CIA to reorganise, create digital directorate

Reorganisation at the CIA will see the creation of a specialist digital directorate to enhance overseas spying operations.

CIA to reorganise, create digital directorate
CIA to reorganise, create digital directorate

A broad restructuring of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will include the creation of a Directorate of Digital Innovation that will have a broad mandate to use latest technology to further the agency's spy activities and bolster security,CIA Director John Brennan told employees in a March 6 letter.

The directorate will grab intelligence from mobile devices, help CIA operatives cover their digital tracks so they can operate undetected in foreign countries and even secure the agency's email.

The CIA's Open Source Center, which monitors social media such as Twitter, will be folded into the digital directorate.

The new division “will be responsible for accelerating the integration of our digital and cyber-capabilities across all of our mission areas,” Brennan wrote, and “will be responsible for overseeing the career development of our digital experts as well as the standards of our digital tradecraft.”

The CIA head noted that digital tech could spur “mission excellence,” but that it also posed “serious threats to the security” of the agency's operations. “We must place our activities and operations in the digital domain at the very centre of all our mission endeavours,” he wrote. “To that end, we will establish a senior leadership position to oversee the acceleration of digital and cyber-integration across all of our mission areas.”

TK Keanini, CTO at Lancope, in a statement sent to SCMagazine.com, said the move wasn't surprising.

“The Internet has changed everything we do: how we arrange for taxis, how we do grocery shopping, how we socialise, and how nations go about their spy programmes,” he said. “This is an old trade craft just adapting to changes that have cut deep into our lives.”

He noted that other countries are “investing heavily into cyber-capabilities.”

Ken Westin, senior security analyst at Tripwire, said a lot of people probably think the CIA already has this kind of operations. Noting, in statement sent to SCMagazine.com, that questions remain where “the CIA ends and the NSA begins” especially “when it comes to domestic surveillance programmes,” Westin said, “There is still a great deal of overlap with regards to data and systems these agencies can access, so it will be important to have proper oversight to limit their capabilities and the data they can access as well as the techniques used.”

While he applauded the move, Westin said “very little information has been provided regarding how the powers of these agencies will be restricted and monitored for abuse, which is a critical factor the government needs to address in order for the American people to feel comfortable with these programmes.”