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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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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.

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