After the attacks of 11 September, the agents and analysts of American intelligence realized that they, too, bear some responsibility for this disaster. Ignoring the threat of terrorism, the inability to exchange the information that they have collected on the jihadists — the us intelligence realized that it needed to change. What she later did, reorganizing and reorienting the intelligence community in the first place to fight the terrorists.
But 15 years have passed, and there was a new disaster — this time it involved espionage, not terrorism. For the first time in modern American history a foreign enemy has been able to play a significant role in the election of the President of the United States. And although high-ranking officials such as former Director of the FBI James Komi (James Comey) may have warned about the threat from Russia, Washington did not want to heed their warnings and start to build a system to counter this threat.
Today counterintelligence community is in many ways a relic of the cold war era, and, as shown by the presidential election of 2016, it is very much in need of modernization. He needs the same fast and dramatic changes that have occurred in the field of fight against terrorism after the September 11 attacks. Here are a few areas that need to be upgraded to prevent a repetition of the situation with the elections of 2016.
The technological gap
The most noticeable component of the Russian campaign intervention was the publication of private emails and spread fake news in social networks. Although there is no evidence that Russia managed to directly interfere with the voting process, the report of the intelligence community of Russian interference in the elections process in the United States, released in January of 2017, said that the Russian campaign was designed to “increase the chances of the elected President of Donald trump to win, discredited Clinton and putting her in a bad light compared to him.” Thus, the investigation necessary to find out how the Russian government has gained access to private information and how it spread false news.
Now many people know about the existence of “factories of trolls”. A huge number of people who work in these “factories”, indicates that the Russian authorities will first seek to sow chaos and to influence public opinion through social networks. However, since the publication of tweets and various posts is not a violation of the law (even WikiLeaks is considered part of the media), law enforcement agencies can do nothing. The result of Facebook and Twitter become a primary line of defense to detect and counter the campaigns of state actors. Although Facebook and Twitter have already begun to take action to block malicious content they are actively fighting against copyright violators and promoters of ISIS (a terrorist organization banned in Russia — approx. ed.) — they are unlikely to take a tough stance in the issue of countering misinformation and propaganda. As a result of this lack of control creates a vacuum, which state actors are used for the smooth dissemination of propaganda and disinformation. According to the January report of the intelligence community, this vacuum helped to attract “hired social media users or trolls” to conduct a “campaign of influence” in which they were told the point of view of the Kremlin for Russian and international audiences.
Russia’s desire to spread misinformation and propaganda as written by the New York Times in 2015, is directly linked to the use of the “army of well-paid trolls trying to organize riots all over the Internet”. The Russian government has strengthened this mechanism, using Russian media (such as RT and Sputnik) in your campaign. To counter this campaign, law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community and technology companies should work closely to identify and at least to inform the public about the conduct of foreign States of such campaigns influence.
The organizational structure of the intelligence
As Komi Republic recently wrote in his statement to the Senate, “it is important to realize that the counterintelligence of the FBI’s investigation differ from the more usual criminal investigations”. This means that the counter-intelligence community does not work as it is done in other units of the FBI. Its purpose is not to collect evidence and present them in court. It is that, as written Komi, to understand the “human and technical methods used by hostile foreign powers to be the impact on US or steal our secrets”. According to Komi, to answer the “aggressive intelligence operations” of Russia, the FBI is monitoring those diplomats residing in the U.S. who are suspected of espionage.
But this is not enough. Today spies already do not have to pretend to be diplomats. As shown by the arrests of intelligence agents, who played the role of employees of the Russian Bank VEB, Russia does not keep any geography, any industry. They are no longer interested only in how to recruit these spies like Robert Hansen (Robert Hansen) or Aldrich Ames (Aldrich Ames), with the aim of undermining the capacity of American intelligence. Now they are focusing on those who, like Brennan said, speaking in the Senate in may, “helps to shape the opinion of the American public.”
What changes in how and where foreign intelligence services conduct their operations, and require urgent restructuring of American counterintelligence. After the attacks of 11 September has Director of National intelligence and the national counterterrorism center. Now counter-intelligence community also needs to rebuild its structure to face the new threat.
Vetting before access to classified information
Counterintelligence investigations often begin with routine background checks during the review of requests for admission to work with secret information. Although the main aim of these security checks is to determine the degree of fidelity of the candidate to the US government and its stability to work with classified documents, as we have seen in the cases of Jared Kushner (Jared Kushner) and Michael Flynn (as Michael Flynn), it can also help to find information about contacts with foreign governments and agents of their intelligence services.
In many agencies there are very strange rules to define the degree of “validity”: for example, they are subjected to more rigorous screening of candidates, born not in the U.S. or have relatives abroad, but often do not pay attention to their social media profiles and online activities. Moreover, as shown by the case of Mr. Kouchner, these proceedings do not allow for adequate screening of people who have intricate financial ties and obligations. The ability to correctly evaluate the information that was collected during background checks is key because, as explained Komi, “credible reports of attempts to attract, coerce, manipulate or somehow use an American citizen for the purposes of the foreign state are the basis for beginning a counterintelligence investigation.”
Given the large number of expected contacts and close relationships trump, it is very important to find out why about these contacts and no one knew why the intelligence community failed to see in them a possible foreign agents long before the November elections.
A realization of the harm that was caused by the Russian campaign effect in 2016, is not enough. As said Komi, Russians sought to “to affect how we think, how we vote, how we behave”. All these actions indicate a threat that is extremely serious and which will not disappear in the foreseeable future. However, the first step towards the elimination of defects is to recognize the successful intervention of Russia in the presidential elections in 2016 and, accordingly, the fact of the failure of our intelligence. Once you begin an honest discussion about why our intelligence service failed to identify and neutralize the entire operation in Russia, we will be able to begin the process of upgrading and corrective. While differences between political parties will prevent the elimination of existing shortcomings, Russia and other countries will continue to use them to achieve their goals.