The Week in Intelligence

on March 31 | in CIA, NSA

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

 A new report published by the FBI’s 9/11 Review Commission said the agency needs to “urgently” improve its intelligence capabilities. The report did credit the agency with making impressive strides since 9/11 and preventing catastrophic terrorist attacks, but said the bureau lags “behind marked advances in law enforcement capabilities.” The panel was critical of how the FBI treats its analysts and said they were not treated as a “professional work force.”After a decade and a half of efforts to turn the FBI into a professional intelligence agency, it is hard not to read this report as a damning indictment. 

In a letter sent to the White House, a coalition of privacy advocates and tech firms vowed to oppose any legislation that did not ban the bulk collection of phone records. The coalition, which was organized by New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, includes representatives from Apple, Google, and Microsoft as well as other leading tech companies and civil liberties advocates. Their main issue of concern is Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows bulk collection of data and is set to expire June 1st. In the current game of chicken over expiring FISA provisions, the size and composition of this coalition should make NSA proponents sorry.

The head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, who has been called “one of the true heroes of the agency,” is being removed from his post. The CTC chief, known for his stern demeanor and being merciless toward subordinates, presided over the agency’s drone program as well as the operation which killed Osama bin Laden. He is expected to stay at the CIA, though his new assignment has yet to be determined. The move is part of Director Brennan’s major reorganization of the agency; however US officials say the switch does not signal a change in direction for the CTC as the new head is “just as aggressive with counter­terrorism operations as the guy leaving.”

Reports have surfaced that Israel has been spying on the closed-door discussions about Iran’s nuclear program that have been held between the US and other world powers. The operation was discovered when US intelligence agencies, while spying on Israel, discovered communications between Israeli officials containing details that could have only come from the confidential meetings. Israel’s espionage itself did not upset the White House, but rather their sharing of inside information with US lawmakers to help build a case against the emerging deal with Iran. Israel has denying directly spying on the talks and claim they received their information through their surveillance of Iran and also from the French; who are involved in the talks and much looser with information.

Photo: The FBI headquarters

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