CIA director announces sweeping reorganization of spy agency
C.I.A. to Be Overhauled to Fight Modern Threats.
“Let me be very clear, I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law.” — U.S. WASHINGTON (AP) — 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. Brennan announced the restructuring to the CIA workforce on Friday, including a new directorate devoted to boosting the CIA’s computer hacking skills. The new directorate will try to penetrate the ranks of foreign hackers and other adversaries who try to penetrate or sabotage crucial U.S. infrastructure, as well as help American spies overseas steal digital secrets and cover their tracks. “The digital world touches every aspect of our business,” CIA Director John O. Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, who is under federal investigation for his relationship with a Florida doctor and political donor. “There are a lot of areas that I would like to have better insight to, better information about, better access to.
He said the move comes after nine agency officers spent three months analyzing its management structure, including what deputy CIA director David Cohen called “pain points,” organizational areas where the CIA’s bureaucracy does not work efficiently. Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is planning to reassign thousands of undercover spies and intelligence analysts into new departments as part of a restructuring of the 67-year-old agency, a move he said would make it more successful against modern threats and crises. Briefing reporters with Cohen at CIA headquarters this week, Brennan said the changes are necessary to address intelligence gaps that the CIA is not covering. Brennan’s plan would partly abandon the agency’s current structure that keeps spies and analysts separate as they target specific regions or countries.
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. Instead, C.I.A. officers will be assigned to 10 new mission centers focused on terrorism, weapons proliferation, the Middle East and other areas with responsibility for espionage operations, intelligence analysis and covert actions.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, warned Congress last month that cyber attacks pose a greater long-term threat to national security than terrorism. 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 Pentagon, FBI and Department of Homeland Security have stepped up cyber security operations, and the White House last month announced a new agency to help analyze and share digital threat information between government and business. 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. It will have the same level of authority as the four long-standing directorates responsible for clandestine operations, analysis, spy gadgetry and logistics.
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. The new cyber push threatens to put the CIA in direct competition with the mammoth National Security Agency, which specializes in breaking codes, vacuuming up conversations and communications, and analyzing huge troves of digital transmissions. But officials said the CIA will focus less on collecting so-called signals intelligence and more on how to use digital tools to convince adversaries to spill their secrets, and to help protect American operatives.
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. He said that the Defense Department’s structure of having a single military commander in charge of all operations in a particular region — the way a four-star commander runs United States Central Command — was an efficient structure that led to better accountability. Rival spy agencies use those digital fingerprints to help track CIA operatives, and the agency wants to find techniques to help officers working undercover hide their tracks online. 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.
The 9/11 Commission recommended numerous reforms after that intelligence failure, partly aimed at ending the stovepipes, but Brennan’s comments suggest the problem persists. 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. Field operatives sometimes mocked analysts for sitting at a desk, and analysts worried that knowing too much about espionage could bias their interpretation of information. He avoided citing any specific examples of how the C.I.A.’s current structure was hampering operations, and often used management jargon while describing his vision for the agency. In another evolution, Brennan is creating a fifth directorate, the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which will focus on the new world of computer networks that has changed the way espionage is conducted.
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. Brennan discussed his plans with reporters on the condition that nothing be made public until he met with C.I.A. employees to discuss the new structure. Instead of each directorate running its own schools, training programs will be brought together under a chancellor at a facility Brennan called “CIA University.” Brennan said this was the very thing he was trying to avoid — reacting to the world’s crises and not giving policy makers sufficient warning before they happened.
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