FRINFORMSUM 3/6/2014: Battle Rages Between CIA and Senate Intel Committee over Torture Report, Conflicting Intelligence Analysis of the Ukraine Crisis, and More.
The battle between the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee over the Committee’s scathing 6,000-page report on the CIA’s defunct detention and interrogation program escalated this week after complaints that the CIA was “inappropriately monitoring” Committee staff while it completed its report. The complaints from Congress compelled the CIA’s inspector general (IG) to begin an inquiry, and the CIA’s IG has reportedly already referred the matter to the Department of Justice for action. The 6,000-page Committee report has yet to be declassified, despite pressure from the White House that it be disclosed, “in part because of a continuing dispute with the C.I.A. over some of its conclusions.” The report has taken more than four years to complete, and has cost more than $40 million –partially because the CIA insisted that Committee staff only be allowed to review classified materials pertinent to the investigation at the agency’s secure facility in Northern Virginia, “[a]nd only after a group of outside contractors had reviewed the documents first.” According to government officials, CIA officers gained access to the computer networks used by the Committee after the CIA became concerned that the Committee itself had inappropriately gained access to parts of the CIA’s computer network it was not authorized to view.
The House Intelligence Committee is seeking explanations for conflicting intelligence reports from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the CIA, and the Office of National Intelligence on the Ukraine crisis. Lawmakers reported that a classified DIA report issued earlier this week concluded that Russia’s troop movements near the Ukrainian border would not lead to military intervention, while a classified CIA report found that while there was a possibility that Russia would intervene in Ukraine, an invasion was unlikely. A closed-door briefing to members of Congress last Thursday by Robert Cardillo, Deputy Director of National Intelligence, further reported that military action in Ukraine was not imminent. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman, Dianne Feinstein, told POLITICO that, “[w]e have to better deploy our resources… because we have large resources and it should not be possible for Russia to walk in and take over the Crimea and it’s a done deal by the time we know about it.”
While intelligence officials said it was possible that Putin’s decision to take military action was a spontaneous one, a former CIA officer speaking on the condition of anonymity argued that “the agency’s focus on counter-terrorism over the last 13 years has undermined its ability to conduct traditional espionage against key adversaries, including Russia.” The former officer further noted that the agency’s office in Kiev could not be larger than two or three agents.
The White House released an overview of Obama’s FY2015 budget request earlier this week, revealing that the administration is asking for $45.6 billion to fund the National Intelligence Budget. Matthew Aid points out that the proposal sets the goal of enhancing transparency and reforming signals intelligence programs, specifically stating that the intelligence community “will use its signals intelligence capabilities in a way that protects national security while supporting foreign policy, respecting privacy and civil liberties, maintaining the public trust, and reducing the risk of unauthorized disclosures.”
According to the agency’s inspector general report, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), which oversees the US’ intelligence satellites, makes frequent mistakes when making classification decisions. The IG report revealed that out of a sample of 134 documents, 114 contained classification mistakes. The report, which was conducted in response to the Reducing Over-Classification Act of 2010 and obtained in response to a FOIA request, found that NRO classification officials “lack sufficient knowledge of classification principles and procedures necessary to perform their duties…One OCA [original classification authority] had almost no knowledge of his responsibilities.” Secrecy News’ Steven Aftergood notes that, like other reports completed for the Reducing Over-Classification Act, “the NRO Inspector General review does not allow for the possibility that an agency could be in full compliance with classification rules and nevertheless be overclassifying information.”
The National Security Agency (NSA) recently released its fourth installment of documents on the 1968 capture of the USS Pueblo, a U.S. Navy intelligence collection ship, by North Korean forces. The 61 documents “comprise 236 pages of material, including maps, NSA memoranda, analytic assessments, chronologies, North Korean press releases, and other miscellaneous documents.” A previously declassified 1992 NSA report of the incident claimed that the massive amounts of classified material on board, as well as cipher equipment, were confiscated by the North Koreans and likely passed on to the Soviet Union and China. Despite the compromise of enormous amounts of sensitive information, LBJ conceded that “[p]robably the luckiest thing that happened to us was that we did not send people in there and have another Bay of Pigs.” The USS Pueblo is currently on display at the renovated Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in Pyongyang.