CIA prepares for dramatic changes

CIA prepares for dramatic changes
CIA Director John Brennan and top agency officers are considering organizational restructuring that could mesh long-separate spying and analysis divisions into hybrid units tasked with following individual regions and US security threats.

Current and former US intelligence officials told The Washington Post that the proposed reorganization of the spy agency’s current, decades-old structure is only in preliminary stages and could change upon further review. In September, Brennan appointed an internal CIA panel of “senior officers” to evaluate the proposal.

If ultimately approved, the restructuring could, for example, create individual centers concentrated on China or other regions of the world, or on issues for which CIA personnel are currently spread across different aspects of the agency.

The plan, sources said, could mean the entire CIA would replicate the organization of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, which demands cooperation between intelligence analysts with knowledge of groups targeted by the CIA, such as Al-Qaeda, and operators charged with dismantling them.

The plan, called ambitious by Post sources, has encountered pockets of resistance from current and former agency officials, who say the proposal could put at risk various strengths and capabilities of the CIA.

“It’s a major deal,” said a former senior CIA official close to Brennan told the Post, who added the plan would be unprecedented in scope.

In announcing the proposal and its review committee earlier this year, Brennan told CIA employees that the “rising number and complexity of security issues,” including Al-Qaeda, Syria’s civil war, and Russian-Ukrainian tension, are reasons for the possible reorganization.

“I have become increasingly convinced that the time has come to take a fresh look at how we are organized as an agency and at whether our current structure, and ways of doing business, need adjustment,” the message said, according to the Post.

Brennan did not offer specific plans in the message, but said that current divisions within the agency have hampered effectiveness when “the need for integration has never been greater” and an increasing number of the CIA missions “cut across our organizational boundaries.”

The internal panel is tasked with analyzing CIA structure and determining how Brennan’s plan could play out. They will then offer “recommendations on whether any changes should be made and, if so, what needs to be done,” said CIA spokesman Dean Boyd. This review is ongoing, Boyd added.

Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP)

The CIA’s current structure has been in place going back to the agency’s beginning, with employees working within four major units: The National Clandestine Service coordinates officers overseas in the midst of covert operations, the Directorate of Intelligence analyzes global developments and data, the third directorate handles science and technology, and the last organizes logistics for overseas operations.

While much of the agency has seen reorganization in the past, Brennan’s plan would supersede past structural changes, channeling the agency’s arms into “centers” stocked with analysts, operators, scientists, and support staffers. This bundling of the four directorates has been used by the agency in the past on the most demanding assignments, such as the monitoring of nuclear arms. The post-9/11 growth of the Counterterrorism Center punctuated the trend and pushed Brennan to propose a reorganization in CTC’s model.

“It is a formula that has worked to create focus and extraordinary energy” against Al-Qaeda and other targets, former CIA director Michael Hayden told the Post. “The challenge is organizing the entire agency along those lines.”

Hayden said he has warned the panel about disrupting the CIA’s top capabilities in the process of any restructuring. Hybrid reorganization can cause a unit like the CTC to be “consumed with the operational challenges of the moment,” Hayden added. “But you also have to pay attention to creating the basic skills, knowledge and databases.”

Some insiders told the Post that combining analysts with operators can signal greater potential for corruption.

“If you have analysts who are directly involved in helping to guide operations, there is the possibility for them to get too close to the issue and be too focused on trying to achieve a certain outcome,” one source said.

Others said teams of skilled agency practitioners from all expertise areas could improve overall mission capability.

Meanwhile, The Huffington Post reported Wednesday that negotiations between the White House and Capitol Hill over a Senate report on the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation program, which included the kidnap and torture of detainees, have come to a halt based on disagreements over what the public is allowed to see when the report is released.

The US Senate Intelligence Committee’s $40 million investigation into the CIA's Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program - which was active from September 11, 2001 to 2006 - has found that the spy agency purposely deceived the US Justice Department to attain legal justification for the use of torture techniques, among other findings. The investigation and subsequent crafting of the report ran from March 2009 to December 2012.

Of that 6,000-page investigative report, the public will only see a 500-page, partially-redacted executive summary that is in the process of declassification.