The Week in Intelligence

on March 24 | in CIA, cyber, surveillance

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

Michael Vickers, who serves as the Pentagon’s Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, announced plans to step down by the end of April. Though the move has been expected, his departure comes at a time of growing threats in the Middle East and North Africa. Vickers leaves behind a very distinguished career; he has been credited with being the “principal strategist” for the operation that drove the Soviet army out of Afghanistan and playing a critical role in the death of Osama bin Laden.

The Brennan Center for Justice published an expansive report asking “What Went Wrong with the FISA Court.” The report documents the evolution of the FISC, from its early activities in the post-Watergate era to its opinions sanctioning programmatic surveillance in the post-9/11 era. Its important reading for anyone involved in the surveillance reform debate.

According to CIA Director John Brennan, the reach of ISIS is spreading beyond Iraq and Syria and could prompt a hard fight over the next decade. He claims their momentum inside of Iraq and Syria has been “blunted,” but they still pose as a threat to the region. ISIS has recently claimed responsibility for an attack at a mosque in Yemen which left over a hundred people dead as well as an attack on a museum in Tunisia. In order to combat the spread of ISIS, Brennan stressed the need to continue to work with partners in the region because it will likely take an “extended international effort to beat back the threat.”

In regards to what he considers a failing effort to deter cyber-attacks against the U.S., Adm. Michael S. Rogers has suggested boosting the military’s cyber-offensive capability. Rogers, who heads the U.S. Cyber Command as well as the NSA, told Congress on Thursday that “in the end, a purely defensive, reactive strategy will be both late to need and incredibly resource-intense.” He is not the first to suggest such a strategy, but concerns from the White House and State Department that the use of cyber-weapons could trigger unintended consequences have delayed any implementation.

The National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq has been declassified.  The CIA had released an earlier version of the document in 2004 in response to a FOIA request; however it was heavily redacted, citing a threat to national security. The new release was provided exclusively to Vice News and contains information regarding Iraq’s development of nuclear and biological weapons as well as their supposed links to al-Qaeda.

The former Chief of MI6 has said an independent oversight body is needed to “scrutinize” Britain’s security and intelligence agencies. While speaking to a security thinktank Sir Richard Dearlove suggested the oversight body be made up of “citizens’ groups,” non-government organizations, and people who “really understood technology.” As what some have called a slight towards Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), Dearlove said he wants the oversight body to represent “different threads of opinion.” He also claimed a benefit of the group other oversight would be its ability to help reassure the public; whom he said have a strong lack of trust in politicians.

Photo available at defense.gov

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