CIA Planning Overhaul To Handle Modern Cyber Threats

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director John Brennan told thousands of agents on Friday, March 6, that the organization will be undergoing one of the most massive overhauls in its 67-year history in part to respond to the growing threat of cyber warfare.

The restructuring, the agency chief said, is aimed at creating deeper collaboration among the CIA’s new “mission centers” to deploy an intensified response to a wide array of issues including cybersecurity.

The mission centers, according to Brennan, are modeled after the agency’s Counterterrorism Center and will replace the CIA’s long-standing geographical divisions that cover regions such as the Middle East and Africa.

“Our ability to carry out our responsibilities for human intelligence and national security responsibilities has become more challenging,” Brennan told a small group of reporters on Wednesday, who were briefed on condition that they publish the information after Brennan informed his agents. “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.”

As part of the overhaul, Brennan is establishing the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which will be responsible for monitoring and using the latest technological advances to gather intelligence and track digital threats. The new directorate, which will have equal status as the CIA’s four existing directorates, will be tasked with a variety of missions, from leading cyber spying efforts to securing the CIA’s email system.

Brennan said he plans to eliminate the overlapping responsibilities that create confusion over which team should be responsible for covering a certain issue. After the reorganization, Brennan said the CIA will be able to “cover the entire universe, regionally and functionally, and so something that’s going on in the world falls into one of those buckets.”

The announcement has elicited mixed reactions from experts and CIA officials. The agency’s former acting director and deputy director Michael Morell said, although there are going to be “senior people with heartburn” and there will be “short-term costs” that need to be worked out, the reorganization will “strengthen the CIA significantly over time.”

Morell was referring to the former head of the National Clandestine Service, who abruptly decided to retire as a result of the reorganization, where it will strip him of the power he once had over the CIA’s secret operations and agents.

Mark M. Lowenthal, a former senior official of the CIA, calls the reorganization “one of the largest and most fundamental they’ve had.” Lowenthal also expressed concern that modelling the agency after the Counterterrorism Center could mean focusing too closely on the short-term, day-to-day objectives instead of looking at the bigger picture.

“Where in this does John have what I would think of as his intellectual strategic reserve, people not worried about day-to-day stuff but who think about what is going to happen two years out?” Lowenthal said. “The centers tend not to do that. They tend to answer today’s mail.”

The country’s highest intelligence official, however, approves of Brennan’s restructuring plans.

“I strongly endorse Director Brennan’s vision,” said Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “I see many advantages to this, but the one I want to highlight specifically is the impact this change will have in promoting intelligence.”

By Nicole Arce, Tech Times | March 9, 2015

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