“Heads should roll because of this. Agents were killed. But to protect people’s careers and egos, we buried counterintelligence problems.”
Former US Senior Intelligence Official
“It’s not just a single flawed system that needed to be fixed. It was a universe of systems.”
Former CIA Officer
“The Directorate of Digital Innovation (DDI) is the Agency’s newest Directorate focused on accelerating innovation across the Agency’s mission activities with cutting-edge digital and cyber tradecraft and IT infrastructure. The DDI is the engine of creativity, integration, and rigor that CIA needs in the digital age, ensuring that our culture, tradecraft, and knowledge management across the board are more than equal to the challenges and opportunities of the rapidly changing world in which we operate. From arming our officers with the tools and techniques they need to excel and prevail in the cyber and big data arenas to optimizing our business operations, the DDI is a strong, agile partner with the other Directorates, our Mission Centers, and our Intelligence Community counterparts to deliver the insights our nation requires.”
The CIA’s website says that the agency is wholly in charge of “providing secure communications for CIA assets.” Obviously, this is not true. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
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Between 2010 and 2012, the government of China arrested — and eventually executed — several dozens CIA sources, crippling the Agency’s ability to collect information within the country.
In 2010, John Reidy submitted a complaint to the CIA’s internal watchdog, the Inspector General’s Office. One issue involved what Reidy alleged was fraud between elements within the CIA and contractors.
Another issue involved what he called a “massive” and “catastrophic” intelligence failure due to a bungled foreign operation.
When I suggested — long before it was known — that there was a link between the John Reidy’s complaint to the CIA’s internal watchdog and the CIA debacles in both Iran and China, very few people believed it.
On November 2 2018, Zach Dorfman and Jenna McLaughlin reported that this was indeed the case.
Their investigation, published by Yahoo News, was based on conversations with eleven former U.S. intelligence and government officials directly familiar with the case.
According to these current and former intelligence officials, the CIA did indeed botch the communication system it used to interact with its sources.
I believe that this story will become the textbook example of a major intelligence disaster that could have been easily avoided if the “system” had listened to a whistleblower.
But it will get worse before it gets better…
The fiascos in Iran and China continue to be sticking points between the Directorate of Operations and the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T).
And why would that be?
The agency acquires its cutting-edge tech through multiple channels, including through contracts with defense companies.
It invests money in startups through In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s nonprofit venture capital wing.
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“There is a disconnect between the two directorates,” said one former CIA official. “I’m not sure that will be fixed anytime soon.”
The issues with internet-based covert communications systems cannot be fully solved piecemeal and will require an immense allocation of resources.
“A patch won’t solve the problem,” said one of the former officials.
“We’re not talking about billions of dollars, we’re talking about hundreds of billions of dollars to fix these systems.”
A second former official was more charitable, arguing that while the problem is not entirely solved, “there’s been major improvement” in the communications system.
But, the source added, “it doesn’t serve everyone equally.”
As I have argued before, the right thing to do is to go back to pre-computer systems. Bring back the dinosaurs, “paper and pencils”, the one-time pad…
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CIA Debacle in China — Former CIA Official : “We Buried the Truth”