The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has decided to re-invent itself for the digital age, promising to “place our activities and operations in the digital domain at the very center of all our mission endeavours.”
The re-org was announced last Friday by CIA director John Brennan, who has made an unclassified version of a memo about the re-org available to world+dog.
The memo explains that the Agency recently reviewed its operations and has decided on four new reform “themes”. The first is all about talent investing in people and, in a colossal surprise, sees the CIA decide it needs to get better at it. The third aims to “Modernize the way we do business” thanks to better governance models and “a corresponding effort to delegate decision-making and accountability for achieving mission to the lowest appropriate level”. Which sounds good for people in the field, but lousy for screenplay-writers who like to pen tales about rogue agents who tear up the rules but still get results.
With the non-technical themes out of the way, let's get to the second one titled “Embrace and leverage the digital revolution and innovate across our missions” and includes the quote we used in the lede plus a promise to “create a new Directorate that will be responsible for accelerating the integration of our digital and cyber capabilities across all of our mission areas.”
The new “Directorate of Digital Innovation … will be responsible for overseeing the career development of our digital experts as well as the standards of our digital tradecraft.”
The fourth theme, “Integrate our capabilities better to bring the best of the Agency to all mission areas”, also touches on matters digital as it recommends the creation of new “Mission Centers that will bring the full range of operational, analytic, support, technical, and digital personnel and capabilities to bear on the nation’s most pressing security issues and interests.”
That sounds an awful lot like another plan to get folks with “digital” skills into mission teams whenever is makes sense to do so, which these days probably means just about all the time.
It may also sound like the CIA is going to be doing a lot more digital snooping, which may seem like overkill seeing as the National Security Agency (NSA) is already doing so very much of it.
The two agencies' roles certainly overlap: the CIA says its mission is to “Preempt threats and further US national security objectives by collecting intelligence that matters” while the signals intelligence side of the NSA's mission means it “... collects, processes, and disseminates intelligence information from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations.”
Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know a lot more about the NSA's activities than was once the case. If the CIA succeeds in establishing its new digitally-skilled teams, the USA will have two agencies conducting extensive cyber-ops.
Which should make us all feel safe. Not. ®