News & Events

CIA plans major reorganization and a focus on digital espionage

CIA plans major reorganization and a focus on digital espionage

The Washington Post
By Greg Miller
March 6, 2015

The CIA embarked on a sweeping restructuring Friday that will bring an end to divisions that have been in place for decades, create 10 new centers that team analysts with operators, and significantly expand the agency’s focus on digital espionage.

The plans were unveiled by CIA Director John Brennan to a workforce in which thousands of employees are likely to see changes in which departments they work for, the lines of authority they report to and even where they sit.

The overhaul is designed to foster deeper collaboration and an intensified focus on a range of security issues and threats, replacing long-standing divisions that cover the Middle East, Africa and other regions with hybrid “mission centers” modeled on the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center.

The CIA will also create a directorate focused exclusively on exploiting advances in computer technology and communications. The Directorate of Digital Innovation will rank alongside the agency’s operations and analysis branches, and it will be responsible for missions ranging from ­cyber-espionage to the security of the CIA’s internal e-mail.

In a briefing with reporters, Brennan described the far-reaching changes as “part of the natural evolution of an intelligence agency” that has not seen a significant reorganization in decades.

A central aim, he said, is to eliminate “seams” in coverage that lead to confusion over which part of the agency is responsible for tracking a specific issue or threat. After the reorganization, Brennan said, the CIA should be in position to “cover the entire universe, regionally and functionally, and so something that’s going on in the world falls into one of those buckets.”

The changes, however, are also likely to create turmoil at a time that Brennan and others frequently characterize as the most complicated and challenging period for intelligence agencies in a generation. Brennan said the plan has been received enthusiastically by most at the agency, but there have also been signs of friction and disagreement.

The head of the CIA’s clandestine service recently decided to retire abruptly in part because of opposition to a plan that would strip his position of much of its authority over the agency’s covert operations overseas and the teams of spies that it deploys.

CIA veterans and experts described the restructuring as among the most ambitious since the agency was founded in 1947.

“This is a major reorganization, one of the largest and most fundamental they’ve had,” said Mark M. Lowenthal, a former senior CIA officer and an expert on the history of the U.S. intelligence community. Lowenthal also expressed concern that replicating the Counterterrorism Center may also mean replicating an approach criticized at times for being too driven by short-term objectives such as finding the next target for a drone strike.

“Where in this does John have what I would think of as his intellectual strategic reserve, people not worried about day-to-day stuff but who think about what is going to happen two years out?” Lowenthal said. “The centers tend not to do that. They tend to answer today’s mail.”

But Brennan defended the reforms as critical to the agency’s viability in an era of technological and social upheaval. At one point he compared the initiatives to an effort to avoid the fate of Kodak, the company that failed to foresee the impact of digital technology on its film franchise. “Things just passed them by,” Brennan said.

Brennan’s plan was endorsed by others in the Obama administration who noted the advantages of allowing operators and analysts to collaborate.

“I strongly endorse Director Brennan’s vision,” Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. said in a statement. “I see many advantages to this, but the one I want to highlight specifically is the impact this change will have in promoting integration.”

As part of Brennan’s plan, long-standing divisions focused on Africa, the Middle East and other regions will give way to centers of corresponding geographic boundaries. The Directorates of Intelligence and Operations — as the analysis and spying branches are known — will continue to exist but will function mainly as talent pools, recruiting and training personnel who can be deployed to the new centers.

“Some who grew up in the old structure will have heartburn with this, but those costs will be short term,” said Michael Morell, former deputy director of the CIA. Morell said that existing centers have “proven to be a very powerful combination” and that the Counterterrorism Center is “the most successful agency component over the last decade.”

The Directorate of Digital Innovation will perform a similar role, and absorb existing entities including the Open Source Center, which monitors Twitter and other social media sites for intelligence on such adversaries as the Islamic State, as well as the Information Operations Center, a secret organization that handles missions including cyber-penetrations and sabotage and is now the second-largest center at the CIA.

But Brennan made clear that the digital directorate will have a much broader mandate, responsible not only for devising new ways to steal secrets from cellphones and other devices, but also for helping CIA officers evade detection overseas in an age when their phones, computers and ATM cards leave digital trails. The head of the new directorate will be responsible for “overseeing the career development of our digital experts as well as the standards of our digital tradecraft,” Brennan said.

Brennan did not present a timetable for the reorganization, or provide names of those who will be picked to lead the new centers. Other aspects of the plan are also unclear, including how much power the new assistant directors will exert over CIA stations overseas.

Brennan began exploring plans for the restructuring last year, when he established a panel to evaluate his proposed changes. The leader of that group, a veteran paramilitary officer whose first name is Greg, was recently put in charge of the Directorate of Operations, one of several departments that will revert to more traditional titles after being rebranded in recent years.

Greg Miller covers the intelligence beat for The Washington Post.


C.I.A. to Be Overhauled to Fight Modern Threats

C.I.A. to Be Overhauled to Fight Modern Threats

The New York Times
By Mark Mazzetti
March 6, 2015

LANGLEY, Va. — John O. Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is planning to reassign thousands of undercover spies and intelligence analysts into new departments as part of a restructuring of the 67-year-old agency, a move he said would make it more successful against modern threats and crises.

Drawing from disparate sources — from the Pentagon to corporate America — Mr. Brennan’s plan would partly abandon the agency’s current structure that keeps spies and analysts separate as they target specific regions or countries. Instead, C.I.A. officers will be assigned to 10 new mission centers focused on terrorism, weapons proliferation, the Middle East and other areas with responsibility for espionage operations, intelligence analysis and covert actions.

During a briefing with reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Brennan gave few specifics about how a new structure would make the C.I.A. better at spying in an era of continued terrorism, cyberspying and tumult across the Middle East. But he said the current structure of having undercover spies and analysts cloistered separately — with little interaction and answering to different bosses — was anachronistic given the myriad global issues the agency faces.

“I’ve never seen a time when we have been confronted with such an array of very challenging, complex and serious threats to our national security, and issues that we have to grapple with,” he said.

One model for the new divisions is the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, an amalgam of undercover spies and analysts charged with hunting, and often killing, militant suspects across the globe. Once a small, occasionally neglected office in the C.I.A., the Counterterrorism Center has grown into a behemoth with thousands of officers since the Sept. 11 attacks as the C.I.A. has taken charge of a number of secret wars overseas.

But Mr. Brennan also cited another model for his new plan: the American military. He said that the Defense Department’s structure of having a single military commander in charge of all operations in a particular region — the way a four-star commander runs United States Central Command — was an efficient structure that led to better accountability.

Mark M. Lowenthal, a former senior C.I.A. analyst, said that the reorganization “is not going to go down smoothly” at the agency, especially among clandestine spies who have long been able to withhold information from analysts, such as the identity of their foreign agents. “The clandestine service is very, very guarded about giving too much information about sources to the analysts,” he said.

But Mr. Lowenthal, who said he had not been briefed about the reorganization and was basing his understanding of Mr. Brennan’s plan on news accounts, said that the new mission centers could help avoid a debacle like the intelligence assessments before the Iraq war, when analysts trusted information from sources they knew little about, and who were later discredited.

During his two years as C.I.A. director, Mr. Brennan has become known for working long days but also for being loath to delegate decisions to lower levels of C.I.A. bureaucracy. During the briefing on Wednesday, he showed flashes of frustration that, under the C.I.A.’s current structure, there is not one single person in charge of — and to hold accountable for — a number of pressing issues.

He avoided citing any specific examples of how the C.I.A.’s current structure was hampering operations, and often used management jargon while describing his vision for the agency.

He spoke of wanting to “wring efficiencies” out of the system and trying to identify “seams” in the agency’s current structure that hinder the C.I.A. from adequately addressing complex problems. The C.I.A. needed to modernize even if the current system was not “broken,” he said, citing how Kodak failed to anticipate the advent of digital cameras.

Mr. Brennan said he was also adding a new directorate at the agency responsible for all of the C.I.A.’s digital operations — from cyberespionage to data warehousing and analysis.

Mr. Brennan discussed his plans with reporters on the condition that nothing be made public until he met with C.I.A. employees to discuss the new structure. That meeting was Friday.

While adding the new digital directorate, Mr. Brennan chose not to scuttle the C.I.A.’s four traditional directorates sitting at the top of the bureaucracy — those in charge of clandestine operations, intelligence analysis, science and technology research, and personnel support.

The C.I.A.’s clandestine service, the cadre of undercover spies known for decades as the Directorate of Operations and in recent years renamed the National Clandestine Service, will get its original name back under Mr. Brennan’s plan.

Amy Zegart, an intelligence expert at Stanford, said that the C.I.A. risked being drawn further into the daily churn of events rather than focusing on “over-the-horizon threats” at a time when the C.I.A. has already come under criticism for paying little attention to long-term trends.

For his part, Mr. Brennan said this was the very thing he was trying to avoid — reacting to the world’s crises and not giving policy makers sufficient warning before they happened.

“I don’t want to just be part of an agency that reports on the world’s fires, and the collapse of various countries and systems,” he said.



Cyberforce Superiority: Executive/Managers Course – March 2015

Secure your seat now for
Cyberforce Superiority™

Cyberforce Superiority™, training cyber operators
to be more broadly based, integrating offense, defense and
forensics into a holistic program. 

Executive/Managers Course
March 23-27, 2015

Arlington, Virginia

The Executive/Managers Course gives students a technical sampling of the complete belt series in an immersive five-day offering.

Unlike most cyber training courses that emphasize either computer security or hacking skills, our course is designed to give students a preliminary integrated understanding of the methodologies and interrelated offensive and defensive factors that come into play when training a cyber warrior.  Students will learn a sample of the introductory, mid-level, and high-level tactics used for Computer Network Operations (CNO) including Computer Network Attack (CNA) & Computer Network Exploitation (CNE), Computer Network Defense (CND), as well as Computer forensics.  Topics of instruction include: ethical hacking, Boolean Logic, networking for both advanced Unix and Windows, vulnerability identification, computer exploit development, and reverse engineering.

This is a practical course with instruction that is focused on in-class computer exercises and lab work.   This course is ideal for executives, managers and supervisory personnel who play a role in planning, operations, risk assessment, policy, and ethics.  This course also allows the more technical student to benchmark his or her skills against the entirety of curriculum learning objectives.

These courses are offered in partnership with Raytheon Solipsys. 


Individual enrollment courses scheduled!

The Intelligence & Security Academy offers the following courses for individual enrollment…registration is open, reserve your seat now!

Academy faculty brings to bear decades of senior executive experience in intelligence, national security and policy analysis. Each of the Academy’s courses is a dynamic, compact and highly informative exploration of a key intelligence issue.


The American Interest, Episode 45: The Torture Report in the Age of Fear (Podcast)

The American Interest
Episode 45: The Torture Report in the Age of Fear (Podcast)
Host: Richard Aldous

Link to podcast

Good evening, podcast listeners! We have a truly excellent episode for you today, as we welcome to the show two expert guests ready to discuss the Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on the CIA’s use of torture.

First, we speak with Mark M. Lowenthal, president and CEO of the Intelligence & Security Academy and former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis & Production from 2002 to 2005, about the recent Senate Intelligence Committee report. He points out that political machinations were very much at play in the writing and release of the Committee’s report, and notes that many members of Congress had been briefed on the CIA’s activities. He notes that by not talking to many of the people involved, and by relying so extensively on documents as evidence, the report’s objectivity has been called into question.

He plays down the possibility of prosecution of those involved, pointing out the Administration’s careful avoidance of using the word torture, but notes that many of the people named in the report will be very careful about traveling outside of the United States for fear of extraterritorial indictment. He also reminds us that it’s difficult to recapture the atmosphere of fear that gripped the U.S. intelligence community in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.


Senate Report not about openness: Opposing view (Mark M. Lowenthal)

USA TODAY, OPINION, December 9, 2014

One of the inherent contradictions of running an intelligence service in a democracy is the inevitable clash between openness and secrecy. Both are necessary for different reasons at different times. But neither openness nor secrecy can constantly trump the other as the absolute and ultimate virtue.

In recent years, the call has arisen for “transparency” across a range of intelligence operations. Simply put, we cannot conduct necessarily secret operations with a view to making them transparent.

Some operations, such as the raid against Osama bin Laden, can succeed only if they are kept secret until after their completion. And some must remain secret even after completion.

As it is, the U.S. intelligence community operates in a more transparent atmosphere than most other democratic services. Budgets and operations are shared in excruciating detail with the congressional oversight committees.

That certainly was the case with the rendition and interrogation programs. Their existence and conduct was not kept from Congress. There was transparency within the rules and laws governing U.S. intelligence.

Aside from the fact that there is no “public right to know” enumerated in the Constitution (freedom of speech and the press are not the same thing), we must acknowledge that there was also no public outcry for the release of this report.

The public wants to know that intelligence operates under law and with oversight and that intelligence seeks to keep them safe. All those conditions have been met.

At core, the debate over releasing the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report is less about openness than about the Congress attempting to divest itself of its role in urging and authorizing a range of activities that are not viewed in the same light as they were in the aftermath of 9/11.

This is not a debate about openness. It is about the washing of hands like Pontius Pilate.

Mark M. Lowenthal, president of the Intelligence & Security Academy, was assistant CIA director for analysis and production during the Bush administration, and staff director to the House Intelligence Committee.


Cyberforce Superiority™ – Secure your seat now!

Don’t miss out on the opportunity this Fall to take one of our
Cyberforce Superiority™ courses!

New location: Arlington, Virginia

Executive/Managers Course
October 27-31, 2014 (Arlington, Virginia)

White Belt Course
November 17-21, 2014 (Arlington, Virginia)

Cyberforce Superiority™, training cyber operators to be more broadly based, integrating offense, defense and forensics into a holistic program.  Select courses above to link to detailed course learning objectives and content.

These courses are offered in partnership with Raytheon Solipsys. 


Intro to Intel & Analyst Training: Seats still available – don’t miss out!

Dr. Mark M. Lowenthal, former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, author of Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy (now in its 6th edition), and internationally recognized intelligence authority, will teach two courses this Fall. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to learn from one of the leading experts in intelligence.

Courses will be held at the Academy’s new headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, just two blocks from the Ballston Metro Rail.

Register now!


Partnership with Auburn University – courses being offered in Alabama & the Southeast!

The Intelligence & Security Academy is pleased to announce its partnership with Auburn University’s Center for Governmental Services to provide education and training through its Intelligence & Security Institute. The Institute will offer courses for individual enrollment held throughout Alabama and the Southeast. Course participants may earn continuing professional education credits to maintain their credentials.

Don-Terry Veal, director of the Center for Governmental Services, an agency of University Outreach, said governments and businesses have operated under a heightened awareness of intelligence and security since the events of 9/11. He said the need to secure data and information and protect resources is essential for the urban and rural communities within Alabama and across the United States. “The center has recognized this need and has been able to identify and engage resources at the highest level to provide training that is designed to provide tools that, when properly utilized, will protect the interests of governments and businesses,” Veal said.“This type of information should not be used to protect only Washington, D.C., and the larger metropolitan areas, but it also has application to the more rural communities.”

The Institute will offer two courses this October at Auburn University with instruction provided by Dr. Mark M. Lowenthal, former Assistant Director of Central Intelligence for Analysis and Production, author of Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy (now in its 6th edition), and internationally recognized intelligence authority.  Dr. Lowenthal said, “We are very pleased to enter into this partnership with Auburn’s Center for Governmental Services. National and homeland security has a strong state and local component and we are looking forward to this partnership.”

Dr. Lowenthal also noted that Lt. Gen. Ron Burgess, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and senior counsel for national security programs, cyber programs and military affairs at Auburn, will serve as a consultant to the partnership.

Course registration is handled directly through Auburn University’s Center for Governmental Services.  More information can be found here.


Cyber-future is murky


Mark Lowenthal, who spoke at Germanna Community College on Wednesday, was the Jeopardy! grand champion in 1988.

But the former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official says even he doesn’t have all the answers about the future of cyberspace.

“We really don’t know what it’s going to do to us as individuals or as a society,” he said at an Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association networking breakfast hosted by Germanna’s Center for Workforce & Community Education.

Lowenthal, who has written several books and was vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council, did offer some predictions during his presentation on cybersecurity.

A person’s sense of privacy will eventually be lost completely, he said in response to a question.

“There’s this total compulsion to share the most banal moments of your life with everybody else,” said Lowenthal, now president of the Intelligence & Security Academy, which provides national security education and training. “I was saying to a class the other day, ‘You know, some of your private thoughts are probably not worth posting in 140 characters.’”

Another issue is the uncertainty of who has carried out cyberattacks, he said.

“Pearl Harbor, there were these big circles on the aircraft,” Lowenthal said. “We know who they are. It’s not the Germans, it’s not the Italian fascists, it’s the Japanese. You get a cyberattack,” the culprit isn’t so obvious.

And, he said, not enough people are being trained in cybersecurity.

As an example, Lowenthal mentioned the Target CEO who resigned this year after a massive data breach.

“The problem is that those people are not being trained to do cyber,” he said. “These are IT people who know how to set up a really large IT infrastructure so the Target runs. But they don’t have people sitting there saying, ‘Whoa, what’s that, what does that mean?’”

Germanna has partnered with Lowenthal’s Intelligence & Security Academy to develop a national security program that will offer courses on cybersecurity and other issues.

David Broadhurst, a Germanna consultant and former intelligence official, said the program will be able to customize courses for individual businesses.

“We’ve got these courses within the program ready to go,” Broadhurst said. “Now we’re looking for an audience.”

On a lighter note, Lowenthal admitted that he got into the profession because, simply put, he needed a job.

“I graduated from Harvard University with a Ph.D. in military history during the Vietnam War,” he said. “How’s that for career planning?”