October 19, 2021

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Reorganization of the CIA to focus on China

Ten years ago, the Chinese government systematically dismantled the CIA spying operation in the country, with informers captured or killed. Some former officials have accused a breach of the agency’s confidential communications system, while others have accused a former CIA officer later convicted of giving secrets to China. Since then, the agency has attempted to rebuild its networks, but the Chinese government’s power to monitor people’s movements and communications has slowed the efforts.

A senior CIA official said the new tech hub would help the agency keep up with new technologies to identify spies. In recent years, the official said, the agency has struggled to keep pace with new technological developments and urged officials not to underestimate the conflicting intelligence services.

In CIA jargon, trade refers to the skills used by spies to evade enemy agents, find new sources, and communicate with them securely. Technological advances in countries like China have forced the agency to upgrade and improve its craftsmanship. And the senior official said the new emphasis on technology and China would help in these efforts to continue transforming their trades.

The changes are also an attempt to refine the vast reorganization of the CIA undertaken in 2015 by John O. Brennan, when he became director of the CIA in the last years of the Obama administration. Prior to the announcement, Burns reached out to former agency directors to brief them on the reorganization and his thinking, many of whom said the changes made sense to them.

“The CIA must adapt to the political priorities of each new administration and the changing global landscape of national security challenges and opportunities,” said Brennan. “If there is a country that deserves its own mission center, it is China, which has global ambitions and presents the greatest challenge to American interests and the international order”.

The new reorganization isn’t as extensive as Mr. Brennan’s. But Mr. Burns is reversing two changes put in place by Brennan’s successor, Mike Pompeo, who was President Donald J. Trump’s first CIA director. Mr. Pompeo has created mission centers focusing on North Korea and Iran. These groups will now be grouped into regional centers focused on the Middle East and East Asia.

With the end of the Iranian mission center, its current leader, Michael D’Andrea, withdraws from the agency. The 2017 appointment of D’Andrea, who has had a long career leading operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist targets, was a sign of the Trump administration’s hard line towards Iran. And within the CIA, Mr. D’Andrea helped create a tough approach against Tehran.

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