Pentagon creates new espionage unit

Source: Washington Post

The Pentagon is planning to ramp up its spying operations against high-priority targets such as Iran under an intelligence reorganization approved last week by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, a senior defense official said Monday.

The newly created Defense Clandestine Service would work closely with the CIA to expand espionage operations overseas at a time when the missions of the agency and the military increasingly converge.

The defense official said the plan was developed in response to a classified study completed last year by the director of national intelligence that concluded that the military’s espionage efforts needed to be more focused on major targets outside war zones.

The new service will seek to “make sure officers are in the right locations to pursue those requirements,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss what he described as a “realignment” of the military’s human espionage efforts.

The official declined to provide details on where such shifts might occur, but the nation’s most pressing intelligence priorities in recent years have included counterterrorism, nonproliferation and ascendant powers such as China.

The realignment is expected to affect several hundred military operatives who already work in spying assignments abroad, mostly as case officers for the Defense Intelligence Agency, which serves as the Pentagon’s main source of human intelligence and analysis.

The official said that the size of the new service is expected to grow “from several hundred to several more hundred” in the coming years. Despite the potentially provocative name for the new service, the official played down concerns that the Pentagon was seeking to usurp the role of the CIA or its National Clandestine Service.

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