COUNTERINTELLIGENCE CHALLENGES IN A CHANGING WORLD
William S. Sessions
Federal Bureau of Investigation
In recent years, the world witnessed some truly amazing
events--the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of
East and West Germany, the beginnings of democratic governments
across Eastern Europe, and the easing of political tensions
between the United States and the Soviet Union. As a result,
the current perception of most Americans is that foreign
ntelligence activity directed against the United States and the
West is decreasing, and therefore, the need for an active,
aggressive counterintelligence response has abated.
Unfortunately, this is far from true.
There can be no doubt that important changes are taking
threat to U.S. national security. The truth remains: That
threat still exists, as it did in the past and as it will in the
DECADE OF THE 1980S
The last decade of the cold war, the 1980s, was designated
by the media as "The Decade of the Spy." It was a time when
Americans knew who their enemies were--a time when President
Ronald Reagan referred to the Soviet Union as "The Evil Empire."
The American public showed strong support of counterintelligence
efforts and participated in the process by reporting suspicious
During the 1980s, more than 45 people were arrested for
espionage. Increased human and technical resources, enhanced
analytical and training programs, and improved coordination
ntelligence services contributed significantly to these
arrests. However, much of the success in counterintelligence
efforts came as a result of a heightened public awareness of the
full damage caused by espionage, as well as the public's support
of the measures designed to protect Americas vital information.
In addition to the importance of public awareness, the
American public received a rude awakening regarding the
vulnerability of the U.S. national security community from spies
Whitworth served in the U.S. Navy; Karel Koecher, Larry Chin,
and Edward Howard all worked for the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA); Ronald Pelton was a National Security Agency employee;
Richard Miller was an FBI Special Agent.
Second, many of the dangers were posed by volunteers. That
s, many of those arrested during the 1980s, including Walker,
not because they had ideological differences with the U.S.
Government or ideological sympathy with a foreign government, as
Cold War. They spied for the basest of reasons--money.
Third, prosecuting spies was found to be an effective tool
to determine the extent of the damage caused to national
nterests. But, without the prosecutions that followed, an
accurate accounting of what was lost would not have been
cases during the 1980s, the work the U.S. counterintelligence
community uncovered either prevented the espionage activity or
THE CHANGING WORLD
In the 1990s, with the easing of tensions between
dentify the U.S. counterintelligence mission in terms of these
that. America has negotiated historic arms reduction treaties
Glasnost, openness to the West, and Perestroika, internal
economic and political restructuring. And, the world has
former Communist leaders in favor of new freedom and economic
While all Americans can agree that the world has changed,
and most see that change as positive in terms of an enhanced
there is no longer a threat to U.S. national security, then
counterintelligence measures are not needed.
But, the reality is that arms reduction treaties between
the United States and the Soviet Union give Soviet "inspectors"
exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union in such
areas as business, science, and education. In fact, since
Glasnost, the number of Soviets traveling to the United States
ncreased almost 400 percent; in 1990 alone, more than 100,000
Soviets visited the United States. Past experience shows that
these exchange groups often contain intelligence officers.
Furthermore, the countries of Eastern Europe, while attempting
to move away from the Soviet sphere of influence, are now
fighting for their own economic survival--and they, too, have a
need for Western technology.
CURRENT INTELLIGENCE THREATS
Arms control treaties between the Soviet Union and the
United States will hopefully lead to a diminished threat level
between the nations. However, from a counterintelligence
Americans who are linked to classified information which, until
now, was attainable only on a very limited basis. Other
treaties presently being negotiated, concerning strategic arms
verification sites, again expanding Soviet access.
But, the Soviets are interested in more than American
military secrets. The Soviet economy is in desperate shape and
can be revitalized with Western technology, capital, and
expertise. In order to strengthen that economy, the chairman of
the KGB has publicly stated that it plans to assist Soviet
businesses because, as he says, "They are not good businessmen."
The Soviets have systematically expanded their intelligence
collection beyond military intelligence targets and now
Since the Soviets can no longer rely on their former
ntelligence for them, they must find other sources of
ntelligence and develop new surrogate services. The Soviets
to obtain Stealth technology and acquire restricted computer
technologies for themselves.
Recent repression by the Soviet government of dissent in
the Baltic Republics may very well signal a new shift in Soviet
nternal policy away from the liberalization of Glasnost. This,
n turn, may have far-reaching implications involving the Soviet
military and its intelligence services, U.S. national security,
and the emerging "new world order."
All in all, while the nature of the Soviet intelligence
threat may be changing, its objectives and actions are not. The
Soviet intelligence services are more active now than they have
been at any time in the past 10 years, and there is every reason
to believe that they will continue their pursuit of Western
ntelligence during the 1990s.
The threat of Eastern European countries to the United
States cannot be fully assessed because they themselves have not
yet fully defined the nature and scope of their intelligence
ntelligence on behalf of the Soviet Union; however, they will,
n all likelihood, refocus their collection activities in the
United States to fulfill their own requirements. Since, as with
the Soviets, the current major focus of these nations is
economic reorganization and growth, they also have a real need
for Western technology.
What about the People's Republic of China (PRC)? The PRC
States--2,700 diplomats and commercial officials, 43,000
annually, and 20,000 emigres coming to America each year. The
States. Their intelligence services target well-educated
Chinese-American scientists and other professionals who have
access to useful information and technology using the approach:
"Please help China modernize."
While the Soviet Union, the former Eastern Bloc countries,
and the People's Republic of China are all traditional
ntelligence threats, U.S. counterintelligence efforts can no
longer focus exclusively on these countries. In this
nformation age, any number of countries can attempt to
establish the infrastructure required to carry out intelligence
collection activities in the United States, both overtly and
clandestinely. Essentially, Americans need to be concerned
about nontraditional intelligence threats to this country as
With this point in mind, the intelligence activities of
countries in the Middle East and Central Asia are becoming more
very active in the United States during the 1980s, and in light
of the recent war in the Persian Gulf, its activities are likely
The FBI is charged with countering the hostile activities
of foreign intelligence services in the United States by
dentifying and neutralizing these activities. It does this by
llegal activities, and expelling, arresting, or prosecuting
However, the FBI cannot meet its counterintelligence
mission alone. Coordination of counterintelligence operations
the Federal Government, the law enforcement community, and the
While the FBI has the responsibility to make the public
more aware of the hostile intelligence threat, it relies heavily
on information from the public to fulfill its
counterintelligence mission. Because many Americans no longer
as a threat to U.S. security, the FBI must comprehensively
expose the full scope of this threat to American institutions,
facilities, and citizens. The purpose behind this is to protect
national security, not to discourage improved relations and
trade between the United States and the rest of the world.
The world is in a constant state of flux. What is true
today may not be true tomorrow. For this reason, it is
critical to identify the exact nature of any hostile
ntelligence threat to national security and to counter that
A heightened awareness by all Americans is the most
effective weapon available to accomplish this task. By working
together, citizens and law enforcement agencies can successfully
meet the counterintelligence challenges of today and those of
the years to come.