American spies working undercover in Lebanon have been identified and captured by Hezbollah forces, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
The agency said operations in the country have been badly damaged as a result.
Former CIA officials blame such debacles on an erosion of the agency's counterintelligence, a skill they say has suffered as the agency shifted from out-maneuvering rival spy agencies to fighting terrorists.
"Espionage has always been a complex business," a U.S. official, who declined to be identified, told The Los Angeles Times.
"Collecting sensitive information on adversaries who are aggressively trying to uncover spies in their midst will always be fraught with risk," the official said.
Robert Baer, a former senior CIA officer, told ABC News that Hezbollah customarily executes spies.
"If they were genuine spies, spying against Hezbollah, I don't think we'll ever see them again," he said. "These guys are very, very vicious and unforgiving."
Meanwhile, the CIA is working to protect their remaining spies in the area, both foreign assets and CIA agents.
They want to get to them before Hezbollah has the chance. The terrorist group is said to have close ties to Iran.