A significant part of recent training of case officers has been geared to Iraq, Afghanistan and situations related to the worldwide war on terror. That has caused, as one former operator put it, “a loss of tradecraft,” meaning old-fashioned peacetime spying techniques.
The same thing has happened on the intelligence-analysis side. An emphasis on finding the bad guys who are Taliban or al-Qaeda or planters of roadside bombs has created a generation of analysts who “may see ordinary intelligence gathering and assessment work as just . . . ordinary,” said one senior official.
Inevitably they will have a letdown returning to a cubicle in Langley, the site of CIA headquarters. “They’ll miss the adrenaline rush, yanking on their Kevlar helmets, seeing an immediate kill or miss,” said a former official.
There is a more subtle change, too. Sixty percent of CIA officers have arrived since Sept. 11, 2001, and 30 percent since just five years ago. This relatively young workforce has known strong, respected leadership under Michael Hayden, Leon E. Panetta and Petraeus; strong funding; and public respect from recent overseas successes. A limited number of current agency officials experienced the harsh criticism and structural changes after 9/11 and the controversies over Iraq and weapons of mass destruction and over enhanced interrogation and torture.