The CIA is losing many of its informants overseas in ‘troubling’ numbers, the New York Times reported on 5 October.
In what was described as an ‘unusual’ confidential cable, American counterintelligence officials said that over the years, ‘dozens’ of overseas spies have disappeared, often found killed or arrested.
The cable also confirmed that the CIA is having difficulty in its overseas recruitment due to the success of nations like China, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia in crushing overseas operations.
The report also attributed the high number of deaths among its informants to the agency’s emphasis on “mission over security,” as well as underestimating capabilities of overseas intelligence services.
“No one, at the end of the day, is being held responsible if things go south with an agent,” Douglas London, a former agency operative, told the New York Times.
London said that on “occasions of sloppiness and neglect … people in senior positions were never held accountable.”
The cable specified the number of informant deaths as well as the number of those turned into double agents, but these figures were not disclosed publicly to media outlets.
In 2019, Iran arrested 17 people spying for the CIA.
In 2017, the New York Times admitted that China began ‘crippling’ US intelligence operations in the country in 2010, killing or jailing 18 US spies by the end of 2012.