In recent weeks, debate over much needed immigration reform has reached a partisan crescendo. Elected representatives have argued whether prospective immigrants should be measured as individuals or on the basis of positive or negative characteristics of their homeland. I’d like to add my firsthand experience to that debate, and speak ...

Technological advancements in the past 30 years have in many ways democratized access to information and disrupted countless industries – from journalism to national security. Increasingly, intelligence-rich assessments are being made by non-intelligence professionals. Consider the 20-year-old Australian student who revealed the pattern of life on U.S. military bases, simply ...

Cipher Brief experts were underwhelmed by the “Nunes Memo,” made public Friday, despite the objections of Democrats, leaders in the intelligence community, and the FBI itself. Written by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., chairman of the House intelligence committee, the memo alleges political bias on the part of the FBI and ...

CIA Director Michael Pompeo told Democrats that there is nothing “untoward” about meeting with Russia’s senior spy chiefs, following reports that he did just that last week. Russian media reported that Pompeo met with Sergey Naryshkin, chief of Russian foreign intelligence who is currently sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department ...

With the multitude of national security threats facing our nation – from Russia and North Korea to extremism and climate change – you might not expect security clearance reform to jump to the top of the priority list. But it is a critical issue that we ignore at our peril. ...

Cipher Brief experts General (ret) Michael Hayden and former CIA senior officer Norman Roule have had many conversations on the subject of Iran and the broader Middle East—but not usually in front of a public audience. The two served together in the U.S. intelligence community, with Hayden as former CIA ...

CIA Director Mike Pompeo revealed Tuesday that North Korea is still “months” away from being able to fire nuclear weapons reliably at the United States, in remarks to the American Enterprise Institute. Earlier this week, the told CBS News North Korea is a “handful of months" away, and last fall ...

Former CIA director and retired Adm. Stansfield Turner passed away last week at 94. Former CIA Acting Director John McLaughlin offered this remembrance. Stansfield Turner arrived at CIA in March 1977 at a tumultuous time -- the nation was still shaking off Watergate and the Nixon resignation, and it had an ...

The U.S. arguably is facing more complex and serious threats to our national security than at any time in our history. Intelligence is critical to understanding these threats and presenting policymakers with options for dealing with challenges: Iran; nuclear proliferation; cyber security; Russia; China; North Korea; transnational terrorism; and climate ...

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 U.S. intelligence community has long considered its mission as the gatherer of secrets. But sometimes insights are hiding in plain sight among tweets, blog posts, online videos, newspaper articles, academic journals and public records. Leveraging such open source information can greatly enhance our understanding of the world and critical ...

In the internet age, the digital breadcrumbs humans leave in their wake can be harnessed – the geotag on a tweeted photo, or the time stamps on a YouTube video upload. This open source, publicly available material, once scorned by the secret-stealers of the intelligence community, is rising in value ...

During multiple war zone tours of duty in the Middle East and South Asia, I learned firsthand how timely and effective incident response entails real time insight, color, and context for the analyst. Incident response should enable the analyst more efficiently to mitigate the damage from an attack, as well ...

“Hey Thorne. Don’t get caught, my wife likes it here.”  That was the Deputy Chief of Station’s regular advice to all case officers prior to their agent meetings. The message was clear: identify threats to the operation, mitigate those risks, and fully understand the consequences for failure - arrest, detention, ...

Michael Morell, former acting and deputy director of the CIA, resigned Thursday from his teaching position at Harvard University in protest of the school’s naming of Chelsea Manning, a former U.S. Army soldier convicted of leaking classified information, as a Visiting Fellow. “I cannot be a part of an organization - ...

On Friday, Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government withdrew its invitation to Chelsea Manning to serve as Visiting Fellow. Below is a copy of the statement released by Douglas W. Elmendorf, Dean of the Kennedy School. On Wednesday, the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School announced that Chelsea Manning ...

On Thursday, former acting director of the CIA and Cipher Brief expert Michael Morell announced his resignation as a non-resident Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International affairs. Below is a copy of the letter from Morell announcing his departure. Douglas W. Elmendorf Dean, John F. ...

Next month, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley will take over as the 21st director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.  The career Army military intelligence officer currently serves as the senior advisor to the Secretary of the Army and is the Army’s chief intelligence officer. Ashley has served at a number of ...

President Donald Trump has made it clear that he thinks the international accord to reign in Iran’s nuclear program was the “worst deal ever.”  And he has twice reluctantly certified that Iran is in compliance.  But The Guardian is now reporting that the White House is pressuring intelligence officials to ...

A lot of people ask me if the spy game is as exciting as it is in the movies. While it is far tamer and less sexy than most of the fictional portrayals, it is nonetheless an engaging and fulfilling career.  A life in the clandestine service involves living overseas, learning foreign ...

As Susan M. Gordon sits before the Senate Intelligence Committee for her confirmation hearing to be the next Principal Deputy Director to the Director of National Intelligence, it’s difficult to ignore the enormous expectation being placed on her shoulders. For starters, the role of PDDNI (as its more affectionately referred ...

When a suicide bomber in Manchester, England detonated a backpack full of explosives in May, killing 22 people at a concert venue, the National Counterterrorism Center took more than a passing interest. Officials from NCTC, as it’s more often referred to, immediately began reaching out to their British counterparts via ...

The White House announced on Wednesday that President Donald Trump is nominating Susan M. Gordon to serve as the next Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, a role that insiders equate to that of chief operating officer for the intelligence community. Gordon is seen as a solid supporter of public-private ...

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Susan Gordon on Wednesday called for the government and Intelligence Community to prioritize innovation to better confront the broad array of threats the United States faces today. Adversaries always have access to commonly available things, which means that those in the IC must find ways ...

The United Kingdom has revamped the way its intelligence agencies collaborate with private industry by establishing a new National Cyber Security Centre that leans towards more open and meaningful exchanges to help secure the country against malicious cyber attacks. The Cipher Brief’s Levi Maxey spoke with Sir David Omand, the ...

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, ...

The worldwide WannaCry ransomware, which targeted computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system, was an admonition to everyone who connects to cyberspace – especially the U.S. intelligence community.  WannaCry was only the most recent example in a long line of high-profile cyber attacks that demonstrated how the timely application of ...

June 4 marks the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Midway, the greatest naval battle in American history and the turning point of World War II in the Pacific. At Midway, a larger Japanese fleet was surprised and defeated by smaller, less combat-experienced U.S. naval forces. Victory was enabled by ...

President Donald Trump said Tuesday he had an "absolute right" to share highly classified information from a U.S. ally about an ISIS terror threat with Russia. Trump's tweets came the morning after top White House national security officials declared the story, which was first reported by the Washington Post, as ...

A zero-day, meaning a tool used to exploit a newly discovered computer vulnerability, alone does not make an attack. It is but one element of many in an attack, chain and there's much more we can do to increase the odds attacks are defeated. I recently participated in The Cipher ...

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 ...

Few topics lend themselves to more polemics than government collection and exploitation of zero-day vulnerabilities, or security flaws in commercial software and hardware not yet disclosed to the vendors, to facilitate intelligence gathering efforts. The choices for intelligence agencies are, in short, to either collect and retain zero-day vulnerabilities to ...

With the seemingly constant barrage of leaks revealing the U.S. intelligence community’s hacking capabilities, many are wondering where government draws the line between priorities of intelligence collection versus assisting companies to secure their products in order to keep the digital lives of U.S. citizens and companies secure. The Cipher Brief ...

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 ...

The top counterintelligence priorities of the United States government are insider threats, protecting critical infrastructure, and supply chain security, according to National Counterintelligence Executive Bill Evanina, and tackling those requires a “team approach” of the government and private sector. “The threats are real and our adversaries are more brazen than ...

The diversity and scope of national security challenges facing the U.S. continues to grow, asking ever more of an Intelligence Community (IC) that must stretch its resources to meet these demands. The move toward greater integration since the advent of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has been critical to ...

If there has been one constant in President Donald Trump’s administration, it is the steady stream of leaks of classified information. As investigators dig into questions surrounding Trump, his team and Russian interference in the 2016 election, the tension between whether leaks or Kremlin actions and potential ties to the ...

We are living in a more complex world, with more state and non-state actors demanding more of our attention.  When we actively contributed to the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the success of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, and the eventual demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 ...

Vladimir Putin is smiling because he thrives on chaos, particularly in the camp of the “Main Enemy,” a term the Soviet and Russian intelligence services have long used to refer to the United States.  He is surely happy as he sees any indication of American uncertainty, irresolution, or confusion as, ...

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 ...

President Donald Trump’s pick for Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said on Tuesday that the U.S. needs to look at Russian actions “with eyes wide open and a healthy degree of skepticism” as he vowed that, if confirmed, he has “no intention” of holding back any information from the ...

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 ...

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 ...

Now that the dust has settled on President Obama’s unexpected decision to, his last week in office, commute the sentence of Chelsea Manning, it’s worth revisiting what it might mean for U.S. national security.  The decision surprised everyone.  Left wing, right wing, everyone was left scratching their heads as 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 the wake of the arrest of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Aldrich Ames as a spy, then-CIA Chief of Counterintelligence Paul Redmond commented, “There is an actuarial certainty that there are other spies in U.S. national security agencies, and there always will be.”  I recalled that statement when considering ...

With a series of disparaging remarks about the intelligence community (IC) from President-elect Donald Trump in recent weeks, David Priess, a former CIA analyst and author of The President’s Book of Secrets, offered historical perspective on how the relationship between the two parties could evolve. Speaking at The Cipher Brief’s ...

Sometimes the best state secret isn’t a secret—it’s a person. Stephanie O’Sullivan spent the bulk of her career keeping secrets for the United States Intelligence Community, and even as she rose through the ranks to become one of the IC’s highest ranking leaders, she always maintained something of a low ...

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, ...

President-elect Donald Trump Saturday named former Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) as his choice to be Director of National Intelligence. Coats recently retired from Congress, where he served as the third-ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee. “I’m very confident that Senator Dan Coats is the right choice to serve as ...