Counterintelligence officials in a cable last week warned CIA stations and bases across the globe about the concerning numbers of informants recruited from foreign nations to spy for America who have been captured or killed, individuals familiar with the matter said, according to the New York Times.
The dispatch "said that the C.I.A.'s counterintelligence mission center had looked at dozens of cases in the last several years involving foreign informants who had been killed, arrested or most likely compromised," according to the Times, which also reported that the message noted the exact number of agents slain by rival intelligence agencies.
The cable brought up matters that have bedeviled the CIA in recent years such as poor tradecraft, trusting sources too much, underestimating foreign intelligence agencies, and advancing too fast to recruit informants while failing to devote adequate attention to possible counterintelligence risks, according to the Times.
Among the purposes for the message was to push CIA case officers to consider actions they can make on their own to better manage informants, according to individuals familiar with the document, the Times reported.
"While the memo identified specific numbers of informants that were arrested or killed, it said the number turned against the United States was not fully known," according to the Times.
The message sent to officers across the globe cautioned them to exercise more care in handling human sources, who face the threat of getting captured or slain by other intelligence services, according to individuals familiar with the matter, The Washington Post reported.
"The cable reflected a general concern among the agency's leadership that its operations officers should pay more attention to protecting their agents, while also recognizing that they have to aggressively recruit spies and informants to perform their intelligence-collection mission, according to the people who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive matter," the outlet reported.
The message included the quantity of agents slain by foreign intelligence services, detail which typically may be excluded from a broadly disseminated message like this, but which was included to capture the attention of CIA officers who may have otherwise viewed the dispatch as a routine advisory, individuals familiar with the message said, according to the Post.
"Historic Pakistani success in identifying people working for the CIA was a driving force behind the cable, the people familiar with the matter said," the Post reported.
Individuals familiar with the dispatch noted that it was not spurred by a new penetration of a spy network, according to the Post.