WASHINGTON — Over the past two years, the CIA has quietly dropped more than a thousand secret informants from its worldwide payroll because the agency's managers concluded that they were largely unproductive or had likely been involved in serious criminal activity or human rights abuses in their countries, U.S. officials say.
About 90% of those dismissed in the "agent scrub," as it was known within the spy agency, were simply judged to be poor sources of the type of information the CIA considers important in the post-Cold War era, the officials said.
But the group also included more than a hundred informants who the agency's officers concluded were implicated in major crimes abroad, such as killings, kidnappings or terrorist acts, and were judged to have provided inadequate intelligence to remain on the payroll.
A disproportionately high number of informants dropped for such abuses were employed in Latin America during the 1980s and early 1990s, but some were employed in the Middle East and Asia.
The dismissals resulted from a yearlong review of informants that began in 1995.
The review constitutes a major legacy of former CIA Director John M. Deutch, who left in December after 20 months at the agency's helm. President Clinton's nominee for his replacement, former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, is now awaiting a Senate confirmation hearing.