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Netanyahu’s Silence Is Paving the Way to Israel’s Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians in Gaza – Haaretz Editorial – Haaretz.com

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Opinion | Haaretz Editorial

Editorial |

Haaretz Editorial

Jan 29, 2024

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Jan 29, 2024

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The strong members of the governing coalition, on whom the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu relies, convened in Jerusalem Sunday to present and to celebrate with dancing the new goal of the war.

Paid by Attorney Rakefet Shfaim

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The CIA unveils cutting-edge AI tool for open-source intelligence analysis | Digital Watch Observatory

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Home | Updates | The CIA unveils cutting-edge AI tool for open-source intelligence analysis

28 Sep 2023

The agency is developing its own ChatGPT-style tool to revolutionize open-source intelligence analysis.


The CIA is in the process of developing its own AI tool, akin to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, with the goal of improving analysts’ access to open-source intelligence. It also aims to tackle the formidable task of processing the immense volume of publicly available data effectively. The CIA’s AI tool will empower users to trace the origins of information and will incorporate a chat function to expedite information dissemination and respond to queries.

The CIA intends to provide this AI tool to the complete spectrum of the US intelligence community, encompassing entities such as the CIA itself, the National Security Agency (NSA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and various military intelligence agencies. It’s noteworthy that this tool will remain off-limits to policymakers and the general public, with a strong commitment to complying with US privacy regulations.

This initiative is part of the broader endeavour by the US government to harness AI technology to compete with China in the realm of AI. Within the intelligence community, concerns and complexities pertaining to privacy arise in connection with the utilisation of open-source data and commercial data marketplaces. The AI tool’s primary objective is to simplify data analysis and enhance the efficiency of intelligence analysts by automating tasks like summarisation and data categorization.


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Israel vs Israel Amid Ongoing War With Hamas? National Security Minister Threatens To Topple Govt – Here’s Why

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National Security Minister of Israel, Itamar Ben-Gvir

National Security Minister of Israel, Itamar Ben-Gvir

New Delhi: The Israel Hamas War has been going on for more than three months now and the devastating attacks do not seem to stop. The ongoing Israel Palestine Conflict turned into the deadly Israel Hamas War when the latter fired 5000 rockets from Gaza to Israel on October 7, 2023; Israel immediately decided to counter-attack and since then, the war has not stopped. Thousands of lives, on both sides of the war have been lost including women and children; despite objections from other countries and international organisations, the war has continued. However, there have been a few ‘pauses’ in the war for the release of hostages from both sides. But now it seems that the ‘Israel Hamas War’ is turning into an ‘Israel vs Israel’ War with the passing time as the National Security Minister of Israel, Itamar Ben-Gvir has threatened to topple the government. Know the reason behind it…

Israel’s National Security Minister Threatens To Topple Govt

As mentioned earlier, Israel’s National Security Minister, Otzma Yehudit Party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, threatened on Tuesday to bring down the government if it reaches a “reckless” hostage deal with Hamas. His tweet came amid apparent progress on an agreement to free the 136 captives remaining in Gaza whom the terrorist group abducted during its October 7 attack on communities near the Strip.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid Responds

In an apparent response to Ben-Gvir’s tweet, opposition leader Yair Lapid wrote on X that his Yesh Atid Party and its 24 Knesset members would give the government full backing for a deal to free the hostages. “In the last 116 days, I met with dozens of families of abductees. I promised them and I repeat my promise: We will give the government a safety net for any deal that will return the abductees to their homes and families. This is our commitment to the abductees and their families, this is our commitment,” Lapid wrote in a lengthy series of tweets.

Hamas Political Bureau Chief Ismail Haniyeh On Peace Talks

Qatar-based Hamas political bureau chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Tuesday that the terrorist group would study a proposal received from negotiations between the interested parties in Paris on Sunday, adding that he would visit Cairo for talks on the initiative. Haniyeh said that the priority for Hamas is an end to Israel’s military offensive in Gaza and a withdrawal of all troops from the coastal enclave. The demand to end the war runs counter to Israel’s stated goal of destroying the terrorist group. On the other hand, the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office has ‘defined’ the Paris meeting as ‘constructive’. However, “there are still significant gaps which the sides will continue to discuss at additional mutual meetings to be held this week.”

Qatari and Egyptians Mediators brought togeter Mossad Chief David Barnea, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) Director Ronen Bar and the Israel Defense Forces’ point man Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon for hostage negotiations at the Paris Talks. To mediate the meeting, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Abbas Kamel, head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, and CIA Director William Burns were also present.

What Is The New Israel Hamas Hostage Deal?

Various unconfirmed reports say that this new agreement would include the release of more than 100 hostages and there might be a ceasefire of two months; prison sentences of unspecified number of Palestinian terrorists would be commuted and amount of humanitarian aid being brought to the Gaza Strip would be increased by Israel.

(Inputs from ANI)


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Hamas ‘studying’ Gaza hostage deal, Haniyeh says after rejection reports

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Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Tuesday that the group had received a ceasefire proposal put forward after talks in Paris and would study it, adding he would visit Cairo for discussions on the plan.

Haniyeh said the group’s priority was to end Israel’s military offensive and a full pullout of Israeli forces from Gaza. On Monday night, Hamas rejected the hostage deal drafted in Paris because it did not include a permanent ceasefire.

Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) reiterated that Israel must halt its Gaza offensive and withdraw from the Strip before any prisoner exchange takes place, Hamas said in a statement on Monday.

In Washington, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the proposal handed to Qatar, “was a strong one and a compelling one that offers some hope that we can get back to this process, but Hamas will have to make its own decisions.”

Blinken spoke amid optimism on the part of the US and Qatar, which along with Egypt is mediating a deal, that a framework had been found for an agreement.

A hostage deal has been a top US priority from day 1, Blinken stated.

Hostages who were abducted by Hamas terrorists as part of a hostages-prisoners swap deal between Hamas and Israel, November 30, 2023 (credit: Hamas Military Wing/Handout via REUTERS)

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Thani indicated that a hostage deal would be phased with women and children first, as he described the framework agreement that emerged from the Paris talks.

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The initial plan for hostage release deal 

“The framework that was agreed yesterday with all the parties was a framework based on what has been proposed by the Israelis and what has been a counter-proposal by Hamas,” Thani said during a public interview at an event hosted by think-tank The Atlantic Council.

“We tried to blend things,” he said, adding that this new proposal would now be relayed to Hamas.

Thani arrived from Paris, where he participated in closed-door talks on a deal with CIA Chief William Burns, Mossad Chief David Barnea, Shin Bet Chief Ronen Bar, hostage negotiator Maj.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Alon, the head of the Egyptian Intelligence Services Abbas Kamel.

Thani said that Hamas rescinded its demand for a permanent ceasefire ahead of any negotiations, but “we moved from that place” to one that could lead to a ceasefire, “which we are all hoping for.”

NBC News Chief Washington Correspondent Andrea Mitchell, who conducted the interview together with David Ignatius of The Washington Post, asked Thani about the details of the deal.

Mitchell explained she understood that there would be “a phased pause in the fighting women and children first, and to continue this in phases as you proceed, with aid going in as well.”

Thani responded, “You are well informed.”

He described how one of the stumbling blocks to the deal had been a Hamas demand for a permanent ceasefire before holding talks, noting that this has now been rescinded.

“There was a clear demand of the permanent ceasefire ahead of the negations,” Thani said, explaining that Qatar had moved Hamas “from that place”, to one “that can lead to a ceasefire in the future. This is what we are all aiming for,” he stated.

The goal of the talks is to free the hostages and to stop the Israeli bombing in Gaza, Thani added.

Advancement in the talks comes as the US is weighing retaliatory military action for an attack that killed three troops in Jordan. Thani said he hoped this would not undercut progress toward a new Israel-Hamas hostage release deal.

“I hope that nothing would undermine the efforts that we are doing or jeopardize the process,” Thani said.

US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told MSNBC News that a framework exists for a deal to release the hostages, but he cautioned that nothing had been finalized.

“A lot of promise here, but again, I want to be very clear, there is still diplomacy ahead of us, a lot of discussions to occur before we can get there,” Kirby said.

He clarified, however, that “we don’t have a deal on the table and imminently ready to be announced.”

The US does “think that there is a framework here for another hostage deal that could make a difference in terms of getting more hostages out, getting more aid in, and getting the violence to calm down and that would reduce civilian casualties,” Kirby stated.

He later told reporters that the push was for “a humanitarian pause of sufficient duration that will allow a large number of hostages to be released.” During that period, more humanitarian assistance and go in and casualties will be reduced, Kirby said.

The broad framework under discussion has focused on an exchange of captives for the release of Palestinian security prisoners or terrorists, as well as a pause in the war.

It is presumed that the deal to free the 136 captives would be done in stages, as occurred with the November deal, during which 105 captives were freed during a week-long lull in fighting.

Hamas seized some 253 captives on October 7. KAN News reported that the latest bid to free the hostages included three phases, with the first one focusing on 40 captives including women, children, the elderly, and those who are sick.

The second phase would include male adults who are not soldiers, and the third phase would be for the soldiers, including the female ones.

Part of the deal would include the release of thousands of Palestinian security prisoners, including those convicted of terror offenses, but this latter group is only likely to be part of the agreement at the end.

Hamas said on Monday that releasing hostages it is holding would require a guaranteed end to the war and a full IDF withdrawal.

“The success of the Paris meeting is dependent on the Occupation (Israel) agreeing to end the comprehensive aggression on Gaza Strip,” senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

Hamas previously said a full release would require that Israel free all of the thousands of Palestinians held on security grounds in its prisons.

A Palestinian official, close to mediation talks, who requested anonymity, said that for Hamas to sign a follow-up deal to the November truce in which it released dozens of hostages, it wants Israel to agree to end the offensive and withdraw from Gaza – through implementation would not necessarily be immediate.

The agreement would have to be endorsed by Qatar, Egypt, and the US, the official said.

Israel has insisted it has no plan to end the war until Hamas is defeated or to relinquish security control of Gaza. One compromise position, however, could be that it would temporarily withdraw from selected target areas.

In an interview with Douglas Murray on Talk TV, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continued to stress that Qatar could do more to secure a deal, particularly given that top Hamas leadership lived in its country.

“We should demand from Qatar to use their leverage to achieve the release of the remainder of our hostages” as well as to provide proof that hostages have received medications as part of an existing deal with Hamas.

Qatar “has considerable influence [on Hamas] and I expect them to use it,” he stated.

Thani pushed back at Netanyahu’s assertions that the military campaign was an important pressure lever to free the hostages. He said it was “not getting any results to get the hostages back” and that diplomacy was the best route to secure their return.

He also denied claims that Qatar had any special leverage over Hamas, explaining that to the extent it gave them influence, then his country was using that to negotiate a deal.

Qatar’s role is as a mediator that offers solutions, “We do not see that Qatar is a superpower that can impose something on this party.”


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Hamas appears to reject new hostage deal offer, insists on full pullout of Israeli soldiers

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TEL AVIV: Hamas seems to have rejected a proposed framework for a hostage deal with Israel, asserting it will not accept any agreement if the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Gaza is not included, The Times of Israel

reported.

The rejection came after Israel reportedly agreed to the plan during negotiations in Paris, aiming to secure the release of hostages held by the militant group.

Hamas, along with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, issued a joint statement insisting that any agreement must include an end to the ongoing conflict and a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. The group emphasised that Israel must cease its “aggression” before any exchange deal can be considered, as reported by The Times of Israel.

A senior Hamas official expressed the group’s desire for a “complete and comprehensive ceasefire” in Gaza, a condition that seemingly contradicts earlier demands for an immediate end to hostilities.

The proposed agreement, crafted during a meeting involving heads of the Mossad and Shin Bet

intelligence agencies along with US, Qatari, and Egyptian officials, outlines a phased process.

The deal would involve the release of all Israeli hostages, starting with vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly, and the sick. “Phased pauses” in Israel’s offensive against Hamas would occur during the hostage release process.

According to the deal, Israel would also allow more aid into Gaza and would release very large numbers of Palestinian prisoners.

The Times of Israel, citing Channel 12 news, reported that the offer centres around a 45-day pause in the fighting in exchange for 35-40 hostages in the first stage. Around 100-250 Palestinian prisoners will be released for every hostage. This will be followed by further releases in exchange for an extension of the truce and a larger ratio of Palestinian security prisoner releases for each hostage.

The framework reportedly does not establish a permanent ceasefire but leaves the possibility open. The agreement also includes provisions for increased humanitarian aid into Gaza and the release of a substantial number of Palestinian prisoners.

While Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohamed bin Abdulrahman Al Thexpressed optimism about progress in negotiations, stating that Hamas had potentially shifted its stance, Israel remains cautious. The Israeli Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement neither confirming nor denying the existence of a deal but noted that the reports included conditions “not acceptable to Israel.”

Israeli officials told The Times of Israel on Monday that they are being cautious. “There is still a long road ahead,” one official said.

“We are in a much better place than we were a few weeks ago,” Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani

said at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC.

“Yesterday, good progress was made to get things back in shape and at least to lay a foundation for the way forward,” the Qatari PM added, saying the proposal would be relayed to Hamas.

Al Thani also said that an agreement might lead to a permanent ceasefire “in the future.”

The situation remains fluid, with conflicting statements from both sides, and the war cabinet in Israel is scheduled to meet to discuss the ongoing negotiations.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

‘s office confirmed a four-way meeting involving the US, Israel, Qatar, and Egypt to discuss a potential deal with Hamas. The talks were deemed “constructive,” but there are still significant gaps to be addressed in subsequent meetings.

“There are still significant gaps that the sides will discuss this week in additional meetings,” the PMO added.

CIA Director Bill Burns discussed the emerging agreement with David Barnea, the head of the Mossad intelligence agency, Qatar’s Al Thani and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

It’s believed that 132 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 are still held in Gaza.

Hamas demands an end to the war and IDF withdrawal as conditions for their release, terms Israel rejects.

The war erupted on October 7, after Hamas-led terrorists from the Gaza Strip carried out a massive attack on Israel that killed nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians.

Hamas and other terrorists also abducted 253 people of all ages, mostly civilians, into Gaza.

This was followed by a military campaign by Israel in Gaza which killed at least 26,637 people and 65,387 wounded.

Netanyahu faces pressure from hostage families, with rallies in Tel Aviv calling for a deal. About 100 hostages were released in November under a ceasefire deal.

The IDF confirmed 28 deaths among those still held by Hamas, The Times of Israel reported.


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Israel’s Intelligence Disaster

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Hamas’s devastating terrorist attack against Israel has unleashed the most violent and serious conflict the country has seen in half a century. Already, at least 1,000 Israelis (and 14 U.S. citizens) have been killed. It is an astronomical number for such a small country—equivalent to 30,000 Americans. About 2,900 more Israelis have been injured and an estimated 150 others, including toddlers, grandmothers, and foreign nationals, have been taken hostage. Meanwhile, at least 900 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip, and another 4,500 have been injured.

These figures are likely to rise. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared war, launched deadly airstrikes on the Gaza Strip—a densely populated Palestinian area controlled by Hamas that has been blockaded by Egypt and Israel for 16 years—and vowed to turn Hamas strongholds into ruins. With Hamas rockets raining down on Israeli cities, Israeli shells bombarding Gaza, and Hamas fighters threatening to execute hostages, fears of a broader regional conflagration are mounting.

In these early days, the fog of war is thick, and it is hard to anticipate exactly how the conflict will unfold. But this much is already clear: Hamas’s attack came as a shocking surprise. Israel’s billion-dollar, high-tech Gaza border wall was easily and quickly breached. Early reports suggest that Hamas fighters used unsophisticated weapons to overrun border security with cheap drones, bulldozers, and bombs, and that they traveled to inflict violence and take hostages on paragliders, motorcycles, and in a golf cart. Yet this was not an amateur-hour operation. The assault came by air, land, and sea, and attackers fanned out to capture and kill across multiple sites simultaneously. That kind of large-scale sophisticated operation takes careful planning, coordination, time, and practice.

Israel’s leaders missed it.

It is hard to overstate the magnitude of this failure. Although lone wolf terrorist attacks are notoriously difficult to uncover, larger plots are more likely to leave digital traces and other telltale clues. What’s more, the possibility of Hamas attacking Israel was not some far-fetched, black swan event hatched by unknown adversaries in distant lands. This was a white swan event plotted by notorious terrorists next door. It was precisely the kind of worst-case disaster scenario that Israeli intelligence and defense officials were supposed to worry about, plan for, and prevent.

Hamas’s offensive is not the first time that a country has catastrophically missed an enemy attack. Japan launched a deadly surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, decimating the Pacific fleet, leading U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt to declare war, and ultimately giving rise to the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies squandered 23 chances to disrupt al Qaeda’s September 11 plot, which killed nearly 3,000 people, traumatized the United States, and led to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel itself was caught by surprise almost 50 years ago to the day, when Egyptian and Syrian forces attacked it during a Jewish holiday and ignited the Yom Kippur War.

Although every surprise attack is unique, they have two features in common: they are, by definition, consequential events with cascading, long-term geopolitical consequences, and they are almost never really surprises. Postmortems invariably find that warning signs existed but were hard to identify before disaster struck. The question is why these signs were missed and how to do better the next time.

In the days to come, investigations will undoubtedly examine what went wrong in Israel and what lessons the Israeli government (and the rest of the world) should draw. To do so, analysts must determine whether it was intelligence agencies that failed or whether intelligence officers uncovered Hamas’s plans only for policymakers to ignore them. They need to figure out whether Israeli intelligence agencies understood that Hamas’s capabilities were changing, as well as determine the potential effect of Israel’s own domestic political crisis on adversary perceptions and actions. They need to evaluate whether Israeli intelligence officials have become too reliant on technology. And they need to understand what Hamas got so catastrophically right.

OPEN QUESTIONS

The first question facing Israel is whether this intelligence disaster was primarily a failure to warn or a failure to act. The number one mission of intelligence agencies is preventing strategic surprises. But for warnings to succeed, it is not enough for intelligence collectors and analysts to sound the alarm. Policymakers also have to take action. Weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine, for example, U.S. intelligence agencies released an unprecedented stream of detailed intelligence warning of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s impending attack. Yet even Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not believe it. Zelensky’s courage under fire has been an inspiration for the world, and intelligence has proven pivotal to assisting Ukraine and rallying its allies since the war began. But it is worth asking how history might have unfolded differently if Zelensky and other world leaders had taken more action, or different actions, in response to the intelligence warnings—before disaster struck.

That is the policymaking side of the equation. To better understand the intelligence side of Israel’s failure, investigators must examine collection and analysis—and where intelligence officials may have been blindsided. A good place to start is by asking whether the country’s intelligence agencies were focused sufficiently on understanding discontinuous change: when an actor’s behavior makes a sudden break with the past. Humans tend to assume that history is a good guide to the future. That is often true, but it can also be dangerously wrong—which is why identifying indicators of discontinuous change is such hard and vital intelligence work.

This problem is not new. In the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, U.S. spy agencies collected reams of intelligence over months indicating that Soviet arms shipments were heading to Cuba. But they concluded that Soviet officials would not dare place nuclear missiles there because they had never made such a risky deployment on foreign soil before. It was not until U-2 spy planes found incontrovertible evidence of nuclear missile sites in Cuba that United States intelligence officials realized they were wrong.

In the current conflict, Hamas attacked Israel with much greater sophistication and scale than ever before—a massive, discontinuous change. It will be important to unpack whether Israeli intelligence agencies saw this shift coming, whether they missed it, and, if so, why.

For warnings to succeed, it is not enough for intelligence agencies to sound the alarm.

Hamas is not the only entity that intelligence officials could have misjudged. Israeli intelligence might also have failed to understand Israel itself. Intelligence agencies, especially in democracies, focus their collection and analysis on understanding foreign adversaries. But domestic politics and problems can embolden enemies and alter their risk-reward calculus.

It is not enough for intelligence officials to understand “them.” Intelligence must also understand “us,” and how what happens in an agency’s own country can change enemy perceptions and behavior. Israeli intelligence agencies, for example, might not have known whether or how their country’s unprecedented domestic political crisis was perceived by its enemies, including Hamas. And the crisis may also have helped Hamas’s attack succeed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposed overhaul of Israel’s judiciary roiled Israeli society, leading to massive public protests. Hundreds of essential military reservists pledged to refuse to show up for duty if the overhaul passed. Investigators must ask whether this domestic turmoil weakened Israeli deterrence not only by influencing enemy perceptions but also by eroding Israel’s actual intelligence capabilities and military readiness.

Investigators should also look at Israeli intelligence methods—in particular, whether Israeli intelligence agencies relied too much on technology. Emerging technologies are transforming the world, as well as the ability of spy agencies to understand it. They are generating more threats, more speed, more data, more customers outside of governments who need intelligence, and more competitors in the open-source intelligence arena. In this technological era, intelligence agencies must understand and embrace new technologies faster and better to generate insight.

But like everything in intelligence, new tools carry risks as well as benefits. Chief among the risks is that spy agencies may end up placing too much weight on intelligence that is easier to obtain, measure, and analyze by technical means and not enough weight on intelligence that is more difficult to collect and impossible to quantify. In the lead-up to the war in Ukraine, for example, part of why U.S. intelligence agencies overestimated Russia’s military capabilities and underestimated Ukraine’s is because it was easier to count tanks and troops than assess will to fight. Intelligence agencies, in other words, counted too much on the things that could be counted.

The attack also appears to be a major Hamas counterintelligence success.

The Israeli government is known for its technological sophistication. According to The New York Times, for example, in 2021, Israel assassinated Iran’s top nuclear scientist as he was driving to his vacation house by using an AI-powered, remote-controlled machine gun that was operated via satellite and placed on the side of a road. An investigation into Hamas’s surprise attack should explore to what extent, if any, Israel’s technical prowess may have generated collection and analysis blind spots.

As analysts study this surprise attack, they should not just focus on what went wrong for Israel. The attack also appears to be a major Hamas counterintelligence success, and investigators must figure out what Hamas got right. They will have to determine how Hamas managed to keep such a large-scale, complex operation secret from one of the world’s best intelligence services.

It is possible, of course, that Hamas was more lucky than skilled, that the failure truly was Israel’s, and that Hamas did nothing remarkable to hide its intentions or capabilities. My research on September 11, for example, found that al Qaeda terrorists did not need fancy counterintelligence plans or even fake names to succeed. They just needed the CIA and the FBI to operate as they usually did. When the Cold War ended and the terrorist threat grew in the 1990s, these agencies failed to adapt their structures, incentives, and cultures to detect and defeat a new enemy. As a result, the CIA and the FBI missed nearly two dozen opportunities to penetrate and possibly stop the 9/11 plot. To give just one example, in early 2000, CIA officers identified two suspected terrorists who were attending an al Qaeda planning meeting in Malaysia, learned their full names, and discovered that one held a U.S. visa and the other had traveled to the United States. More than 50 CIA officials had access to this information, yet none of them told the State Department or the FBI for more than a year. One key reason for this failure is that before 9/11, there was no formal training, clear process, or priority placed on warning other government agencies about dangerous terrorists who might travel to the United States.

Those two men would go on to crash American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon. For months, they plotted their attack while hiding in plain sight inside the United States, using their true names on a variety of documents, including rental agreements, credit cards, and the San Diego telephone directory. They even made contact with several targets of FBI counterterrorism investigations and at one point lived with an FBI informant, all unknown to the bureau. Inside the FBI, counterterrorism procedures and capabilities were lagging so far behind that a highly classified internal report issued shortly before September 11 gave all 56 FBI field offices in the United States a failing grade.

PAST AND FUTURE

Now is the time to fixate on the present, not the past. Israel is at war, and its urgent task is finding a pathway to peace, security, and healing. The right time to thoroughly investigate why a surprise attack succeeded is when the immediate threat has subsided.

But Israel will, eventually, need to examine what happened. Interrogating the past—systematically, thoughtfully, and independently—will be essential for enabling a more secure future for Israel and its people.

Answering these questions will also be essential for the United States. In today’s complex and uncertain threat landscape, American intelligence has never been more important. Washington must study Israel’s failures so that it does not repeat them.

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The Transformation of Diplomacy

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We joined the U.S. Foreign Service nearly 40 years ago in the same entering class, but we took very different paths to get there. One of us grew up amid hardship and segregation in the Deep South, the first in her family to graduate from high school, a Black woman joining a profession that was still very male and very pale. The other was the product of an itinerant military childhood that took his family from one end of the United States to the other, with a dozen moves and three high schools by the time he was 17. 

There were 32 of us in the Foreign Service’s class of January 1982. It was an eclectic group that included former Peace Corps volunteers, military veterans, a failed rock musician, and an ex–Catholic priest. None of us retained much from the procession of enervating speakers describing their particular islands in the great archipelago of U.S. foreign policy. What we did learn early on, and what stayed true throughout our careers, is that smart and sustained investment in people is the key to good diplomacy. Well-intentioned reform efforts over the years were crippled by faddishness, budgetary pressures, the overmilitarization of foreign policy, the State Department’s lumbering bureaucracy, a fixation on structure, and—most of all—inattention to people.

The Trump administration also learned early on that people matter, and so it made them the primary target of what the White House aide Steve Bannon termed “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” That is what has made the administration’s demolition of the State Department and so many other government institutions so effective and ruinous. Tapping into popular distrust of expertise and public institutions, President Donald Trump has made career public servants—government meteorologists, public health specialists, law enforcement professionals, career diplomats—convenient targets in the culture wars. Taking aim at an imaginary “deep state,” he has instead created a weak state, an existential threat to the country’s democracy and the interests of its citizens. 

The wreckage at the State Department runs deep. Career diplomats have been systematically sidelined and excluded from senior Washington jobs on an unprecedented scale. The picture overseas is just as grim, with the record quantity of political appointees serving as ambassadors matched by their often dismal quality. The most recent ambassador in Berlin, Richard Grenell, seemed intent on antagonizing as many Germans as he could—not only with ornery lectures but also through his support for far-right political parties. The ambassador in Budapest, David Cornstein, has developed a terminal case of “clientitis,” calling Hungary’s authoritarian, civil-liberties-bashing leader “the perfect partner.” And the U.S. ambassador to Iceland, Jeffrey Ross Gunter, has churned through career deputies at a stunning pace, going through no fewer than seven in less than two years at his post.

In Washington, career public servants who worked on controversial issues during the Obama administration, such as the Iran nuclear negotiations, have been smeared and attacked, their careers derailed. Colleagues who upheld their constitutional oaths during the Ukraine impeachment saga were maligned and abandoned by their own leadership. In May, the State Department’s independent inspector general, Steve Linick, was fired after doing what his job required him to do: opening an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s alleged personal use of government resources. Battered and belittled, too many career officials have been tempted to go along to get along. That undercuts not only morale but also a policy process that depends on apolitical experts airing contrary views, however inconvenient they may be to the politically appointed leadership.

Pompeo in Washington, D.C., December 2019

Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Not surprisingly, the Foreign Service has experienced the biggest drop in applications in more than a decade. Painfully slow progress on recruiting a more diverse workforce has slid into reverse. It is a depressing fact that today only four of the 189 U.S. ambassadors abroad are Black—hardly a convincing recruiting pitch for woefully underrepresented communities.

No amount of empty rhetoric about ethos and swagger can conceal the institutional damage. After four years of relentless attacks by the Trump administration and decades of neglect, political paralysis, and organizational drift, U.S. diplomacy is badly broken. But it is not beyond repair, at least not yet. What is needed now is a great renewal of diplomatic capacity, an effort that balances ambition with the limits of the possible at a moment of growing difficulties at home and abroad. The aim should be not to restore the power and purpose of U.S. diplomacy as it once was but to reinvent it for a new era. Accomplishing that transformation demands a focused, disciplined reform effort—one that is rooted in the people who animate U.S. diplomacy.

REFORM AND RENEWAL

The State Department is capable of reform. The challenge has always been to link that reform to wise statecraft and adequate funding. After 9/11, with uncommon speed and few additional resources, the department managed to retrofit itself to help prosecute the war on terrorism and take on the new imperatives of stabilization and reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with smaller but still complex missions from sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia. New training and incentives were put into play, and a generation of career Foreign Service officers was shaped by tours in conflict zones. Diplomats quickly became secondary players to the military, preoccupied with the kind of nation-building activities that were beyond the capacity of Americans to accomplish. It was easy to lose sight of the distinctive role of the U.S. Foreign Service—the classic, head-banging work of persuading senior national leaders to bridge sectarian divides and pursue a more inclusive political order while standing up for human rights.

Although the transformation of the State Department into a more expeditionary and agile institution was healthy in many respects, it was also distorting. It was tethered to a fundamentally flawed strategy—one that was too narrowly focused on terrorism and too wrapped up in magical thinking about the United States’ supposed power to transform regions and societies. It paid too little attention to a rapidly changing international landscape in which geopolitical competition with a rising China and a resurgent Russia was accelerating and mammoth global challenges, such as climate change, were looming. It also neglected what was happening at home—the powerful storms of globalization that had left many communities and parts of the economy underwater and would soon overwhelm the United States’ political levees. 

After four years of attacks by the Trump administration, U.S. diplomacy is badly broken.

The contours of a new agenda for diplomatic reform have to flow from a sensible reinvention of the United States’ role in the world. The restoration of American hegemony is not in the cards, given China’s rise and the diffusion of global power. Retrenchment is similarly illusory, since the United States cannot insulate itself from outside challenges that matter enormously to its domestic health and security.

Instead, U.S. diplomacy has to accept the country’s diminished, but still pivotal, role in global affairs. It has to apply greater restraint and discipline; it must develop a greater awareness of the United States’ position and more humility about the wilting power of the American example. It has to reflect the overriding priority of accelerating domestic renewal and strengthening the American middle class, at a time of heightened focus on racial injustice and economic inequality. And it has to take aim at other crucial priorities. One is to mobilize coalitions to deal with transnational challenges and ensure greater resilience in American society to the inevitable shocks of climate change, cyberthreats, and pandemics. Another is to organize wisely for geopolitical competition with China. 

INVESTING IN PEOPLE

The ultimate measure of any reform effort is whether it attracts, unlocks, retains, and invests in talent. The last thing the State Department needs is another armada of consultants descending on Foggy Bottom with fancy slide decks full of new ideas about how the department should look. It’s time to focus on—and listen to—the people who drive U.S. diplomacy: the Foreign Service professionals who rotate through posts around the world, the civil service employees whose expertise anchors the department at home, and the foreign-national staff who drive so much of the work of U.S. embassies and consulates. 

To start, the United States needs a top-to-bottom diplomatic surge. The Trump administration’s unilateral diplomatic disarmament is a reminder that it is much easier to break than to build. The country doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for a generational replenishment, marking time as new recruits slowly work their way up the ranks. Since 2017, nearly a quarter of the senior Foreign Service has left. That includes the departure of 60 percent of career ambassadors, the equivalent of four-star generals in the military. In the junior and midcareer ranks, the picture is also bleak. According to the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, as many as a third of current employees in some parts of the State Department are considering leaving—more than double the share in 2016. 

The United States needs a top-to-bottom diplomatic surge.

A diplomatic surge will have to incorporate ideas that in the past have seemed heretical to the department and its career staff but that today are inescapable. These include bringing back select personnel with critical expertise who were forced out over the past four years; creating midcareer pathways into the Foreign Service, including lateral entry from the civil service; and offering opportunities for Americans with unique skills (in new technologies or global health, for example) to serve their country through fixed-term appointments. Another useful initiative would be to create a “diplomatic reserve corps” made up of former Foreign Service and civil service midlevel officers and spouses with professional experience who could take on shorter or fixed-term assignments abroad and in Washington. Still another idea would be to create an ROTC-like program for college students, an initiative that would broaden understanding of the diplomatic profession across society and provide financial support to those preparing for diplomatic careers.

All these ideas would have landed in the “too hard” pile when we were serving. But the reality today is that the State Department simply cannot afford to continue its bad habits of offering inflexible career tracks, imposing self-defeating hiring constraints, and encouraging tribal inbreeding among its cloistered ranks.

Another major priority is the need to treat the lack of diversity in the diplomatic corps as a national security crisis. It not only undermines the power of the United States’ example; it also suffocates the potential of the country’s diplomacy. Study after study has shown that more diverse organizations are more effective and innovative organizations. At the very moment when American diplomacy could benefit most from fresh perspectives and a closer connection to the American people, the diplomatic corps is becoming increasingly homogeneous and detached, undercutting the promotion of American interests and values. 

Another priority is the need to treat the lack of diversity in the diplomatic corps as a national security crisis.

The top four ranks of the Foreign Service are whiter today than they were two decades ago; only ten percent are people of color. Just seven percent of the overall Foreign Service is made up of Black people, and just seven percent are Hispanic—well below each group’s representation in the U.S. labor force. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has reversed a more than quarter-century-long push to appoint more female ambassadors. Overall female representation in the Foreign Service remains roughly the same today as it was in 2000—still 25 percent below female representation in the wider U.S. labor force. These trends have effectively undone much of the progress made following the settlement of two class-action discrimination suits shortly after we entered the Foreign Service.

The State Department should make an unambiguous commitment that by 2030, America’s diplomats will, at long last, resemble the country they represent. Achieving this goal will require making diversity a key feature of the diplomatic surge at every point along the career pipeline. It will demand an unshakable commitment to diverse candidates and gender parity in senior appointments. And it will require the State Department’s leadership to hold itself accountable by not only getting departmental data in order and making the information accessible to the public but acting on it, as well, with clear annual benchmarks for progress. Lower promotion rates for racial and ethnic minorities and the precipitous drop-off in the number of women and minorities in the senior ranks are flashing red warning lights of structural discrimination. 

The State Department ought to invest much more in mentorship, coaching, and diversity and inclusion training. It has to make its career track more responsive to the expectations of today’s workforce for a work-life balance rather than perpetuate the imbalance that has prevented too many talented Americans—disproportionally those from underrepresented groups—from serving their country. The department has to pay more attention to the particular hazards facing minorities serving overseas, including LGBTQ employees. And it has to revise its promotion criteria to require personnel to foster diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplaces.

The top four ranks of the Foreign Service are whiter today than they were two decades ago.

To succeed in both a serious diplomatic surge and a historic new campaign for diversity and inclusion, the department must commit to winning the war for talent. The entrance exams to the Foreign Service are designed to weed out candidates rather than recruit the most talented ones. Too much of a premium is placed on written and oral examinations and too little on a candidate’s résumé, academic performance, skills, expertise, and life experiences. The whole process can seem interminable—taking as long as two years from start to finish and inadvertently benefiting candidates who have the means to hold out. After hiring their diplomats, the most effective diplomatic services spend up to three years training them. The Foreign Service Institute still spends only six weeks testing the mettle of its recruits; the only real difference from our experience many years ago is that the tedious lectures now feature PowerPoint presentations.

Once on assignment, there is no rigorous, doctrinal approach to the art of diplomacy and no system for after-action reviews. The personnel evaluation process consumes three months of an officer’s time, with no commensurate accountability for, let alone improvement in, individual or collective performance. Opportunities for midcareer graduate or professional education are scarce and carry little weight with promotion panels. The effect is often to penalize employees who receive extra training or undertake assignments to other agencies or to Congress. They should be rewarded instead.

Senior leadership positions are increasingly out of reach for career personnel. Over the past few decades, the proportion of political appointees to career appointees at the State Department, reaching down to the deputy assistant secretary level, has grown far higher than at any other national security agency. That worrisome trend—like so many others during the Trump era—has worsened dramatically. Today, only one of the 28 positions at the assistant secretary level at the State Department is filled by an active-duty career officer confirmed by the U.S. Senate—the lowest number ever. A record share of ambassadors are also political appointees as opposed to professional diplomats, a significant blow to morale and to diplomatic effectiveness. In a reformed State Department, at least half the assistant secretary jobs and three-quarters of the ambassadorial appointments should be held by well-qualified career officers. The remaining political appointments should be driven by substantive qualifications and diversity considerations, not campaign donations.

Political appointments should be driven by qualifications and diversity considerations, not campaign donations.

To unlock its potential, the State Department must increase its staffing pipelines to deepen its officers’ command of core diplomatic skills and fluency in areas of growing importance, such as climate change, technology, public health, and humanitarian diplomacy. In the traditional area of economics, the State Department must strengthen its capabilities significantly—working closely with the Commerce and Treasury Departments—and promote the interests of American workers with the same zeal with which it has promoted the interests of corporate America. 

The State Department also needs to rethink how and where it invests in language studies. One out of every four positions designated as requiring foreign-language skills is filled by an officer who does not in fact meet the minimum language requirements. The State Department trains nearly twice as many Portuguese speakers as it does Arabic or Chinese speakers. It should expand opportunities for midcareer graduate studies and incentivize continuous learning as a requirement for promotion. It should also streamline the evaluation process by determining personnel assignments on the basis of performance, expertise, and leadership development rather than through a process of competitive, careerist bidding built on connections and “corridor,” or word-of-mouth, reputations. 

A NEW CULTURE

Part of investing in people means investing in the technology that allows them to realize their full potential. A more digital, agile, collaborative, and data-centric diplomatic corps depends on more robust and secure communications tools. Today, too many diplomats lack access to classified systems and technology, especially on the road. That leaves them more vulnerable to foreign intelligence and unable to keep up with other U.S. national security agencies. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown into sharp relief the need to reimagine how to conduct diplomacy remotely or virtually.

Technology can no longer be seen as a luxury good for diplomacy. The last big technological push at the State Department came during Colin Powell’s tenure as secretary of state, nearly two decades ago, when the department began to set aside its mini-fridge-sized desktop computers and move cautiously into the modern age. It is long past time for another major effort. To enhance the department’s technological platforms, the State Department should appoint a chief technology officer reporting directly to the secretary of state. That official should work with the U.S. Digital Service—an information technology consulting group within the executive branch that was created in 2014—to make internal systems, foreign aid, and public diplomacy more effective. Just as the department’s chief economist helps diplomats understand the impact of global economic trends on U.S. interests, the chief technology officer should help diplomats grapple with disruptive technologies and leverage private-sector talent.

But technology is not the only—or the most important—aspect of the State Department’s culture that must change. A systemic reluctance to tolerate physical risk has led to the proliferation of fortress-style embassies that can trap personnel behind chancery walls and isolate them from the people they should be meeting, not only foreign officials but also members of civil society. This has also led to an ever-growing number of posts where officers can’t be joined by family members, shorter tours, misaligned assignment incentives, lower morale, and less effective diplomacy.

A torpid bureaucratic culture is no less significant. Policy information and recommendations often amass 15 or more sign-offs before reaching the secretary of state’s office, suffocating initiative and stifling debate. Unstaffed Foreign Service positions create an imbalance between Washington and the field that prevents decentralized decision-making. And a rigid promotion structure incentivizes careerism over political or moral bravery. 

Technology can no longer be seen as a luxury good for diplomacy.

A seismic cultural shift is needed to create a more upstanding, courageous, and agile institution, with greater tolerance for risk and a simplified, decentralized decision-making process. The State Department must get out of its own way—delegating responsibility downward in Washington and outward to qualified chiefs of mission overseas and reducing the number of undersecretaries and top-level staff members to avoid duplicative authority and inefficiencies. Initiative should be prized, and the passive-aggressive habit of waiting for guidance from above should be discouraged.

The department ought to discard the current cumbersome process for clearing papers and policy recommendations and start from scratch. A new, more flexible framework would allow expertise in Washington and in the field to be quickly distilled into cogent policy proposals and would grant embassies in the field more autonomy to implement the resulting decisions. The State Department’s leaders must also offer political top cover for constructive dissent, supplanting the corrosive “keep your head down” culture with an “I have your back” mentality—in other words, the exact opposite of how the State Department treated its diplomats during the 2019 impeachment hearings.

CHANGE THAT LASTS

Any effort to reform the State Department should start from within. It should focus in the first year of a new administration or a new term on what can be accomplished under existing authorities and without significant new appropriations. That is the moment of greatest opportunity to set a new direction—and the moment of greatest vulnerability to the habitual traps of bureaucratic inertia, overly elaborate and time-consuming restructuring plans, partisan bickering, and distracting forays into the capillaries of reform rather than its arteries.

If the department can take the initiative and demonstrate progress on its own, that would be the best advertisement for sustained congressional support and White House backing for a new emphasis on diplomacy. It would be the best way to show that U.S. diplomats are ready to earn their way back to a more central role. It could help generate momentum for a rebalancing of national security budget priorities at a moment when U.S. rivals are not standing still; in recent years, the Chinese have doubled their spending on diplomacy and greatly expanded their presence overseas.

A rigid promotion structure incentivizes careerism over political or moral bravery. 

With a sturdy foundation of reforms laid, the next step would be to codify them in the first major congressional legislation on U.S. diplomacy in 40 years. The last Foreign Service Act, passed in 1980, modernized the mission and structure of the State Department, building on acts from 1924 and 1946. A new act would be crucial to making reforms durable. It would also help shape a style of diplomacy that is fit for an increasingly competitive international landscape and better equipped to serve the priority of domestic renewal. Serious, lasting transformation of U.S. diplomacy will be very hard. But it matters enormously to the future of American democracy in an unforgiving world.

We both bear the professional scars, and have enjoyed the rewards, of many eventful years as career diplomats. We saw plenty of examples of skill and bravery among our colleagues in hard situations around the world—from the horrific genocidal violence of Rwanda and the epic turmoil of post-Soviet Russia in the 1990s to the later challenges of ambassadorial postings in Liberia after its civil war and in Jordan in the midst of a once-in-a-half-century royal succession. We saw how U.S. diplomats can produce tangible results, whether by holding secret talks with adversaries, mobilizing other countries to ease the plight of refugees, or promoting American jobs and economic opportunities.

Through it all, however, we still remember vividly the sense of possibility and shared commitment to public service that drew the two of us and 30 other proud Americans to our Foreign Service entering class all those years ago. Today, there is a new generation of diplomats capable of taking up that challenge—if only they are given a State Department and a mission worthy of their ambitions and of the country they will represent.

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The Rebirth of Russian Spycraft

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In April 2023, a prominent Russian national with suspected ties to Russian intelligence pulled off an impressive escape from Italian authorities. Artem Uss, a Russian businessman and the son of a former Russian governor, had been detained in Milan a few months earlier on charges of smuggling sensitive U.S. military technology to Russia. According to an indictment issued by a federal court in Brooklyn, New York, in October 2022, Uss had illegally trafficked in the semiconductors needed to build ballistic missiles and a variety of other weapons, some of which were being used in the war in Ukraine. But while Uss was awaiting extradition to the United States, he was exfiltrated from Italy with the help of a Serbian criminal gang and returned to Russia.

The escape, which was reported in The Wall Street Journal last spring, was only one of a series of recent incidents suggesting how much Russia’s intelligence forces have regrouped since the start of the war in Ukraine. Back in the spring of 2022, in the months after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion, the Russian intelligence agencies had seemed disoriented and confused. One by one, European countries had kicked out Russia’s diplomats; according to one British estimate, some 600 Russian officials were expelled from Europe, of which perhaps 400 were believed to be spies. The FSB, Russia’s internal security service, had also badly misjudged the kind of resistance that Russian forces would face in Ukraine, assuming that Russia could quickly take Kyiv. This contributed to Russia’s humiliating performance.

Now, Russia’s foreign intelligence network appears to be back with a vengeance. And it is becoming more inventive, increasingly relying on foreign nationals—such as the Serbian gang that assisted Uss, for instance—to help it get around restrictions on Russians. Before the war, Western intelligence agencies mostly dealt with Russian operations being carried out by Russian nationals. That is no longer the case. Today, Russian intelligence activities draw on a range of foreign nationals, and that includes not only spying on the West and tracking arms shipments to Ukraine but also applying growing pressure on Russian exiles and opponents of the Putin regime who have fled abroad since the war started. Evidence of such activity is turning up everywhere from Georgia and Serbia to NATO countries such as Bulgaria and Poland. In early 2023, for example, British officials arrested five Bulgarians who were accused of spying for Russia, including in an effort to keep tabs on Russian exiles in London.

At the same time, Russia’s spy agencies also appear to have shifted their orientation. Before the war, there was a division of labor among the three principal intelligence services—the SVR (foreign intelligence), the GRU (military intelligence), and the FSB (domestic security). In the past, it was generally understood that the SVR mostly focused on political and industrial espionage and the GRU on military issues, while the FSB was primarily focused on Russia itself, using its foreign branch mainly to conduct operations against Russians abroad and to keep friendly regimes in neighboring countries in power. Now, these distinctions are no longer so clear: all three agencies are deeply involved in the war in Ukraine, and all three have been actively recruiting new assets among Russia’s most recent exiles abroad.

The return of Moscow’s spying apparatus has significant implications for the West in its efforts to counter Russian meddling and Russian intelligence operations. If recent indications are correct, Russian intelligence activities in Europe and elsewhere may pose a significantly greater threat than had been assumed in the early stages of the war. At the same time, these changes offer insight into Putin’s own wartime regime and the extent to which it is increasingly rebuilding Russia’s spy agencies according to earlier models from the Soviet decades. Putin is not only attempting to make up for the Soviet KGB’s failure in its confrontation with the West in the late twentieth century. He is also trying to restore the glory of Stalin’s formidable secret service, which had considerable success against the West in the decades from the Bolshevik Revolution to World War II.

THE HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR

Before Russia began its full-scale war in Ukraine in 2022, the country’s intelligence services looked fairly weak. They had long suffered from interagency infighting and turf wars, as well as from a breakdown in trust between the generals and the rank and file, which led to significant delays and failures in getting information from the ground to the top level. Russian intelligence operations, meanwhile, increasingly became known chiefly for their sloppiness, as in the cases of the botched poisonings of the former Russian military officer Sergei Skripal in the United Kingdom in 2018 and the opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2020. In short, the Russian spy services seemed to have lost much of their former luster, a problem that burst into the open with the embarrassing misreading of Ukraine in the planning for Russia’s invasion.

But as the war in Ukraine entered its second year, the Russian intelligence agencies regrouped and found a new sense of purpose. Instead of dwelling on their mistakes and questioning why they had so utterly failed to anticipate Ukrainian resistance in the initial invasion, the agencies moved on, taking new strength from the fact that they were withstanding a confrontation with the entire West.  They have not only increased their activities in Europe and in neighboring countries; the FSB has also stepped up its efforts to fight back Ukrainian ops on Russian soil.  That Putin did not make any radical changes in the security services despite the catastrophe of 2022 has been seen as a virtue: since the tumultuous 1990s, there has been a widely shared view both among the intelligence leadership and the rank and file that any attempt to overhaul the agencies will weaken their capabilities.

Underlying this new activity, however, has also been a larger goal: revitalizing Russia’s overall intelligence war against the West. This is a war that for the main Russian agencies goes back to the earliest years of the Soviet era. As Russian intelligence officials see it, the war in Ukraine has launched the third round of a great spy war that has been playing out since 1917.

Putin is trying to restore the glory of Stalin’s formidable secret service.

The first round of this struggle, in which early Soviet operatives faced off primarily against their British counterparts, started soon after the Bolshevik Revolution. In that original conflict, Soviet agents successfully compromised any chance of fomenting resistance to the Bolshevik regime from abroad. They did this by conducting a massive and very successful false-flag operation, code-named Trust, in which they lured politically active Russian émigrés, as well as British spies, to the Soviet Union to help a fake anti-Bolshevik organization. These anti-Soviet activists were in this way identified and killed. The conflict reached its peak during World War II, when Russian spies successfully penetrated British intelligence and, in the United States, got access to the Manhattan Project and stole the secrets of the atomic bomb. Overall, Soviet officials believed they won this first round with the West.

The second round of the intelligence war, however, did not end so well for Moscow. During the Cold War, the KGB failed to save the Soviet regime it swore to protect. Then, in the early 1990s, the agency was nearly destroyed after being split apart and dismembered. The collapse left lasting scars on Putin, who witnessed it firsthand, and his security elite, as they struggled to rebuild a Russian state that had lost its former power. (Putin ultimately built the FSB on the KGB’s former foundations.)

Now, with the onset of a new grand conflict with the West, Russia’s intelligence agencies are seeking to reverse the setbacks that unfolded at the end of the Cold War. And they sense a new opportunity, seeing the war in Ukraine as the opening salvo in the third round of the intelligence war. The sense of continuity with their Soviet predecessors has even taken visible form in Russia: in September, Sergei Naryshkin, Russia’s head of foreign intelligence, inaugurated a new statue to the founder of the Soviet secret police in the courtyard of the SVR’s Moscow headquarters. And in November, the FSB reinforced that message by celebrating the 100th anniversary of the OGPU, the Soviet secret police, and stressing the role of the OGPU in crushing political émigré organizations.

But the continuity goes well beyond celebrating early Soviet exploits. In the run-up to the war and since, Putin has made notable use of former KGB generals who share his eagerness to avenge the humiliation of the Soviet collapse. Nikolai Gribin, who in the 1980s served as deputy head of foreign disinformation operations at the KGB’s foreign intelligence branch, has a lead role in a new Russian think tank launched in 2021, the National Research Institute for the Development of Communications, which seeks to shape pro-Kremlin opinion in countries near Russia, with a particular focus on Belarus. (Gribin himself has written several research reports on public opinion in Belarus.) In the 1980s, Alexander Mikhailov served in the KGB’s infamous Fifth Directorate—the branch given the task of rooting out ideological subversion, including dissidents, musicians, and church leaders—and ran disinformation operations for the FSB in the 1990s. Since the fall of 2021, a few months before the invasion, Mikhailov has been the FSB’s unofficial mouthpiece for the Russian media, promoting the agency’s view of events in Ukraine. As Russian intelligence portrays it, the war pits the United States and Europe against Russia, with the Ukrainians serving merely as the puppets of their Western spymasters.

Putin giving a speech near the FSB’s headquarters in Moscow, June 2022

Aleksey Nikolskyi / Sputnik / Kremlin / Reuters

Along with Putin, Russia’s spy agencies have also drawn some important lessons from the earlier Soviet intelligence wars. Because it pitted Russia directly against the West, the war in Ukraine has prompted the Kremlin and its spy agencies to rethink several major national security questions that had not been closely studied since 1991. For example, there was the question of Russia’s borders and whether to close them. The Kremlin decided against doing so, and that has benefited the intelligence services, which can use the new exodus of Russian nationals to Europe and other neighboring countries to help make up for the expulsions of Russian diplomats from European capitals. Putin has clearly set out to avoid the mistakes made during the Cold War, when the Soviets significantly restrained the cross-border movement of people, hampering Soviet intelligence.

But there was another pressing problem for the Kremlin: how to enforce discipline within the ranks. Putin could have followed Stalin’s approach, embarking on large-scale purges and mass repressions. But he seems to have learned that those measures ultimately backfired for the Soviets. Putin understands that instilling fear is a useful tool but that outright purges would hurt the agencies—as they did in the 1930s when the Soviets’ foreign intelligence lost its most talented agents. Thus, the head of the FSB’s foreign intelligence branch, Sergei Beseda, was initially detained and held incommunicado after the first disastrous days of the Ukraine invasion. But after several weeks, he was reinstated, and the broader purges in military intelligence and the FSB that many expected after Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner paramilitary company, led a mutiny in June 2023 never materialized.

Overall, Putin has taken a flexible, pragmatic approach to his intelligence services, playing between the ever-present fear of purges and encouraging the agencies to be more innovative at regaining ground in the West. One result seems to have been a noticeable rise in more ambitious foreign operations over the past year, including alleged sabotage operations, as well as the exfiltration of the Russian operative in Italy and stepped up recruitment efforts in several NATO countries, as is apparent in the case of a member of Germany’s BND intelligence agency who was arrested in December 2022 on charges of allegedly transferring highly classified information to the Russian government, and is now on trial for treason.

SPIES LIKE US

In staging their comeback, Russia’s spy agencies have also internalized another important lesson from the Soviet years: the strategic use of ideology. In the 1930s, Moscow was able to win over many Westerners to the Soviet cause by aiming its arguments at Western deficiencies rather than promoting Marxist doctrine. At the time, Soviet agents learned that they did not really need to sell a full-fledged communist ideology; instead, they could portray the Soviet Union as an alternative to Western imperialism, emphasizing the West’s double standards and hypocrisy and offering in contrast a leader who stood up against global powers. These ideas are exactly what Russian agencies can now pedal to potential allies and recruits in Russia’s new intelligence war with the West.

As Russia prepares to enter a third year of war, its intelligence agencies know that the Kremlin supports them and shares their paranoia and prejudices. This reality suggests that the spy services can count on the Kremlin’s protection. But it does not mean that Putin himself is more secure in power.

For much of the past 20 years, Putin has struggled with the challenge of how to control his vast security and intelligence community, spread over an enormous country and abroad. In the early 2000s, he destroyed former President Boris Yeltsin’s concept of competing spy services, making the FSB the top agency. After Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, Putin tried to bring his intelligence forces to heel by sending several middle-rank officers to jail on corruption charges. But this did not result in tighter Kremlin control of the agencies. Now, with the war in Ukraine, Putin has tried to avoid the mistakes of the past and keep his intelligence forces loyal. He has also succeeded in making them stronger, for the time being, than at any previous point in the war.

But it is unclear if any of this has improved his control over them. And so far, Putin has done nothing to fix the problem: he is unwilling to repeat Stalin’s mistakes of purging his agencies on an industrial scale, but he also understands that unlike during the Soviet years, when the Communist Party controlled the KGB, he has few other ways to rein them in. If things began to go badly for Russia in the war, this one-sided dynamic could mean that Putin’s spies might be in no rush to save him.

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Spycraft and Statecraft

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For as long as countries have kept secrets from one another, they have tried to steal them from one another. Espionage has been and will remain an integral part of statecraft, even as its techniques continually evolve. America’s first spies spent the Revolutionary War using ciphers, clandestine courier networks, and invisible ink to correspond with each other and their foreign allies. In World War II, the emerging field of signals intelligence helped uncover Japanese war plans. During the early Cold War, the United States’ intelligence capabilities literally went into the stratosphere, with the advent of the U-2 and other high-altitude spy planes that could photograph Soviet military installations with impressive clarity.

The simple stars etched on the memorial wall at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, honor the 140 agency officers who gave their lives serving their country. The memorial offers an enduring reminder of countless acts of courage. Yet those instances of heroism and the CIA’s many quiet successes remain far less well known to the American public than the mistakes that have sometimes marred the agency’s history. The defining test for intelligence has always been to anticipate and help policymakers navigate profound shifts in the international landscape—the plastic moments that come along only a few times each century.

As President Joe Biden has reiterated, the United States faces one of those rare moments today, as consequential as the dawn of the Cold War or the post-9/11 period. China’s rise and Russia’s revanchism pose daunting geopolitical challenges in a world of intense strategic competition in which the United States no longer enjoys uncontested primacy and in which existential climate threats are mounting. Complicating matters further is a revolution in technology even more sweeping than the Industrial Revolution or the beginning of the nuclear age. From microchips to artificial intelligence to quantum computing, emerging technologies are transforming the world, including the profession of intelligence. In many ways, these developments make the CIA’s job harder than ever, giving adversaries powerful new tools to confuse us, evade us, and spy on us.

And yet as much as the world is changing, espionage remains an interplay between humans and technology. There will continue to be secrets that only humans can collect and clandestine operations that only humans can conduct. Technological advances, particularly in signals intelligence, have not made such human operations irrelevant, as some have predicted, but have instead revolutionized their practice. To be an effective twenty-first-century intelligence service, the CIA must blend a mastery of emerging technologies with the people-to-people skills and individual daring that have always been at the heart of our profession. That means equipping operations officers with the tools and tradecraft to conduct espionage in a world of constant technological surveillance—and equipping analysts with sophisticated artificial intelligence models that can digest mammoth amounts of open-source and clandestinely acquired information so that they can make their best human judgments.

At the same time, what the CIA does with the intelligence it gathers is also changing. “Strategic declassification,” the intentional public disclosure of certain secrets to undercut rivals and rally allies, has become an even more powerful tool for policymakers. Using it doesn’t mean recklessly jeopardizing the sources or methods used to collect the intelligence, but it does mean judiciously resisting the reflexive urge to keep everything classified. The U.S. intelligence community is also learning the increasing value of intelligence diplomacy, gaining a new understanding of how its efforts to bolster allies and counter foes can support policymakers.

This is a time of historic challenges for the CIA and the entire intelligence profession, with geopolitical and technological shifts posing as big a test as we’ve ever faced. Success will depend on blending traditional human intelligence with emerging technologies in creative ways. It will require, in other words, adapting to a world where the only safe prediction about change is that it will accelerate.

PUTIN UNBOUND

The post–Cold War era came to a definitive end the moment Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. I have spent much of the past two decades trying to understand the combustible combination of grievance, ambition, and insecurity that Russian President Vladimir Putin embodies. One thing I have learned is that it is always a mistake to underestimate his fixation on controlling Ukraine and its choices. Without that control, he believes it is impossible for Russia to be a great power or for him to be a great Russian leader. That tragic and brutish fixation has already brought shame to Russia and exposed its weaknesses, from its one-dimensional economy to its inflated military prowess to its corrupt political system. Putin’s invasion has also prompted breathtaking determination and resolve from the Ukrainian people. I have seen their courage firsthand on frequent wartime trips to Ukraine, punctuated by Russian air raids and vivid images of Ukrainian battlefield tenacity and ingenuity.

Putin’s war has already been a failure for Russia on many levels. His original goal of seizing Kyiv and subjugating Ukraine proved foolish and illusory. His military has suffered immense damage. At least 315,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded, two-thirds of Russia’s prewar tank inventory has been destroyed, and Putin’s vaunted decades-long military modernization program has been hollowed out. All this is a direct result of Ukrainian soldiers’ valor and skill, backed up by Western support. Meanwhile, Russia’s economy is suffering long-term setbacks, and the country is sealing its fate as China’s economic vassal. Putin’s overblown ambitions have backfired in another way, too: they have prompted NATO to grow larger and stronger.

Espionage remains an interplay between humans and technology.

Although Putin’s repressive grip does not seem likely to weaken anytime soon, his war in Ukraine is quietly corroding his power at home. The short-lived mutiny launched last June by the mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin offered a glimpse at some of the dysfunction lurking behind Putin’s carefully polished image of control. For a leader who painstakingly crafted a reputation as the arbiter of order, Putin looked detached and indecisive as Prigozhin’s ragtag mutineers made their way up the road to Moscow. For many in the Russian elite, the question was not so much whether the emperor had no clothes as why he was taking so long to get dressed. The ultimate apostle of payback, Putin eventually settled his score with Prigozhin, who was killed in a suspicious plane crash two months to the day after starting his rebellion. But Prigozhin’s biting critique of the lies and military misjudgments at the core of Putin’s war, and of the corruption at the heart of the Russian political system, will not soon disappear.

This year is likely to be a tough one on the battlefield in Ukraine, a test of staying power whose consequences will go well beyond the country’s heroic struggle to sustain its freedom and independence. As Putin regenerates Russia’s defense production—with critical components from China, as well as weaponry and munitions from Iran and North Korea—he continues to bet that time is on his side, that he can grind down Ukraine and wear down its Western supporters. Ukraine’s challenge is to puncture Putin’s arrogance and demonstrate the high cost for Russia of continued conflict, not just by making progress on the frontlines but also by launching deeper strikes behind them and making steady gains in the Black Sea. In this environment, Putin might engage again in nuclear saber-rattling, and it would be foolish to dismiss escalatory risks entirely. But it would be equally foolish to be unnecessarily intimidated by them.

The key to success lies in preserving Western aid for Ukraine. At less than five percent of the U.S. defense budget, it is a relatively modest investment with significant geopolitical returns for the United States and notable returns for American industry. Keeping the arms flowing will put Ukraine in a stronger position if an opportunity for serious negotiations emerges. It offers a chance to ensure a long-term win for Ukraine and a strategic loss for Russia; Ukraine could safeguard its sovereignty and rebuild, while Russia would be left to deal with the enduring costs of Putin’s folly. For the United States to walk away from the conflict at this crucial moment and cut off support to Ukraine would be an own goal of historic proportions.

XI’S POWER PLAY

No one is watching U.S. support for Ukraine more closely than Chinese leaders. China remains the only U.S. rival with both the intent to reshape the international order and the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do so. The country’s economic transformation over the past five decades has been extraordinary. It is one for which the Chinese people deserve great credit and one that the rest of the world has broadly supported in the belief that a prosperous China is a global good. The issue is not China’s rise in itself but the threatening actions that increasingly accompany it. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has begun his third presidential term with more power than any of his predecessors since Mao Zedong. Rather than use that power to reinforce and revitalize the international system that enabled China’s transformation, Xi is seeking to rewrite it. In the intelligence profession, we study carefully what leaders say. But we pay even more attention to what they do. Xi’s growing repression at home and his aggressiveness abroad, from his “no limits” partnership with Putin to his threats to peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, are impossible to ignore.

So, too, however, is the impact of Western solidarity on Xi’s calculus about the risks of using force against Taiwan, which elected a new president, Lai Ching-te, in January. For Xi, a man inclined to see the United States as a fading power, American leadership on Ukraine has surely come as a surprise. The United States’ willingness to inflict and absorb economic pain to counter Putin’s aggression—and its ability to rally its allies to do the same—powerfully contradicted Beijing’s belief that America was in terminal decline. Closer to Chinese shores, the resilience of the American network of allies and partners across the Indo-Pacific has had a sobering effect on Beijing’s thinking. One of the surest ways to rekindle Chinese perceptions of American fecklessness and stoke Chinese aggressiveness would be to abandon support for Ukraine. Continued material backing for Ukraine doesn’t come at the expense of Taiwan; it sends an important message of U.S. resolve that helps Taiwan.

Competition with China is taking place against the backdrop of thick economic interdependence and commercial ties between it and the United States. Such connections have served the two countries and the rest of the world remarkably well, but they have also created critical vulnerabilities and serious risks for American security and prosperity. The COVID-19 pandemic made clear to every government the danger of being dependent on any one country for life-saving medical supplies, just as Russia’s war in Ukraine has made clear to Europe the risks of being dependent on one country for energy. In today’s world, no country wants to find itself at the mercy of a single supplier of critical minerals and technologies—especially if that supplier is intent on weaponizing those dependencies. As American policymakers have argued, the best answer is to sensibly “de-risk” and diversify—securing the United States’ supply chains, protecting its technological edge, and investing in its industrial capacity.

In this volatile, divided world, the weight of the “hedging middle” is growing. Democracies and autocracies, developed economies and developing ones, and countries across the global South are increasingly intent on diversifying their relationships to maximize their options. They see little benefit and plenty of risk in sticking to monogamous geopolitical relationships with either the United States or China. More countries are likely to be attracted to an “open” geopolitical relationship status (or at least an “it’s complicated” one), following the United States’ lead on some issues while cultivating relations with China. And if past is precedent, Washington ought to be attentive to rivalries between the growing number of middle powers, which have historically helped spark collisions between major ones.

A FAMILIAR ENTANGLEMENT

The crisis precipitated by Hamas’s butchery in Israel on October 7, 2023, is a painful reminder of the complexity of the choices that the Middle East continues to pose for the United States. Competition with China will remain Washington’s highest priority, but that doesn’t mean it can evade other challenges. It means only that the United States has to navigate with care and discipline, avoid overreach, and use its influence wisely.

I have spent much of the last four decades working in and on the Middle East, and I have rarely seen it more tangled or explosive. Winding down the intense Israeli ground operation in the Gaza Strip, meeting the deep humanitarian needs of suffering Palestinian civilians, freeing hostages, preventing the spread of conflict to other fronts in the region, and shaping a workable approach for the “day after” in Gaza are all incredibly difficult problems. So is resurrecting hope for a durable peace that ensures Israel’s security as well as Palestinian statehood and takes advantage of historic opportunities for normalization with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. Hard as it may be to imagine those possibilities amid the current crisis, it is even harder to imagine getting out of the crisis without pursuing them seriously.

Key to Israel’s—and the region’s—security is dealing with Iran. The Iranian regime has been emboldened by the crisis and seems ready to fight to its last regional proxy, all while expanding its nuclear program and enabling Russian aggression. In the months after October 7, the Houthis, the Yemeni rebel group allied with Iran, began attacking commercial ships in the Red Sea, and the risks of escalation on other fronts persist.

The United States is not exclusively responsible for resolving any of the Middle East’s vexing problems. But none of them can be managed, let alone solved, without active U.S. leadership.

SPIES LIKE US

Geopolitical competition and uncertainty—not to mention shared challenges such as climate change and unprecedented technological advances such as artificial intelligence—make for a fiendishly complicated international landscape. The imperative for the CIA is to transform its approach to intelligence to keep pace with this rapidly transforming world. The CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community—led by Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence—are working hard to meet this moment with the urgency and creativity it requires. 

This new landscape presents particular challenges for an organization focused on human intelligence. In a world in which the United States’ principal rivals—China and Russia—are led by personalistic autocrats operating within small and insular circles of advisers, gaining insight into leaders’ intentions is both more important and more difficult than ever.

Just as 9/11 ushered in a new era for the CIA, so did Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I’m deeply proud of the work that the CIA and our intelligence partners have done to assist the president and senior U.S. policymakers—and especially the Ukrainians themselves—to thwart Putin. Together, we provided early and accurate warning of the coming invasion. That knowledge also enabled the president to decide to send me to Moscow to warn Putin and his advisers in November 2021 about the consequences of the attack we knew they were planning. Convinced that their window for dominating Ukraine was closing and that the upcoming winter offered a favorable opportunity, they were unmoved and unapologetic—badly overestimating their own position and underestimating Ukrainian resistance and Western resolve.

Good intelligence has since helped the president mobilize and sustain a strong coalition of countries in support of Ukraine. It has also helped Ukraine defend itself with remarkable bravery and perseverance. The president has also made creative use of strategic declassification. Before the invasion, the administration, along with the British government, exposed Russian plans for “false flag” operations that were designed to pin blame on Ukrainians and provide a pretext for Russian military action. These and subsequent disclosures have denied Putin the false narratives that I have watched him so often weaponize in the past. They have put him in the uncomfortable and unaccustomed position of being on the back foot. And they have bolstered both Ukraine and the coalition supporting it.

Biden and Burns speaking in front of the memorial wall at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, July 2022

Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

Meanwhile, disaffection with the war is continuing to gnaw away at the Russian leadership and the Russian people, beneath the thick surface of state propaganda and repression. That undercurrent of disaffection is creating a once-in-a-generation recruiting opportunity for the CIA. We’re not letting it go to waste.

While Russia may pose the most immediate challenge, China is the bigger long-term threat, and over the past two years, the CIA has been reorganizing itself to reflect that priority. We have started by acknowledging an organizational fact I learned long ago: priorities aren’t real unless budgets reflect them. Accordingly, the CIA has committed substantially more resources toward China-related intelligence collection, operations, and analysis around the world—more than doubling the percentage of our overall budget focused on China over just the last two years. We’re hiring and training more Mandarin speakers while stepping up efforts across the world to compete with China, from Latin America to Africa to the Indo-Pacific.

The CIA has a dozen or so “mission centers,” issue-specific groups that bring together officers from across the agencies’ various directorates. In 2021, we set up a new mission center focused exclusively on China. The only single-country mission center, it provides a central mechanism for coordinating work on China, a job that extends today to every corner of the CIA. And we’re also quietly strengthening intelligence channels to our counterparts in Beijing, an important means of helping policymakers avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and inadvertent collisions between the United States and China.

Even as China and Russia consume much of the CIA’s attention, the agency can’t afford to neglect other challenges, from counterterrorism to regional instability. The successful U.S. strike in Afghanistan in July 2022 against Ayman al-Zawahiri, the co-founder and former leader of al Qaeda, demonstrated that the CIA remains sharply focused on—and retains significant capabilities to combat—terrorist threats. The CIA is also devoting substantial resources to help fight the invasion of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that kills tens of thousands of Americans every year. And familiar regional challenges loom, not just in places long considered strategically important, such as North Korea and the South China Sea, but also in parts of the world whose geopolitical significance will only grow in the years ahead, such as Latin America and Africa. 

SMARTER SPIES

Meanwhile, we’re transforming our approach to emerging technology. The CIA has been working to blend high-tech tools with age-old techniques for collecting intelligence from individuals—human intelligence, or HUMINT. Technology is, of course, making many aspects of spycraft harder than ever. In an era of smart cities, with video cameras on every street and facial recognition technology increasingly ubiquitous, spying has become much harder. For a CIA officer working overseas in a hostile country, meeting sources who are risking their own safety to offer valuable information, constant surveillance poses an acute threat. But the same technology that sometimes works against the CIA—whether it’s the mining of big data to expose patterns in the agency’s activities or massive camera networks that can track an operative’s every move—can also be made to work for it and against others. The CIA is racing against its rivals to put emerging technologies to use. The agency has appointed its first chief technology officer. And it has established another new mission center focused on building better partnerships with the private sector, where American innovation offers a significant competitive advantage.

The CIA’s in-house scientific and technological talent remains superb. The agency has developed warehouses’ worth of spy gadgetry over the years, my favorite being the Cold War camera designed to look and hover like a dragonfly. The revolution in artificial intelligence, and the avalanche of open-source information alongside what we collect clandestinely, creates historic new opportunities for the CIA’s analysts. We’re developing new AI tools to help digest all that material faster and more efficiently, freeing officers to focus on what they do best: providing reasoned judgments and insights on what matters most to policymakers and what means most for American interests. AI won’t replace human analysts, but it is already empowering them.

Another priority in this new era is to deepen the CIA’s unmatched network of intelligence partnerships around the world, an asset the United States’ lonelier rivals currently lack. The CIA’s ability to benefit from its partners—from their collection, their expertise, their perspectives, and their capacity to operate more easily in many places than the agency can—is critical to its success. Just as diplomacy depends on revitalizing these old and new partnerships, so does intelligence. At its core, the intelligence profession is about human interactions, and there is no substitute for direct contact to strengthen ties with our closest allies, communicate with our fiercest adversaries, and cultivate everyone in between. In more than 50 overseas trips in nearly three years as director, I’ve run the gamut of those relationships.

Sometimes, it’s more convenient for intelligence officers to deal with historic enemies in situations in which diplomatic contact might connote formal recognition. That’s why the president sent me to Kabul in late August of 2021 to engage with the Taliban leadership just before the final withdrawal of U.S. troops. Sometimes, the CIA’s relationships in complicated parts of the world can offer practical possibilities, as in the ongoing negotiations with Egypt, Israel, Qatar, and Hamas over a humanitarian cease-fire and the release of hostages from Gaza. Sometimes, such ties can provide discreet ballast in relationships full of political ups and downs. And sometimes, intelligence diplomacy can encourage a convergence of interests and quietly support the efforts of U.S. diplomats and policymakers.

IN THE SHADOWS

Every day, as I read through cables from stations around the world, travel to foreign capitals, or speak with colleagues at headquarters, I’m reminded of the skill and courage of CIA officers, as well as the unrelenting challenges they face. They are doing hard jobs in hard places. Especially since 9/11, they have been operating at an incredibly fast tempo. Indeed, taking care of the CIA’s mission in this new and daunting era depends on taking care of our people. That’s why the CIA has strengthened its medical resources at headquarters and in the field; improved programs for families, remote workers, and two-career couples; and explored more flexible career paths, especially for technologists, so that officers can move into the private sector and later return to the agency.

We’ve streamlined our recruiting process for new officers. It now takes a quarter of the time it took two years ago to move from application to final offer and security clearance. These improvements have contributed to a surge of interest in the CIA. In 2023, we had more applicants than in any year since the immediate aftermath of 9/11. We’re also working hard to diversify our workforce, reaching historic highs in 2023 in terms of the number of women and minority officers hired, as well as the number promoted into the agency’s most senior ranks.

By necessity, CIA officers operate in the shadows, usually out of sight and out of mind; the risks they take and the sacrifices they make are rarely well understood. At a moment when trust in the United States’ public institutions is often in short supply, the CIA remains a resolutely apolitical institution, bound by the oath I and everyone else at the agency have taken to defend the Constitution and by our obligations under the law.

CIA officers are also bound together by a sense of community, and by a deep, shared commitment to public service at this crucial moment in American history. They know the truth in the advice I got many years ago from my father, who had a distinguished military career. As I was wrestling with what to do with my professional life, he sent me a handwritten note: “Nothing can make you prouder than to serve your country with honor.” That helped launch me into a long and fortunate career in government, first in the Foreign Service and now at the CIA. I’ve never regretted the choice I made. I take enormous pride in serving with thousands of other CIA officers who feel the same about theirs—and are rising to the challenge of a new era.

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Enemy drone that killed US troops in Jordan was mistaken for a US drone, preliminary report suggests

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Three American troops were killed and 25 were injured Sunday in a drone strike in northeast Jordan near the Syrian border, the U.S. military said. President Joe Biden blamed Iran-backed militias for the first U.S. fatalities after months of strikes by the groups against American forces across the Middle East amid the Israel-Hamas war. (Jan. 29)

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After drone attack in Jordan kills 3 America troops, NSC’s Kirby says US will respond

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterates that the U.S. administration isn’t seeking to get into another conflict in the Middle East. But, Kirby tells reporters the U.S. will “respond appropriately to these attacks. ” (Jan. 29)

AP Explains: report says drone that killed US troops in Jordan mistaken for US drone

Associated Press News director for the Persian Gulf and Iran Jon Gambrell explains the new details emerging from Sunday’s deadly drone strike on a U.S. base in Jordan, killing three American troops and wounding dozens of others (Jan. 29)

Military expert weighs in on drone strike response

The White House insists it’s not looking for war with Iran even as President Joe Biden vows retaliatory action for a drone attack on a U.S. forces in Jordan that killed three American troops that the Democratic administration believes Tehran was behind. (Jan. 29)

Drone that killed US troops in Jordan mistaken for US drone, report says

U.S. forces may have mistaken an enemy drone for an American one and let it pass unchallenged into a desert base in Jordan where it killed three U.S. troops and wounded dozens more, officials said Monday. The Associated Press News Director for the Persian Gulf and Iran Jon Gambrell explains what could happen next. (Jan. 29)

Families mourn loss of 3 US soldiers from Georgia in Jordan drone strike

The U.S. Defense Department says three Army Reserve soldiers from Georgia were killed in a weekend drone strike in Jordan. They were identified as Sgt. William Jerome Rivers of Carrollton, Spc. Kennedy Sanders of Waycross and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett of Savannah. (Jan. 29)

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By LOLITA C. BALDOR. AAMER MADHANI and ZEKE MILLER
Updated [hour]:[minute] [AMPM] [timezone], [monthFull] [day], [year]  

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. forces may have mistaken an enemy drone for an American one and let it pass unchallenged into a desert base in Jordan where it killed three U.S. troops and wounded dozens more, officials said Monday.

Details of the Sunday attack emerged as President Joe Biden faced a difficult balancing act, blaming Iran and looking to strike back in a forceful way without causing any further escalation of the Gaza conflict.

As the enemy drone was flying in at a low altitude, a U.S. drone was returning to the small installation known as Tower 22, according to a preliminary report cited by two officials, who were not authorized to comment and insisted on anonymity,

As a result, there was no effort to shoot down the enemy drone that hit the outpost. One of the trailers where troops sleep sustained the brunt of the strike, while surrounding trailers got limited damage from the blast and flying debris. While there are no large air defense systems at Tower 22, the base does have counter-drone systems, such as Coyote drone interceptors.

Aside from the soldiers killed, the Pentagon said more than 40 troops were wounded in the attack, most with cuts, bruises, brain injuries and similar wounds. Eight were medically evacuated, including three who were going to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The other five, who suffered “minor traumatic brain injuries,” were expected to return to duty.

Asked if the failure to shoot down the enemy drone was “human error,” Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh responded that the U.S. Central Command was still assessing the matter.

The Pentagon identified those killed in the attack as Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Georgia; Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Georgia; and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Georgia.

The three U.S. Army Reserve soldiers were assigned to the 718th Engineer Company, 926th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade in Fort Moore, Georgia.

The explanation for how the enemy drone evaded U.S. air defenses came as the White House said Monday it’s not looking for war with Iran even as Biden vows retaliatory action. The Democratic administration believes Tehran was behind the strike.

AP Washington correspondent Sagar Meghani reports.

Biden met with national security advisers in the White House Situation Room to discuss the latest developments and potential retaliation.

“There’s no easy answer here,” said National Security Council spokesman John Kirby. “And that’s why the president is meeting with his national security team weighing the options before him.”

The brazen attack, which the Biden administration blames on Iranian-based proxies, adds another layer of complexity to an already tense Mideast situation as the Biden administration tries to keep the Israel-Hamas war from expanding into a broader regional conflict.

“The president and I will not tolerate attacks on U.S. forces, and we will take all necessary actions to defend the U.S. and our troops,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said as he met at the Pentagon with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The drone attack was one of dozens on U.S. troops in the Middle East since Hamas launched attacks on Israel on Oct. 7, igniting the war in Gaza. But it’s the first in which American service members have been killed.

Biden promised on Sunday to “hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner (of) our choosing” but said the U.S. wasn’t seeking to get into another conflict in the Middle East.

Kirby also made clear that American patience has worn thin after more than two months of attacks by Iranian proxies on U.S. troops in Iraq, Syria and Jordan and on U.S. Navy and commercial vessels in the Red Sea. The proxy groups — including Yemen’s Houthi rebels and Iraq based Kataeb Hezbollah — say the attacks are in response to Israel’s ongoing military operations in Gaza.

“We are not looking for a war with Iran,” Kirby told reporters. “That said, this was a very serious attack. It had lethal consequences. We will respond, and we respond appropriately.”

Iran on Monday denied it was behind the Jordan strike.

“These claims are made with specific political goals to reverse the realities of the region,” Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani as saying. Iran regularly denies involvement in attacks linked back to it through the militias it arms across the wider Mideast.

Kirby said that U.S. officials are still working through determining which militant group was behind the attack. He noted that Iran has longed equipped and trained the militias.

Republicans have laid blame on Biden for doing too little to deter Iranian militias, which have carried out approximately 165 attacks on U.S. troops in the region since the start of the war.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Sunday called the attack “yet another horrific and tragic consequence of Joe Biden’s weakness and surrender.”

The attack hit a U.S. military desert outpost in the far reaches of northeastern Jordan known as Tower 22. The installation sits near the demilitarized zone on the border between Jordan and Syria along a sandy, bulldozed berm marking the DMZ’s southern edge. The Iraqi border is only 10 kilometers (6 miles) away.

The base began as a Jordanian outpost watching the border, then saw an increased U.S. presence after American forces entered Syria in late 2015. The small installation includes U.S. engineering, aviation, logistics and security troops, with about 350 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel deployed.

Iraq’s government condemned the drone strike. Spokesman Bassem al-Awadi said in a statement that Iraq was “monitoring with a great concern the alarming security developments in the region” and called for “an end to the cycle of violence.” The statement said that Iraq is ready to participate in diplomatic efforts to prevent further escalation.

An umbrella group for Iran-backed factions known as the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has claimed dozens of attacks against bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria since the Israel-Hamas war began. On Sunday, the group claimed three drone attacks against sites in Syria, including near the border with Jordan, and one inside of “occupied Palestine” but so far hasn’t claimed the attack in Jordan.

John Bolton, who served as national security adviser to Trump, said Iran hasn’t paid a price for the havoc that its proxies have unleashed in the region. He suggested the Biden administration could send a strong message to Tehran with strikes on Iranian vessels in the Red Sea, Iranian air defenses along the Iraqi border, and bases that have been used to train and supply militant groups for years.

“So until Iran bears a cost, you’re not going to reestablish deterrence, you’re not going to put the belligerence on a downward slope.”

The attack came as U.S. officials were seeing signs of progress in negotiations to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas to release the more than 100 remaining hostages being held in Gaza in exchange for an extended pause in fighting. While contours of a deal under consideration would not end the war, Americans believed that it could lay the groundwork for a durable resolution to the conflict.

Qatar’s prime minister said Monday that senior U.S. and Mideast mediators had achieved a framework proposal to present to Hamas for freeing hostages and pausing fighting in Gaza.

Prime Minister Mohammed al-Thani’s comments at the Atlantic Council in Washington came after talks Sunday in Paris among U.S., Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian officials seeking a new round of hostage releases and a cease-fire in Gaza.

___

Associated Press writers Qassim Abdul-Zahra in Baghdad, Jon Gambrell in Jerusalem and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed reporting.


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