The intelligence services in the world have had very important moments throughout recent history, such is the case of the Russian invasion in Ukraine. An example of this was when, before the start of the shelling by Vladimir Putin’s troops in kyiv, Washington published the details of the movements of russian forces to the attacks that the Kremlin planned to use to justify its aggression in Ukrainian territory.
This revelation by a world power like USA, It set a precedent in the way the intelligence services act, since spy agencies are usually accused of hiding information, not for publishing it.
In accordance with Amy Zegart, from american magazine foreign affairs“by exposing the truth before Russian lies were entrenched, the United States was able to rally allies and quickly coordinate forceful sanctions. The intelligence revelations made the Russian president recoil, who wondered how his officials were hit by the US agencies”.
After this disclosure began the intelligence sharing.
Ukraine, the United States and other of their allies began a communication process to counter the russian disinformationdefend against cyber attacks and assist Ukrainian forces in attacking Russian targets.
Now, intelligence applies to everyone, not just to spy agencies of governments. Citizens and private groups have been tracking Russia’s plans for the past year: some journalists have reported on the battlefield using satellite images; former officials and military monitored daily events on the ground and others offered invaluable analysis on the social network Twitter.
Another example includes that of a team of student volunteers from the Stanford University, directed by a former image analyst of the us army, Allison Pucciniwhich has been providing reports to United Nations Over the war crimes perpetrated on Putin’s orders in Ukraine.
The central axis of this war between Russia and Ukraine has been the technology used: the Internet, the social mediasatellites, automated analysis, and other tools have enabled civilians to collect, analyze, and disseminate confidential information.
But technology is a double-edged sword. “For the 18 agencies that make up the US intelligence community, new technologies are creating more threats at a much faster rate,” says Zegart in his article. “They are drastically increasing the amount of data that analysts have to process. They are giving businesses and individual citizens a new need for intelligence, so that these private entities can help safeguard the interests of the country. And they are providing new intelligence capabilities to organizations and individuals outside of the US government.”
They are not changes that have occurred from one day to the next; They have been in the making for a long time and the leaders in Intelligence are still assimilating them. Moreover, according to the analysis of foreign affairs“Washington must adopt general changes to understand and take advantage of emerging technologies. It must, in particular, take seriously the creation of a new agency dedicated to intelligence open source. Otherwise, the US intelligence community will be left behind, leaving Americans more vulnerable to catastrophic surprises.”
a new world
When USA created the INC in 1947, the Allies had just won the WWIIbut the USSR was already threatening Europe. The US was called upon to lead a new world order and centralizing intelligence tasks was a decision to try to avoid a new pearl harbor and win the Cold War.
The US and its allies are locked in a fight with another super power: China. And even Marxism is back, with a Xi Jinping who insists that in his country it is more important to follow the line marked by the communist party rather than maintain a free market.
However, appearances are deceiving. Thanks to technological innovations, the challenges are different from those of the Cold War. For the INC and other intelligence agencies, understand the geopolitical dynamics of the 21st century will be more complex than in the 20th.
The massification of the Internet is one of the great challenges. It not only allows social and political movements to spread their voice. The other side of the coin is the repressive states that leverage technology to orchestrate mass surveillance mechanisms or the regimes that take advantage of the reach of social networks to propagate disinformation.
Among other technological advances that can be disruptive for countries are artificial intelligence, increasingly precise satellites, quantum computing, the technology to create living organisms in a laboratory, among many others.
Understanding the details of all these advances is an essential mission for intelligence agencies. The US government needs to know who has the advantage in which part of the technological revolution and what effects it might have for your National security. It must resolve how its adversaries are going to use the new technologies, and how that use is going to affect the daily life of its inhabitants.
But the answers to those questions are becoming more difficult because there are new technologies that are extremely difficult to track. In the past, inventions like the GPS and Internet they were first a state development and then commercialized. Now the story is different: innovations do not necessarily come from the State, but the private world has its own objectives and achievements, and that complicates any attempt to control the scope of any of these new technologies.
These changes in the innovation world gives more power to the leaders of the private businesses and it brings more problems for intelligence and national security agencies.
To be up to date
The main objective of the spy agencies it is to provide information to political leaders so that they can anticipate future events more quickly and efficiently than their adversaries. However, it is vital to corroborate and confirm this information, since the data is not always correct. But when they are, they can be invaluable. “Without careful analysis of intelligence data, leaders can make premature or even dangerous decisions.”
Unlike earlier times, today’s agencies face many dangers. Since transnational threats such as pandemics and climate change, terrorism Y great power threatssuch as China and Russia. Cyberattacks are also of particular concern: they steal, spy, destroy and deceive “at staggering speeds and scales.” But the list of challenges is even longer. This, thanks to technology.
Before, countries reinforced their defenses with robust armed armies. Today, in contrast, “in cyberspace, anyone can attack from anywhere, without needing to break through air, land, and sea defenses.” This means that the most powerful countries today are perhaps the most vulnerable, since their power depends on digital systems for the most diverse areas, such as business, education, health, military operations and much more.
Added to the avalanche of data that spy agencies currently handle is the entire universe that can be found on the Internet on any topic of general interest. According to him World Economic Forumin 2019, netizens posted 500 million tweetsthey sent 294 billion emails and they went up 350 million photos to Facebook daily.
In accordance with Foreign Affairs, who had access to a source of US Department of Defense, a soldier deployed in middle East he was so concerned about the overwhelming flow of classified intelligence emails he was receiving that he decided to count them. The total: 10,000 emails in 120 days.
In addition to controlling the entire flow of information they receive, intelligence agencies they also must battle with leaders who have no knowledge of how classified information is handled. Many of them are hundreds of miles away and must make political decisions in boardrooms that are nowhere near a Washington situation room.
“Most of the critical infrastructure in the United States is controlled by private companies, such as energy companies, and they also need information about cyber risks that could interrupt or destroy their systems,” says Amy Zegart in her article.
And so much so that one of the main tasks of the government espionage is to detect possible foreign threats that can interfere in electoral processes, as is the case of Russia with the US, and carry out polarization operations in society.
Faced with these facts, Washington devised a strategy to educate its society through the FBI, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies. It is about the creation of public service videos that explain how foreign forces intervene in the daily lives of Americans without their realizing it.
In September 2022, the INC launched a podcast called The Langley Fileswhose function is to disprove all the myths surrounding the institution and warn the public of the real threats that they should beware of.
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agencywhich collects and analyzes satellite images, launched a project called tearlinea collaboration with think tanks, universities and non-profit organizations to create unclassified reports on climate change, Russian troop movements and human rights violations.
According to Foreign Affairs, andn 2021, the NSA began publishing joint advertisements with the fbi and the Cybersecurity Agency in which the main cyber threats were detailed, the entities behind them were exposed and it was explained how they could strengthen the security of companies. In October, these three agencies even published the technical details of the top 20 cyber vulnerabilities exploited by the Chinese government to hack into US networks.
This same strategy was applied in Ukraine and helped its allies in the West reorganize for a joint response to Putin’s threats to use nuclear weapons. Statements that caused alarm among their own partners such as Xi Jinping.
The information sources and technologies have allowed users to be alert to new threats and they have also opened the doors to the intelligence agencies of Washington to capture all kinds of sensitive information from enemies or undemocratic governments that threaten their security. However, open source intelligence invites all kinds of dangers.
Zegart assures in his note that after the terrorist attack of 2013 in the boston marathon, in which three people were killed and more than 260 injured, Reddit users sprang into action. By publishing theories, unconfirmed conversations Based on police scanners and other data, amateur investigators identified two “suspects” and mainstream media published their findings. Both turned out to be innocent.
“To smooth over the Cuban missile crisis, for example, kennedy he agreed to secretly withdraw US nuclear weapons from Turkey if the Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba. If the satellite images had been publicly available, Kennedy might have been too concerned about the domestic political backlash to come to an agreement,” adds Zegart.
At present, the intelligence agencies they know they need to adapt to new changes and technologies to succeed in a world filled with more threats, more attacks, unconfirmed data, and foreign governments trying to interfere in domestic politics.
They are all working to meet these new challenges through technological innovation programs and new initiatives to recruit the best talent in science and engineering. Agencies will struggle to attract and retain the talent they desperately need to understand and use new technologies.
(With information from Foreign Affairs)
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