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The CIA didn't let itself fall victim to Wikileaks espionage attempts.  (Source: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty)

The CIA refused to share its reports on SIPRNET -- a system accessible by close to 2 million soldiers, intelligence officials, and private contractors.  (Source: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michelle Waters, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

CIA software also sends warnings if large amounts of information are downloaded on a system -- a common sense precaution that the U.S. Military apparently never though of or got around to implementing.  (Source: Microsoft)
The CIA's unwillingness to share saved its secrets, says the Wikileaks Task Force (W.T.F.)

What was the impact of Wikileaks on the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)?  In an interview with Greg Miller of the Washington Post,  spokesman George Little shares an inside look at the task force the agency created to answer that question, following the undesired release of state department cables and Iraqi/Afghani war memos. The task's force's acronym nickname -- W.T.F. -- and its conclusions are simultaneously intriguing and amusing.

I. W.T.F.'s Conclusion? Cover Not Blown

For better or worse most Americans badly misunderstand the CIA.  First, the CIA does not collect intelligence or police within the U.S. (that's the role of the FBI, NSA, etc.).  Second, while the CIA may occasionally participate in a James Bondesque operation, its primary role is not to act, but to watch and listen.  The agency is fixated on collecting as much information as it can on foreign entities and their relationship to the U.S.  One such entity of high interest is Wikileaks.

Mr. Little comments, "The director asked the [Wikileaks] task force to examine whether the latest release of WikiLeaks documents might affect the agency's foreign relationships or operations."

Its finding?  For all its efforts to "expose" U.S. foreign policy, Wikileaks had little success in revealing the secrets of the CIA.

The most the leaked documents (according to past reports) could reveal was to expose the "Other Government Agency" ("OGA"), an anti-insurgency group that is believed to be created by the CIA in Iraq.  The leaks, however, offered little in the way of unexpected information or evidence of wrongdoing (which perhaps again raises the question of whether Wikileaks was truly "whistleblowing" or just releasing documents in an espionage/"freedom of information" bid).

The OGA attacked insurgents (really?).  It was once fired on by U.S. soldiers when one of its vehicles failed to slow down and identify itself -- but no one was hurt.  And once, one of its agents was shot in the thigh by an insurgent (shocking!).  Overall, the leak offered little insight into any more secretive activities of the CIA.

While the Pentagon and State Department bemoan the irritation to allies and rallying cry to terrorist insurgents that the leaks provided, W.T.F.'s conclusions are helping CIA officials sleep more comfortably at night.  The agency, which requires the utmost secrecy for its overseas operatives safety, remained virtually uncompromised.

II. Caring, but not Sharing

According to former agency officials interviewed in the Washington Post piece, the agency's secrecy escaped unscathed only thanks to careful precautions.  First, the agency implements a seemingly common sense precaution that the Defense Agency bafflingly does not -- it sends alerts if large amounts of information are downloaded from its systems. 

Second, the agency does not allow USB sticks to be used on most of its computers -- something the Pentagon is only now getting around to implementing.  States a former "high-ranking" agency official, "It's just a huge vulnerability.  Nobody could carry out enough paper to do what WikiLeaks has done."

He jokes that if he had tried to use a USB stick on his computer, "There would probably be a little trap door under my chair."

Joking aside, the CIA also did something even more controversial -- it refused to share much of its information with other government departments.  While that approach earned it criticism by some, who blamed it for failing to stop the 2001 terrorist attacks, it also prevented the agency's secrets from slipping into hostile hands.

While new legislation forced the agency to share some additional information, its policy largely held in the post-9/11 government.  States an unnamed official, "[The agency] has not capitulated to this business of making everything available to outsiders.  They don't even make everything available to insiders. And by and large the system has worked."

When asked to post its reports on SIPRNET -- the computer network that U.S. Army Specialist Bradley Manning removed documents from, to illegally share with a foreign entity (Wikileaks) -- the CIA refused.  States another former official, "We simply said we weren't going to do it.  The consensus was there were simply too many people potentially who had access."

The agency officials shared this information anonymously, because formally the agency can not share its security procedures.

Ultimately, its decision not to share saved it from the danger and humiliation that the Pentagon and State Department now find themselves in.  The agency wasn't about to let itself fall for a rubeish espionage scheme by "bradass87".  Collecting secrets is a game that the CIA has played long before Spc. Manning or Wikileaks founder Julian Assange set foot on this Earth.

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Govt run amock
By mdogs444 on 12/23/2010 9:38:24 AM , Rating: 1
Seeing as how our own director of intelligence didn't even know that 12 men were arrested in London in a high profile terrorism raid...

"WTF" seems to be a justified name for another level of mismanaged bureaucracy run by this administration.

RE: Govt run amock
By Etern205 on 12/23/2010 9:46:13 AM , Rating: 2
This is definitely WTF?!

RE: Govt run amock
By ebakke on 12/23/2010 9:48:00 AM , Rating: 5
I'm no fan of the current administration, but how much influence does an administration really have on the daily workings of the CIA?

RE: Govt run amock
By mdogs444 on 12/23/2010 10:56:57 AM , Rating: 2
This is a intel Director....not a low level operative. The director of the CIA is appointed by the I would say a lot of influence.

RE: Govt run amock
By Master Kenobi on 12/23/2010 11:32:11 AM , Rating: 2
No influence. The Director of National Intelligence is a figure head, nothing else. The real power lies with DIRNSA (Director of the NSA) and the DCI (Director of Central Intelligence "AKA CIA"). Obama might have created the DNI slot and stuck some boob in it, but he has zero power and zero input from the real intelligence community.

RE: Govt run amock
By borismkv on 12/23/2010 11:36:12 AM , Rating: 2
But he did get a cushy high paying government job with lots of minions for his campaign donation.

RE: Govt run amock
By ebakke on 12/23/2010 2:40:11 PM , Rating: 5
I wish I had minions. [sigh]

RE: Govt run amock
By SPOOFE on 12/24/2010 12:49:09 AM , Rating: 3
Be charismatic, well-spoken, apathetic about your own promises, and a racial minority, and minions are guaranteed or double your money back.

RE: Govt run amock
By cbo on 12/23/2010 10:08:09 AM , Rating: 2
Well in reading the article it seems to me that no one is sharing information in a free flowing but secure way. Which may be good for security but makes it hard to act on that information. I would hope at the very least one director can give a heads up call to another director on a secure line.

As much as people would like to blame this 2 year old administration for everything. I would like to point out that terrorist attacks/attempts have occurred and unfortunately will occur to every administration. I consider myself a patriot, and love this country. But as Americans we should realize greater that most others that individual determination is the hardest thing to combat.

RE: Govt run amock
By SPOOFE on 12/24/2010 12:54:08 AM , Rating: 2
As much as people would like to blame this 2 year old administration for everything.

Are they blaming the administration, or the mentality that gave us the administration?

RE: Govt run amock
By Lerianis on 12/26/2010 10:34:47 AM , Rating: 2
Both, which both arguments are deflecting attention away from the fact that government is WAAAAY to secretive for WAAAAAY too long today.

I under when operations are currently ongoing that you need to have secrets.... but after the operation is done, release information on the operation with redaction if necessary.

By Skywalker123 on 12/23/2010 10:37:55 AM , Rating: 4
"Second, while the CIA may occasionally participate in a James Bondesque operation, its primary role is not to act, but to watch and listen."

James Bonds operations were always successful, CIA operations are more like Inspector Clouseau. And they are constantly engaged in dirty tricks and meddling in other countries affairs.

By SlyNine on 12/23/2010 10:50:09 AM , Rating: 3
lol, and you know all this how?

By heffeque on 12/23/2010 12:09:31 PM , Rating: 5
Thanks to wikileaks! (^_^)

Good to see that thanks to wikileaks now we actually have PROOF of what our corrupt government is doing (and what Obama isn't trying to fix).

By zixin on 12/23/2010 12:24:09 PM , Rating: 3
And what corrupt things are our goverment up to? Calling the French president a party animal or the German Prime Minister uncreative is really corrupt.

By Lerianis on 12/26/2010 10:37:49 AM , Rating: 3
Hmm.... covering up the fact that young Afghani boys were used a sexual bartering tokens with Afghani leaders by our corporations over in Afghanistan.

That is only naming the biggest one.

By SunTzu on 12/27/2010 8:15:34 AM , Rating: 2
Kidnapping german citizens because they share the name of a suspected terrorist, keeping him in an isolated foreign camp, and interrogating him for months, and then dumping him in a third country, maybe? Oh, and when the German authorities opens an investigation, they used diplomatic threats to assure that the CIA operatives in question were not apprehended.

Does that do it for you?

By priusone on 12/23/2010 12:26:23 PM , Rating: 3
So, the guy CHANGE(d) his mind.

By Einy0 on 12/23/2010 7:02:18 PM , Rating: 2
Never Trust a Spook

By SlyNine on 12/23/2010 10:51:49 AM , Rating: 4
I think it's safe to assume the things the CIA does (finds out) that we never hear about is what we should be most thankful about.

By SPOOFE on 12/24/2010 12:58:34 AM , Rating: 2
I only worry about whether or not the stuff we don't find about is particularly insidious or particularly stupid.

You really wany to know how the CIA act?
By DoeBoy on 12/23/2010 1:33:06 PM , Rating: 2
Its real simple... look at the Iran-Contra scandal. Read the book Dark Alliance... it will show you how corrupt and dirty the CIA is and all at the expense of the American people.

By Lerianis on 12/26/2010 10:42:38 AM , Rating: 2
Well, that is really the price of allowing government secrecy..... which we do not need to pay, to be blunt, if we would insist that government have no secrets from their employers, the American people.

to be fair
By zmatt on 12/23/2010 1:37:36 PM , Rating: 2
The military did have a no flash drives policy for a long time. When manning walked off with all of the information the ban had recently been lifted. Needless to say, when that happened they were banned again.

RE: to be fair
By Lerianis on 12/28/2010 2:12:38 PM , Rating: 2
The ban was lifted because a lot of people said "Hey, we need to use encrypted flash drives to take home information and/or to move information between places that are 'off the boards'."

That will be done again in the near future.

By Solandri on 12/23/2010 5:41:34 PM , Rating: 3
This is what I've been saying for a while about the Wikileaks releases. They don't encourage more open government; instead they encourage more secrecy. The Wikileaks docs hurt the agencies with the most open secrecy sharing policies, and barely affected the agency with one of the most restrictive secrecy sharing policy. So what do you think government agencies will do in the future? More of them will choose to hold their secrets closer. So what Wikileaks is doing will encourage more closed government, not more open.

See, in order for exposing secrets to have a positive effect, there has to be little controversy that the secrets needed to be exposed. The secrets have to show almost indisputable corruption or wrongdoing. Only when the public mostly feels that it was a good thing that the secrets were revealed, then will they put pressure on the government to clean up the corruption.

If you expose nearly every single secret regardless of merit like Wikileaks is doing, most of the public will then think that it was a bad thing that these secrets were revealed. They will then support their government in becoming more secretive. The effect is then exactly the opposite of what says Wikileaks is trying to accomplish.

By bernardl on 12/23/2010 7:16:57 PM , Rating: 3
The whole article is built on two false premises:

1. The previoualy mentioned theory that Wikileaks is anti-American,
2. The theory that Wikileaks's goal, to enforce its supposed anti-americanism, is trying to harm the CIA by revealing some secrets.

We should know better by now and have understood that criticsm of some US gov wrongdoings isn't anti-American, it is most definitely pro-American in that it goes in the direction of the American ideal of openess and goodness. The perpetrators of wrong-doing, whether they are on US gov pay roll or not, are the bad guys.

The very fact that this WTF agency claims the non lethal nature of the leaks is a wonderful confirmation of the claims of Wikileaks that they have never tried to put people in danger.


History speaks otherwise
By kingius on 12/23/2010 9:55:29 AM , Rating: 2
Don't be fooled, smugness is no shield, the CIA has had its share of security breaches...

By adiposity on 12/23/2010 2:32:12 PM , Rating: 2
Wait a minute, so now that the CIA says they are secure, we know they are secure?

“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls

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