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Jewish World Review March 9, 2001 / 14 Adar, 5761

Lisa Hoffman

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CIA, FBI rivalry spotlighted by Hanssen case -- WASHINGTON -- When CIA mole Aldrich Ames was unearthed in 1994, Congress and President Clinton punished the spy agency by yanking its control over its own counterintelligence operations and giving it to the FBI.

It was a humiliating time for the storied CIA. Not only had the agency missed signs that Ames, chief of the CIA's Soviet counterintelligence, had been selling some of the nation's top secrets to Moscow for years. But the CIA also would lose command over a prime part of its turf to its longtime rival, the FBI.

Now the tables have turned.

It's the FBI in the hot seat this time, embarrassed by its damaging failure to detect its own alleged Russian mole, 15-year FBI counterintelligence operative Robert Hanssen.

"They have their own spy, big time," said one retired high-ranking CIA counterintelligence agent who served during the FBI takeover. "Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch."

In some quarters of the U.S. intelligence community these days, there is a mixture of bitterness and glee at the FBI's plight - along with relief that it's not the CIA at fault this time.

Resentment over some reforms instituted after Ames was uncovered, along with anger that the FBI had failed to practice what it had preached to the CIA about internal security, also are not hard to find.

Unlike the CIA, for instance, the FBI doesn't randomly polygraph its agents or require regular financial disclosures from them as early-warning techniques for detecting in-house turncoats. If the FBI had, it might have prevented Hanssen's alleged betrayal, now shaping up to be one of the costliest such breaches in U.S. history.

Hanssen, 56, was arrested Feb. 18 on charges he passed 6,000 pages of secret documents to the Soviets and Russians in exchange for $1.4 million in cash, diamonds and an escrow fund.

But there also is a recognition, though grudging from some, that those very post-Ames reforms have already gone far in reducing 50 years of mistrust between the two agencies and forcing them to collaborate openly with each other.

"The changes have all been to the good," said Jeffrey Smith, who became the CIA's general counsel when the reforms began.

Angered that the CIA had failed for several years to share vital information about its investigation of Ames and other suspected spies, Congress and Clinton set up a national counterespionage center and put the FBI in charge.

A senior FBI official also was installed at the helm of the CIA's internal counterintelligence operation - which the CIA had considered off-limits to all but its own elite staff - so the FBI would have equal access to the CIA's raw intelligence. And top CIA and FBI officials were directed to meet biweekly.

The purpose of all this was to crack the institutionalized antipathy that was forged during World War II, when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover saw President Franklin Roosevelt's establishment of the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA's predecessor, as a threat to the FBI's dominion.

Over the years, the agencies traded accusations that the other had lied, withheld vital information or otherwise obstructed operations and investigations. Compounding the animosity were their very different cultures and methods of operation.

The CIA, for instance, has long considered itself the province of intellectuals, while viewing the FBI as a rarefied street cops' domain.

"The CIA has been regarded as where (its personnel) come from Ivy League colleges and like to go to the opera, and the FBI has the products of whatever college and like to go to NASCAR races," said Smith, now a Washington lawyer.

Even more problematic is the nature of what each agency does. The FBI's goal is to gather evidence lawfully that can be publicly used in America's open judicial system to put bad guys in jail. But the CIA's aim is to keep its intelligence sources and methods confidential, and to gather what it needs without regard for search warrants or the legal rights of targets.

"They're almost adversarial by nature," said Peter Earnest, a 35-year CIA veteran.

Even so, the enforced mingling of the agencies has already led to at least two successes. The 1996 nabbing of accused CIA spy Harold Nicholson and accused FBI mole Earl Edwin Pitts are hailed as examples of how, when the agencies work together, cases can be made both quicker and better.

"It works well, as in the Nicholson case, which was largely the result of sharing pieces of information back and forth," Smith said.

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