CIA Moving Domestic Headquarters to Denver
CIA Director Porter Goss is planning to move the Agency’s domestic operations to Denver next year in order to break up its “group-think” mentality.
CIA Plans to Shift Work to Denver (WaPo, A21)
The CIA has plans to relocate the headquarters of its domestic division, which is responsible for operations and recruitment in the United States, from the CIA’s Langley headquarters to Denver, a move designed to promote innovation, according to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials. About $20 million has been tentatively budgeted to relocate employees of the CIA’s National Resources Division, officials said. A U.S. intelligence official said the planned move, confirmed by three other government officials, was being undertaken “for operational reasons.”
A CIA spokesman declined to comment. Other current and former intelligence officials said the Denver relocation reflects the desire of CIA Director Porter J. Goss to develop new ways to operate under cover, including setting up more front corporations and working closer with established international firms. Associates of Goss said yesterday that the move was also in keeping with his desire to stop the growth of CIA headquarters and headquarters-based group-think, something he criticized frequently when he was chairman of the House intelligence committee. Other CIA veterans said such a relocation would make no sense, given Denver’s relative distance from major corporate centers. “Why would you go so far away?” one asked. “They will get disconnected.”
The main function of the domestic division, which has stations in many major U.S. cities, is to conduct voluntary debriefings of U.S. citizens who travel overseas for work or to visit relatives, and to recruit foreign students, diplomats and businesspeople to become CIA assets when they return to their countries. It was unclear how many CIA employees would relocate to Denver under the plan. Although collecting information on U.S. citizens under suspicion for terrorist links is primarily an FBI function, the CIA may also collect information on citizens under limited circumstances, according to a 1981 executive order. The exact guidelines for those operations are spelled out in a classified document signed by the CIA director and approved by the attorney general. The Denver move, which is tentatively scheduled for next year but has not been finalized, coincides with several other developments related to the CIA’s domestic intelligence work.
Last week, the CIA and FBI agreed to a new “memorandum of understanding” on domestic and foreign operations, the first change in decades. The negotiations surrounding the memo were highly contentious, with the FBI saying that it should control and approve the CIA’s domestic activities, including its pool of U.S.-based assets that have been invaluable in the past to understanding the intentions of foreign nations and groups. But the FBI is having significant problems developing its own domestic intelligence branch and the CIA is generally viewed across the intelligence community as more experienced and skilled at handling foreign informants who eventually return abroad, where the CIA has the lead in intelligence gathering and operations.
Given that this is a year away and that there is strong bureaucratic opposition, I would not be the least bit surprised to see Congress intervene to prevent it. The howls of protest from the bureaucrats, though, are amusing. There is a natural instinct in all bureacracies to want to be as close to the flagpole as possible, for fear that out of sight equals out of mind.
That the entirety of the federal government is centered in a relatively tiny geographic area, let alone an incredibly expensive one to live in and without anywhere near the transportation infrastructure to support it properly, has never made much sense. It is simply foolish in the aftermath of 9/11. Bureaucracy continues to trump logic, however, as demonstrated by the location of the Department of Homeland Security smack in the middle of the District rather than in the Northern Virginia hinterlands or, even better, out west somewhere where the land is cheap. The idea that one can’t conduct investigations out of Denver just as easily as Langley in the era of fax machines and videoconferencing is just silly.