CIA and the Indian Nuclear Test
And recommendations for intelligence/operational analysis
by Ralph McGehee

CIA Missed Signs Of India's Nuclear Test. CIA to Investigate.

A U.S. spy satellite clearly depicted activity last week at India's remote desert nuclear test site, but U.S. intelligence officials scrutinizing the images failed to discern that India was preparing to conduct the three nuclear blasts it set off on Monday [May 11, 1998].

Even when "clear-cut" evidence of the nuclear test preparations was recorded by a satellite at midnight on Sunday, six hours before the tests, no CIA warning was issued because the U.S. analysts responsible for tracking the Indian nuclear program had not expected the tests. They were asleep at their homes and did not see the pictures until they arrived at work in the morning. As a result, the U.S. did not learn of the preparations until after the blasts had occurred, when news services carried accounts of a public acknowledgment by India's Prime Minister. When the White House asked the CIA for details, the agency's top officials had none.

CIA to "investigate" what went wrong. Washington Post 5/13/98 A1.

We can predict the outcome of this investigation — this sort of thing has happened many times before. The intelligence community will investigate itself and find this individual or that technique was to blame not the CIA itself. And then we can all go back to claiming that we have the "best intelligence service in the world," as stated recently (and endlessly over the years) in a session of the House Intelligence Oversight Committee.

In the past there have been literally scores if not hundreds of intelligence failures — all excused, ignored or buried by officialdom.

Of renewed interest is the House Intel Committee's budget recommendations for fiscal 1999 — more overseas stations, more covert operations, more case officers (who lack analytical ability), more technical intelligence (that has proven to be of little or no value when not analyzed, e.g. especially with Monday's bomb tests). Little if any money for better analysis or analysts.

We demand intelligence failure as we chant mantras at the eagle emblem of the CIA.

Because it is so directly relevant I attach a copy of a item I posted recently.

Intelligence/Operational Analysis

Below I list recommendations for intelligence/operational analysis and include specific examples.

The United States, the de facto leader of the world community, needs the best possible intelligence service. The United States must and does dedicate major resources to this goal. But in my experience and researches, our country has been grievously harmed by the pretensions of the CIA in both covert operations and intelligence. CIA officials have implemented minor reform, but such efforts have fallen short — and the momentum for change seemingly has been lost.

The CIA now justifies itself claiming its priorities are: counterproliferation, counternarcotics, counterterrorism and counterintelligence. These priorities are vastly different from the requirements of the past — fighting the Soviet Union and conducting worldwide covert operations against perceived enemies and unpopular allies.

Assuming the CIA is sincere about its new targets of counterproliferation, counternarcotics, counterterrorism and counterintelligence — worthy goals — how can this covert operation/paramilitary organization change?

Assuming I am qualified to make recommendations re analysis and operations — the CIA in its official documents said that I am an operational analyst with few peers — I offer the below.

Operational Analysis:

We must distinguish between analysis for operations and analysis for intelligence. The former serves to target, oversee and critique operational efforts, while the latter serves the more traditional role.

Counterterrorism — per the State Department's publication on Terrorism/WMD there are many small scattered, loosely or non-affiliated terrorist groups about which little is known. How does the CIA's Directorate of Operations (DO) target these? From what has been published it appears that the DO now monitors only the well-known groups and nations.

What about the smaller, lesser known groups, that may pose the ultimate threats? How do you identify them? How do you determine their intentions? How do you target them?

These are the ultimate challenges and cannot be accomplished by technical operations — the 1997 House Intel Committee (HIC) report noted the growing commercial availability and knowledge re overhead surveillance capabilities and devices; and, the improving defenses and deceptions used to defeat them.

The HIC also detailed the now extensive use of sophisticated encoding material that defy NSA decoding abilities. So overhead surveillance and electronic intercepts become of less importance. But DCI Tenet said the CIA will continue to rely on technical operations for information on his "counter" priorities.

You need human intelligence (HUMINT) operations — but the CIA must aim its efforts at pinpointed targets — something that cannot be accomplished by current DO procedures and operations.

RECOMMENDATION: It is essential to establish a DO career designation of operational analyst with GS grades on a par with case officers — and to recruit true analysts to serve in that capacity.

DO stations and bases send only a tiny portion of their information to CIA Headquarters and perform little if any in-station operational analysis. To overcome this deficiency, either assign full-time operational analysts to field stations; or send teams of DO analysts to the installations to conduct reviews of all relevant reporting on terrorists, drug dealers, proliferators and counterintelligence targets. Pass the highly condensed and analyzed results to the stations and bases and forward the reviews to Headquarters.

DO analysis teams should, where feasible, scan relevant files of cooperating intelligence and security services.

DO analysis teams would also scan available, operationally relevant, OPEN SOURCE material that now goes unread. See Addenda One for my experiences reading the works of Mao and Ho.

The thoroughly analyzed material on terrorists, drug dealers, proliferators and double agents would help identify the perpetrators and allow pin-point operational targeting.

Intelligence Analysis

The CIA is flawed in conception — a policy-implementing agency cannot, has not, and will not provide unbiased intelligence.

One obvious solution removes the DI from the CIA and makes it independent financially, organizationally, and geographically. Due to the current politicized leadership of the DI, such a move must be accompanied by wholesale personnel changes.

Some say, the intelligence analysis function might be better performed by the State Department with the technical/scientific/cryptological analysis performed by the Pentagon. We note that State Department's INR has the best intelligence record while receiving the smallest budget.

When does the United States recognize and try to address the problem? We have a fifty year history of CIA intelligence and operational failures, can we survive another fifty years?

Addenda One:

It is difficult to convey my experiences in the DO and impressions of the lack of analysis in that Directorate. Two major failures come to mind — the Vietnam War where I was a direct participant; and, the collapse of the USSR. We could blame both of these lapses on the DI but the DI to a degree only served as the rubber stamp for the DO.

In the case of Vietnam, I as an ops officer with an analytical bent and an extremely fortuitous situation, was able to decipher the strengths of the Viet Cong in less than a year. I used operational analysis to devise an approach to the Communist Party of Thailand's (CPT) armed revolution (that used the organizational techniques of the Viet Cong). My program was successful beyond all expectations but I am still trying, after thirty years, to get anyone in the intelligence community to recognize the utility of those analytical procedures.

To test my own observations, I compiled a study on Asian revolutions based on the writings of Mao and Ho, and a few American academicians and others. They validated all of my reporting. Mao Tse-tung, in one of his first essays, written in 1929!, recorded the necessity of organizing the peasants into liberation associations as the first and most important element of the Chinese revolution. Ho and other Vietnamese Communist authorities learned their organizational techniques from Mao and wrote their own essays, but all these passed over the head of the CIA's Directorate of Operations. Had the DO recognized the true strengths of the Vietnamese Communist forces we would not have entered the Vietnam War or would haVE left prior to the deaths of most American servicemen.

In the case of the USSR, the CIA's DO, inter alia, provided many reports to the DI from known KGB double agents. These reports augmented DI Gates' own politicized views and forced the United States to build billion-dollar weapon systems to counter USSR weapons that did not exist. These reports also allowed the CIA to be one of the last government agencies to recognize the collapse of the Soviet Union. Competent (counterintelligence) operational analysis would have detected the deceptions of those KGB double agents.

This is not the least of the DO's counterintelligence failures. We now know that East Germany's intelligence service, the Stasi, ran several hundred successful double agents, supposedly working for the CIA. Again basic operational analysis should, and probably would, have detected these deceptions.

Also Cuba's DGI doubled all of the Agency's Cuban agents, all undetected by the DO until announced by the DGI. Operational analysis would have picked up these deceptions early on.

With the recorded inability at operational analysis one would expect that correcting this glaring weakness would be the first priority of the current DO leadership — apparently this is not so.

Addenda Two:

My background in research and operations.

I have an unusual psychological profile for an ops officer. CIA's Psychological Assessment System rated me as having an extremely flexible mentality whereas most ops officers have a regulated one, e.g., rigid mentality. Such rigidity does not favor analysis. I survived the selection process, in spite of my "F+" rating because, in my opinion, I had played college football when the Agency was looking for ex-football players for its paramilitary programs.

Initially the CIA gave me a number of file-system types of assignments providing me a familiarity with file systems' pluses and minuses. Gradually I worked into a full time ops officer and in 1966 was assigned to Thailand, targeted against the Communist Party of Thailand.

When the Thai authorities arrested over 200 communist suspects in mid-South Thailand, I was sent to the province to pull together one collated report from the approximately 200 interrogation reports. I tried my best. I read the statements several times. When I tried to write a collated report, I could remember similarities or differences in statement details, but could not locate them again without time-consuming and often fruitless searches. I had failed to process the information, and my final report was valueless. However, this frustration and failure taught me the necessity of preparation before trying to collate such a mass of details, e.g., analysis.

In mid 1967, I put this knowledge to use when I was assigned to work with the 50,000-man Thai National Police to form a counterinsurgency and intelligence collection program. Through a series of trial and errors we hit upon a workable approach.

Our 25-man, mostly officer-grade team, with a dozen translators and interpreters, went for a year to one Northeast province, where the threat appeared greatest. Our team traveled to an amphur (county) within the province. The concept of the operation was to interrogate villagers using integrated, well-prepared, methodology.

Before the 25-man team began operations, I and the translators and interpreters carded all prior information on suspect villagers and villages from both the American and Thai file systems and prepared situation reports on the worst villages and villagers.

When the police entered a village and began work, the translators and I stayed nearby and daily translated and carded all interrogation reports. We filed the information in file folders by village, with sub-categories for weapons, organizations, training, propaganda themes, danger signals, all-clear signals and other breakdowns. We opened 3/5 inch cards on every individual by true name and alias; these soon, due to their multiple entries, provided detailed information on communist leaders. I regularly prepared follow-up questions for the police team based on this collated data.

At the end of a two to three-month operation in an amphur, I wrote a final (survey) report that included summaries of all of those breakdowns. The report was around 40 to 50 pages long, and listed all individuals who had joined the CPT as liberation association or guerrilla members. The report named guerrilla leaders and groups, areas of operations, and all other breakdowns.

The survey reports provided an entirely new perspective of the CPT. We found that the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) focused all its efforts on recruiting and motivating poor farmers and forming them into liberation associations. Liberation associations were the initial and largest organizational entity from which all other entities grew. Prior to our report, the CIA had said the CPT consisted of only Party members and guerrillas, with a total of 2,500 in the entire country. Our survey showed there were that many in only four amphurs in this one province alone. The Agency also had reported the CPT had no support of the people in the villages and that villagers were being forced to cooperate. After working for a year in the province we had confessions from about 2,500 poor farmers who had joined the CPT as liberation association members and who believed wholeheartedly in the CPT.

Results: The governor of the province, a native of the province, told me the survey reports gave him the only insight into the communist movement. State's INR evaluated the survey reports highest in all its rating categories — an unprecedented rating. The reports received similar ratings from other Thai and American counterinsurgency entities.

Due to the detailed and accurate information, the CPT in that area collapsed. But suddenly the CIA canceled the program and "forgot" the survey information. Why?

Thailand was not the problem, the problem was Vietnam — the CIA somehow over the years missed the seven-million-person-strong liberation association members of the South Vietnamese Communist movement. The Thai Communists had received training in organizational procedures in Hua Binh in North Vietnam. If the TCP recruited in the villages using Vietnamese communist organizational methodology, then so had the Viet Cong. If the VC were a popular movement, then we lost all justification for being in Vietnam (something I only slowly came to realize). But my experience in Northeast Thailand taught me the tremendous advantage and use of analysis for both operations and intelligence.

CIA canceled the survey project over the objections of just about everyone and sent me back to Headquarters. After Tet 1968 in Vietnam, I decided that I had much to offer U.S. efforts in Vietnam. I volunteered and was sent to Vietnam. My efforts in Vietnam to alert the Agency to the existence of a mass-based popular movement in Vietnam, reinforced by my experiences and academic studies, fell on deaf or resistant ears.

The Saigon Station assigned me to work in liaison with the Chief of the Vietnamese Special Police (SP). In this position I supervised a small unit of CIA case officers and a translation/interpreter team. I daily traveled to police headquarters to work with the Chief of the service.

A long-term SP op targeted more than three dozen South Vietnamese leaders as possible communist spies. The operation over that period had produced safes-full of material. I began pressing the CIA to force the South Vietnamese government to apprehend the group. Two members of the net were President Thieu's Catholic advisor who was a frequent visitor to Palace, the other was the South Vietnamese Foreign Affairs Advisor — its equivalent of Henry Kissinger. Obviously rolling-up the net would have repercussions.

I conducted a six-weeks-long review of all the material. I went through the material document by document and carded on 3/5 cards the names and events surrounding the operation. I concluded, based on the analysis, that this was a genuine Communist intelligence net. The SP rounded up the group and found all sorts of spy paraphernalia and got confessions from all. With these in prison and under interrogation, we received leads allowing us to round up a number of other spies and nets.

These successes decided the station to use me to analyze a politically sensitive operation. This took months during which I held down two jobs — analyst, and liaison with the SP. The CIA at that time had about 600 staff persons in Vietnam. The Saigon Station had a Counterespionage Section and an office of the Intelligence Directorate — neither apparently could provide the analyst(s) to handle this job. My review of the operational reporting showed that project elements were nearly opposite what had been assumed.

Later I was sent to Thailand for a six-month TDY (temporary duty) to draw up a list of the leadership of the CPT. I searched CIA files throughout the country. I had enough Thai language ability to be able to search through the files of some of their security services. Over the six months I produced a list of the ten top leaders of the CPT that was highly praised by the Station's leadership.

This may provide others with examples of the how and why of analysis, operational as well as intelligence. Operational analysis cannot be handled by some headquarters-based, politically-correct bureaucrat, it must be performed in the field by competent and trained analysts. If the Agency is serious about its "counters" it will rapidly hire, prepare and assign operational analysts.

For a few other examples of operational analysis, please see my book, Deadly Deceits — out of print but available in some libraries. (I also regard CIABASE as one example of what can be accomplished by preparation and analysis.)

Ralph McGehee

This report was copied from Ralph McGehee's CIABASE website as at 2001-11-14 CE.

A copy of the entire Serendipity website is available on CD-ROM.  Details here.

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