Monday, March 20, 2017

The CIA's NSA

Redundancy is a time honored USG tradition. Why buy one when you can get two for twice the price? It is not simply overpaying or padding contracts. Look at how our military has some oddities. As one long time vet explained to me, our Marines have an air force, but our Marines are the Army for our Navy. Don't forget that the Navy has an air force. The intelligence agencies are playing this game, too.

In the initial Wikileaks Vault 7 release, America really received a confirmation of its suspicions about CIA's capabilities. If you were cynical, it confirmed things whereas average Americans might have expressed shock or outrage. They probably did not as March Madness and The Bachelor are happening right now, and they live shamelessly. A few may have turned, and digging into the details is a help.

A very important reveal is that CIA built its own NSA. CIA used its black box budget, and ample increases during the Obama admin to form this NSA tech fortress. In Wikileaks release,
Since 2001 the CIA has gained political and budgetary preeminence over the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The CIA found itself building not just its now infamous drone fleet, but a very different type of covert, globe-spanning force — its own substantial fleet of hackers. The agency's hacking division freed it from having to disclose its often controversial operations to the NSA (its primary bureaucratic rival) in order to draw on the NSA's hacking capacities. 
By the end of 2016, the CIA's hacking division, which formally falls under the agency's Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5000 registered users and had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other "weaponized" malware. Such is the scale of the CIA's undertaking that by 2016, its hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had created, in effect, its "own NSA" with even less accountability and without publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified.


Similar to the Navy having its own Army, this is the CIA having its own NSA, but with a far weaker rationale than the Marines existing as a separate entity. CIA is an empire itself that operates for the nudging and control of our foreign empire, so using its unaccountable budget and power to create an NSA it can fully control makes sense. CIA has no concern for anything but its survival. Enlarging its empire to include an NSA would only harden it and make it more antifragile.

As Wikileaks notes with the drone citation, CIA has been playing turf wars with NSA and DoD. As President Obama left office, he transferred control of the drone fleet to the Pentagon. This big, beautiful fleet they had directed and controlled suddenly went over to the JSOC. As unmanned aerial vehicles and robotic fighting grows, this is a loss for CIA not just for control but for development and institutional knowledge. Defense suddenly can fill the pipeline and accrue the expertise. This does make sense for aligning units. When a target is spotted, someone has to set up the UAV for takeoff, it has to be based somewhere, a pilot flies it, targets get verified as killed. JSOC should control this weapon. Trump has allowed CIA to resume opetating some drone strikes. It is unclear how much and what are the parameters.

One can see CIA's motivations now. One can also start to see another motivation behind CIA building its own secret NSA in this 2013-2016 timeframe. What else happened in 2013 that caused a national conversation that surprisingly got little traction? Snowden. Snowden released the details about how NSA and the tech giants were snooping on you. Mr. Greenwald still has not released the entire Snowden treasure trove, but there was enough to get the talk going about NSA and if this should continue.

One possibility, and this fits the institutional fight model, is that CIA built their own NSA anticipating a massive reduction in what the NSA could do and its capabilities. CIA wanted to have an NSA to become a resource in the intelligence turf battle. If DoD gets the drones, and yes, even the CFR was calling for this in 2013, and the DIA with Michael Flynn was building up a rival intel source that was integrated with military combat units, what would CIA have? Sigint was their major investment in the '70s and '80s as they scaled back their human intel network and had to deal with Church Committee fallout.

CIA did not expect a nation to just roll over on the Snowden revelations. CIA is actually is a worse spot right now. NSA still exists in size and scope as in 2013. Why does CIA have its own NSA? Destroying this is a far easier sell to the American public, especially with a President that is supposedly a war with CIA. At a minimum, CIA looks poor arming jihadis for the last five years in Syria and picking a fight with the elected president. Even worse, their incompetence is an advertisement against them. As I joked on twitter, if CIA knows all of this information, data and can hack anything, why are they still screwing up?

CIA delenda est.

2 comments:

Denton said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQbanqJT4Uc

Read the comments

The majority is against you

Anonymous said...

Great article.