The Central Intelligence Agency has announced a sweeping reorganization, introducing a new Directorate dedicated to cyber-espionage and establishing ten new cross-directorate ‘mission centers’.
The CIA’s new cyber-division will be called the Directorate of Digital Innovation. It joins the four existing Directorates: Support, Science and Technology, and Operations and Analysis, under the new organization plan. Analysis is reverting to its traditional name, having been renamed “Directorate of Intelligence” previously, while Operations used to be known as the “National Clandestine Service.”
Additionally, agency director John Brennan announced the establishment of ten new “mission centers,” gathering CIA officers from across different Directorates to concentrate on specific subjects, regions or targets.
The 9/11 Commission criticized the CIA for not sharing intelligence that might have helped stop the 2001 attacks, and recommended a number of intelligence reforms. The new “mission centers” will put together operatives from the five Directorates to follow urgent threats and “fill information gaps”, Brennan explained.
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According to Brennan, the centers will be organized by region – East Asia, for example – or by type of threat. The agency already operates two such information-sharing centers, devoted to counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism.
“I know there are seams right now, but what we’ve tried to do with these mission centers is cover the entire universe, regionally and functionally, and so something that’s going on in the world falls into one of those buckets,” he told reporters.
Brennan cited the need to adapt to the “unprecedented pace and impact of technological advancements” as the justification for establishing a new digital directorate. Its mission, as Brennan explained, would be to counter foreign hackers trying to penetrate US computer systems, as well as help American spies steal digital secrets around the world, saving the CIA a lot of “time, resources and energy.”
Cyber threats were the first type of threat on the list National Intelligence Director James Clapper presented to Congress at the annual hearing at the end of February. Clapper said that cyber-attacks had been “increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication and severity of impact.”
US intelligence agencies have blamed foreign hackers for several high-profile attacks over the past year. North Korea was accused of hacking Sony Pictures in November, purportedly over a comedy about assassinating Kim Jong-un. The February 2014 hacking attack on the Las Vegas Sands Corp, the world’s largest casino company, was blamed on Iran.
Critics of espionage and surveillance have argued the US, rather than North Korea, China or Iran, is the real threat to cyber-security around the world. “The real danger here is the US, the superpower,” Kristinn Hrafnsson, spokesman for WikiLeaks, told RT last month. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden helped expose how the NSA and its UK counterpart hacked into the world’s largest supplier of mobile phone chips.