CIA director announces overhaul of spy agency
CIA Reorganizes to Speed Analysis, Focus More on Cyber-Es.
The CIA is planning one of the largest reorganizations in the agency’s history, The Washington Post reports. Director John Brennan has ordered a sweeping reorganization of the CIA, an overhaul designed to make its leaders more accountable and close espionage gaps amid widespread concerns about the spy agency’s limited insights into a series of major global developments.
(Bloomberg) — The Central Intelligence Agency unveiled a major restructuring on Friday to put more emphasis on digital spying, speed the production of analysis and continue chipping away at the wall that separates spies from analysts. Brennan announced the restructuring to the CIA workforce on Friday, including a new directorate devoted to boosting the CIA’s computer hacking skills. He said the move comes after nine outside experts spent three months analyzing the agency’s management structure, including what deputy CIA director David Cohen called “pain points,” organizational areas where the CIA’s bureaucracy does not work efficiently. The reorganization will shift the agency’s focus toward “mission centers” devoted to issues such as global terrorism and away from a structure that has long grouped field officers and analysts by their focus on the Near East, Western Europe, East Asia and other areas.
It’s only been a few months since the agency was caught lying about the details of US torture, and this past summer it admitted to spying on Congress. He lamented that there is often no single person he can hold accountable for the spying mission in any given part of the world. “There are a lot of areas that I would like to have better insight to, better information about, better access to,” Brennan said. “Safe havens, denied areas. Whether because we don’t even have a diplomatic presence in a country, or because there are parts of countries that have been overrun and taken over by terrorist groups and others.” The changes come against a backdrop of evidence that the CIA’s focus on hunting and killing terrorists since the Sept. 11 attacks has led to an erosion of the espionage and analytic capabilities the agency built during the Cold War.
The head of the CIA’s clandestine service retired recently, in part because the reorganization would force him to share control over covert operations and overseas bases with other officers. Among the changes outlined today is the creation of 10 new “mission centers” that will pair spies with intelligence analysts and focus on areas like counter-terrorism, espionage, and weapon storage, The New York Times reports.
The CIA, along with other U.S. intelligence agencies, wrongly assessed the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2002 and failed to anticipate the rapid collapse of Middle East governments during the Arab Spring in 2011, among other shortcomings. The agency’s greatest public success of recent years – the 10-year effort to locate and kill Osama bin Laden in 2011 – may have taken longer than it should have, according to evidence made public in the recent Senate report on CIA interrogations. The NSA has the bulk of the intelligence community’s digital and decoding expertise and is responsible for eavesdropping on electronic communications. Some veteran CIA officers said on Friday that Brennan’s focus on speed and cyber-operations could come at a cost to human intelligence capabilities that they said have atrophied because the agency has become increasingly risk-averse and fascinated by technology. Under Brennan’s reorganization, the CIA would break down the wall between the operations and analytical arms, a system that typically has required the case officers who recruit spies and run covert operations to work for different bosses, in different offices, than analysts who interpret the intelligence and write briefing papers for the president and other policymakers.
There are a handful of such centers at the moment, including the Counter Terrorism Center, where analysts and operators have worked side by side for the last decade targeting al-Qaida with espionage and drone strikes. The officer cited locating the leaders of Islamic State in Syria, determining Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions in Ukraine, deciphering Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s bottom line in nuclear negotiations and understanding Chinese President Xi Jinping’s goals in the East and South China Seas.
Under the new plan, each center would be run by an assistant director who would be responsible for the entire intelligence mission within that jurisdiction, including covert operations, spying, analysis, liaison with foreign partners and logistics. Brennan argued in his message to his staff: “The pace of world events and technological change demands that Agency leaders be able to make decisions with agility, at the appropriate level, with the right information, and in the interests of the broader enterprise.” To further that goal, Brennan said, the CIA also will create a new Talent Development Center of Excellence to “make it easier for our officers to acquire new skills, to strengthen their leadership abilities, and to deepen their distinctive tradecrafts while also broadening their understanding of CIA, the intelligence profession, and the national security mission.” Partly in response to pressure from Congress, the agency opened its off-campus Open Source Center in 2005 to search Facebook, Twitter and other Internet sites for unclassified material, such as terrorist recruiting pitches, with potential intelligence value. Critics of a blended approach have raised concerns that combining analysts with operators could compromise the objectivity of the analysts, who are tasked with coldly interpreting intelligence in which they have no stake. Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, praised Brennan for taking “a fresh and critical look at his organization” and said he would take a closer look at the agency’s plan. But he is changing some names, including restoring the old moniker “Directorate of Operations,” to the spying arm, the name it had before being rebadged the National Clandestine Service in 2005.
The CIA will also significantly boost its leadership training and talent development efforts, which have been compared unfavorably to the military, Brennan said. Paul Pillar, a former CIA analyst who famously dissented from the case for war in Iraq, expressed concern that the costs of the changes would outweigh the benefits. “I worry that this plan may be another instance of the all-too-common pattern, among senior managers in both governmental and private sector organizations, to try to leave a personal mark by reorganizing the place,” he said in an email.
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