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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Will Lake Find New Role for Dejected CIA?

If -- and it is a very big "if" -- the U.S. Senate decides to approve the nomination of Anthony Lake to head the Central Intelligence Agency, he should begin by reading the newly published memoirs of the veteran CIA agent Dewey Clarridge.


From Nepal to Poland, from El Salvador to Iran, Clarridge fought the secret battles of the Cold War. His book, "A Spy for All Seasons" contains two arresting conclusions which explain most of the internal agonies that now afflict the West's biggest and most lavishly funded intelligence agency.


"We wasted a lot of emotional energy trying to recruit Soviets during the Cold War," Clarridge relates, in a passage that should make veterans of the KGB's counterespionage division glow with pride. "I know of no significant Soviet recruitment that was spotted, developed, and recruited from scratch by a CIA case officer."


That is an extraordinary admission. The only moles the CIA were able to exploit were defectors and willing volunteers who walked in to offer their services, and agents subcontracted to the CIA by the more successful British and Israeli recruiters.


Clarridge's other revealing conclusion is that the CIA's recruitment of Americans had become, by the 1980s, deeply disappointing. By the 1980s, the ranks of the younger CIA officers contained "an overabundance of yuppie spies who cared more about their retirement plan and health insurance benefits than about protecting democracy."


Now even the yuppies are departing in droves from a CIA which has been humiliated by the discovery of Soviet moles like Aldrich Ames and Harold Nicholson. The CIA admits to "personnel difficulties" which have led to a spate of resignations and early retirements.


If the Senate approves him for the job, Lake, the man who has spent four years as President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, faces a daunting managerial challenge. But he must also develop a new role for a CIA, which is finding it extraordinarily difficult to adapt to a world that is no longer dominated by the single enemy the KGB.


The new arenas for the CIA's ambitious spooks have become the Middle East, the Far East, and America's commercial rivals in Europe and Japan. These are the very areas that are producing embarrassment, from France's expulsion two years ago of half the CIA's Paris station, to the Japanese complaints over the bugging of trade missions.


When he was nominated to run the CIA last month, Lake offered an interesting definition of his new job: "In the post-Cold War world, the role of the CIA is more important than ever in defending America against the threats of terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."


That may resonate well in public, and with Congress, but it is not quite the way the cloak-and-dagger fraternity at Langley see their mission. Bred to the Great Game, their frustration with the new tasks of what is becoming the Small Game helps explain the spate of early retirements and resignations that is leaving the CIA an increasingly empty and demoralized shell.


Four years ago, Senator Patrick Moynihan suggested that the CIA should be given a "farewell parade and retired with the thanks of a grateful nation." In the wake of Clarridge's memoirs, it is not clear how grateful the nation should be to an agency which claims to have won the Cold War, but lost most of the secret battles.