CIA’s Brennan to overhaul spy agency’s management structure
CIA Reorganizes to Speed Analysis, Focus More on Cyber-Es.
CIA Director John Brennan has ordered a sweeping reorganization of the spy agency, an overhaul designed to make its leaders more accountable, enhance the agency’s cyber capabilities and shore up espionage gaps exacerbated by a decade focused on counterterrorism. (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. 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.
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 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. 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. 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.
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. One of the officers said the nation’s spy satellites and communications intercepts have been useful but of limited value on four major issues the U.S. is facing. 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. 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.
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