From the LA Times, with thanks to K-Lo:
As many as 40 possible terrorists may have attempted to infiltrate U.S. intelligence agencies in recent months, CIA expert Barry Royden reported at a national counterintelligence conference in March. If that news isn’t sufficiently terrifying, consider this chilling paradox: Though the agencies caught the potential spies at the job application stage,
post-Sept. 11 pressures to quickly boost staffing make it increasingly
likely that a terrorist could sneak into the intelligence community’s ranks.
Since Al Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington four years ago, the Sept. 11 commission and other investigative bodies have criticized
intelligence agencies for failing to hire enough qualified personnel.
President Bush ordered the CIA to increase analytic and operational
personnel by 50%.
In response, intelligence agencies have launched ambitious campaigns to attract new recruits, even enlisting advertising agencies and running glitzy commercials. But this scramble to hire leaves agencies vulnerable, as a woefully small number of security analysts attempt to vet the flood of applicants. Job seekers with the native language skills and overseas experience that much intelligence work requires are among the most difficult to screen for security.
This conundrum comes to light as intelligence agencies have finally
recognized that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups operate like traditional intelligence services. Terrorists spy before they terrorize. They case and observe their targets. They collect intelligence about their enemy’s vulnerabilities from publicly available information and by eliciting secrets from unwitting sources. Like intelligence officers, terrorists also practice
tradecraft – the art of blending seamlessly into a society’s fabric for months or years before striking.
Consider two men whom U.S. officials have linked to Al Qaeda: Iyman Faris, a naturalized U.S. citizen, exploited his job as a truck driver to plan ways to sabotage bridges and derail trains across the country. And Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member and a convert to Islam, could maneuver in Western society without the scrutiny given those of Middle Eastern background. Padilla’s ultimate mission, allegedly, was to explode a “dirty bomb” in a U.S. city.
Considering their backgrounds, these recruits would presumably have failed to pass muster if they attempted to find jobs in U.S. intelligence.
But what about John Walker Lindh? Dubbed the American Talib, Lindh was of a different mold. He came from an affluent Marin County suburb, had decent academic credentials and no criminal record. If the U.S. hadn’t captured him in Afghanistan, if he’d simply returned home to the U.S. after his secret training and indoctrination, his knowledge of Arabic and Middle East travel may have made him an attractive candidate for U.S. intelligence. That others with similar experience will infiltrate intelligence agencies is a real risk…
This risk is especially real in light of the PC rule that the loyalties of Muslims, like the Letters of Transit in Casablanca, must never be questioned. The unseemly rush in government agencies not to appear anti-Muslim by hiring as many Muslims as possible gives Al-Qaeda its greatest opportunity.