Here’s what caught our eye in the world of intelligence this week:
The Pentagon is considering retroactively demoting retired Gen. David Petraeus after he admitted to giving classified information to his mistress. The Army has recommended that Petraeus’ rank not be reduced, however, the final decision will rest with Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. According to defense officials, Carter “is considering going a different direction” because he wants to be consistent in his treatment of senior officers and send a message that even men of Petraeus’s rank are not immune to punishment.
Petraeus is currently a four-star general, if demoted he will fall to the last rank in which he “satisfactorily” served, patient most likely a lieutenant general. The demotion would cost Petraeus hundreds of thousands of dollars in pension and damage his once-pristine reputation.
CIA released a statement calling the recently released film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi “a distortion of the events and people who served in Benghazi that night.” One of the most controversial scenes in the movie occurs when Bob, drugstore the CIA station chief at the agency compound in Benghazi, orders the team of contractors to “stand down.” However, the CIA has stood by Bob’s statement that he never issued a stand down order or anything that could be “interpreted as equivalent” to a stand down order.
In interview with The Washington Post, Bob, who only goes by his first name due to him still being active, said so much of the information has been wrong and he decided to address the controversy because he thought he would regret it if he didn’t. In support of Bob and his account a CIA spokesperson said: “No one will mistake this movie for a documentary.”
In a transparency report released last week, the NSA said its new surveillance program is meeting privacy safeguards. Two months after the agency transitioned from their controversial program they claim they have satisfied eight different principles to protect people’s privacy. The NSA said: “The government has strengthened privacy safeguards by, among other things, ending the collection of telephone metadata in bulk, and having telecommunications providers, pursuant to court orders, hold and query the data.” Some of the principles the agency has satisfied include transparency and oversight.
The Obama Administration announced the responsibility of conducting background checks is shifting from the OPM to the Department of Defense. The OPM is turning over responsibilities to the newly created National Background Investigations Bureau. The head of this new Bureau will be appointed by the President and will still report to the OPM. However, the office’s IT systems will be “designed, build, secured, and operated” by the Pentagon.
According to a fact sheet released by the Administration, this new setup will “leverage DOD’s significant national security, IT and cybersecurity expertise.” The Obama Administration has also requested an addition $95 million for IT development and stated that the new office will also have a dedicated senior privacy official.
NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers said the U.S. is at a “tipping point” in the debate on whether or not cyberweapons should be used offensively. He said the U.S. military has spent five years developing advanced cyberweapon capabilities and is likely to deploy them more publically soon. Though Rogers did not say how these weapons could be deployed he did say the capability of these weapons is “starting to come online [and] really starting to pay off in some really tangible capabilities that you will start to see us apply in a broader and broader way.”
The discussion on when these weapons should be used is still open, and although the U.S. is at a tipping point, Rogers believes the final push might come in the form of a cyberattack that achieves large-scale destruction. According to Rogers; “it’s going to get worse before it gets better.”
Photo: U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, right, speaks with (ret) Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, the commander of European Command and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 11, 2011. (DoD photo by Cherie Cullen/Released)