CIA Director talks about ‘ungoverned spaces and of the digital revolution’

Director Brennan, CIA.

Terrorism and instability rock the nations of our 21st century world, and as people watch demented, fanatical men and women with black flags trying to establish their very own “global Islamic caliphate” and killing every person they don’t like in the meanwhile, it may comfort some to understand that there are people who think about fighting these terrorists and look forward to thwarting them and killing them, too in defense of Western civilization.

The challenges of “ungoverned spaces and of the digital revolution,” according to the current Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director John O. Brennan, are “two defining features of global instability that keep us quite busy at Langley.”

Speaking recently before a crowd at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. recently, (see CIA website speech text here), Brennan also believes that technology has transformed human interaction.

The ‘unstable world’

“Beyond the challenge of ungoverned spaces, the digital revolution is perhaps the defining feature of our unstable world, in both the most positive and negative ways,” Brennan said. “The cyber realm and information technology have fundamentally transformed the most prevalent means of human interaction. These technologies have given rise to new information-based industries that have displaced older ones, sometimes deepening gaps within societies and between the developed and underdeveloped worlds. They enable social interaction that can be swift and destabilizing, as we saw with the so-called Arab Spring. And they invest individuals with unprecedented influence and even power—for better or worse.”

Enemies can now utilize new tools of technology without ever needing to travel to this country, Brennan tells the crowd. “Cyber makes it possible for our adversaries to sabotage vital infrastructure without ever landing an agent on our shores. And we have seen how our own citizens can be indoctrinated by terrorist groups online to commit terrible acts of violence here at home.”

Directorate of Digital Innovation

In addressing the issues confronting the nation’s security, Brennan announces a new CIA Agency directorate called the “Directorate of Digital Innovation.” It is the first new addition in over a half-century, he said, and it is created in an “effort to hasten the adoption of digital solutions into every aspect of our work. It is accelerating the integration of our digital and cyber capabilities across all our mission areas—espionage, all-source analysis, open-source intelligence, liaison engagement and covert action.”

During his remarks , Director Brennan also mentioned the turmoil people are seeing in 2016. (The headlines this Friday are about a possible coup in Turkey from theGuardian, and another horrific terror attack in France reported over at wbtv.)

2016 ‘instability’ costs

“Clearly, the world in 2016 is witnessing a significant amount of instability,” stated Brennan, “and has been for some time. Instability is a vague and antiseptic term, but we all know that it carries some very real costs—especially in terms of humanitarian suffering, rising extremist violence, and diminishing freedom throughout the community of nations.”

Reports come in about the decline of freedom, he said. “For instance, Freedom House this year reported an acceleration in a decade-long slide in democracy around the world. The number of countries showing a decline in freedom for the year—72—was the largest since the downward trend began.”

Furthermore, Brennan said, “[t]he challenges we face today are unprecedented in both their variety and complexity. They are highly fluid, constantly shifting and taking on new dimensions. And they are increasingly interconnected, testing our ability to anticipate how developments in one realm will shape events in another.When CIA analysts consider the trends that are shaping the coming decade, they look at dynamics such as rapid population growth and urbanization in the developing world. They look at technological advances that vastly outpace the ability of governments to manage them, as well as at low economic growth globally.”

‘daunting array of 21st century challenges’

The nations of the world are experiencing greater and greater stress, Brennan observes. “If these trends hold, we could see greater volatility and increased demands on nation-states, which are already under the greatest stress we have seen in many years, perhaps going back to the period after the First World War. Governments worldwide have found that handling the daunting array of 21st century challenges on their own—those related to economics, security, technology, demographics, climate change, and so on—is increasingly difficult, if not impossible.”

Director Brennan mentions the practical side of his work, in thwarting groups and individuals intent upon doing evil. “… it means that our operations officers must be able to maintain their cover in a dynamic digital environment and collect in it as well. It means that our analysts must be able to quickly process and analyze enormous volumes of data. And it means that our IT experts must be able to harden our networks against intrusion and better protect our sources and methods.”

He calls for national discourse on the issues. “Some 85 percent of the internet is owned and operated by the private sector, which is why we need to have an honest, vigorous dialogue between public and private sector stakeholders about government’s proper role in the cyber domain. In that vein, we need to have a more robust and comprehensive national discourse about how the government and the private sector must work together to safeguard the security, reliability, resilience, and prosperity of the digital domain.”