So long CIFA
The Pentagon is getting rid of the last dedicated counterintelligence unit in government devoted exclusively to identifying strategic foreign spying threats, a littleknown unit called the Counterintelligence Field Activities, or CIFA.
Anti-counterspy intelligence officials at CIA had long disliked CIFA, which, while not perfect, was making strides in figuring out the threat posed by such services as the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and China’s Ministry of State Security.
Last month, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered James Clapper, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, to fold CIFA into the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The reorganization will create a new center within DIA called the Defense CI and Humint Center (DCHC), headed by a DIA official.
Critics in the intelligence community said the reorganization runs counter to the recommendation of the panel set up after the intelligence failure on Iraq’s weapons program. The commission called for giving CIFA an operational role to go after spies and terrorist supporters.
“CIFA may not have been ready for that role, but what they were doing was providing the brains behind what little operational counterintelligence capability we have,” said one official. “They were helping us to be not just reactive, as the FBI is, but figuring out how to defeat the Iranians.”
The reorganization was quietly pushed by elements of the CIA’s operation directorate, which viewed CIFA as an encroachment on its turf.
DIA spokesman Don Black said a transition team is now implementing the reorganization within DIA and the new center could be up and running by this summer.
Pentagon spokesman Air Force Lt. Col. Patrick Ryder said the reorganization will “strengthen the department’s — and the nation’s — capabilities in both of these important disciplines,” both counterspying and human intelligence gathering.