(PopularMechanics) In American culture, the words “rogue CIA mission” call to mind squads of agents ready to take out targets, run guns, and rig elections—often for agendas too unsavory to be public. But even if rogue agents were amoral, at least they were thought to be capable. Recent allegations have upset the established idea of a rogue CIA operation, and this new version is somehow more insidious: This time, it’s amateurs playing a global spy game and getting people hurt.
The Associated Press unearthed the troubling story behind the disappearance of a contractor, retired FBI agent Robert Levinson, who was seized by Iranian agents seven years ago and never seen again. According to the AP, a CIA analyst named Anne Jablonski overextended her reach when she sent Levinson to Iran to investigate leads on an assassination. Jablonski and two other analysts were fired, and the CIA paid Levinson’s family $2.5 million to preempt a revealing lawsuit, according to the AP (which has sat on the story since 2010).
The CIA says it has rewritten its rules to restrict how analysts can work with outsiders. But the flagrant violation of rules in this case shows there is something more to what happened to Levinson. It’s the sign of a bureaucracy so vast that it can’t police itself. Here are four ways the intel world is becoming its own worst enemy.