To date, there is only one tried and true method of preventing terror attacks–intelligence gathering. Currently, this may be the very arena where the CIA and NSA are falling behind.
According to The Washington Post, a secret report issued by the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) in 2013 warned against the waning diligence of analyzing emerging threats in China and the Middle East. The report states that such emerging threats have been overshadowed by the proliferation of U.S. drone operations, persistent military operations in the Middle East, and the paramilitarization of the CIA.
Lets take a look at where our sights are (or according to the report, where they should be) and what we know–or more importantly, don’t.
Advisors on the PIAB have become increasingly concerned over the militarization of the CIA warning that an increase in military operations may lead to the decline of traditional intelligence gathering–leaving a dangerously large intelligence gap.
The continuing threat of Al-Qaeda has monopolized much of the CIA’s resources in recent years. This seeming lack of intelligence is all despite increased security personnel according to The Washington Post. The CIA’s counter-intelligence center had about 300 employees pre 9/11, now that number is about 2,000.
Relatively speaking, post 9/11 counter-terrorism is still in its infancy. Despite mounting threats from various pockets of the world, we will likely see only gradual and calculated changes in intelligence policy, rather than a sudden shift.
Following the recent beheading of American journalist James Foley, U.S. attention has been fixated on Syria and Iraq as well as their dangerous militants, ISIS.
When it comes to current U.S. intelligence on ISIS, the breadth is severely lacking. In a recent briefing, U.S. officials admitted to having marginal intelligence on the whereabouts of ISIS leader Al Baghdadi, stating that “We’ve seen him in Mosul.”
Intelligence thus far has been extremely difficult to gather given the hesitance to utilize U.S. drone technology in fear of Syrian air defenses.
Considering the fact that ISIS now controls large swaths of Syria, gaps in intelligence could spell trouble for the U.S.
Though China may seem out of place next to Syria on this list, as we’ve detailed in previous articles, China is an ever-emerging cyber threat to U.S. secrets.
According to The National Intelligence Estimate, China poses the greatest threat to U.S. cyber espionage, including information on energy, finance, information technology, aerospace and automotives.
As reported by the Washington Post, China is not the only country engaged in the unscrupulous hacking of U.S. secrets (among them: Russia, Israel, France) but they are by far the most pervasive. In a more recent display of faulty intelligence, agents reported that Russia would not invade Ukraine.
The U.S. lack of intelligence regarding ISIS has never been so exemplified until the recent failed rescue attempt of journalist James Foley.
According to U.S. officials, much of the failed attempt can be attributed to a glaring lack of intelligence regarding just about every aspect of the militants.
Using information from spies and former hostages, special operations forces attempted a rescue Foley and other captives. By the time they arrived, they found that the captors and captives had already left.
Current numbers on the entirety of ISIS fighters vary from anywhere between 10,000 to 17,000 according The New York Times.
The crystallization of ISIS as an imminent U.S. threat came in the form of a statement by General Martin E. Dempsey. “This is an organization that has an apocalyptic end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated,” he said.