The issue of government access to privately held data about American citizens is an important one, and the debate about privacy has expanded into the field of social media. In early May, a firm called Dataminr – which provides real time updates on breaking events by monitoring Twitter data – ...

A slightly different version of this article appeared recently in the Washington Times.  General Hayden has requested that we reprint it in The Cipher Brief following Thursday’s horrific attack in Nice, France.  He believes that it has special relevance for the intelligence community today. I recently joined other former security officials to ...

A slightly different version of this article appeared recently in the Washington Times.  General Hayden has requested that we reprint it in The Cipher Brief following Thursday’s horrific attack in Nice, France.  He believes that it has special relevance for the intelligence community today. I recently joined other former security ...

Three years ago, Edward Snowden’s leaks sent shockwaves through the U.S. intelligence services, disclosing information about surveillance programs and foreign intelligence operations and sparking a global conversation about the balance between national security and the privacy of citizens. The revelations brought some aspects of the intelligence community out of the ...

In the three years since the news first broke of Edward Snowden’s trove of leaked National Security Agency documents, debates have raged in the public sphere and within the intelligence community over the contents of what he revealed and what they mean for privacy, transparency, and the future of surveillance. ...

Once the Democratic and Republican parties officially nominate their Presidential candidates at their political conventions this summer, the nominees will be offered intelligence briefings before the general election.  We asked Michael Morell, the former Deputy Director and twice Acting Director of the CIA, to explain how these briefings work. The ...

Members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence have shown their frustration with what they believe has been a failure of the Pentagon to keep Congressional intelligence committees “fully informed” about Defense Department intelligence operations. In their report on the 2017 Intelligence Authorization bill that the House passed overwhelmingly ...

There’s one group you almost certainly did not hear mentioned as the news media and others on Memorial Day lauded, honored, and remembered our richly deserving military heroes – those who gave their all for our country.  I’m speaking of the CIA officers who have also given that last full ...

Tonya Ugoretz, the President’s appointee to head the newly created Cyber Threat and Intelligence Integration Center (CTIIC), would not be faulted for wondering, “What have I done to deserve this?”  As the inevitable debates, doubts, and bureaucratic squabbles take hold, it is hard to fathom how a new, inter-departmental government ...

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 ...

From his spacious office overlooking the Potomac River, Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart has sweeping views of some of Washington D.C.’s iconic landmarks—the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Pentagon—symbols of the land he came to as a 13-year old back in 1971.   He is Jamaican by birth, and once in ...

Upon entering the Oval Office, every president since Harry Truman has faced a seemingly mundane decision with huge implications: how to take his daily intelligence report. Starting with Lyndon Johnson, this book of secrets has come in the form of the President’s Daily Brief, or PDB—the most tightly guarded daily ...

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 ...

The legacy of the Cold War has left many enduring images in the minds of most Americans, images that are usually associated with Russia and its nuclear arsenal.    But a key threat, from what many believe is the new Cold War, could very well be from Russian hackers. When listing ...

The Russian government is considered to be one of the most advanced cyber actors globally, with highly sophisticated cyber capabilities on par with the other major cyber powers. Open source information about Russian cyber programs and funding is scarce, but an ultimate goal of the government is to gain information ...

Scott Kessler and Eric Rachner are the co-founders of Secure Senses Inc, which provides human intelligence-based cybersecurity services. In an interview with the Cipher Brief, they indicated that “hacking as a service” is on the rise in the Russian hacker community, and that the scale of the problem this represents ...

As the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matthew Olsen oversaw the integration and analysis of all intelligence related to terrorism.  As he looks ahead to 2016, Olsen told The Cipher Brief the West faces the difficult challenge of countering terrorist plots more in line with the attacks that recently ...

The historic international conference on climate change is wrapping up in Paris after two weeks of intense negotiations to reach agreement on a plan to stop global warming.  Nearly 200 nations are working on a verifiable agreement to reduce green house emissions to slow down the expected rise in temperatures ...

Intelligence failure: those are two words we often hear following a devastating terrorist attack such as what we saw this weekend in Paris.  Almost by definition, if the intelligence community didn’t know about it, then it failed in its core mission: keeping citizens safe.  But when a small group of ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Rob Richer, CIA's former Associate Deputy Director for Operations, about the terrorist attacks in Paris. Richer spoke about the importance of cooperation between US intelligence agencies and their foreign counterparts. He also discussed how legal restrictions have hurt the Intelligence Community’s ability to collect. The ...

The Paris attacks last Friday demonstrated ISIS ability to strike in the heart of Western Europe. Kevin Hulbert, a former senior intelligence officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, tells The Cipher Brief that these attacks signify a paradigm shift in ISIS’ tactics. The Cipher Brief: Do you think the ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with General Keith Alexander, former Director of the National Security Agency. Alexander discussed the Paris attacks, the impact of the Snowden leaks on intelligence collection, and the trade off between privacy and security. TCB: You were the longest-serving NSA director.  During your tenure, you saw ...

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency may be the most massive intelligence organization you’ve never heard of.  While rarely making headlines, NGA is the lead federal agency providing geospatial intelligence (think maps and imagery) to both the Department of Defense and the U.S. Intelligence Community.  NGA played a significant role in the ...

Sue Gordon’s mission to help forge the future of The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is no small task.   Consider that she leads a team of some fourteen thousand cartographers, geographers and others as they deliver a comprehensive understanding of time and space to decision makers in the military and intelligence ...

Q&A with NGA Director Robert Cardillo on “Succeeding in the Open” The Cipher Brief sat down recently with NGA Director Robert Cardillo to ask about the specific challenges his Agency is facing given today’s complex threat environment and how partnerships will be a critical and evolving part of NGA’s future.  ...

Q&A with Walter Scott, Founder of DigitalGlobe One of the major commercial satellite companies is DigitalGlobe.   The Cipher Brief sat down with its founder, Walter S. Scott, who discussed the universal availability of imagery today and the dramatic changes impacting both the industry and the U.S. government. The Cipher Brief: ...

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 ...

The Cipher Brief sat down with Rob Richer, the CIA's former Associate Deputy Director for Operations, to talk about the evolution of espionage and the value of human intelligence. TCB: Does Hoffman’s book, the Tolkachev story, bring you back to the good old days of the Cold War? RR: First of ...

For years, when I was asked to describe the intensity of the relationship between a CIA handler and his/her foreign sources, I would often refer to a seminal spy case handled on the streets of Moscow in the early 1980s.  I told the story of an agent whose efforts to ...

The White House has reached an agreement with Iran to suspend its nuclear weapons program in exchange for sanctions relief. Congress now has 60 days to weigh in on the deal.  This morning, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is holding a hearing on the implications of the agreement. The Cipher ...

Cybercriminals are now using more advanced methods, once the exclusive domain of the state, to steal and profit from personal and proprietary information, blurring the line between cybercrime and cyberespionage. Companies who fail to adapt their cyber defenses to match this upgraded threat will be bringing a knife to a ...

The call came on June 23. Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, the spokesman for the Islamic State, in June urged ISIS followers to go on a month-long killing spree. “Muslims, embark and hasten toward jihad,” said al-Adnani in an audio statement released last month. “O mujahedeen everywhere, rush and go to make ...

Al-Qa’ida’s number two, Nasir Wahishi, is believed to have died in a drone strike in southern Yemen last month. He ran one of the most technologically sophisticated terror organizations in history – Al-Qai’da in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). His operatives plotted attacks using bombs hidden in printer cartridges, a man’s ...

Seemingly a typical teen living in the Virginia suburbs of the nation’s capital, Ali Shukri Amin, 17, led a different life online as curator of a pro-ISIS twitter account. Last week, Amin pled guilty in federal court to providing material support to ISIS. This case, and others like the shootout in Dallas or the ...

A recent opinion piece in the Washington Post suggests that the major political parties and their prospective presidential candidates ought to be thinking about transition planning today, even in advance of the nominating conventions. Wise counsel, but that is not all that should be considered before the next election cycle ...

There’s one group you almost certainly did not hear mentioned as the news media and others on Memorial Day lauded, honored, and remembered our richly deserving military heroes – those who gave their all for our country.  I’m speaking of the CIA officers who have also given that last full ...