As part of these changes, the CIA will aim to exploit advances in computing technology and communications via what’s known as the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which will have a wide-reaching mandate that includes cyber-espionage and ensuring the security and integrity of the CIA’s email communications.
It’s a smart move. The way America’s intelligence agencies are structured is, frankly, a relic of the Cold War. Though the CIA throughout its history has more often than not been a follower and not a leader in the shadowy world of foreign intelligence, this latest effort to catch up to current events is a welcome sign.
When you think of the CIA, what do you envision? I’m willing to bet you imagine an agent working in a foreign country, spying on people suspected of doing harm or intending to harm the United States. You can forgive yourself for thinking that after indulging in so many spy movies. In reality, it’s cyber-related threats aimed at the U.S. that is our biggest concern.
Alarmingly, up until last March the CIA did not have a department focused on computer technology and communications. They left that responsibility to the National Security Agency. Upon realizing what a huge mistake that was, the aforementioned internal shuffle at the CIA commenced.
Having worked in the U.S. Air Force Security Service in years past, I can attest to the fact that the intelligence world is a very stove-piped environment. The only time data is shared across agencies is when someone on high like the president orders departments to do so.
With all that said, human intelligence, or HUMINT as it’s known in the secret services world, has been a concern since the end of the Cold War. Lest we forget, the CIA was founded in 1947 to oppose the Soviet Union and it was very effective doing so for nearly 40 years.
Nowadays, our national security focus is on the Middle East and Asia, regions where the CIA have few developed assets. Safe to say its clandestine service is going to have to be built up to complement its digital espionage wing. Though “boots on the ground” are important, it’s digital intelligence that has become the No. 1 source for gathering data and for thwarting potential threats lobbed at the U.S. and Americans worldwide.
CIA Director John Brennan said he doesn’t want the CIA to end up like Kodak. I think that analogy is rather telling. Most people don’t realize Kodak invented digital photo and video technology. The mistake Kodak made was it didn’t do anything with the technologies it invented. Other companies leap-frogged them and the rest is history.
Fortunately, the CIA recognized the error of its ways and is now making the right moves to do as it must to keep our country safe. I applaud these changes.
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