Here is what caught our eye in the world of intelligence this week:
The Senate Intelligence Committee is compiling a “secret encyclopedia” of U.S. intelligence collection programs. The review is intended to provide lawmakers with information on all surveillance programs without creating a single document that would amount to a “roadmap to American surveillance.” What prompted the review were the programs reveal by Edward Snowden; specifically the ones which fell under Executive Order 12333 that authorizes the collection of intelligence on foreign nations, including allies. This is new territory for U.S. intelligence oversight, which has typically given surveillance activities abroad a wide berth while focusing on more on those domestic intelligence collection.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) announced its own investigation into E.O. 12333 activities. “The Board will select two counterterrorism-related activities governed by E.O. 12333, and will then conduct focused, in-depth examinations of those activities.” The PCLOB’s previous reviews examined surveillance programs conducted under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act and Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and set a new, high standard intelligence oversight.
While speaking at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard CIA Director John Brennan addressed the nuclear deal made with Iran. He suggested the key to the deal was President Hassan Rouhani’s ability to convince Ayatollah Khamenei that their economy was “destined to go down” if they did not reach a deal with the west. Brennan dismissed the claims that the deal would provide Iran with a pathway to a bomb as being “wholly disingenuous.”
In a piece for The Washington Post David Ignatius offered his analysis of Director Brennan’s reorganization of the CIA. His assessment was overall positive, especially for Brennan’s decision to revamp the agency in the first place; something his predecessors experimented with but never took as far. However, he was skeptical of the plan for 10 new mission centers. He said it made sense, but feared it would lead to new layers of bureaucracy and could undermine the independence that encourages analysts to ask questions.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released a new report describing their oversight activities. The report covers the period of time from January 2013 to January 2015 and addresses the Snowden disclosures as well as the CIA Interrogation Report. Also addressed in the report were the “lethal operations against counterterrorism targets,” and the efforts to make U.S. intelligence agencies “financially auditable.”