The Week in Intelligence

on November 24 | in CIA, Intelligence Reform

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The Week in Intelligence is a new Overt Action feature highlighting key recent developments in the world of intelligence. We’ll provide a quick gist and analysis. If you have any stories that are worth flagging for our readers, send them to OvertActionBlog [at] gmail [dot] com. With that, here is what caught our eye this week:

Negotiations between the White House and Senator Feinstein over the Senate intelligence committee’s interrogation report are almost complete, according to Roll Call. The Senator is apparently trying to get this finished and released before the Republicans take over the committee. It’s about time for the country to move forward and focus on intelligence issues that are actually relevant today. Let’s hope that whatever now happens to this report is in the service of that goal.

The CIA is considering a massive reorganization that would combine elements of the National Clandestine Service and the Directorate of Intelligence into regional and functional ‘centers’ similar to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, according to the Washington Post. This could be a great reform if executed properly, providing the Agency with a structure better suited to respond to modern threats. If done poorly, it could debilitate the CIA’s analytic cadre.

The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014, which would have ended NSA’s bulk phone records collection program, failed on Tuesday to garner the 60 votes needed in the Senate to advance the legislation, effectively killing prospects for surveillance reform in the 113th Congress. The bill came up two votes short. With key provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act scheduled to expire in June 2015 if Congress doesn’t act, this means that surveillance supporters and the civil liberties community will now be playing chicken with national security during the next Congress.

Senior executives at the National Security Agency voiced concerns internally about NSA’s bulk phone records collection program in 2009, according to AP’s Ken Dilanian. “The program exceeded the agency’s mandate to focus on foreign spying and would do little to stop terror plots, the executives argued.” They also warned of the scandal that would occur if the program ever became public. Regardless of what you think of this program, it seems these executives were certainly right on that last point.

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Friday released its report on the investigation into the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. According to the New York Times, “[T]he investigation determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a C.I.A. rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the C.I.A. was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.” This investigation took two years and “thousands of hours” to complete – make of that what you will.

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