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CIA to make sweeping changes, focus on cyber operations

CIA chief John Brennan has ordered a large-scale restructuring of the US spy organization. The overhaul includes enhancing cyber operations and addressing intelligence gaps.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) will undergo the biggest reorganization in its history, the agency's director John Brennan told reporters on Friday. The aim of the restructuring would be to sharpen the organization's focus on cyber operations and incorporate digital innovations into intelligence gathering.

The announcement came amid increasing concern that the agency's increased focus on counterterrorism following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States had led to an erosion of its espionage capabilities.

Focus on cyber espionage

"Our ability to carry out our responsibilities for human intelligence and national security responsibilities has become more challenging," Brennan told reporters, adding that what the CIA needed to do "as an agency is to make sure we're able to understand all aspects of the digital environment."

The CIA would therefore have a new "Directorate of Digital Innovation," the agency's fifth, which would track new advances in cyber technology. The organization's other directorates were created with the agency's inception in 1947 and included the Directorate of Science and Technology, responsible for hi-tech gadgets, the Directorate of Support to handle administration and the Directorate of Intelligence, to be renamed Directorate of Analysis.

The fourth pillar of the CIA, the National Clandestine Service, which recruited spies and conducted covert operations, was to be renamed Directorate of Operations.

CIA Director John Brennan

Brennan plans to introduce a new directorate for cyber ops

Analysis and operations to be merged

In a significant move, the agency's operations and analytical arms would work together more closely after the formation of new units called "mission centers" to concentrate on specific challenges like weapons proliferation or on special geographical areas.

"There are a lot of areas that I would like to have better insight to, better information about, better access to," Brennan said, adding that these areas could be those in which the United States does not have a diplomatic presence "or because there are parts of countries that have been overrun and taken over by terrorist groups or others."

CIA stations across the world, which generally operate through US embassies, would continue with the same structure, while the rest of the changes would be undertaken within the spy organization's current budget, without any need for approval from the Congress, Brennan told journalists.

Critics, however, raised questions on the efficacy of merging analytics with operations, saying analysts were used to coldly interpreting data in which they had no stake. Exposure to operations could compromise their objectivity.

mg/sms (Reuters, AP)

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