The Week in Intelligence

on December 29 | in CIA, Oversight

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

In an article published by the New York Daily News, former Nebraska governor Bob Kerrey explained the reasons he believes Congress failed in intelligence oversight. He begins by stating that in the wake of the Senate’s interrogation report too much blame was placed in the lap of the executive branch and that Congress did not accept its share of responsibility for weak post-9/11 oversight. Kerrey lists four steps to improve oversight, including reducing the number of oversight committees from eight to four and mandating that these committees have “explicit reporting requirements” to all of Congress and the American public.

On Christmas Eve,  NSA quietly released  reports from the last decade detailing the agency’s surveillance activities that violated the privacy of U.S. persons. The actions ranged from giving information about a U.S. citizen to a “foreign partner,” to analysts targeting their own spouse’s telephones. According to NSA, most of the cases involved “unintentional technical or human error.”

A new focus is being put on fortifying both public and private cyber defense in the wake of the recent Sony Pictures hack. White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel called this most recent attack “a real crossing of a threshold” and expects to see more in the future. With the Internet now connected to everything from electrical grids to personal cellphones, the threat and potential for damage continues to increase, yet a disparity exists between businesses wanting the government’s protection and also wanting limited government intrusion.

The United States has agreed to sign an intelligence sharing pact with Japan and South Korea in order to improve defense against possible North Korean missile strikes. The pact not only signals the increasing priority of North Korean threats, but also the improving relations between Seoul and Tokyo; which have been shaky at best and the cause of may diplomatic delays in the past. The intelligence pact, which was originally proposed in 2012, has been rekindled by the development of new radar technologies. Riki Ellison, the chairman of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance explained the situation stating: “South Korea was not willing to give anything to Japan because they didn’t see what Japan added to the picture. Now all of a sudden Japan has a new technology…that can offer something to South Korea.”

A recent article published in the New York Times likens the recent scrutiny the CIA has faced from Congress to that of similar scrutiny seen during the 1970’s. However, this time, the CIA is likely to emerge unscathed. Whereas during the 1970’s, in what was known as the Church Committee, the CIA’s anonymity and style of secrecy was gutted, the consequences of the latest committee findings are expected to be mild. This is due in part to the “steadfast backing by Congress and the White House to strong public support for clandestine operations.” Not only that, the details of the CIA Interrogation report “arrived in the midst of renewed fears of global terrorism” from things like ISIS and North Korea, unlike the Church Committee’s revelations which arrived in the aftermath of the Vietnam war.

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