CIA announces new unit focusing on China


Emphasizing that the threat is from the Chinese government, Director Burns said that the new Mission Center will bring a whole-of-Agency response and unify the exceptional work CIA is already doing against “this key rival,” reports Asian Lite News

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has announced the setting up of a new China Mission Center to confront threats from Beijing and address the global challenge posed to the United States.

“Director William Burns announced the formation of a China Mission Center (CMC) to address the global challenge posed by the People’s Republic of China that cuts across all of the Agency’s mission areas,” CIA said in a statement.

Emphasizing that the threat is from the Chinese government, Director Burns said that the new Mission Center will bring a whole-of-Agency response and unify the exceptional work CIA is already doing against “this key rival.”

The statement said that these changes resulted from the strategic reviews Director Burns launched this past spring that focused on areas including China, technology, people, and partnerships.

Burns emphasised that the CIA will continue to focus sharply on other important threats, including an aggressive Russia, a provocative North Korea and a hostile Iran, as well as combatting terrorism.

“The changes Director Burns unveiled also include a new position, the Chief Technology Officer, as well as a Transnational and Technology Mission Center, which will address global issues critical to US competitiveness–including new and emerging technologies, economic security, climate change, and global health,” he said.

Director Burns told the CIA workforce said that throughout its history, the CIA has stepped up to meet whatever challenges that come their way. “And now facing our toughest geopolitical test in a new era of great power rivalry, CIA will be at the forefront of this effort.”

CIA lost dozens of informants

Leading counterintelligence officials issued a memo to all of the CIA’s global stations saying that a concerning number of U.S. informants were being captured and executed., according to The New York Times.

The CIA’s counterintelligence mission center investigated dozens of incidents in the last few years that involved killings, arrests or compromises of foreign informants. In an unusual move, the message sent via a top secret cable included the specific number of agents killed by other intelligence agencies, according to The New York Times.

Top American counterintelligence officials — in an unusual top-secret cable — said that the CIA’s counterintelligence mission centre had looked at dozens of cases in the last several years involving foreign informants who had been killed, arrested or most likely compromised, reported The New York Times.

The cable also noted the specific number of agents executed by rival intelligence agencies. Usually, these specific details are not shared in such cables.

Highlighting the struggle of the CIA, the cable stressed that the agency is having issues as it works to recruit spies worldwide in difficult operating environments.

Recently, adversarial intelligence services in countries such as Russia, China, Iran and Pakistan have been hunting down the CIA’s sources and in some cases turning them into double agents, said The New York Times.

The cable also acknowledged that recruiting spies is a high-risk business. It also emphasised that in recent years, various issues have plagued the agency such as poor tradecraft, being too trusting of sources, underestimating foreign intelligence agencies, and moving too quickly to recruit informants while not paying enough attention to potential counterintelligence risks — a problem the cable called placing “mission over security”, according to New York Times.

Various compromised informants have highlighted the growing prowess of other countries in employing innovations like biometric scans, facial recognition, artificial intelligence and hacking tools to track the movements of CIA officers in order to discover their sources.

The CIA has many ways to collect intelligence but networks of trusted human informants around the world remain the centrepiece of its efforts, the kind of intelligence that the agency is supposed to be the best in the world at collecting and analysing.

Former officials have said that the CIA case officers — its frontline spies — earn promotions through recruiting new informants.

In the last two decades, the CIA had been devoted to terrorist threats and the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. But now again a centrepiece of the CIA’s agenda has been to improve intelligence collection on adversarial powers, both great and small, particularly as policymakers demand more insight into China and Russia. The loss of informants, former officials said, is not a new problem. But the cable demonstrated the issue is more urgent than is publicly understood, according to New York Times.

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