CIA overhaul to boost cyber capability and security amid growing threat of digital …
C.I.A. to Be Overhauled To Fight Modern Threats.
WASHINGTON CIA Director John Brennan has ordered a sweeping reorganization of the spy agency in an effort to make its leaders more accountable, enhance the agency’s cyber capabilities and shore up espionage gaps exacerbated by a decade focused on counterterrorism. Brennan said he is creating new units within the CIA, called “mission centers,” intended to concentrate the agency’s focus on specific challenges or geographic areas, such as weapons proliferation or Africa. Brennan announced the restructuring to the CIA workforce on Friday, including a new directorate devoted to boosting the CIA’s computer hacking skills.
The CIA director said he also is establishing a new “Directorate of Digital Innovation” to lead efforts to track and take advantage of advances in cyber technology to gather intelligence. 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.
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.
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 widespread concern that the CIA’s focus on hunting and killing terrorists since the Sept. 11, 2001. attacks has led to an erosion of the espionage and analytic capabilities the agency built during the Cold War. But the CIA felt that it had to reorganise to keep up with the technological “pace of change,” as one official put it. “Our ability to carry out our responsibilities for human intelligence and national security responsibilities has become more challenging” in today’s digital world, Brennan said. “And so what we need to do as an agency is make sure we’re able to understand all of the aspects of that digital environment.” Stepping up the CIA’s expertise in cyberspace may help it counter technological innovations and sophisticated use of social media by militant groups such as Islamic State. 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.
Brennan’s plan would partly abandon the agency’s current structure that keeps spies and analysts separate as they target specific regions or countries. 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. 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.
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. 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 10 new “mission centers” will bring together CIA officers with expertise from across the agency’s range of disciplines to concentrate on specific intelligence target areas or subject matter, Brennan said. In the most significant departure, 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. Mark Lowenthal, a former senior CIA official, said the reorganization “is not going to go down smoothly.” He claimed the plans lack a focus on the future and too strongly prioritize day-to-day concerns. 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.
Two – the Directorate of Science and Technology, which among other activities invents spy gadgets, and the Directorate of Support, which handles administrative and logistical tasks – will retain their names. Critics of a blended approach have raised concerns that combining analysts with operators could compromise the objectivity of the analysts, who are tasked with interpreting intelligence in which they have no stake.
Last month, the Obama administration announced the creation of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC), a 50-person agency responsible for analyzing and coordinating responses to cyberthreats. 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.
The head of the CIA’s operation arm retired abruptly in January after voicing concerns about the plan, say two former CIA officials who know him but spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss internal agency matters. The CIA will also significantly boost its leadership training and talent development efforts, which have been compared unfavorably to those of the military, Brennan said. 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. 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.
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. 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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