Obama used NSA & FBI to spy on Trump – veteran CIA officer Gary Berntsen

RT – SophieCo, March 17, 2017: (go to RT for video)

The mighty CIA has fallen victim to a major breach, with WikiLeaks revealing the true scope of the Agency’s ability for cyber-espionage. Its tools seem to be aimed at ordinary citizens – your phone, your car, your TV, even your fridge can become an instrument of surveillance in the hands of the CIA. How does the CIA use these tools, and why do they need them in the first place? And as WikiLeaks promises even more revelations, how is all of this going to shape the already tense relationship between new president and the intelligence community? A man who has spent over two decades in the CIA’s clandestine service – Gary Berntsen is on SophieCo.

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Sophie Shevardnadze: Gary Berntsen, former CIA official, welcome to the show, great to have you with us. Now, Vault 7, a major batch of CIA docs revealed by Wikileaks uncovers the agency’s cyber tools. We’re talking about world’s most powerful intelligence agency – how exactly did the CIA lose control of its arsenal of hacking weapons?

Gary Berntsen: First off, I’d like to say that the world has changed a lot in the last several decades, and people are communicating in many different ways and intelligence services, whether they be American or Russian, are covering these communications and their coverage of those communications has evolved. Without commenting on the specific validity of those tools, it was clear that the CIA was surely using contractors to be involved in this process, not just staff officers, and that individuals decided that they had problems with U.S. policy, and have leaked these things to Wikileaks. This is a large problem, for the U.S. community, but just as the U.S. is having problems, the Russia face similar problems. Just this week you had multiple members of the FSB charged with hacking as well, and they have been charged by the U.S. government. So both services who are competitors, face challenges as we’ve entered a new era of mass communications.

SS: So like you’re saying, the leaker or leakers of the CIA docs is presumably a CIA contractor – should the agency be spending more effort on vetting its own officers? Is the process rigorous enough?

GB: Clearly. Look… There have been individuals since the dawn of history. Espionage is the second oldest occupation, have conducted spying and espionage operations, and there have been people who have turned against their own side and worked for competitors and worked for those opposing the country or the group that they’re working with. It’s been a problem from the beginning, and it continues to be a problem, and the U.S. clearly is going to have to do a much better job at vetting those individuals who are given security clearances, without a doubt.

SS: The CIA studied the flaws in the software of devices like iPhones, Androids, Smart TVs, apps like Whatsapp that left them exposed to hacking, but didn’t care about patching those up –  so, in essence the agency chose to leave Americans vulnerable to cyberattacks, rather than protect them?

GB: I think you have to understand, in this world that we’re operating and the number one target of our intelligence community are terrorists. Since the attacks of 9\11, 16 years ago, the obsession of the American intelligence community is to identify those planning terrorist attacks, collecting information on them and being able to defeat them. These individuals are using all these means of communication. I have spoken with many security services around the world, since my retirement back in 2005-2006, a lot of them have had problems covering the communications of somebody’s very devices and programs that you’ve talked about – whether they be narcotraffickers or salafist jihadists, they are all piggybacking off of commercial communications. Therefore the need for modern intelligence services to sort of provide coverage of all means of communications. And there’s a price that you pay for that.

SS: One of the most disturbing parts of the leaks is the “Weeping Angel” program – CIA hacking into Samsung Smart TVs to record what’s going on even when the TV appears to be turned off. Why are the CIA’s tools designed to penetrate devices used by ordinary Western citizens at home?

GB: Look, I wouldn’t say it has anything to do with Western homes, because the CIA doesn’t do technical operations against American citizens – that’s prohibited by the law. If the CIA does anything in the U.S., it does it side-by-side with the FBI, and it does it according to FISA – the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act laws. It’s gotta go to the judge to do those things. Those tools are used primarily against the individuals and terrorists that are targeting the U.S. or other foreign entities that we see as a significant threat to the U.S. national security, which is the normal functioning of any intelligence service.

SS: Just like you say, the CIA insists it never uses its investigative tools on American citizens in the US, but, we’re wondering, exactly how many terrorist camps in the Middle East have Samsung Smart TVs to watch their favorite shows on? Does it seem like the CIA lost its direction?

GB: Plenty of them.

SS: Plenty?…

GB: I’ve travelled in the Middle East, Samsungs are sold everywhere. Sophie, Samsung TVs are sold all over the world. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East, I’ve seen them in Afghanistan, I’ve seen them everywhere. So, any kind of devices that you can imagine, people are using everywhere. We’re in a global economy now.

SS: The CIA has tools to hack iPhones – but they make up only around 15 % of the world’s smartphone market. IPhones are not popular among terrorists, but they are among business and political elites – so are they the real target here?

GB: No. The CIA in relative terms to the size of the world is a small organisation. It is an organisation that has roughly 20 or more thousand people – it’s not that large in terms of covering a planet with 7 billion people. We have significant threats to the U.S. and to the Western world. We live in an age of super-terrorism, we live in an age when individuals, small groups of people, can leverage technology at a lethal effect. The greatest threats to this planet are not just nuclear, they are bio. The U.S. needs to have as many tools as possible to defend itself against these threats, as does Russia want to have similar types of tools to defend itself. You too, Russian people have suffered from a number of terrible terrorist acts.

SS: Wikileaks suggest the CIA copied the hacking habits of other nations to create a fake electronic trace – why would the CIA need that?

GB: The CIA, as any intelligence service, would look to conduct coverage in the most unobtrusive fashion as possible. It is going to do its operations so that they can collect and collect again and again against terrorist organisations, where and whenever it can, because sometimes threats are not just static, they are continuous.

SS: You know this better, so enlighten me: does the he CIA have the authorisation to create the surveillance tools it had in the first place? Who gives it such authorisation?

GB: The CIA was created in 1947 by the National Security Act of the U.S. and does two different things – it does FI (foreign intelligence) collection and it does CA – covert action. Its rules for collection of intelligence were enshrined in the law that created it, the CIA Act 110, in 1949, but the covert action part of this, where it does active measures, when it gets involved in things – all of those are covered by law. The Presidential finding had to be written, it had to be presented to the President. The President’s signs off on those things. Those things are then briefed to members of Congress, or the House Permanent Subcommittee for Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence. We have a very rigorous process of review of the activities of our intelligence communities in the U.S.

SS: But you’re talking about the activities in terms of operations. I’m just asking – does CIA need any authorisation or permission to create the tools it has in its arsenal? Or it can just go ahead…

GB: Those tools         and the creation of collection tools falls under the same laws that allowed the CIA to be established. And that was the 1949 Intelligence Act. And also, subsequently, the laws in 1975. Yes.

SS: So, the CIA programme names are quite colourful, sometimes wacky –  “Weeping Angel”, “Swamp Monkey”, “Brutal Kangaroo” – is there a point to these, is there any logic, or are they completely random? I always wondered…

GB: There’s absolutely no point to that, and it’s random.

SS:Okay, so how do you come up with those names? Who… like, one says: “Monkey” and another one says: “Kangaroo”?…

GB: I’m sure they are computer-generated.

SS: Trump accused Obama of wiretapping him during the campaign… Could the CIA have actually spied on the president? It seems like the agency doesn’t have the best relationship with Donald Trump – how far can they go?

GB: Let me just say this: the President used the word “wiretapping” but I think it was very clear to us that have been in the intelligence business, that this was a synonym for “surveillance”. Because most people are on cellphones, people aren’t using landlines anymore, so there’s no “wiretapping”, okay. These all fall under the Intelligence Surveillance Act, as I stated earlier, this thing existing in the U.S.. It was clear to President Trump and to those in his campaign, after they were elected, and they did a review back that the Obama Administration sought FISA authorisation to do surveillance of the Trump campaign in July and then in October. They were denied in July, they were given approval in October, and in October they did some types of surveillance of the Trump campaign. This is why the President, of course, tweeted, that he had been “wiretapped” – of course “wiretapping” being a synonym for the surveillance against his campaign, which was never heard of in the U.S. political history that I can remember, I can’t recall any way of this being done. It’s an outrage, and at the same time, Congressional hearings are going to be held and they are going to review all of these things, and they are going to find out exactly what happened and what was done. It’s unclear right now, but all we do know – and it has been broken in the media that there were two efforts, and at the second one, the authorisation was given. That would never have been done by the CIA, because they don’t do that sort of coverage in the U.S.. That would either be the FBI or the NSA, with legal authorities and those authorities… the problem that the Trump administration had is they believed that the information from these things was distributed incorrectly. Any time an American –  and this is according to the U.S. law – any time an American is on the wire in the U.S., their names got to be minimized from this and it clearly wasn’t done and the Trump administration was put in a bad light because of this.

SS: If what you’re saying is true, how does that fall under foreign intelligence? Is that more of the FBI-NSA expertise?

GB: It was FBI and NSA – it was clearly the FBI and the NSA that were involved, it would never have been the CIA doing that, they don’t listen to telephones in the U.S., they read the product of other agencies that would provide those things, but clearly, there were individuals on those phone calls that they believed were foreign and were targeting those with potential communications with the Trump campaign. Let’s be clear here – General Clapper, the DNI for President Obama, stated before he left office, that there was no, I repeat, no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. This has been something that has been dragged out again, and again, and again, by the media. This is a continuing drumbeat of the mainstream, left-wing media of the U.S., topaint the President in the poorest light, to attempt to discredit Donald Trump.

SS: With the intelligence agencies bringing down Trump’s advisors like Michael Flynn – and you said the people behind that were Obama’s loyalists – can we talk about the intelligence agencies being too independent from the White House, playing their own politics?

GB: I think part of the problem that we’ve seen during the handover of power from President Obama to President Trump was that there was a number of holdovers that went from political appointee to career status that had been placed in the NatSec apparatus and certain parts of the intelligence organisations. It is clear that President Trump and his team are determined to remove those people to make sure that there’s a continuity of purpose and people aren’t leaking information that would put the Administration into a negative light. That’s the goal of the administration, to conduct itself consistent with the goals of securing the country from terrorism and other potential threats – whether they be counter-narcotics, or intelligence agencies trying to breach our… you know, the information that we hold secure.

SS: Here’s a bit of conspiracy theories – could it be that the domestic surveillance agencies like the NSA or the FBI orchestrated the Vault 7 leaks  – to damage CIA, stop it from infringing on their turf?

GB :I really don’t think so and that is conspiracy  thinking. You have to understand something, in the intelligence communities in the U.S., whether it be the CIA and FBI, we’ve done a lot of cross-fertilizations. When I was in senior position in CIA’s counterterrorism center, I had a deputy who was an FBI officer. An office in FBI HQ down in Washington had an FBI lead with a CIA deputy. There’s a lot more cooperation than one would think. There are individuals that do assignments in each other’s organisations to help foster levels of cooperation. I had members of NSA in my staff when I was at CIA, members of diplomatic security, members of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, and it was run like a task force, so, there’s a lot more cooperation than the media presents, they always think that there are these huge major battles between the organisations and that’s rarely true.

SS: Generally speaking – is there rivalry between American intel agencies at all? Competition for resources, maybe?

GB: I think, sometimes, between the Bureau and the CIA – the CIA is the dominant agency abroad, and the FBI is the dominant agency in the U.S. What they do abroad, they frequently have to get cleared by us, what we do domestically, we have to get cleared by them, and sometimes there’s some friction, but usually, we’re able to work this out. It makes for great news, the CIA fighting FBI, but the reality is that there’s a lot more cooperation than confrontation. We are all in the business of trying to secure the American homeland and American interests globally.

SS: I’m still thinking a lot about the whole point of having this hacking arsenal for the CIA since you talk on their behalf – the possibility to hack phones, computers, TVs and cars – if the actual terrorist attacks on US soil, like San Bernardino, Orlando are still missed?

GB: Look. There are hundreds of individuals, if not thousands, planning efforts against the U.S. at any  time. It can be many-many things. And the U.S. security services, there’s the CIA, the FBI, NSA – block many-many of these things, but it is impossible to stop them all. Remember, this is an open society here, in America, with 320 million people, here. We try to foster open economic system, we allow more immigration to America than all countries in the world combined. This is a great political experiment here, but it’s also very difficult to police. There are times that the U.S. security services are going to fail. It’s inevitable. We just have to try the best we can, do the best job that we can, while protecting the values that attract so many people to the U.S.

SS:The former CIA director John Brennan is saying Trump’s order to temporarily ban travel from some Muslim states is not going to help fight terrorism in ‘any significant way’. And the countries where the terrorists have previously come from – like Saudi Arabia, or Afghanistan, it’s true – aren’t on the list. So does he maybe have a point?

GB: John Brennan is acting more like a political operative than a former director of CIA. The countries that Mr. Trump had banned initially, or at least had put a partial, sort of a delay – where states like Somalia, Libya, the Sudan, Iran – places where we couldn’t trust local vetting. Remember something, when someone immigrates to the U.S., we have what’s called an “immigration packet”: they may have to get a chest X-ray to make sure they don’t bring any diseases with them, they have to have background check on any place they’ve ever lived, and in most of these places there are no security forces to do background checks on people that came from Damascus, because parts of Damascus are totally destroyed – there’s been warfare. It is actually a very reasonable thing for President Trump to ask for delay in these areas. Look, the Crown-Prince, the Deputy Crown-Prince of Saudi Arabia was just in the United States and met with Donald Trump, and he said he didn’t believe it was a “ban on Muslims”. This was not a “ban on Muslims”, it was an effort to slow down and to create more opportunity to vet those individuals coming from states where there’s a preponderance of terrorist organisations operating. A reasonable step by President Trump, something he promised during the campaign, something he’s fulfilling. But again, I repeat – America allows more immigration into the U.S., than all countries combined. So, we really don’t need to be lectured on who we let in and who we don’t let in.

SS: But I still wonder if the Crown-Prince would’ve had the same comment had Saudi Arabia been on that ban list. Anyways, Michael Hayden, ex-CIA…

GB: Wait a second, Sophie – the Saudis have a reasonable form to police their society, and they provide accurate police checks. If they didn’t create accurate police checks, we would’ve given the delay to them as well.

SS: Ok, I got your point. Now, Michael Hayden, ex-CIA and NSA chief, pointed out that the US intelligence enlists agents in the Muslim world with the promise of eventual emigration to America – is Trump’s travel ban order going to hurt American intelligence gathering efforts in the Middle East?

GB: No, the question here – there were individuals that worked as translators for us in Afghanistan and Iraq and serving in such roles as translators, they were promised the ability to immigrate to the United States. Unfortunately, some of them were blocked in the first ban that was put down, because individuals who wrote that, didn’t consider that. That has been considered in the re-write, that the Trump administration had submitted, which is now being attacked by a judge in Hawaii, and so it was taken into consideration, but… the objective here was to help those that helped U.S. forces on the ground, especially those who were translators, in ground combat operations, where they risked their lives alongside American soldiers.

SS:You worked in Afghanistan – you were close to capturing Bin Laden back in 2001 – what kind of spying tools are actually used on the ground by the CIA to catch terrorists?

GB: The CIA as does any intelligence service in the world, is a human business. It’s a business where we work with local security forces to strengthen their police and intelligence forces, we attempt to leverage them, we have our own people on the ground that speak the language, we’re trying to help build transportation there. There’s no “secret sauce” here. There’s no super-technology that changes the country’s ability to conduct intelligence collections or operations. In Afghanistan the greatest thing that the U.S. has is broad support and assistance to Afghan men and women across the country. We liberated half of the population, and for women were providing education, and when the people see what we were doing: trying to build schools, providing USAID projects – all of these things – this makes the population willing to work with and support the United States. Frequently, members of the insurgence groups will see this and sometimes they do actually cross the lines and cooperate with us. So, it’s a full range of American political power, whether it’s hard or soft, that is the strength of the American intelligence services – because  people in the world actually believe – and correctly so – that American more than generally a force of good in the world.

SS: Gary, thank you so much for this interesting interview and insight into the world of the CIA. We’ve been talking to Gary Berntsen, former top CIA officer, veteran of the agency, talking about the politics of American intelligence in the Trump era. That’s it for this edition of SophieCo, I will see you next time.

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While searching for the RT video on YouTube I found this recent interview with Gary Berntsen by Newsfirst Sri Lanka:

Islamic State Adapting & Improving Its Escape/Evasion Tactics/Tradecraft

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Image source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-tricks-make-isis-once-easily-tracked-a-sophisticated-opponent-1473613106

Fortuna’s Corner, by R. C. Porter, Sept. 12, 2016:

Sam Schechner and Benoit Faucon had a September 11, 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal with an all too familiar theme — that the adversary is evading our attempts to surveil them — by adapting and enhancing their escape and evasion tradecraft.  Our lack of critical human intelligence (HUMINT) can be blamed on a clever adversary who has learned from their past mistakes, our inability to deeply penetrate their inner sanctum, and self-inflicted/unforced errors like closing Guantanamo Bay Prison without identifying a viable alternative.

     Getting a reliable, and highly successful human spy ensconced deep within the adversary’s lair has always been one of the most difficult intelligence collection challenges since time immemorial.  Napoleon Bonaparte once said that “one well placed spy was worth two battalions.”  Now, one well-placed spy could be worth an entire city.

     Our success in the targeted killing of the ISIS leadership no doubt sowed a heavy dose of mistrust and paranoia within the group’s ranks; and, ultimately forced those remaining to change and adapt their techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) with respect to  how they communicate, plan operations, and travel — both locally and abroad.  The adversary gets a vote; and, it is to be expected that ISIS would adapt, change, and enhance its operational security (OPSEC) — especially as the targeted killing campaign eliminated their top leadership.  But, leaks by Edward Snowden, which revealed sensitive and highly lucrative NSA sources and methods, seemed to instill ISIS with a renewed sense of OPSEC, resulting in their use of enhanced encryption software, and other techniques to avoid our attempts to surveil them.

      As Mr. Schechner and Mr. Faucon note, “the extremists group’s communications, once commonly conducted on phones and social media accounts easily tracked by authorities [and intelligence agencies], have evolved into a mix of encrypted chat-app messages over What‘sApp and Telegram, face-to-face meetings, written notes, stretches of silence, and misdirection.”  The use of couriers, and disposable cell phones also remain a staple of their tradecraft.  The group’s move to enhanced encryption occurred within three months after the Edward Snowden leasks.  Additionally, as expressed on the group’s social media websites, ISIS members and followers were warned about Western surveillance techniques — as revealed by the Snowden leaks, and what to do to avoid them.

     The POTUS’s insistence on closing Guantanamo Bay Prison, means the United States lacks a dedicated interrogation facility where high-value targets can be taken and interrogated over a prolonged period of time.  As a result, the U.S. is forced to conduct tactical/limited interrogations overseas; and/or, depend on an ally or foreign partner to conduct these investigations — and never really being sure that such interrogations were adequate.  The next POTUS needs to reinstate Guantanamo as a dedicated interrogation facility, or settle on a useful alternative that does not unduly deprive our, and our intelligence agency partners of the opportunity to thoroughly question those who wish to kill as many Americans and Westerners as they can.

     As former CIA officer Philip Giraldi wrote in the July 23, 2014 edition of The American Conservative, “terrorists now know that using a cell phone is dangerous, that transferring money using commercial accounts can be detected [thus the increased use of Bitcoins], that moving around when a drone is overhead can be fatal [thus the increased use/employment of human shields — women/children, etc.]; and, that communicating by computer is likely to be intercepted or exposed unless it is encrypted.

     And, as Mr. Giraldi correctly observes, “technical intelligence has its limitations:  while it is excellent on picking up bits and pieces, and using sophisticated computers to work through the bulk collection of chatter, it is largely unable to learn the intentions of terrorist groups and leaders.  To do that,” he argues, “you need spies, ideally someone who is placed in the inner circle of an organization; and who is therefore — privy to decision-making.”

     But, the Intelligence Community has a very poor record when it comes to deeply penetrating a terrorist group with a well-placed human spy.  To be fair, these groups are typically close-knit, very suspicious of new-comers, and vet new members through family and tribal connections — thus making a successful HUMINT penetration challenging to say the least.

     At the end of the day, intelligence collection against a low-tech adversary, who learns our sources and methods from leaks such as Edward Snowden’s, and adapts their TTPas in clever and unexpected ways, makes them a ‘hard target’ for a reason.  All the more important that we avoid self-inflicted wounds like shuttering Guantanamo  Bay Prison — without a viable alternative — and, consider establishing a leading-edge, deep penetration center of excellence, designed to try new means and methods to collect against low-tech, hard to penetrate adversarial entities.  V/R, RCP

Also see:

CIA, Terrorism, and the Emergent New Cold War: Considerations for the New Administration

ciaBy Brian Fairchild, July 20, 2016:

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY:  In addition to the threats posed by the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and the international jihad movement, the US is also challenged by an emergent new cold war which pits the US and NATO against Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and their client states.  If ever there was a need for relevant and timely strategic assessments that can be translated into policy options, the time is now.  For the past two decades, however, CIA’s ability to collect and analyze complex strategic intelligence on key actors has degraded to an alarming level.  CIA analysts no longer have the skills to conduct long-term strategic analyses – the very job for which the Agency was created.  Instead, CIA is primarily focused on tactical counter terrorism operations, which it does very well, but these very specific tactical skill sets are quite different than those required for traditional strategic espionage operations and analysis.  Unfortunately, at present, the CIA has a world-class counter terrorism capability, but can only provide policymakers with a superficial understanding of the world and its complex issues and actors.  It is likely that the new cold war, as well as the international jihad movement will last for, at least, another generation, and the new administration that takes power in January 2017 will have to decide what kind of intelligence capability it requires.  If the US is to resume its international leadership role, however, the choice cannot be between having a world-class counter terrorism capability and a world-class strategic espionage capability.  The new administration will need both.

The Loss of CIA’s Strategic Intelligence Collection and Analysis Capability:

The decline of the Agency’s strategic collection and analysis capability began with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. CIA was created to counter the strategic threat posed by the post-WWII rise of the Soviet Union, so, the demise of the Soviet Union removed the Agency’s raison d’etre, and it was forced to begin downsizing and reorienting personnel. The government, as well as politicians from both political parties were more than eager to spend the so-called “peace dividend”, the considerable amount of money that had funded CIA’s anti-Soviet Cold War operations, on their own pet projects. So, CIA stations closed all over the world, CIA’s most experienced case officers and analysts were offered “early out” bonuses in a massive downsizing, and fewer and fewer strategic analyses were written.

For a decade after the Soviet collapse, CIA drifted in search of a new mission, which it finally found after the 9/11 attacks – al Qaeda and counter terrorism. The Agency’s approach, however, wasn’t to add counter terrorism as one of its vital strategic missions, but to make counter terrorism its primary mission.  More importantly, it didn’t attempt to strategically understand its new enemy.  Rather, it chose a tactical approach adopting the military’s “find, fix, and finish” operational concept to kill or capture individual terrorists, but it never attempted to strategically understand the very engine that propelled al Qaeda and the international jihad movement – Salafi-jihadi ideology.

The Agency’s almost total focus on counter terrorism has had dire consequences for its charter as the nation’s premier civilian strategic intelligence agency according to former CIA director Michael Hayden, who expressed his concerns in a March 2016 interview with the Guardian:

  • “It started while I was still in office. I began to notice a problem that the more time goes by, the more our focus on the war on terror has created deficits in other places. Since I have left, the deficit has only grown…We have become extremely focused on current threats and in dealing with them…Much of what we call ‘intelligence analysis’ currently done in American intelligence is focused on specific targets: trying to make sure no one boards a plane with a bomb, for example. There is a natural tendency to focus on the urgent, the immediate, and I do think it comes at the expense of the more long-term, strategic elements.”

Hayden hit the nail on the head when he briefed incoming CIA director David Petraeus telling him:

  • ‘Dave, you realize the CIA’s never looked more like the OSS than it does right now? That’s good. It’s kept America safe. But, Dave, you’ve got to know we’re not the OSS. We’re the nation’s global espionage service and you need to remind yourself and the institution every day that it’s got this broader mission”

Hayden understands the absolute requirement to prevent another 9/11-type attack, but conceded that what concerns him most is what CIA is not doing – developing intelligence on the existential threats to the United States.  He described these existential threats as:

“…states that are ambitious, fragile and nuclear. I put Iran and North Korea and Pakistan and even the Russians in there. Now if that heads south, that’s much worse…Now if you run the timeline out to the 10-year point, it’s China. I’m not saying China’s an enemy of the United States of America. I’m just simply saying that if we do not handle the emergence of the People’s Republic well, it will be catastrophic for the world.”

Hayden is not alone in expressing concern about CIA’s departure from its traditional mission.  In March 2013, the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board issued a report that stated that the CIA and the Intelligence Community had neglected its coverage of vitally important strategic flashpoints such as the Middle East and China, opting to focus on “military support” operations instead.  Its co-chairman David L. Boren stated that “The intelligence community has become to some degree a military support operation”, adding that the deployment of Agency personnel and resources to only counterterrorism assignments “needs to be changed as dramatically as it was at the end of the Cold War.”  Worse, he described a generation of spies that no longer know how to do traditional spy work, stating “So far, nearly all of their experience has been in what I would call military support…Almost none of it has been in traditional intelligence-gathering and analysis.”

Senator Barbara Mikulski, a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, pressed home the same points during her questioning of John Brennan at his Senate confirmation hearing as CIA director in 2013:

  • “I have been concerned for some time that there is a changing nature of the CIA, and that instead of it being America’s top human spy agency to make sure that we have no strategic surprises, that it has become more and more, executing paramilitary operations…I see this as mission creep. I see this as overriding the original mission of the CIA…and more a function of the Special Operations Command.”

CIA’s degraded strategic analysis capability is also well documented in Congressional post-9/11 investigations.  A now declassified Top Secret report issued in February 2002 by the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees’ Joint Inquiry (JI) found that:

  • “Prior to September 11, the Intelligence Community’s understanding of al-Qa’ida was hampered by insufficient analytic focus and quality, particularly in terms of strategic analysisThese analytic deficiencies seriously undercut the ability of U.S. policymakers to understand the full nature of the threat, and to make fully informed decisions.”

And a report by CIA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), published in 2007, found that the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center (CTC) was primarily tactical, stating:

  • “…Before 9/11…the Center’s focus was primarily operational and tactical. While focusing on operations is critically important and does not necessarily mean that other elements of mission will be ignored, the Team found that this nearly exclusive focus – which resulted in many operational successes – had a negative impact on CTC’s effectiveness as a coordinator of IC counterterrorism strategy”

Also in 2007, John G. Heidenrich, a highly experienced intelligence analyst, issued a critique that couldn’t be more relevant to this paper.  In The State of Strategic Intelligence: The Intelligence Community’s Neglect of Strategic Intelligence, published on CIA’s website, he announced that:

  • During the past decade and a half, since the Cold War, the production and use of strategic intelligence by the United States government has plunged to egregiously low levels. This decline is badly out of sync with the broader needs of the republic, fails to meet the nation’s foreign policy requirements, ill-serves the country’s many national security officials, and retards the developing prowess of its intelligence analysts.”

Of particular importance, however, is a report published in January 2010, by then Major General Michael T. Flynn, in his capacity as the intelligence czar for all intelligence in Afghanistan – the CJ-2 for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).  His highly critical assessment of the performance of CIA and the intelligence community in the active war zone was stunning.  In Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan, he opened by summarizing the assessment with this scathing proclamation:

  • “Eight years into the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. intelligence community is only marginally relevant to the overall strategy. Having focused the overwhelming majority of its collec­tion efforts and analytical brainpower on insurgent groups, the vast intel­ligence apparatus is unable to answer fundamental questions about the envi­ronment in which U.S. and allied forces operate and the people they seek to persuade.  Ignorant of local economics and landowners, hazy about who the powerbrokers are and how they might be influenced, incurious about the cor­relations between various development projects and the levels of coopera­tion among villagers, and disengaged from people in the best position to find answers – whether aid workers or Afghan soldiers – U.S. intelligence offi­cers and analysts can do little but shrug in response to high level decision-mak­ers seeking the knowledge, analysis, and information they need to wage a successful counterinsurgency.”

Perhaps most enlightening from the perspective of this paper, are the adjectives the General used to describe the American intelligence officers about whom he is writing:  “Ignorant”, “hazy”, “incurious”, and “disengaged” – these characteristics are the absolute antithesis of a professional intelligence officer and show how far US national strategic intelligence analysis capability has fallen.  There can be no more serious indictment of an American intelligence agency than its irrelevance in an active war zone in which American men and women are daily paying the ultimate price.

The Emergent New Cold War:

Unfortunately, Hayden’s “ambitious, fragile, and nuclear” states are already on the move, but his timeline for problems with China has moved-up considerably.  China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea and their client states now comprise a bloc pitted against the US and Europe in an emergent new cold war, which appears to be deepening on a weekly basis.

In January 2016, US European Command listed Russia as its number one security priority recommending a US military build-up in Europe, and approximately two weeks after that, Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev told the audience of the Munich Security Conference that we have slid into a new period of cold war.  The Polish president agreed with him a few days later stating that Russia was fomenting the new cold war, and at roughly the same time, NATO Supreme Commander, American General Philip Breedlove announced that Russia poses a long-term threat to the US and its European allies.

In the past six months, reports of hostility, geopolitical competition, nuclear threats, and proxy warfare between the actors of the new cold war are overwhelming.  In a development not even seen during the Cold War, Russian intelligence operatives have launched a campaign of thuggery to aggressively and physically assault American diplomatic personnel in Russia and throughout Europe.  American military commanders have warned that Russian and Chinese nuclear submarines are challenging American power in the Atlantic and the Pacific, and the commander of Strategic Command warns that both China and Russia are developing advanced space weapons designed to be “disruptive and destructive counter-space capabilities” targeted at the US.  Moreover, on numerous occasions, Russia and China have intentionally and aggressively used their fighter jets in provocative close intercepts of American military aircraft and warships.  Russia, Iran, and Syria are jointly cooperating against US interests in the Middle East, which CIA director Brennan says is more unstable than at any time in the past 50 years, and the Iranian-backed radical Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr, has threatened to target US troops in Iraq.  In addition, China claims total sovereignty over the entire South China Sea and is creating man-made militarized islands throughout the area including installation of surface to air missiles in order to defend their claim, and it threatens military action against the US if it does so.  Meanwhile, North Korea, China’s client state, frequently conducts illegal nuclear and ballistic missile tests and threatens other provocative military actions.

State of Play – CIA’s Clandestine Service:

CIA’s charter demands that it aggressively collect and analyze intelligence against each and every one of these strategic challenges in order to provide the president and his senior policymakers with the best intelligence with which to plan US strategic responses.

Unfortunately, that would require the reallocation of the majority of CIA’s manpower, budget, and planning that are now dedicated to its primary mission – terrorism.  To make matters worse, CIA’s Clandestine Service is no longer a foreign service in the true sense of the term.  Rather, its counter terrorism officers, most of whom have military special operations backgrounds, live in the US and are temporarily assigned overseas for four to six month tours, or periodically “surge” to foreign locations for special assignments, after which they return home.  As one would expect, their expertise is on terrorist individuals and networks, weapons capabilities, how to integrate and work jointly with US and foreign military forces, and how to conduct clandestine military/paramilitary operations.

In 2005, new CIA director Porter Goss experienced this dilemma first hand.  In a speech he gave to CIA personnel, he admitted that CIA’s clandestine service was no longer a global service with deep experience overseas, but a US-located pool that would occasionally “surge” abroad on temporary assignments.  In the speech, he explained to his clandestine service officers why they needed to actually live and serve in foreign countries:

  • “I have talked much about Field forward. You cannot understand people overseas, much less influence them, from Langley. You cannot develop deep and trusting relationships with individuals and with governments overseas by flying in and flipping out a U.S. passport. We are working to change the ratio so that we have more of our case officers out in the field under new kinds of cover in places where they can do what they need to do for us…. “Surging” CIA officers instead of having an established presence, an expertise, and developed relationships at hand, is a poor formula, in my opinion. When I say we need to be global, this is an admission that we are not in all of the places we should be. We don’t have this luxury anymore.”

New Requirements:

The Agency has been able to sustain its counter terrorism orientation from 9/11 until now, but the targets listed above will require vastly different “old-school” skill sets and expertise.  In the espionage arena, case officers with language capability live and work abroad where they spot, assess, develop, recruit and clandestinely run long-term penetration assets of foreign governments in order to discover their strategic plans and intentions.  This approach requires an in-depth knowledge of the country’s customs and culture as well its geopolitical history, which normally comes from years of experience on the ground, experience that CIA’s counter terrorism operators don’t have.  Cold wars, by their very definition, lack open hostilities between the main actors, so military skill sets and weapons capabilities, except in very unique circumstances, are of little use.

The Future:

The current administration was not concerned with developing a world class espionage capability because it was dedicated to withdrawing from the world stage and concentrating on its domestic agenda.  However, given the fact that the last cold war lasted for 50 years, it is likely that the new cold war will last a long time, as will the international jihad movement, so the next administration will have to deal with these realities.  If it desires to resume America’s leadership role on the world stage it will require world-class capabilities in both espionage and counter terrorism.

The requirement for a world-class strategic espionage and analysis capability is absolutely clear – as the leader of the free world the new president must understand the world he leads in all of its complexity, but he must especially understand his strategic enemies who are attempting to defeat him.

In what organization this rejuvenated capability should reside, however, is not so clear.  As the experience of director Porter Goss reveals, CIA may not be the best location.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service. He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan. Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

 

Intel Analysts: We Were Forced Out for Telling the Truth About Obama’s ISIS War

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Daily Beast, by Shane Harris and  Nancy A. Youssef, April 3, 2016:
The growing scandal over cooked ISIS intelligence just got much worse. Now, analysts are saying they’re being forced out for not toeing the Obama administration’s line on the war.

Two senior intelligence analysts at U.S. Central Command say the military has forced them out of their jobs because of their skeptical reporting on U.S.-backed rebel groups in Syria, three sources with knowledge of their claim told The Daily Beast. It’s the first known instance of possible reprisals against CENTCOM personnel after analysts accused their bosses of manipulating intelligence reports about the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS in order to paint a rosier picture of progress in the war.

One of the analysts alleging reprisals is the top analyst in charge of Syria issues at CENTCOM. He and a colleague doubted rebels’ capabilities and their commitment to U.S. objectives in the region. The analysts have been effectively sidelined from their positions and will no longer be working at CENTCOM, according to two individuals familiar with the dispute, and who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The analysts’ skeptical views put them at odds with military brass, who last year had predicted that a so-called moderate opposition would make up a 15,000-man ground force to take on ISIS in its self-declared caliphate. An initial $500 million program to train and arm those fighters failed spectacularly. And until the very end, Pentagon leaders claimed the operation was more or less on track. Lawmakers called the plan a “joke” when Gen. Lloyd Austin, the CENTCOM commander, finally testified last September that there were just “four or five” American-trained fighters in Syria.

Earlier allegations from CENTCOM, the military command responsible for overseeing the Middle East, had focused on leaders there fudging intelligence reports about U.S. efforts to attack ISIS and undermine its financing operations. That analysts are now raising red flags around reporting on Syrian rebel groups suggests that, at least from the analysts’ perspective, there is a broader systemic problem than was previously known.

The Pentagon inspector general and a congressional task force are investigating allegations of doctored intelligence reports about ISIS.

The working environment at CENTCOM has been described as “toxic” and “hostile.” As The Daily Beast previously reported, more than 50 CENTCOM analysts have said that senior officials gave more scrutiny and pushback on reports that suggested U.S. efforts to destroy ISIS weren’t progressing. Analysis that took a more optimistic view of the war effort got comparatively less attention from higher-ups.

In a separate development, the head of Iraq analysis at CENTCOM, Gregory Hooker, is being reassigned to a position in the United Kingdom, three sources knowledgeable of the transfer told The Daily Beast. Hooker was identified last year by The New York Times as leading the group of analysts that raised objections about the ISIS reports.

There was no evidence that Hooker’s reassignment was a retaliatory move by his superiors, rather some suggested he had requested the change.

But for the analysts who have accused their bosses of improper behavior, the climate has become anxious, particularly as now some fear for their jobs.

“[They] are scared all the time,” one official told The Daily Beast.

The Syria analysts spoke out after Austin directed his subordinates last year not to retaliate against anyone who voiced concerns about political influence or bias being brought to bear on intelligence analysis, said one individual knowledgeable of their complaints. More than 1,000 analysts work at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, and their reports are meant to help senior U.S. officials and policymakers understand the facts on the battlefield.

Investigators from the congressional task force have met with analysts at both CENTCOM headquarters and, last month, in Washington, half a dozen sources with knowledge of the meetings said.

Spokespersons for the task force declined to comment.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes previously told The Daily Beast that investigators were unable to obtain certain documents germane to the analysts’ allegations about altered ISIS reports, and that congressional staff had to interview the analysts in the presence of CENTCOM personnel, whom Nunes referred to as “minders.”

“They’re having a tough time talking to us,” Nunes said of the analysts whom congressional staff have interviewed in Tampa.

The Defense Department inspector general is also looking into the ISIS reports. The watchdog’s office has said the investigation, which is expected to be finished soon, “will address whether there was any falsification, distortion, delay, suppression, or improper modification of intelligence information,” as well as “personal accountability for any misconduct or failure to follow established processes.”

At CENTCOM’s intelligence unit, there’s growing anticipation for the results of the Defense Department inspector general’s investigation. Some have said they hope it will hold those they feel are responsible for altering reports, but there’s also concern that the findings will seek to downplay the severity of the problem and won’t lead to any significant changes.

At least one change is in the works. Last week, the Pentagon announced that Maj. Gen. Mark R. Quantock, currently the intelligence director of the U.S.-led military effort in Afghanistan, will take over as the head of intelligence at CENTCOM. Two officials described Quantock as a “straight shooter” who could help relieve tensions at the command headquarters.

Quantock, who is expected to arrive this summer, will replace Maj. Gen. Steven Grove, whom analysts have said is chiefly responsible for altering the ISIS reports. Grove and his civilian deputy, Gregory Ryckman, have also been accused of deleting emails and files from computer systems before the inspector general could examine them, three individuals familiar with the investigation told The Daily Beast.

Investigators from Capitol Hill and the Pentagon’s watchdog have pulled analysts away from work to ask them questions. Their colleagues try to glean insights about the course of the investigation by keeping note of who is being queried and for how long.

And in another sign of rising anxiety, some believe that that military leadership is trying to piece together which analysts have made allegations about Grove, and to whom, whether they be investigators or journalists.

Also see:

Source: Islamic State intel got rosier the closer it got to Obama

t1larg.obamapdbWashington Examiner, by  JOEL GEHRKE, March 7, 2016:

Military intelligence reports on the threat posed by the Islamic State were softened after leaving the original authors’ desks at U.S. Central Command, a congressional task force has found.

“There’s an emerging pattern that as the intelligence reports move higher in the chain-of-command, they become more rose-colored with respect to the threat from radical Islamic terror, from ISIS,” a source familiar with the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Examiner.

A congressional task force was established in December to investigate the Central Command intelligence reports after whistleblowers alleged that their analysis of the Islamic State was being manipulated to make the threat seem less severe. They haven’t established why the intelligence was skewed — whether it was due to faulty assumptions or more pernicious meddling — but they’ve found that the bureaucracy had a corrosive effect on the intelligence reports.

It’s not clear when the task force will be able to complete its work. Late last month, Republicans accused officials of deleting emails they were seeking as part of the investigation.

But the source told the Examiner that the task force has already reviewed “scores” of reports and found a clear trend. “There’s a pattern that demonstrates that [the reports] get weaker,” according to the source.

A whistleblower told Congress that military brass have been ignoring warning signs about terrorism in Iraq since the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011. “They’ve spent more money and time trying to push down this intelligence … than they have actually spending time and effort on real security,” retired Army Sgt. 1st Class William Kotel said in September.

About 50 analysts have alleged that their reports were manipulated, sparking an investigation by the Defense Department inspector general. “The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” a defense official told The Daily Beast.

A former head of military intelligence defended Central Command and said the analysts gave President Obama “very, very clear” warnings about the rise of the Islamic State. “Intelligence doesn’t stop at Central Command,” retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn said on Fox in November. “There are 16 intelligence agencies, five large ones and two that provide what we call all-source intelligence assessments. Those are the most important ones that go to the White House.”

Also see:

Miller: Did Bush Lie About Iraq?

maxresdefaultThe Daily Wire, by Aaron Bandler, March 8, 2016:
In Prager University’s latest video, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Judith Miller puts to bed the myth that former President George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Miller, who at the time was a reporter for The New York Times, says unequivocally that Bush did not lie. President Bush received intelligence from American and European arms-control experts, intelligence analysts and counterterrorism agents who had also previously provided The New York Times with information on Osama bin Laden and the rise of al-Qaeda.

“The members of the intelligence community with whom I dealt were overwhelmingly reliable, hard-working and honest,” Miller says. “But they were also human, and in the aftermath of 9/11, they were very wary of ever again underestimating a terrorist threat.”

Bipartisan investigations have determined that there is no evidence to substantiate the claim that intelligence analysts were pressured to modify their findings to push the Bush administration’s agenda.

“The 2005 commission headed by former Democratic Senator Charles Robb and Republican judge Laurence Silberman called the intelligence community’s estimates on Iraq ‘dead wrong,'” Miller said. “A year earlier, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence denounced such intelligence failures as the product of ‘groupthink’ rooted in a fear of underestimating grave threats to national security in the wake of 9/11.”

In addition, none of the Congressional committees that were briefed on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ever complained of “bias or error.” The intelligence provided to Bush was understandable given dictator Saddam Hussein’s history of using chemical weapons against his own people as well as invading his neighbors, Iran and Kuwait.

There is also no evidence that the Bush administration started the war in Iraq for oil, as they could just purchased it.

While many think that the Iraq War was a bad policy, it was not based on lies.

“They were mistakes, not lies,” concludes Miller.

In Prager University’s latest video, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Judith Miller puts to bed the myth that former President George W. Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Miller, who at the time was a reporter for The New York Times, says unequivocally that Bush did not lie. President Bush received intelligence from American and European arms-control experts, intelligence analysts and counterterrorism agents who had also previously provided The New York Times with information on Osama bin Laden and the rise of al-Qaeda.

“The members of the intelligence community with whom I dealt were overwhelmingly reliable, hard-working and honest,” Miller says. “But they were also human, and in the aftermath of 9/11, they were very wary of ever again underestimating a terrorist threat.”

Bipartisan investigations have determined that there is no evidence to substantiate the claim that intelligence analysts were pressured to modify their findings to push the Bush administration’s agenda.

“The 2005 commission headed by former Democratic Senator Charles Robb and Republican judge Laurence Silberman called the intelligence community’s estimates on Iraq ‘dead wrong,'” Miller said. “A year earlier, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence denounced such intelligence failures as the product of ‘groupthink’ rooted in a fear of underestimating grave threats to national security in the wake of 9/11.”

In addition, none of the Congressional committees that were briefed on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq ever complained of “bias or error.” The intelligence provided to Bush was understandable given dictator Saddam Hussein’s history of using chemical weapons against his own people as well as invading his neighbors, Iran and Kuwait.

There is also no evidence that the Bush administration started the war in Iraq for oil, as they could just purchased it.

While many think that the Iraq War was a bad policy, it was not based on lies.

“They were mistakes, not lies,” concludes Miller.

The Obama CIA Is Putting Diversity above National Security

(David Burnett/Newsmakers/Getty)

(David Burnett/Newsmakers/Getty)


National Review, by Fred Fleitz, Feb. 23, 2016:

America’s intelligence agencies have a serious and difficult mission: protecting our national security from a world of diverse and changing threats. These include nuclear, military, terrorist, and economic threats from nation-states and non-state actors. China is a rapidly growing intelligence, military, and cyber threat. Russia has exploited a power vacuum in the Middle East caused by President Obama’s failure to exercise leadership in the region. ISIS, which did not exist in 2009, is now a global threat and could be planning new terrorist attacks with chemical weapons and dirty bombs.

Protecting our nation from such threats requires extremely competent and capable individuals to conduct intelligence operations and write analysis in challenging security and legal environments. This means the intelligence profession needs officers who will speak truth to power, obey the law, and resist pressure to politicize analysis.

CIA Director John Brennan apparently believes otherwise and that advancing President Obama’s political and social agendas should be an important part of the CIA’s mission. This may be why Brennan recently announced his “Diversity and Inclusion Strategy (2016–2019)” to make the CIA more diverse and politically correct. Brennan says in the introduction to this strategy:

Diversity at CIA is defined as the wide range of life experiences and backgrounds needed to ensure multiple perspectives that enable us to safeguard US national security. It encompasses the collection of individual attributes that together help Agencies pursue organizational objectives efficiently and effectively. These include but are not limited to characteristics such as national origin, language, race, color, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, socio-economic status, veteran’s status and family structures.

Brennan has mandated “diversity and inclusion performance objectives for all CIA managers and supervisors and ultimately [for] the entire workforce,” so that CIA personnel must weigh diversity and gender figures in making key assignments and senior-level promotions. Brennan’s plan also includes agency-wide “unconscious bias” training.

I support a fair and equitable workplace at CIA without any form of unlawful discrimination. But this as a dangerous development because Brennan is creating diversity quotas for hiring and promotions instead of promoting a work environment that prioritizes competence and achievement.

Brennan is doing this in response to President Obama’s efforts to create a more diverse federal work force. While there may be merit in this for many U.S. government jobs, hiring and promoting intelligence officers based on diversity quotas will not, as Brennan claims, better enable CIA to safeguard our national security. The CIA’s mission is too serious to be distracted by Obama’s social-engineering efforts meant to redress real and perceived injustices in our society.

It is not unjust to hire a white male with a Ph.D. from Harvard and a background in nuclear science to analyze the Iranian nuclear program over someone with weaker credentials who is a member of a racial or gender minority. Altering the rules so the latter candidate will win a competition for such a job is not in our national interest. Adding such considerations to CIA promotion rules will further complicate the agency’s management, which is already suffering from politicization and political correctness. This is why in the CIA Directorate of Intelligence, where I worked for 19 years, many highly qualified officers refuse to apply for management jobs — or they last in them for only a few years before returning to analyst positions.

As a former CIA officer, I believe one of the worst signs of how backward the agency’s personnel system has become under Director Brennan is that his diversity plan lists Maja Lehnus as the agency’s new “Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.”  I was stunned when I read this. Ms. Lehnus served as director of the CIA Weapons Intelligence and Nonproliferation Center and the director of the National Intelligence Counterproliferation Center (NCTC). According to the NCTC website, Lehnus worked for 20 years in a wide range of CIA technical and management positions on counterproliferation and weapons of mass destruction.

At a time of growing WMD threats from North Korea, Iran, Russia, China, and ISIS, why is this brilliant WMD expert being moved from such a critical intelligence mission to a position overseeing diversity quotas?

There are two discernible reasons for this.

First, this is just the latest evidence that the Obama administration is not serious about protecting U.S. national security. We know this already, given its “leading from behind” and “strategic patience” approaches to foreign policy and constant leaks of sensitive intelligence to advance their political agenda. It therefore is not surprising that Obama would make diversity and political correctness at the CIA a higher priority than improving its analysis and operations. The fact that the administration would move one of the agency’s leading WMD experts from a senior job in her area of expertise to heading Brennan’s ludicrous diversity program is a clear sign of the CIA’s distorted priorities.

Second, there are many signs that the work of the CIA and other intelligence agencies has been thoroughly politicized by the Obama administration. CIA Director Brennan has been criticized for doctoring White House talking points on the 2011 terrorist attack on the Benghazi consulate to favor the Obama administration misrepresentation of this attack. Brennan also has straddled the fence on the legality of the CIA’s enhanced-interrogation program, probably due to pressure from the White House and Senate Democrats.

In recent years, we’ve also seen strong evidence that the White House has exerted political pressure to conform intelligence analysis to meet its agenda. More than 50 U.S. intelligence analysts working with the U.S. Central Command filed complaints with the Pentagon inspector general last year, claiming that their analyses were manipulated by senior officials to downplay the threat from ISIS and the al-Nusra Front (the al-Qaeda branch in Syria). I witnessed similar politicization of analysis at CIA last August when I attended an unclassified briefing by a senior CIA WMD analyst on the nuclear deal with Iran; the official’s assessment sounded as if it had been directly drawn from White House talking points.

The United States urgently needs intelligence agencies that are effective and innovative, and that will speak truth to power. While many of the U.S. intelligence community’s problems predate this administration, they have gotten much worse since 2009. It is vital that the next president name strong and decisive leaders to top intelligence posts. Our next commander-in-chief must stand by their efforts to conduct major reforms that will reverse the nonsensical initiative of the Obama years and improve the ability of America’s intelligence agencies to counter the national-security threats facing our nation.

These reforms should promote fair hiring and promotion practices but should not undermine the CIA’s effectiveness with politically correct schemes that will only lower standards and create quotas. Due to the life-and-death nature of CIA’s mission, it is vital that its officers be hired and promoted on the basis of competence and achievement, not misguided social-engineering schemes.

— Fred Fleitz is a former CIA analyst and a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence staff. He is now senior vice president of the Center for Security Policy. This article has been reviewed and cleared for classification reasons by the CIA Prepublication Review Board.