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The Denver Post May 07, 2005

Beauprez IDs site for division's move

Intelligence experts say the agency's domestic unit may be headed for the Denver area to be more centrally located and to spread out operations.

By Mike Soraghan, John Aloysius Farrell and Alicia Caldwell

Washington - The CIA plans to move its domestic operations division to Colorado and is eyeing the Denver Federal Center, U.S. Rep. Bob Beauprez told The Denver Post.

Beauprez, a Republican from Arvada, said he learned within the past two weeks that CIA officials plan to move a chunk of their Washington operations to Denver and are looking at the Federal Center, which is on West Sixth Avenue surrounded by Lakewood.

"The CIA is looking to increase staffing and mission (in Colorado)," Beauprez said in an interview with The Post on Friday.

He said he wasn't told how many people would be involved, but "I got that it's a significant responsibility and a significant number of jobs."

The Washington Post reported Friday that the intelligence agency was eyeing Denver. A CIA spokeswoman, who refused to provide her name, declined to comment.

"That story we are not commenting on," she said. "I can understand your interest."

The unit, officially called the National Resources Division, consults with academics and debriefs American business travelers who go abroad. It also collects intelligence on foreign nationals in the United States and recruits them to work for the CIA when they return home.

Gov. Bill Owens' office confirmed that the governor met with the division director in Washington, D.C., last year and that he periodically has had discussions with local CIA officials. Owens would not comment directly on the move.

"I can't comment directly on my conversations with the CIA, other than to say that they involved terrorism and related subjects," Owens said through his press office. "I would

say that the Denver area with its military and technological resources would be an ideal and logical location for the CIA to expand its operations."

The number of people who work at the division is classified, but experts put the number between a few hundred and a thousand.

Boost for the metro area

Beauprez, who has worked on redeveloping the Federal Center, said the $20 million relocation would be positive for the area, and he didn't think it would make Denver any more attractive as a terrorist target.

"In my estimation, Denver is probably plenty attractive enough already," Beauprez said. "We've got plenty of intelligence operations here already. If terrorists want to inflict pain on a country, they'd probably pick something other than a CIA headquarters."

If the move happens, the public in the Washington and Denver areas may never notice the difference, several experts said.

"I would be surprised if there were a big construction project or a publicly announced event in Denver," said Tom Dougherty, a former CIA case officer who is a partner in the Denver law firm of Rothgerber Johnson & Lyons. "I worked for a predecessor of the division, and the building I worked in did not have a sign out front."

Denver is already home to the Aerospace Data Facility at Buckley Air Force Base, which has about 2,000 employees and puts about $1.5 billion into the economy, said former military intelligence analyst William Arkin.

"Denver is already an incredibly important intelligence hub," Arkin said. "In a community where you already have 2,000 people who won't tell you at cocktail parties where they work, throwing a couple more hundred into the mix is a lot easier. They'll fade into the woodwork."

Dougherty and others said there is likely to be resistance to the move within the CIA. The Bush administration is trying to shake up the agency's "Beltway mentality."

"There's definitely a benefit to be gained by separating yourself from that every now and then, seeing how the rest of the world operates, how the business world operates," Dougherty said. "This would be a very bold step in that direction. The challenge is that you don't throw the baby out with the bath water. These are very special people. The expertise they have is very unique."

Security consultant John Pike, of Globalsecurity.org, said the division is a "very small part" of the intelligence community. He said the move doesn't seem to be evidence of a trend, but an "exceptional" move by a "peculiar" part of the CIA. Pike said it could also cut down on travel time, especially to the West Coast. He noted that Asian countries, such as North Korea and China, are a growing concern for the CIA, while Europe's threat is diminishing.

"It makes sense simply in terms of having a geographically central location," Pike said.

Division has key mission

The people in the National Resources Division have a very select mission.

For example, Pike says, they might talk with Iraqis living in the United States to learn the tribal structure in the war-torn country, or they might talk with a university professor who has written a book about Afghanistan, or businesspeople who have traveled where the CIA or the United States in general doesn't have strong contacts.

Bryan Cunningham, a former National Security Council legal adviser who also had worked for the CIA, theorized that the agency wants to decentralize not only its employees but also its troves of data.

"Disaster recovery" would allow the CIA to rebuild if enemies were to successfully attack or disable like functions at CIA headquarters.

Cunningham said the agency's domestic mission focuses on three points: asking U.S. citizens about their foreign trips; attempting to recruit foreign visitors to the U.S. to cooperate in providing information to the CIA when they go home; and interviewing people who want to work for the CIA. All activities must have a foreign intelligence rationale.

The domestic division has no law enforcement power in the U.S., no subpoena power and no ability to conduct electronic surveillance, Cunningham said.

"Basically, what they can do is collect information that is publicly available, and they can talk to people who want to talk to them," Cunningham said.

Most of Colorado's senators and representatives said they were completely in the dark about the CIA relocation, tentatively scheduled for next year.

"In terms of anything confirmable, we don't have it," said Stephen Myers, spokesman for Sen. Wayne Allard. Kim Sears, spokeswoman for Rep. Joel Hefley, said she tried to get information from the CIA, to no avail.

"They are very tight-lipped," she said.

Reaction to move positive

News of the agency's plans also caught many in the intelligence field by surprise.

"I never heard the idea mentioned before," said Dan Benjamin, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who helped coordinate counterterrorism efforts as a member of President Clinton's national security staff.

But as word circulated in Washington, early reaction was positive.

Alvin S. Felzenberg, who served as a staff member for the Sept. 11 commission, said that the CIA's insularity was a major concern of the commission and other critics. But he noted they never suggested moving a chunk of the agency.

"This is a management decision that we didn't discuss," Felzenberg said. "If this is what they want to do, that is their choice."

The Hoover Institution's Henry Rowen, who chaired the National Intelligence Council during the Reagan administration and served on President Bush's recent commission to study U.S. intelligence failures, said, "I don't recall that any of the investigating bodies recommended this move."

P.J. Crowley, who served in the Air Force and then on Clinton's National Security Council, said he did not know of any outside suggestion that the CIA farm out its operations and so suspected it was "something that primarily (CIA Director Porter) Goss brought to the agency."

The most significant advantage offered by the move, Crowley said, may result from the greater interaction between CIA and Defense Department personnel working together in a new Denver intelligence hub. By basing CIA divisions across the country - as the Defense Department does with military bases and support industries - Goss can "broaden the national constituency to support intelligence operations."

The division's work is part of the growing controversy since Sept. 11, 2001, about how intelligence should be collected within the United States.

Arkin, a former military intelligence analyst, said the move signals an increase in domestic spying that could result in spying on U.S. citizens.

"It would seem to me, by sliding them into a new location, you would be codifying the idea this is a growth industry," Arkin said.

But Dougherty said that's not the CIA's mission and the agency is careful about the laws that forbid spying on citizens.

"I don't think people in Colorado should fear they're going to be spied upon," Dougherty said. "That's not what this group does."

Staff writers Bruce Finley and Chris Frates contributed to this report.


Copyright 2005, The Times Herald