Trump’s CIA director outlines plans to make agency more aggressive, cut red tape

Mike PompeoThe man appointed by President Donald Trump to lead the United States Central Intelligence Agency has outlined his plans to promote more aggressive intelligence operations and combat what he described as “red tape” in the agency’s culture. Mike Pompeo, a former aerospace and oil executive, who is a member of the conservative Tea Party movement, assumed the directorship of the CIA in January of this year. He succeeded John Brennan, a career CIA officer, who has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration’s attitude to intelligence since he left office in January.

On Wednesday, Pompeo was the keynote speaker at a one-day conference on intelligence, hosted at George Washington University in Washington, DC. Entitled Ethos and Profession of Intelligence, the conference was co-sponsored by George Washington University and the CIA. In his speech, Pompeo outlined his plans to make CIA operations more aggressive and cut back what he repeatedly described as “red tape” at the agency. He based his observations on his opinion that the CIA is slow, not agile enough, and excessively centralized in its decision making. He added that, to better protect American national security, the Agency should engage in more offensive methods of intelligence collection. He went on to state that the most effective way to make the CIA more agile as an organization was to decentralize its decision-making processes. To do so, he said, decisions had to be pushed “to the lowest level possible”, thus allowing CIA station chiefs around the world to “call the shots” on operations. That was especially applicable to “tactical issues”, where the person with the most direct knowledge of the situation “is rarely me or anyone in my senior leadership team”, said Pompeo.

The CIA director went on to say that his plan is to “cut red tape” through various ways. One such way is reducing the numbers of CIA personnel that are required to review and approve intelligence operations, he said. Another way is increasing the number of CIA operations officers stationed abroad, thus placing CIA personnel closer to the agency’s intelligence targets. The goal is to “deploy our people, tools and resources into the heart of the fight”, said Pompeo. The CIA director concluded his remarks by saying he wants to instill a new culture at the Agency, based on the motto: “If you are in a process and you’re not adding value, get out of the way”.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 05 October 2017 | Permalink

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US spy agencies are significantly expanding operations against Russia

CIAAmerican intelligence agencies are diverting counterterrorist resources to Russian accounts, prompting some commentators to describe the move as the greatest expansion of spy operations against Russia since the Cold War. In a leading article published on Wednesday, The Washington Post’s Greg Miller cites unnamed United States officials in describing “a shift in resources across spy services”. The shift allegedly reflects an increasing emphasis on Russia, with many of the resources coming from accounts focusing on terrorism threats and war zones in the Middle East and Central Asia, which were created in the aftermath of 9/11.

In contrast to the Cold War, when US intelligence agencies devoted most of their resources to the Soviet Union and its allies around the world, today the US Intelligence Community designates “at most 10 percent” of its budget on espionage targeting Russia, according to Miller. But this is now beginning to change, he says, as the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has now “moved Russia up the list of intelligence priorities for the first time since the Soviet Union’s collapse” in 1991. This move, which reflects current national-security priorities in the White House, will have a spiraling effect on the resources devoted to Russia by every American intelligence agency. There will be more human intelligence collection conducted by the CIA against Russian targets, more attention paid by the National Security Agency to Russian communications, and more reconnaissance activity over Russia by satellites operated by the National Reconnaissance Office, among other changes.

This change in direction comes after a prolonged period of tension between Washington and Moscow, which has been marked by America’s intervention in North Africa during the Arab Spring, which Moscow strongly objected to, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the Syrian Civil War, and numerous instances of cyber espionage. As a result, says Miller, “surging tensions now cut across nearly every aspect of the US-Russia relationship”. He adds that some voices in Washington have raised concerns about the slow response by the US Intelligence Community to Russia’s resurgence as a world actor, especially in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He quotes one unnamed senior US intelligence official as saying that American spy agencies are now “playing catch-up big time with Russia”. However, some US officials stress that, given the level of reduction in US intelligence capabilities targeting Russia since 1991, it will take years to rebuild them. Regardless, they say, there is no desire in Washington to return to Cold War levels of intelligence activity any time soon.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 September 2016 | Permalink