Wartime has been a force multiplier for espionage ever since the Revolutionary War, when General George Washington was the founding father of the art of intelligence. In World War II, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) advanced the practice, albeit tragically, with its Cassia Ring espionage network. These particular “glorious ...

After the attacks of 9/11, the first American killed in the war in Afghanistan was CIA officer Johnny Micheal Spann. He was attacked by Taliban fighters who supposedly had surrendered. The Marine-turned-CIA-operations officer was able to warn a CIA colleague of the danger before he gave his own life. The ...

Emotions run higher on a holiday, no matter one’s faith or tradition. The highs are higher and the lows lower, especially the gut punch of remembering those no longer with us. And when you’re away from loved ones, somewhere overseas, the loneliness and sadness are sharper. I want to remind ...

Alongside news about North Korean missile tests, Robert Mueller’s Russia probe and “Rexit” (Is Rex Tillerson in or out at the State Department?), we are witnessing almost daily reporting of sexual harassment allegations against powerful men in entertainment, media, politics and technology, leading to calls for their resignation and dismissal. ...

The intelligence community has been taking body blows lately – with Friday’s WikiLeaks dump of CIA hacking tools and a report in The New York Times discusses just how damaging the August 2016 Shadow Brokers thefts from NSA have turned out to be.  While there has been no acknowledgment by ...

The National Security Act of 1947 established the Central Intelligence Agency and the position of Director of Central Intelligence. In addition to setting the Director’s salary ($14,000 per annum) and giving him/her the power to fire CIA employees, the Act specified the various duties of the new CIA relating to ...

In our continuing drive to spur healthy debate in the national security space, The Cipher Brief is running TCB expert John Sipher’s book review in riposte to our podcast with author Daniel Golden. We also invite you to join in the conversation, posting your point of view for submission at ...

In our continuing drive to spur healthy debate in the national security space, The Cipher Brief is sharing this op-ed from Philip Zelikow, the Former Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission, responding to a particular allegation about CIA information sharing with the FBI before the attacks of Sept. 11 on New ...

The CIA announced on Wednesday the release of hundreds of thousands of additional files recovered in the May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. “Today’s release of recovered al-Qa‘ida letters, videos, audio files and other materials provides the opportunity for the American people to gain further ...

CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday warned North Korea may be only months away from being able to launch a nuclear-tipped missile at the United States. “They are closer now than they were five years ago. And I expect they will be closer in five months than they are today, ...

The Trump administration’s nominee for CIA inspector general faced tough questions from lawmakers over his handling of whistleblower complaints, and his handling of a classified Senate document on allegations of torture by the agency. The CIA’s agency’s acting inspector general Christopher Sharpley was grilled about three outstanding whistleblower allegations against ...

The United States is confronting a wide array of national security challenges ranging from North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and Russia’s subversive cyber activities, to the perpetual threat of terrorism and security along the southern border. As Representative of the 23rd district of Texas, Congressman Will Hurd has used his background ...

The United States has long sought to export its system of liberal democracy abroad. In places where military juntas and dictators have risen – and U.S. national interest aligns – American intelligence, particularly the CIA, has sought to effect regime change through covert measures to include information campaigns and direct ...

Regime change has recently come up in media reports about North Korea on a frequent basis, but what does the term mean from a legal standpoint for U.S. intelligence? In a July interview with New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said “the most important thing the ...

It is easy to see why regime change could be appealing to foreign policymakers. Why bother to persuade, bribe, or threaten a defiant foreign country when you could support opposition groups who promise to align their policies with the goals of the U.S. leadership? The issue of regime change has ...

Robert Hanssen. Aldrich Ames. Those are just two of the faces peering out from a mock-up “Wall of Shame” of double agents and leakers that leads down a hallway to the United States government's senior counterintelligence official’s office. The pictures in the nondescript office building just outside Washington, D.C. serve ...

CIA Director Mike Pompeo signaled Thursday that a key goal of the Trump administration is to “separate” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un from control over Pyongang’s nuclear capabilities. "It would be a great thing to denuclearize the peninsula, to get those weapons off of that, but the thing that is ...

President Trump has decided to end the CIA-sponsored program to arm Syrian anti-Assad rebels, according to a Washington Post report on Wednesday.  The newspaper quotes U.S. officials as saying the decision to wind down the Obama-era program was made almost one month ago after a meeting in the Oval Office ...

President Trump has decided to end the CIA-sponsored program to arm Syrian anti-Assad rebels, according to a Washington Post report on Wednesday. The newspaper quotes U.S. officials as saying the decision to wind down the Obama-era program was made almost one month ago after a meeting in the Oval Office ...

The Trump Administration is ending the covert program to support Syrian rebels fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to the Washington Post. This CIA program, in place since 2013, armed and trained the moderate rebels in the war-torn country, a dynamic disliked by Assad’s main backer – ...

The dueling Republican and Democratic talking points on Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election were on full display during the recent testimony of former CIA Director John Brennan to the House Intelligence Committee. Democratic members and surrogates concentrated their attention on potential abuse of power and obstruction of justice, ...

Few were paying attention, but the CIA did something groundbreaking in 2015. For the first time since before man walked on the moon, the Agency created a new directorate. The idea was to move officers into the age of cyber, to arm them with the kinds of digital skills they ...

How far-fetched are James Bond’s gadgets or shows like Mission Impossible, where under-cover agents switch into different disguises? Not as far-fetched as you think. The CIA’s Office of Technical Service (OTS) is in charge of creating all those gadgets and disguises. Jonna Mendez, who spent 27 years at the CIA, ...

Zero-day vulnerabilities -- security flaws in commercial software or hardware for which developers haven’t devised a patch -- have existed since the dawn of the Digital Age, but today, former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden said at a meeting of cyber security experts convened by The Cipher Brief, they’re ...

CIA Director Mike Pompeo called WikiLeaks a “non-state, hostile intelligence service” that is “often abetted by state actors like Russia” in his first public speech since becoming the head of the intelligence agency. Pompeo said Thursday during an address at the the Center for Strategic and International Studies that WikiLeaks ...

Now that President Donald Trump has demonstrated his willingness to get tough with a regional bad actor by using a cruise missile attack to punish the Assad regime and try to deter it from any future uses of chemical weapons, similar deterrent actions against challenging Iranian behavior seem more likely. ...

Wikileaks’ “Vault7” disclosure last month of apparent CIA hacking tools marked the third recent incident in which an inadvertent public release of alleged government hacking techniques has sent the private sector scrambling to protect users. The two others involved a release of alleged NSA tools by group that calls itself ...

Less than two months after taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump’s approach to drone strikes appears to be taking shape. Although the Trump Administration has yet to articulate a comprehensive drone policy, recent actions and reports demonstrate Trump’s intentions to roll back some of the procedures and restraints put in ...

Viewers can’t step out for popcorn while watching Homeland, or they might miss a fleeting glimpse of a person or object in a scene that foreshadows a later plot twist. Last week, while Dar toured the domestic propaganda operation, he noticed a photo on the computer of his co-conspirator, right ...

The process of “unmasking,” or revealing the true identities of U.S. persons who unexpectedly figure into conversations picked up by National Security Agency (NSA) foreign intelligence collection efforts, has been the subject of much discussion this week in the continuing controversy over Russian interference in last year’s elections. The issue ...

Enhanced Interrogation: Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying to Destroy America is a firsthand account of the CIA’s controversial interrogation program – which most famously included such techniques as waterboarding – by one of its architects, psychologist James Mitchell, who also served as an interrogator, and ...

A recent narrative has taken hold among journalists and pundits that a “deep state” is behind the recent flood of leaks embarrassing the Trump Administration.  It is a notion that the Administration and its supporters have firmly embraced.  The claim is that Obama holdovers in the Intelligence Community (IC) are ...

The prospect of foiling the plot against the President-elect appears even bleaker as the CIA’s Dar Adal stymies our heroes at every turn. By the end of this episode, Saul’s planned meeting between President-elect Keane and Iran Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) chief Javadi backfires miserably, and Quinn is almost murdered by ...

The leak of documents allegedly describing secret CIA hacking techniques has shined a light on the intelligence agency’s use of contractors and its efforts to tackle the insider threat problem. WikiLeaks published the documents on Tuesday, and the CIA has not confirmed the authenticity of the files. Little is known ...

At the outset of a new administration, it is prudent for incoming officials to bring CIA expertise in and look back at covert action, exploring what’s worked, what’s fallen short, and why. Presidents since George Washington have come to understand that strategic opportunity sometimes lies in the shadows. Since the ...

The CIA’s Dar Adal was eventually revealed as the mastermind of a plot against the incoming President, but in this episode, the villain emerges as the very personification of evil. We shouldn’t be surprised. Dar’s warped conspiracy has involved a terrorist attack on U.S. soil to undermine an incoming president ...

WikiLeaks on Tuesday published what it claims to be the CIA’s hacking techniques to exploit devices such as smart phones, computers, and Internet-connected televisions for the collection of intelligence around the world. If proven to be authentic, it “will be a huge benefit to our adversaries,” says Michael Morell, the ...

Should government officials be licensed or pass a test before they can receive intelligence? The debate about whether to believe intelligence reporting on Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) highlights a chronic problem.  Steps were taken to improve collection, analysis, and reporting in response to the wildly wrong ...

This week The Cipher Brief’s Executive Producer and Reporter Leone Lakhani speaks to John Nixon, author of “Debriefing The President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein.” John, who spent much of his career profiling Saddam, was the first CIA analyst to question the Iraqi leader after his capture. In the first ...

The central plot of this season’s Homeland has now been revealed to be a full-blown right wing conspiracy against an incoming President considered soft on terrorism. To strengthen the U.S. fight against terrorism, our conspirators have committed a terrorist act themselves and routinely murder anyone who could expose their plot. ...

There has been much said about how often President-elect Donald Trump takes his Presidential Daily Brief (PDB), the Intelligence Community’s (IC) assessment of key national security threats.  The PDB is critical, and reports that the President-elect has upped the frequency to three times a week are encouraging.   As someone who ...

The previous episode of Homeland ended not with a whimper but a bang when the "Medina Medley" van driven by Sekou Bah exploded on a busy Manhattan street. In the same episode, Peter Quinn tracked a shadowy stranger to the Medina van parking lot. While watching news coverage of the ...

In the final few days of the Obama Administration, CIA Director John Brennan, after consulting with the Director of National Intelligence, brought years of CIA and interagency efforts to a close by updating the CIA’s decades-old procedures for collecting, retaining, or disseminating information concerning United States (U.S.) persons.  These updated ...

This season’s parallel plots begin to converge in episode four. Carrie’s houseguest, Peter Quinn, still recovering from his near-death experience, hasn’t been involved in the political machinations between the President-elect and the CIA or in the FBI terrorism case against young Sekou Bah. In this episode, he is subtly woven ...

When President Dwight Eisenhower left office, he told his successor, John F. Kennedy, that Laos was one of the United States’ most important foreign policy issues. As America tried to contain the spread of communism, Laos became the battlefield for the Operation Momentum, the CIA’s largest covert operation. The Cipher ...

It was early 2010, and I was visiting one of CIA’s largest stations overseas.  The CIA, just weeks earlier, had lost seven brave officers to a suicide bomber at a remote base in Khost, Afghanistan.  It was the worst loss of life in a single day for the CIA since ...

On January 25, 2017, during his first post-election press interview, President Donald Trump was asked, “do you want waterboarding?” In his response, the President said, “I will say this, I will rely on [Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Mike] Pompeo and [Secretary of Defense James] Mattis and my group. ...

It is not clear whether a group of Russians arrested on charges of treason for helping U.S. intelligence, involve CIA assets, despite a claim to the contrary, two former CIA Russia specialists said Wednesday. The three people arrested were identified by lawyer Ivan Pavlov as Sergei Mikhailov and Dmitry Dokuchayev, ...

Top former national security leaders are questioning a draft executive order that calls for a policy review to potentially authorize the CIA to reopen overseas “black site” prisons to detain suspected terrorists. It would also look at reviving “enhanced interrogation techniques” — methods that even President Donald Trump refers to ...

The cultural shift stemming from a “need-to-know” to a “need-to-share” atmosphere in the intelligence community in the wake of 9/11 has been necessary to operate in today’s complex environment, experts and former national security officials say, but elements of the system may need an overhaul to tackle the increased insider ...