Attn: Senator Mark Udall
Today, significant problems exist in the oversight and management of the National Intelligence Community. As Executive Order 12333 is now being considered for replacement by current directives in the Intelligence Authorization Bill, certain issues must be addressed in order to more efficiently and justly maintain the rule of law. In the following report, I will thoroughly identify three of the most significant challenges facing the current system (EO 12333) as well as the advantages and disadvantages of implementing a new executive order to solve those problems.
First, the United States budget is currently under the national spotlight and is subject to revision and even reduction. This inevitably has the potential to threaten IC operations at all levels of communication. Federal sequestration measures have significantly impacted the IC projects, resulting in the closing of certain criminal cases and the avoidance of opening new ones. Even the simple act of paying employees has come with difficulty; daily activities such as fueling government vehicles have had to be rationed. With a debt exceeding $15 trillion, the figures are simply unacceptable for many.
Reports conflict between points of view. Administrators at the White House may argue that the current budget suffices to take care of current needs. They quickly point out the capabilities gained in the implementation of the $55 billion budget. The work of the nation's intelligence agencies is strengthened and maintained while President Obama's military initiatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan continue forward, providing key decision-making personnel with the funding they need to protect American interests. In a cyber society, a secure information technology infrastructure remains critical to the proper function of American online security in the defense and offense to cyber warfare. In the fight against terrorism, the National Counterterrorism Center stands as a bulwark against those who would willfully do us harm. Finally, individual contractors entrusted with the protection of more specific objectives receive their full compensation. These five different aspects combine to contribute to the distribution of the national budget.
Some point out that the budget has nearly doubled since the attacks of 9 / 11, effectively turning the US into a spy organization built on economic espionage, and, fairly enough, some of the earmarks set within the budget raise cause for concern. In the National Reconnaissance Office, $6 billion has been allocated to data collection of a $10 billion budget. In the National Security Administration, $5.2 billion has been assigned for use in management, facilities, and other support mechanisms. These enormous expenditures in economic grey areas raise significant questions concerning exactly how this budget is used. Such details come into light only after the unapologetic revealing of the current budget by certain individuals within the IC. It is precisely here that our second major issue comes to light.
The IC must examine what personnel procedures are used to protect classified information. In the wake of such whistleblowing events by now well-known perpetrators such as Edward Snowden, strict care must be taken to protect the interests of the United States from unforeseen glitches in human resources protocol governing employee confidentiality regulations. Truly, this challenge from within IC walls remains one of the top challenges facing national security agendas today. These individuals do not gain high-profile access to confidential data simply by accident; often, they arrive with top-secret access over building trust for years at a time within the security system as the result of long-term plants behind enemy lines. In other cases, they choose to betray the system out of a lust for money or sex or even blackmail. If they inform against the government because of ideological reasons, the results, as we have seen, can spread like wildfire.
To combat such inflammatory and debilitating compromises of national intelligence, the government devotes, as noted above, billions of dollars in the effort of data collection on its own employees. They often find that as many as 20% have connections to hostile anti-American groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and even al-Qaeda. Even before the security revelations were made public by Snowden, Congress, under your tenure as Senator, Mr. Udall, ordered "Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. to set up 'an effective automated insider threat detection program' to guard against similar security failures. The program was supposed to flag possible abuses, identify double agents and prevent leaks" (Leonnig, Tate, & Gellman, 2013). Such efforts have failed miserably in retrospect. President Obama himself addressed the issue in November 2012 after the Snowden incident by publishing a national insider-threat directive defining the problem of insider threat as "any risk that insiders will use their access to government secrets, knowingly or unknowingly, in a way that hurts U.S. security" (Leonnig, et. al, 2013). The possibility for such double-crossing comes in the form of any "espionage, terrorism, [or] unauthorized disclosure of national security information, or through the loss or degradation of departmental resources or capabilities" (Leonnig, et. al, 2013). Ultimately, President Obama has made it clear that if government employees see something that they may find suspicious, they are expected to say something in return in an effort of behavioral profiling. Although such efforts remain scientifically contentious, every little step counts in the ongoing fight against insider threats.
Thirdly, the developing Internet age eases forms of communication while also making provisions for increased vulnerability. In cloud-based computing, we must develop software that protects data. As the private sector rushes to embrace the benefits of this new technology, the government also has taken sweeping steps to take advantage of the myriad benefits offered by cloud computing. Not only does the use of this technology decrease costs through shared services and infrastructures, but their implementation has also allowed for greater flexibility in programs implemented by the US Army, Air Force, Navy, and more. Specifically, cloud computing allows the IC sector of the government to profit from information technology consolidation where it reduces hardware costs and energy consumption and shared services that monitor national threats and fraud issues with a flexible positioning indifferent to location. Ultimately, the more sensitive the data being shared is, the more discretion must be used in implementing secure sharing techniques. In the case of confidential data and documents, more currently traditional methods of file sharing may exist. Nevertheless, even the IC has current menial tasks that require effective transmission, storage, and processing in an effort to keep data moving forward with minimal delays. In these cases, cloud computing provides a reasonable solution for all parties.
The world is a changing place with new directives for security and task management that reflect the demands and rigors of the twenty-first century. As the national budget continues to be further scrutinized, the IC must take care to provide a sense of transparency for its citizens while also balancing the tenets of national security interests. President Obama spearheads an initiative aimed at rooting out insider threats before they have a chance to act. Although false alarms are certain to come, American security task forces must remain vigilant in working to protect confidential American projects. Finally, as new technology continues to develop, the IC must embrace cloud computing as a viable option for effective communication.
Thank you, Senator Udall, for your kind attention to these important matters.
Leonnig, C., Tate, J., & Gellman, B. (2013, September 3). U.S. intelligence agencies spend millions to hunt for insider threats, document shows. Washington Post. Retrieved February 15, 2014, from http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-intelligence-agencies-spend-millions-to-hunt-for-insider-threats-document-shows/2013/09/01/c6ab6c74-0ffe-11e3-85b6-d27422650fd5_story.html