CIA Director Gives Glimpse into the Agency in Speech to the Council on Foreign Relations

It isn’t often that we get a glimpse into the plans of the CIA. Director John O. Brennan gave a window into the CIA’s activities in his March 13, 2015 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations—a highly influential New York City think tank.

Director Brennan started his speech describing major threats that the world faces starting with a list of recent horrific terrorist attacks around the globe. He said that we will be dealing with terrorism for many years to come. Brennan then discussed the difficulty of fighting terrorism in today’s age of modern communications.

Actions that happen in one part of the globe can be instantaneously transmitted around the world to instantly cause reactions thousands of miles away. Brennan also pointed out lone extremists can educate themselves to carry out attacks just using their computers without even having to leave their home.

The Director also discussed the major cybersecurity threats facing our country and said that “government institutions are under constant attack.” He pointed out that it will require the combined efforts of the government and private industry to fight these threats.

Brennan then talked about the CIA’s recent three-year analysis of global instability. He said that the world had as many outbreaks of instability as during the period of decolonization in the 1960s. Apparently, this period had more outbreaks of instability than at any point since the breakup of the USSR.

At this point, Brennan transitioned into lesser-known aspects of the CIA’s work: its collaboration with other intelligence agencies around the world that he called “an essential adjunct to diplomacy.” While intelligence disclosures have caused some friction, he said that other agencies remain eager to cooperate with the US.

Our joint work with intelligence counterparts in other nations have prevented terrorist attacks, intercepted dangerous weapon and technology transfers, and rolled back terrorist groups. Brennan stressed how this continued cooperation would benefit our country. He said that these links could survive diplomatic tensions and help carry out “dispassionate dialogue during periods of tension.”

Brennan considers this aspect of the CIA to be so important that he recently reestablished a senior CIA post to coordinate these relationships and develop a strategic vision for them.

He concluded his speech with topics that have received media attention such as the new Directorate of Digital Innovation and the new Mission Centers that combine the work of operatives and analysts. The CIA appears to be effectively adjusting to the global changes in technology and security threats.