Their gray fedoras and cigarettes are no longer in vogue. But good old-fashioned spying is coming back - at least on paper.
CIA Director Robert Gates gave President Bush a blueprint Wednesday for overhauling U.S. intelligence in the post-Soviet world, with an emphasis on human spies - as opposed to satellites - a major feature.Little is known about the package, which has been held as tightly as only the CIA knows how. Gates apparently has barred any discussion of the plan until he unveils it to Congress next week.
The package includes changes in the mission, structure and funding of the CIA and a dozen of its sister agencies. It is based, in part, on a shift in emphasis from such traditional tasks as monitoring the Soviet military to such new jobs as tracking the spread of nuclear and chemical weapons in the Third World.
Based on Gates' public pronouncements and interviews with non-government experts, the plan is believed to call for hiring more intelligence agents and training them in more languages. It also is thought to propose placing more spies under unofficial cover, as opposed to the current method whereby spies operate in the guise of diplomats and are therefore fairly limited and obvious in their activities.
The renewed emphasis on human intelligence is designed to reduce reliance on satellites, which were deemed vital in an era when the prime U.S. mission was to track Soviet weapons.
The shortcomings of satellite information were made painfully clear to the administration when it failed to foresee Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait. It had pictures from the sky of troop buildups but no agents on the ground to gauge Iraq's intentions.
Official presentation of Gates' plan is expected to set off a tussle between the administration and the two intelligence oversight committees in Congress that have presented a far bolder reform plan of their own.
Opening salvos in the dispute were fired recently by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and by Gates' designated deputy, Rear Adm. William Studeman, both of whom told Congress they objected to the proposed legislation.
In fact, Gates' package is in part designed to head off congressional efforts to legislate change.