Here’s what caught our eye in the world of intelligence this week:
More than 50 intelligence analysts complained to the Pentagon’s Inspector General (IG) that senior officials in the U.S. military’s Central Command had altered intelligence assessment’s about ISIS to place military operations in a more favorable light. The IG’s investigation was originally reported by the New York Times two weeks ago, but this new account by the Daily Beast indicates the story is much worse than expected. Altered reports were reportedly briefed to President Obama. “The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command.”
“Several current and former law enforcement officials” decided to speak to the New York Times about the White House’s refusal to endorse FBI Director Comey’s efforts to weaken encryption. The article leads with an anecdote about Apple’s inability to turn over encrypted iMessage data to the Justice Department. “President Obama has charged White House, look Homeland Security and cybersecurity officials, along with those at the Justice Department, the F.B.I. and the intelligence agencies, with proposing solutions to the technology access issue. They are still hashing out their differences.” Have fun with that.
The CIA and U.S. Special Operations (JSOC) forces are a part of a secret drone campaign to hunt high value targets of the Islamic State. According to U.S. officials, the joint program is separate from the broader campaign ran by the U.S. military against ISIS. The collaboration between the CIA and the JSOC has been responsible several recent strikes against ISIS leaders including one which killed Junaid Hussain. T
he decision to turn to the CIA and JSOC may signal disappointment with the success of conventional strikes. Let’s hope these operations have a degree of independence from CENTCOM.
CIA Director John Brennan delivered a speech at a Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) training session for federal managers to kick off the charity campaign. He spoke at the Ronald Reagan and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. and called on attendees to inspire their employees to donate to more than just the 20,000-eligible charitable that the CFC represents. Brennan joked that he was surprised the head of the CIA would be asked to speak, but noted that the CIA raised more than 2.4 million in donations in 2014.
A U.S. District judge, who in 2013 ruled the NSA’s mass surveillance program was unconstitutional, has a plan to rechallenge the program after his opinion was overturned. The U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit lifted the 2013 injunction blocking the program ruling that the plaintiffs could not prove their data was gathered by the NSA.
The plaintiffs in the most recent case could not prove their data was taken by Verizon Wireless, but a different unit of Verizon, Verizon Business Network Services, may have collected the data. The previous case from 2013 will be amended to include this unit of Verizon in hopes of reversing the newest decision.
The head of Germany’s BND said they made mistakes in how they handled requests from the NSA. Gerhard Schindler said: “We have learned a lesson from our recent past… We have made a number of mistakes during our collaboration with the National Security Agency.” Schindler claims that the BND did not check the “selector,” search terms such as phone numbers or email addresses, that were sent by the NSA.
Some of these selectors ended up belonging to senior French political figures or members of the European Commission. Despite the mistakes, Schindler said the cooperation between the NSA and BND is necessary and that without it they would not be able to carry out their work.