US military plans to double spy network

Reflecting Obama administration's preference for covert action, the DIA will deploy 1,600 "collectors" worldwide

Topics: Drones, U.S. Military, CIA, DIA, The Washington Post, Disposition Matrix, Pentagon, Depertment of Defense,

US military plans to double spy network (Credit: Wikimedia/Patrick Neil)

The Pentagon’s military intelligence unit plans to send hundreds more spies overseas, doubling the size of the U.S. military’s spy network, reported The Washington Post’s Greg Miller, who recently broke the story of the Obama administration expanding kill lists into a “disposition matrix.”

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) aims to deploy as many as 1,600 “collectors” in positions around the world with a focus on Islamist militant groups in Africa, weapons transfers by North Korea and Iran, and military modernization in China, according to unnamed officials. Miller noted:

The DIA overhaul — combined with the growth of the CIA since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — will create a spy network of unprecedented size. The plan reflects the Obama administration’s affinity for espionage and covert action over conventional force. It also fits in with the administration’s efforts to codify its counterterrorism policies for a sustained conflict and assemble the pieces abroad necessary to carry it out.

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Although the DIA, unlike the CIA, is limited to intelligence gathering, the agency plays a major role in identifying targets for military drone strikes. As such, noted  Miller, “the expansion of the agency’s clandestine role is likely to heighten concerns that it will be accompanied by an escalation in lethal strikes and other operations outside public view.”

The plan aims to shift DIA focus beyond battlefield issues in order to fill intelligence gathering gaps left by an overstretched CIA. The recruitment drive comes as the Obama administration faces broad criticism over its covert targeted killing program. The move will likely heighten concerns about the increasingly opaque nature of U.S. military activity overseas. The United Nations announced last month that it will launch a special investigation into civilian deaths from drone strikes, while the U.S. is yet to officially acknowledge its Pakistan drone program.

Natasha Lennard
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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