The Week In Intelligence

on February 23 | in CIA, Congress, cyber, NSA

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

Law professor David Cole has a thoughtful piece in the New York Times in which he asks, “Did the Torture Report Give the C.I.A. a Bum Rap?” Cole seems to have combed though all the relevant public documents—the committee report and relevant responses—with the goal of weighing in on the efficacy questions. The truth about the efficacy of the enhanced interrogation program is actually far from clear, he says. Cole’s distinctly inconclusive analysis is refreshing in a debate that has too often been filled with more acrimony than facts.

According to the Intercept, the NSA and its British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), hacked the computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards. In doing so, the agencies obtained encryption keys that gave them the ability to monitor mobile communications, both voice and data, without seeking the approval of telephone companies or governments. Critics will point to this latest disclosure as another example of surveillance excess, but how can we expect these agencies to fulfill their missions if they can’t steal encryption keys necessary to listen in on targets’ communications?

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal Henry A. Crumpton, outlines what he calls America’s “eroding antiterror intelligence” and suggests ways to correct trends that have impaired US intelligence. Crumpton, who led the CIA’s campaign in Afghanistan from 2001-2002, states that some of the largest threats facing the intelligence community are the changing nature of our enemies, an eroding network of allies, and the partisan gridlock in Washington. He stresses that in order to reverse these issues members of the government must become “responsible intelligence customers” and learn the “value and limits of intelligence.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to announce new legislation next week intended to improve cyber sharing between the private and public sectors. Details of the bill are still being finalized, but it is said to resemble the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which failed to pass the last year. Though similar, the new bill reportedly addresses some of the privacy concerns that derailed CISA.

The CIA reportedly purchased and destroyed hundreds of nerve-agent rockets during the early years of the Iraq war in an effort to ensure that they did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups. The plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and involved purchasing Borak rockets from a sole Iraqi seller who was apparently eager to get rid of them. The rockets were left over from an Iraqi special weapons program and many of the warheads contained sarin, with a level of purity higher than expected.

A new report released by the Department of Homeland Security stresses the dangers of domestic terrorism and claims it may pose a greater threat than foreign groups such as ISIS. According to the report, domestic terrorists, known to the DHS as “sovereign citizens,” have been behind at least twenty four attacks in the past five years. FBI and DHS officials say that these homegrown terrorists “believe they can ignore laws” and that police officers will remain their “primary targets.”

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