CIA to make sweeping changes, focus more on cyber ops: agency chief

7 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

CIA chief announces across-the-board agency reorganization with focus on cyber espionage to close intelligence gaps.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Central Intelligence Agency is launching one of the biggest reorganizations in its history, aimed in part at sharpening its focus on cyber operations and incorporating digital innovations into intelligence gathering, CIA director John Brennan said. In a presentation to reporters this week, Brennan said he also 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. 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.

On the cyber front, the CIA chief said he is establishing a new “Directorate of Digital Innovation” to lead the agency’s efforts to track and take advantage of advances in cyber technology. U.S. officials said that Brennan decided the agency had to increase the resources and emphasis it devoted to cyberspace because advanced communications technology is rapidly becoming pervasive. 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. But the CIA felt that it too had to reorganize 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.” Created in 1947, the CIA is divided into four major directorates.

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 attacks has led to an erosion of the espionage and analytic capabilities the agency built during the Cold War. 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. 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 National Clandestine Service, home of front-line agency undercover “case officers,” who recruit spies and conduct covert actions, will be renamed Directorate of Operations, which is what it had been called for most of the agency’s history. 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. 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.

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 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. Brennan said the undercover officer’s decision ‘was not a result of this,’ but he did not dispute that the officer had opposed some of the changes. ‘Any time we’ve put analysts and operators together, the result has been a more powerful product,’ said John McLaughlin, a former CIA analyst who became acting director, and who advised Brennan on the restructuring. The CIA will also significantly boost its leadership training and talent development efforts, which have been compared unfavorably to the military, Brennan said.

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