Deutch Plans New Spy Agency
Intelligence officials will likely resist the creation of the CIA chief's proposed National Imagery Agency because it will diminish their clout and independence
ntelligence chiefs in the military services, the Pentagon and the spy agencies will likely resist a plan by the nation's new intelligence chief to consolidate several local agencies into a new one, observers say.
The proposed National Imagery Agency would control spy-satellite funding, day-to-day operation of secret satellites, and study and distribution of spy photos.
The agency would be "a new empire that has control over an entire slice of the U.S. intelligence capability.... [with a] monopoly cartel" of satellite photography, similar to the National Security Agency's monopoly of electronic eavesdropping efforts, said John Prados, an intelligence expert in Takoma Park, Md.
Whether the new agency will be created is uncertain, partly because its size and role have not been determined, and the strength of opposition to the reform is hard to gauge. Both the intelligence oversight committees in the House and the Senate are developing their own reform plans for the post-Cold War intelligence community.
The proposal was unveiled May 23 by John Deutch, chief of the CIA and the nation's director of central intelligence. He said the new agency will combine a grab bag of intelligence organizations, including the Washington-based National Photographic Interpretation Center, the Vienna, Va.-based Central Imagery Office and the Fairfax, Va.-based Defense Mapping Agency, all of which study and distribute spy satellite photos.
But Deutch's proposal is not without opponents. Said Jeffrey Richelson, an expert on intelligence programs who works for the Washington-based National Security Archives, a non-profit research center: "It's a bad idea" because it will consolidate control of the nation's critical spy photos in one agency.
Reliance on a large agency
will increase the prospect that study of the photographs will be subject to agency biases and groupthink that could suppress maverick thinkers and alternative ideas, he said. The creation of the new agency will be resisted by the various agencies because they don't
want to lose their own photo-study groups, Richelson said.
For example, CIA officials don't want to give up control of the National Photographic Intelligence Center, where most of the satellite photos are studied for clues about foreign countries' intentions, weapons stocks and war plans. Without their own photo-study groups, each agency will be dependent upon data released by the proposed agency.
The new agency may also buy photos from the nascent commercial spy satellite industry, said Robert Steele, president of Open Source Solutions Inc. Such purchases could give the industry a much-needed boost and create a commercial rival to the $7 billion National Reconnaissance Office, which builds spy satellites.