The Week in Intelligence

on February 8 | in CIA, Drones, NSA, ODNI, Secrecy

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

A piece for The Washington Post details a CIA practice known as “eyewashing” where internal memos that contain false information are transmitted throughout the agency. The tactic has been hailed as being both an important security measure, but also a significant potential for abuse. “Eyewashing” is seen by some agency veterans as a way to protect vital secrets, though many admitted the practice was very rare. Other officials say there is no clear mechanism for distinguishing eyewash cables from legitimate communication. False information could end up being examined the CIA Inspector General, buy Congress, or being declassified for historians. More likely however would be a case of unintentionally deceiving the wrong agency employees. Former CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz has said; “Somebody who is not clued in could take action on the basis” of false information.

More details have emerged about the NSA’s plans for a major reorganization which is expected to be publicly rolled out in the coming weeks. The overall goal of the reorganization is to merge offensive and defensive divisions of the agency with the hope of making them more adept at facing digital threats of the 21st century. Most notably, the Signals Intelligence and Information Assurance directorates, which normally have been the ones to spy on foreign targets and defend classified networks against spying, will be combined into a Directorate of Operations. Adm. Rodger’s hinted at this change while speaking at the Atlantic Council last month. He said: “This traditional approach we have where we created these two cylinders of excellence and then built walls of granite between them really is not the way for us to do business.” Similar to the recent CIA reorganization, the NSA revamp, which is being dubbed NSA21, will seek to place analysts and operators together.

According to new documents attributed to Edward Snowden the U.S. and U.K. have spied on secret drone flights and communications by the Israeli Air Force since the late 1990’s. Israel voiced their disappointment with the revelation, but were not surprised. Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s  minister of national infrastructure and energy, and a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet said: “We know that the Americans spy on the whole world, and also on us, also on their friends, but still, it is disappointing, inter alia because, going back decades already, we have not spied nor collected intelligence nor hacked encryptions in the United States.” Israel claims the last time they actively spied on the U.S was in the 1980’s when they employed U.S

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In an exclusive interview with WTOP DNI James Clapper discussed the type of threats facing the United States and how he goes about briefing the President. He told WTOP that in his fifty years of intelligence experience he doesn’t think he has seen a more diverse array of challenges and crises around the world. Clapper even said the current situation “almost makes you long for the halcyon days of the Cold War, and a single all-consuming adversary — the Soviet Union that we came to know pretty well.” He said he spends two hours in the morning gathering information for the President’s Daily Brief, which is now presented to the President on a secure Ipad. In the interview Clapper also discussed transparency, ISIS, and Russia. He admitted that what worries him the most is what he doesn’t know; he calls it the “unknown unknown,” such as undiscovered terror plots.

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