More than a dozen spies for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been captured across Iran and Lebanon and officials now fear that they are already dead or likely to be executed.
The capture of CIA informants in the increasingly volatile region is considered a major setback for the intelligence agency that was targeting Iran and Hezbollah.
Robert Baer, a former CIA officer that worked with the agency in operations against Hezbollah in the 1980s told the news agency that if the captured spies were indeed members of the CIA it is unlikely that they will remain alive, as Hezbollah is notoriously “vicious and unforgiving.”
Many find the intelligence setback particularly troubling as the CIA saw it coming and commentators are arguing the detection of spies is a result of “sloppy” CIA operations that will likely lead to, or has led to, the death of agents.
One case cited by officials as general mismanagement and laziness on behalf of the organization was when Hezbollah agents identified a Beirut Pizza Hut as a location that CIA informants were using as a meeting hub.
The agency denied that officers of the intelligence unit were using the restaurant, however, at least a dozen informants had been identified there.
Agents have been captured over the course of six months and now it is feared that the CIA is “flying blind” against Hezbollah.
“Many risks lead to wins, but some result in occasional setbacks,” a U.S. official told ABC news.
Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed group in Lebanon that is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., has been described by the U.S. State Department as “the most technically capable terrorist group in the world.”
Prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Hezbollah had been responsible for carrying out the most terror-related deaths against the U.S.