves may
collude with groups hostile to the U.S. Elements of the Pakistani Directorate for Inter-Services
Intelligence (ISI), for instance, continue to retain close ties to extremists in Afghanistan.34 Martin
Rudner writes that â??â??recent deals between the Pakistani government and tribal elders in the Federally
Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the border with Afghanistan look suspiciously like capitulation to
the Taliban, orchestrated by Pakistani intelligence agencies with ties to known extremists.â??â??35
Reinvigorating fears that partisan militias permeate the Iraqi government, the Independent Commission
on the Security Forces of Iraq concluded: â??â??The Ministry of Interior is a ministry in name only. It is widely
regarded as being dysfunctional and sectarian, and suffers ineffective leadership. …The Iraqi Police
Service … is compromised by militia and insurgent infiltration.â??â??36 While these â??â??strange alliancesâ??â?? may
fill in gaps in human intelligence collection, some of them also jeopardize the integrity of U.S. operations
through porous or factionalized foreign intelligence services. NON-STATE ACTOR
COUNTERINTELLIGENCE THREAT ASSESSMENT Since CI challenges by hostile NSAs are ubiquitous, if not
increasing, how dangerous are infiltrations by these groups? Are they more or less of a security threat
than typical state actors? In truth, CI penetrations by NSAs share some of the same risks identified with
their state-level counterparts. Yet, given these disparate groupsâ?? ability to rapidly link up for common
cause, the NSAs also present a unique dilemma for CI officers. Penetrations by both NSAs and state
actors generally threaten U.S. national security by revealing Americaâ??s â??â??capabilities, intentions, and
weakness.â??â??37 Both groups may then use this intelligence to their mutual advantageâ??including as
offensive CI to thwart the collection efforts of the infiltrated agency. A hostile non-state actor may act
on intelligence to plot its next bombing campaign or to disrupt military operations against one of its
cells. For state actors, however, the utility of harvested intelligence is dramatically increased because
foreign governments are more inclined to have the resources at their disposal to best exploit any new
information. Russia or China can build quieter submarines and more effective collection platforms, or
develop better-informed grand strategies, by exploiting the intelligence they have pilfered from the U.S.
government. Thus, state 226 JUSTIN R. HARBER INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INTELLIGENCE
Downloaded by [68.7.43.36] at 09:01 18 February 2013 actors have significantly broader targeting
requirements across the economic, military, scientific, and political spheres. Smaller, less-well funded
NSAs may share some of the same targeting requirements with their larger counterparts (particularly
with regards to policy and military matters), but will most likely be concerned with information as it
pertains to counterterrorism, counternarcotics, classified policy decisions, military objectives, and other
relevant subjects. Globalization and advances in information technology have made the exfiltration of
classified information easier, as well as more difficult to detect, for both foreign governments and NSAs.
Today, information storage devices are constantly decreasing in size while their storage capacity
regularly increases.38 In addition, the greater frequency of global travel and international contacts
across industries has led to the â??â??increased opportunity for the transfer of classified and other protected
information to foreign entities.â??â??39 State actors as well as NSAs are equally likely to exploit the latest
technology to steal state secrets. Again, given their sizeable financial resources, state actors are better
at developing the â??â??cutting-edgeâ??â?? information technology to gather and transmit data. Nonstate actors
will instead be most likely limited to the best â??â??off-the-shelfâ??â?? commercial technology available, usually of
a lower caliber than the tools at the disposal of state-level operators. ASSESSING THE DESIRABILITY OF
SHARING What are the incentives for states and NSAs to share collected intelligence with foreign
governments or even ideologically likeminded organizations? Since states invest significant financial
resources in planting or recruiting agents, or harvesting int …
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