The Week in Intelligence

on December 22 | in CIA, Congress, NSA

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Here is what caught our eye in the world of intelligence this week:

The Sony Pictures hack has temporarily eclipsed controversy over the Senate’s interrogation report and raised broad questions about deterrence and escalation in cyber warfare. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest issued a statement defining the incident as a “serious national security matter.” Earnest also stated that the administration has considered a range of options and promised a “proportional response.” The FBI has accused North Korea of perpetrating of the hack. The regime has denied responsibility.  House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers commented on the Sony attack this Sunday  criticizing the Administration for responding too slowly to what he characterized as “a nation state attack on the United States.”

The November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack “may rank among the most devastating near-misses in the history of spycraft, ” according to a story published Sunday by the New York TimesThe piece recounts the bits of information that could have allowed various intelligence agencies to disrupt the attack. The story (and the way the New York Times tells of that story) serves as a great illustration of our counterterrorism analysis pillars of wisdom (pillar #2: All the intel you need is already in cable traffic).

A mix of anti-secrecy groups has urged House leaders to reform the House intelligence committee. In a letter addressed to John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi, drugstore these groups, wrote; “The time for modernization is now.” They encouraged Congress to pass new rules which will “enhance opportunities for oversight” when they convene in January 2015. The letter includes a host of possible reform measures. Some of these seem ill-informed or are just plain odd, but many of them are certainly worth considering.

On Friday a Federal Court in Oakland, CA heard one of the first public cases to come out against the NSA. The group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) took the government agency to court arguing that the collection of Internet data violates the 4th amendment. The case was originally filled in 2008, but has since gained momentum after sensitive information about the data collection programs was leaked by Edward Snowden. The NSA has claimed that the data collection program is legal based on Section 302 of the 2008 FISA amendments.

A panel charged with investigating the CIA’s search of a computer network that had been used by the Senate Intelligence Committee has decided against punishing anyone involved. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee had accused the CIA of interfering with their investigation of the agency’s interrogation program, but those involved defended their actions, calling them lawful and, in some cases, done on behalf of Director John Brennan. Although the panel will not recommend punishment for the computer searches, they are expected to “criticize agency missteps that contributed to the fight with Congress.”

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