New CIA Digital Directorate To Focus On Cyber-Spying

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The new Directorate of Digital Innovation is to accelerate the CIA’s development of cyber-espionage capabilities

The US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plans to introduce a “Directorate of Digital Innovation” as part of one of the biggest reorganisations in its nearly 70-year existence, according to a plan announced by CIA director John Brennan.

The new directorate, which will have equal status with four other well-established directorates that govern areas including field operations and intelligence analysis, is intended to help the agency keep up with the technological pace of change, officials said.

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It will be responsible for “accelerating the integration of our digital and cyber capabilities across all of our mission areas”, as well as the career development of the agency’s digital experts and the standards of its digital operations, Brennan said in a message announcing the changes, sent to CIA staff on Friday.

“We must place our activities and operations in the digital domain at the very center of all our mission endeavors,” Brennan wrote.

At a press briefing, he added that digital technologies have made the CIA’s task “more challenging”.

“What we need to do as an agency is make sure we’re able to understand all of the aspects of that digital environment,” he said.

Mission centres

The reorganisation will also see the introduction of ten “mission centres”, each covering a particular geographic area or theme, and intended to bring together capabilities from across all of the agency’s different directorates.

“Never has the need for the full and unfettered integration of our capabilities been greater,” Brennan wrote in the announcement.

Two of the CIA’s existing directorates, the Directorate of Science and Technology, which among other activities invents espionage tools, and the Directorate of Support, which handles administration and logistics, will retain their current names, while the Directorate of Intelligence will be renamed the “Directorate of Analysis”, and the National Clandestine Service will be renamed the “Directorate of Operations”, the designation it has had for most of the agency’s history.

NSA overlap

Observers from the IT security industry remarked that the CIA’s added focus on digital espionage raises questions about the degree to which its activities overlap with those of the National Security Agency (NSA), which is responsible for monitoring and collecting communications data both in the US and abroad.

Ken Westin, senior security analyst at Oregon-based security software maker Tripwire, called for “proper oversight” to regulate the two agencies’ capabilities and techniques.

“Unfortunately 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,” he stated.

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