Earlier this week, the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence hosted John Brennan, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, to discuss the biggest threats to U.S. national security and the tactics the agency is using to meet those challenges. As Director Brennan explained, the CIA is tasked with adapting to an increasingly complex and dangerous world. The agency’s many challenges include combating the rise of ISIS, navigating the benefits and detriments of using enhanced interrogation techniques and drones, and facilitating innovation and integration within the agency, and among the U.S. intelligence community, the private sector, and the international community.
Brennan was introduced by General John Allen (USMC, Ret.), a Brookings senior fellow and co-director of the Center on 21st Century Security and Intelligence. Following his opening remarks, Brennan was joined by Senior Fellow Bruce Riedel, director of the Intelligence Project, to examine how the CIA will address the most pressing problems of the day.
Brennan remarked that the “digital revolution is probably the most defining feature of our unstable world in both the most positive and negative ways.” He explained that the CIA created the Directorate of Digital Innovation to ensure that the agency is adopting digital solutions to all aspects of CIA operations, including espionage, all-source intelligence, open-source intelligence, liaison engagement, covert action, and counterintelligence. Watch:
When Riedel asked if he would recommend the future use of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs), Brennan replied that while EITs were “instrumental in keeping [the] country safe in the aftermath of 9/11,” the CIA will not use these tactics under his leadership. Watch:
Riedel also asked Brennan how vital drones have been to U.S. intelligence operations during the Obama administration. Brennan responded by explaining how drones have been vital in reaching inaccessible areas, protecting the lives and safety of American pilots, and conducting battle damage assessments. He also stressed that remote pilots can redirect the coordinates of a drone, even after it is triggered, if a civilian enters the field of fire. Watch:
Director Brennan stated that he believed the July 4 bombings in Saudi Arabia were perpetrated by ISIS. He also commented on the importance of the Saudi-U.S. intelligence partnership and what Saudi Arabia is doing to combat terrorism both inside and along its borders. Watch:
Watch the full event video here.
[On intelligence disclosure and information declassifications during the war in Ukraine] The purpose of that activity is to highlight the costs to the Russian population at home and to impose costs on individual actors. But doxing, in general, makes me uncomfortable.