Since the end of the Cold War there has been a change in the nature of the international system and consequently the threats faced by the USA. The 14th century Spanish writer Don Juan Manuel, writing at the time of the Christian-Moslem conflict, believed that hot wars ended in decisive victory and peace, whereas cold war could never bring peace. This can certainly be seen in the case of the USA in the post-Cold War era and the threats faced by the CIA.
It is important to understand the nature of the international system which forms the background to intelligence gathering and analysis. During the Cold War it was bipolar whereas, ‘Today the structure of power is like a three-dimensional chess game.’ This increased intricacy of world politics means a higher degree of uncertainty.
The importance of estimative intelligence analysis has increased, because of systemic changes internationally, and will be discussed later. The overriding threat of the Soviet Union has disappeared and uncertainty has increased with rapid change becoming a more common feature of the international system. Threats post-Cold War are not entirely new but the threats faced by the CIA have certainly become more diverse. These threats are largely those that were held in suspension by the Cold War powers, such as the religious and ethnic conflicts that can be seen to have arisen in the past ten years:
‘For example, a mid-1990s mission statement by CIA staff listed a new range of special targets. It still identified China and Russia as problem nations, but also called for intelligence resources to be concentrated on ‘rogue’ states like North Korea, Iran, and Iraq and on transitional threats such as terrorism and nuclear proliferation.’
Former DCI Woolsey stated that ‘the world is more unpredictable, hence more dangerous; so the focus of spying will change—to nuclear proliferation, counter-terrorism, and regional and ethnic instability—but its scope will not shrink.’ Therefore, now the Cold War is over the CIA has moved its focus away from the previous threat of large nation-states and it has begun to reassess its role, finding one in combating rogue, non-state actors who employ methods such as terrorism to achieve their objectives.
However, even with the Cold War over, is the CIA ‘still seeing red’? Most writers and sources agree that due to the CIA losing the threat of communism at the end of the Cold War, the CIA was struggling to remain a viable arm of the government and therefore set about detaching itself from its Cold War history. Thus, the CIA began to insist there was a need for it to combat the many new threats the USA was faced with in this new period. This was supported by Casey, the former DCI (1981-87), notes Jeffrey-Jones who stated that:
‘the intelligence community had a responsibility for ‘scouting the future’ and identifying a ‘broad spectrum’ of problems stretching ‘past the year 2000’. This perspective indicates Casey’s appreciation that US intelligence history should not be pinned to the Cold War years. It marks him as a pragmatist and spin-doctor who wanted the CIA to stay in business.’
Before the recent increases in publicity that terrorism has gained since September 11th, those who wished to retain the intelligence apparatus of the CIA had won the argument to do so in the USA. It is quite clear that intelligence was around before the Cold War in various guises and therefore not a Cold War creation, and thus it would not end with the Cold War. The need for intelligence work done by the CIA has continued into the 1990s and into the 21st century, but whether there is a need for the Cold War techniques of covert action in peace time is still debated.  However, despite this clear continued need for intelligence, it is still claimed that the CIA remains rooted in the Cold War.
According to CIA spokeswoman Anya Guilsher, the Counter-Narcotics Center, newly renamed Crime and Narcotics Center, has increased in size by four times since its conception. This indicates that the CIA is taking on counter-narcotics as a significant part of its role in the post-Cold War era. However, many officers especially in the Directorate of Operations (DO) are reported as being trapped in a Cold War mentality, maintaining relationships with rightwing paramilitaries, especially in Colombia, with poor human rights records. This creates a conflict of interest for the CIA as this new role of counter-narcotics is hindered by the fact that the same Cold War rightwing allies are either involved in the drugs trafficking or use illegal paramilitary forces to traffic the drugs. These illegal paramilitary groups are equitable with death squads, as they kill ‘trade unionists, peasant leaders, human-rights monitors, journalists, and other suspected “subversives.”’
This suggests that the CIA may still be more interested in fighting leftist guerrillas than in fulfilling its role of counter-narcotics. This is supported by the reordering of Colombian forces that was undertaken on US advice. According to the US this was part of the war on drugs, when in fact ‘the order instructed the new intelligence networks to focus on leftist guerrillas or “the armed subversion.”’ Despite the CIA being responsible for increases in narcotics activity in areas such as the Magdalena Valley it has in other areas effectively fought against the drug trafficking, but this conflict of CIA goals has in Colombia intensified a civil war. However, this clear pursuit of contrary goals suggests that the CIA is still attempting to find a way to cement itself into the new roles it has found for itself post-Cold War and that it has found it hard to shake off its previous roles.
To assess the new roles taken on by the CIA in the post-Cold War world the above-mentioned changes in the international system have to be understood in the context of US policy makers needing to know whether there will be another terrorist attack such as the one on September 11th, and whether rogue nations have been spreading their weapons of mass destruction. Policy makers need to know which countries will become unstable due to ethnic and regional self-determination unrest and conflict. There is still also a need for the US to know what types of armed forces US troops could find themselves combating and with what weapons they will be faced, either in combat or on peacekeeping exercises.
The CIA must, therefore, not only take on these new roles but find the way in which to move forward in order to undertake them most effectively. David Ignatius, assistant managing editor of the Washington Post, argues that there is a consensus among many people either in or who have recently left the CIA on the way in which the CIA should move forward in the post-Cold War world. It is that the DO (Directorate of Operations), should reduce in size, becoming ‘more focused in selecting its targets and tougher about maintaining quality control.’ This has to some extent already happened with reductions of 25 percent, but Ignatius states that unnamed CIA officials feel that the reduction should be much more, a reduction that would bring them inline with that of the British intelligence agency MI6.
However, this has to be contrast with the thesis of former CIA operative Robert Baer:
‘By the mid-1990s, the CIA was shrivelling up every where in Europe. Our offices in Bonn, Paris, and Rome were shadows of what they had been during the cold war with the Soviet Union. They lacked the officers to go after Europe’s vast Middle Eastern communities, and those they did have too often lacked the inclination, the training, and in some cases the incentive to do so.’
Essentially, his argument is that the CIA needs eyes on the street to carryout their function effectively. He makes the point that it is essential to ‘recruit and run sources in the mosques, the casbahs, or anywhere else we can learn what the bad guy’s intentions are’.
However, within the CIA these changes have already had an impact on the role of the CIA. The reduction in size of the DO has forced the CIA to find priorities in the post-Cold War world, for instance the number of stations in Africa has been halved compared to previous years: ‘The spymasters are increasingly asking the basic question: What secrets do we really need to steal in Gabon, or Uruguay or Denmark?’ However, in the intelligence world being forced to pick priorities puts the CIA in a bad position as while it may have taken its eyes of one target, particularly Islamic fundamentalists, a lot of damage can be caused as witnessed on September 11th. This reduction in man power has caused further integration of the DO and the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), previously deskbound analysts. This has to a large extent increased the value of the analysts as they work together with operators in special centres that came into being at the end of the Cold War. However, whether this has really improved the operation of intelligence gathering remains to be seen. This is noted by Baer who states:
‘Like the rest of Washington, the CIA had fallen in love with technology. The theory was that satellites, the Internet, electronic intercepts, even academic publications would tell us all we needed to know about what went on beyond our borders…the official view had become that our allies in Europe and the Middle East could fill in the missing pieces.’
It is quite clear that despite the ever increasing value of technology and analysts they can never replace the operatives on the street that can tell you what people are thinking and what goes on behind closed doors.
The Counter-Terrorism Center was created in 1985, the Counter-Intelligence Center created in 1989, and the Counter-Narcotics Center created in 1990. This, along with the appointment of analysts to foreign postings has seen the change in role of the CIA move further away from the covert operations of its Cold War years and further into the area of analysis and estimative intelligence.
This change has been partly precipitated by the change in nature of the threat. Undercover agents can no longer gain information ‘at diplomatic receptions waiting for a KGB officer to get drunk.’ The threats of terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction require much more planning to deal with and also require sophisticated electronics equipment for communications intercepts in which the NSA often provides assistance to the CIA. This is understandable because as a former DCI stated ‘Terrorists don’t go to cocktail parties on the embassy circuit.’ Although this might be quite clear it does not necessarily justify simply cutting down the numbers of agents. Baer would suggest that you simply don’t go to the cocktail parties to recruit them, but instead the places that terrorists do go.
This change in the role of the CIA during the 1990s occurred as the debate on intelligence activities intensified, partially due to the fact that the adversary of the Soviet Union was now gone but also in part due to the 1994 arrest of Aldrich Ames, a spy of nine years within the CIA for the Soviet Union and then Russia. This caused calls for a review of the intelligence community as a whole. A 17-member commission was set up along with another review led by Texas Representative Larry Combest. As the chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence his view that the intelligence community should become leaner and more efficient was held to be true.
The end of the Cold War showed that the future can hold surprises. However, policy makers still need accurate predictions on future events and scenarios as Stubbing notes: ‘Accurate and timely intelligence is the critical first line of defence against terrorism, America’s major national security threat in the 21st Century.’ It is therefore, the role of intelligence to do this, analysing intelligence and separating the accurate from the inaccurate. This role, although current throughout the history of the CIA, has become more prevalent now that the Cold War is over. It is a role that does not get good press, as the predictions that most frequently reach the papers are those that are wrong. Those that are correct largely go unnoticed, while many others that are right, such as those negative assessments of the situation in Vietnam in the 1960s, are not welcomed by the policy makers.
As already stated above, the importance of estimative intelligence has increased because of changes in the international system with the demise of the Soviet and communist ideology. Uncertainty has therefore increased and rapid change has become a feature of world politics today. Policy makers are thus much more in need of up-to-date intelligence analysis and estimations. The CIA is needed to undertake estimative analysis to help solve and ultimately win the three-dimensional chess game the US is presented with on the world stage.
There is a parallel that can be drawn between the CIA’s progressively broadening recruitment base and the extent to which it is prepared to take on the role of co-operation with counterparts in other nations around the world. However, as the CIA has become increasingly more tolerant in recent years, possibly in reflection of ‘the cosmopolitan composition of the George W. Bush cabinet’ it has become much more, but not extensively involved in co-operation with its counterparts worldwide. A directive from President Clinton in 1994 was to ensure further sharing of information, but not at the expense of compromising sources and agents. Much closer work has therefore been seen with the UN on a number of issues. Most notably this could be seen with the weapons inspections teams in Iraq: ‘US intelligence support to the UN in the areas like refugee policy, peacekeeping and non-proliferation reached in the words of one authority, ‘an unprecedented level’.’
The CIA also faces other more abstract problems since the end of the Cold War, one of which Nye highlights as ‘the increase in the ratio of mysteries to secrets in the questions that policymakers want answered.’ Secrets comprise information that the CIA could steal through its network of spies or through use of technology, but mysteries are something which it is impossible to steal the answer to. The example used by Nye is: ‘Will President Boris Yeltsin be able to control inflation in Russia a year from now?’ This is the type of abstract problem that the CIA has increasingly found itself tasked with and to which it is still trying to find an efficient and effective solution.
Former DCI Woolsey stated that the CIA may become involved in economic intelligence in the same fashion as many other nations are, that they could use spies to win contracts for US companies and to gain foreign company secrets, but also to defend the US companies from the same threat. In 1993 DCI ‘Mr Woolsey has made headlines by calling industrial espionage “the hottest topic in intelligence policy”; by confirming, on February 24th, that North Korea now has enough material to build a nuclear weapon; and by laying out, in an unusual public hearing on March 9th, his vision for the role of spying in the post-cold-war world. “Yes,” he says, “we have slain the dragon. But we live in a jungle tilled with a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes.”’
 Manuel, Don Juan, Escritores en Prosa Anteriores al Siglo XV, (1952), Biblioteca de Autores Espanoles de Rivadeneira, Madrid.
 Nye, J. Jr. ‘Peering Into the Future’, Foreign Affairs, (July/August 1994) Volume 73, Issue 4
 Jeffrey-Jones, R. ‘The CIA Con-trick’, History Today, (December 2001) Volume 51, Issue 12. P. 21
 Anonymous, ‘Lexinton: Indiana Jim and the temple of spooks’, The Economist, (20/03/1993) Volume 326, Issue 7803
 Thiermann, O. & Messing, F. Jr. ‘Assassination Policy Revisited’, (06/10/2002) The Washington Times
 Smyth, F. ‘Still seeing Red’, (01/06/1998) The Progressive
 Op Cit. Jeffrey-Jones, R. P. 21
 Ibid. P. 22
 Smyth, F. ‘Still seeing Red’, (01/06/1998) The Progressive
 Op Cit. Nye, J. Jr.
 Ignatius, D. ‘Downspying The CIA; After the Cold War, A Covert search For a New Mission’, (05/03/1995) The Washington Post
 Baer, R. ‘See No Evil’, (2002) Arrow Books, UK. P. ixi
 Ibid. P. xxii
 Op Cit. Ignatius, D.
 Op Cit. Baer, R. P. xx
 Ibid. P. 112
 Op Cit. Ignatius, D.
 Op Cit. Baer, R. P. xxii
 Editorial, ‘CIA Shakeup, How Should we Redesign our Intelligence Services?’, (02/04/1995) The Dallas Morning News
 Stubbing, R. & Goodman, M. ‘How to fix US Intelligence’, (26/06/2002) Christian Science Monitor
 Op Cit. Nye, J. Jr.
 Op Cit. Jeffrey-Jones, R. P. 22
 Op Cit. Nye, J. Jr.
 Op Cit. Anonymous
Sam Hunter is the author of fiction novel Makaveli’s Prince.