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 ...

We're revisiting a 2017 piece, when Gina Haspel was nominated to become the CIA's deputy director, after Tuesday's news that President Donald Trump is nominating her to replace Mike Pompeo, who has been named to take over from Secretary of State  Rex Tillerson. It was early 2010, and I was ...

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 ...

In this second episode, "Homeland" heroine Carrie Mathison is revealed, not surprisingly, to be a central figure in the two parallel plots launched in the season's premiere: the case against arrested jihadist Seiku Bah and the conspiracy of CIA operative Dar Adal to manipulate the incoming President. The one major ...

When the Cipher Brief folks asked me to review the latest “Tom Clancy” novel, I was hesitant.  I already have a pile of books that I actually want to read, and I usually hate these type of “thrillers.” Further, the fact that Tom Clancy is long-dead was even more of ...

President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for CIA Director, Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS), made clear in his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday that he believes Russia was involved in hacks leading up to the U.S. presidential election in an attempt to undermine America’s democratic credibility. “It’s a long-standing effort of the Russians,” ...

President-elect Donald Trump Wednesday lashed out in a press conference at reports overnight that U.S. intelligence agencies had given him, President Barack Obama, and leaders of House and Senate intelligence committees a highly classified two-page report indicating Russia has compromising and salacious personal and financial information on him. U.S. agencies, ...

The Russian hacking of the U.S. presidential campaign and the subsequent sanctions imposed by the Obama Administration continue to dominate the news this week, with President-elect Donald Trump planning to reveal what he knows that we don’t about the situation, and a Senate hearing with senior intelligence officials scheduled for ...

New presidents often think they can redefine relations with Russia. But will Washington ever get along with Moscow if the Kremlin does not share Western internationalist values? In this article from December 7, Cipher Brief experts John Sipher and Steven Hall, both former members of the CIA's Senior Intelligence Service, ...

General David Petraeus, former Director of the CIA, says the U.S. response to Russian hacking of the 2016 election must be calibrated to avoid a hacking war between the two sides. At a conference sponsored by Harvard University’s Belfer Center in Washington on Friday, Petraeus said there will have to ...

Editor’s Note: The ongoing debate over the intelligence involving the Russian hack of the Democratic National Committee is highlighting a lot of other underlying issues when it comes to our Intelligence Community, what we expect from them, and how policymakers use the information they gather and assess.  Congressman Adam Schiff, ...

When asked by The Cipher Brief about how both allies and adversaries might view President-elect Donald Trump’s early, contentious relationship with the CIA, former Acting Director of the CIA John McLaughlin remarked, “They are already scratching their heads bald about what is going on here, so I don’t think we ...

All week, The Cipher Brief has been covering the news that Russia not only interfered in the U.S. presidential election, but according to CIA analysts, apparently did so with the intent of influencing the outcome in support of Donald Trump. The Cipher Brief wanted to know what U.S. allies, with ...

U.S. competitors and adversaries are probably” mystified,” says the Atlantic Council’s Mathew Burrows, by President-elect Donald Trump’s refusal to accept a CIA assessment that Russia is behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and his disinterest in daily intelligence community briefings.  The Cipher Brief spoke to Burrows to learn ...

There are a couple of key questions we should all have when it comes to the difference of opinion between President-elect Donald Trump and the CIA about whether Russia launched cyber operations with the intention of influencing the outcome of the election. The first thing we really need to know: ...

What impact will President-elect Donald Trump’s attack on the Intelligence Community have on the CIA as it steels itself to deal with its already contentious new first customer? The agency’s conclusion in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the election not just to undermine confidence in the electoral process ...

As part of our special coverage of Foreign Influence, Domestic Division: Russia, the 2016 Election, and Trump’s Rebuke of the U.S. Intelligence Community, The Cipher Brief’s Executive Editor Fionnuala Sweeney speaks to Rob Richer, former CIA Associate Deputy Director for Operations and formerly chief of Russian Operations. She asked him ...

The statement by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump dismissing the CIA’s findings that Russia had interfered in the recent election has implications for the Agency, the country, and its allies. Not least affected are the CIA field operatives, whose ability to develop contacts and sources could, argues former CIA Officer Alex ...

The Washington Post report on a secret CIA assessment concluding that Russia intervened in the U.S. Presidential election with the intention of helping President-elect Donald Trump win is only part of a deeply concerning and incredibly significant risk to national security.  It would be bad enough if the Russians were ...

As the United States and the international community absorbed the news that the CIA believed Russia had interfered in the recent Presidential election to help Donald Trump’s candidacy, President-elect Trump dismissed the assessment out of hand, describing it as a result of partisan politics. As part of The Cipher Brief’s ...

One of President-elect Donald Trump’s first choices for his national security team was Representative Mike Pompeo for Director of the CIA.  A graduate of West Point and a Harvard educated lawyer, Pompeo is a three-term Republican Congressman from Kansas, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and a strong advocate ...

As the security clearance process comes under the microscope during President-elect Donald Trump’s transition, some experts and former intelligence community members say the system for determining whether people are eligible for access to classified information needs a revamp. Given the challenges of over-classification, insider threats, and today’s security environment, the ...

The U.S. Intelligence Community’s (IC) clandestine human intelligence (HUMINT) services are experiencing an erosion of their core mission and values, with consequences to our current and future collection capability.  As a 31-year career veteran at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), I executed and managed some of the CIA’s sensitive covert ...

Susan Williams’ book, Spies in the Congo, provides a well-researched and detailed history of the efforts of the Office of Strategic Services, America’s first strategic intelligence agency and the forerunner of the CIA, to establish itself in the Congo as well as West Africa.  In telling the OSS story, Dr. ...

Mark Henshaw’s latest spy thriller could have been ripped straight from today’s headlines as tensions between Moscow and Washington continue to mount. The Fall of Moscow Station is the third installment to Henshaw’s Red Cell series and follows the latest adventures of two CIA analysts, Kyra Stryker and Jonathan Burke, ...

With a decline in U.S. global influence since the 2008 financial crisis, China’s emergence as an economic and increasingly political world power, and Russia striving to reassert its might, it's no longer possible to see issues in the black and white tones of the Cold War – grey is a better shade ...

Fifteen years ago, 19 hijackers and four planes shattered American illusions of security. An outside attack seemed remote to most Americans, and there appeared to be no immediate threat to their daily lives.  September 11th quickly dispelled that sense of safety, and as the dust settled and the death toll ...

In the aftermath of 9/11, the American intelligence community (IC) went through one of the most transformative periods in its history. From the creation of the Office of the Director of the National Intelligence (ODNI) to the creation of new agencies like the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. national ...

Reflecting on the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11, Congressman Will Hurd of Texas said that there have been both successes and room for improvement as the U.S. campaign against terrorism continues. The efforts of the U.S. intelligence community “should be credited for why there has not been another foreign-planned terrorist attack ...

In recent years, it’s been increasingly common for former CIA operations officers to write books and Op-Eds.   In an Op-Ed for Fox Business online last week, Bryan Dean Wright called out fundamental management failures at CIA.  And this week, another former ops officer, Doug Laux, published a book, Left of ...

Across the Central Intelligence Agency lobby from the iconic stars memorializing officers killed in the line of duty is a less well-known memorial.  It is an understated relief in honor of those foreign spies who risked and lost their lives to provide secret information to the United States.  It is ...

A Candid Conversation with former Acting Director Michael Morell Michael Morell, the former Deputy Director and twice Acting Director of CIA and the author of the New York Times best selling book “The Great War of Our Time,” agreed to sit down with the Cipher Brief to talk about the ...

Got a secret? Welcome to the Dead Drop. ETHOS SOS. The CIA and George Washington University are joining up to hold a public conference on October 27 titled “Ethos and Profession of Intelligence.”  (Sounds to us like they left a word out of the title – but perhaps the word ...

Carmen Medina is the CIA’s former Deputy Director of Intelligence and a member of The Cipher Brief network of experts. Her unique insights will be featured regularly on TCB. Having started my professional career in 1978, I've seen my fair share of international affairs and bust-ups—everything from the Soviet invasion ...

Do you want an opinion from someone who doesn’t have any relevant information?  Probably not.  However, many journalists and self described experts don’t seem deterred by their ignorance when they write about the U.S. intelligence community.   Normally, a failure to understand a subject would deter someone from writing about ...