Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Complete Idiots Association (CIA)
WASHINGTON -- She is 52 years old, married, grew up in the Kansas City suburbs and now lives in Virginia, in a new three-bedroom house.

Anyone who can qualify for a subscription to one of the online services that compile public information also can learn that she is a CIA employee who, over the past decade, has been assigned to several American embassies in Europe.

The CIA asked the Tribune not to publish her name because she is a covert operative, and the newspaper agreed. But unbeknown to the CIA, her affiliation and those of hundreds of men and women like her have somehow become a matter of public record, thanks to the Internet.

When the Tribune searched a commercial online data service, the result was a virtual directory of more than 2,600 CIA employees, 50 internal agency telephone numbers and the locations of some two dozen secret CIA facilities around the United States.

Only recently has the CIA recognized that in the Internet age its traditional system of providing cover for clandestine employees working overseas is fraught with holes, a discovery that is said to have "horrified" CIA Director Porter Goss.

"Cover is a complex issue that is more complex in the Internet age," said the CIA's chief spokeswoman, Jennifer Dyck. "There are things that worked previously that no longer work. Director Goss is committed to modernizing the way the agency does cover in order to protect our officers who are doing dangerous work."

Dyck declined to detail the remedies "since we don't want the bad guys to know what we're fixing."

Several "front companies" set up to provide cover for CIA operatives and the agency's small fleet of aircraft recently began disappearing from the Internet, following the Tribune's disclosures that some of the planes were used to transport suspected terrorists to countries where they claimed to have been tortured.

Although finding and repairing the vulnerabilities in the CIA's cover system was not a priority under Goss' predecessor, George Tenet, one senior U.S. official observed that "the Internet age didn't get here in 2004," the year Goss took over at the CIA…

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