The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the most secretive and powerful intelligence organization in the United States, responsible for gathering and analyzing information from around the world that are related to national security. The current director of the CIA today is Gina Haspel, who was sworn into office on May 21, 2018. She is the first woman ever to lead the CIA.
Haspel began her career with the CIA in 1985. Before her appointment, Haspel served in various overseas and domestic positions, including deputy director of the National Clandestine Service and deputy director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action.
Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA was met with controversy. Many civil liberties advocates have expressed concern over her role in the agency’s use of torture during the Bush years and have called on the administration to launch a full investigation of her involvement. Haspel has vowed to uphold a zero-tolerance policy for torture and other human rights abuses, and her supporters have praised her for her vast experience and expertise in intelligence.
In her role as CIA director, Haspel is responsible for leading the agency in its mission to “provide the best possible intelligence to decision makers.” She is tasked with managing the collection, analysis, evaluation, and effective dissemination of intelligence information, as well as providing strategic oversight of the agency’s operations.
Haspel’s career path to the CIA and her tenure thus far have been filled with headlines. During her career, she has led a number of important assignments, including serving as Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service and Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action. She has also managed complex operations including the agency’s controversial detention and interrogation program after 9/11 and its post-9/11 drone operations against terrorist targets.
In December 2017, President Trump announced Haspel’s nomination to lead the CIA. Her appointment came just months after the national intelligence community launched a wide-ranging investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. While she was criticized by some for her ties to the previous administration’s policies, she received Senate approval from both parties and was sworn in as the CIA’s first female director in May 2018. Shortly after entering office, Haspel began reshaping the agency, implementing changes such as a renewed emphasis on cutting-edge intelligence gathering tools, job-creation measures for its national clandestine service, and working to improve the CIA’s public image.
Organizational Priorities of the CIA
Under Haspel’s leadership, the CIA has prioritized three main goals. First, they seek to ensure the agency’s core mission of protecting the nation’s security by acquiring and analyzing intelligence information. Next, they want to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the work carried out by the agency. Finally, they are dedicated to continuous improvement of the organization, its decision making and evidence-based strategy implementation. To enact the agency’s policies, Haspel leads a team of highly talented professionals from all across the United States.
At the same time, Haspel has also stated her commitment to provide a safe and secure work environment for her staff as well as an open and transparent relationship with the public. In that vein, she has launched CIA FIT, which stands for “Fill in the Blanks” and is designed to encourage employees to communicate openly about any ethical or compliance issues they experience. Additionally, Haspel has implemented a new leadership development program to promote mentoring and openness among department heads and other senior staff.
One of her top initiatives has been the expansion of technology-focused efforts to improve how the agency uses data and advanced analytics. Haspel has incorporated new methods such as artificial intelligence and machine-learning capabilities that allow the agency to focus on data fusion, which ultimately helps analysts assess, analyze and respond to threats more efficiently. In line with this effort, she has reversed the agency’s decision to reduce the role of Chief Technology Officer (CTO), knowing that such roles would be critical to the agency’s advances in technology.
Haspel is also focused on modernizing the agency’s workforce and mission. She has taken steps to make routine training more efficient and cost-effective, as well as established new policies to promote gender and racial equity in the workplace. She also invested in building a stronger relationship with the intelligence and research community, pursuing public-private partnerships to tap into cutting-edge innovation.
Haspel is also committed to humanizing the agency’s image, initiating public outreach events and activities to create a more positive perception. For instance, she’s organized town hall meetings, guided tours and “State of the Agency” events to build connections between the CIA and its neighbors and to share information about the agency’s work. Additionally, Haspel has relaunched a program called Local Heroes that honors civil servants and other active personnel who have made a difference in their communities.
As an experienced and knowledgeable leader, Haspel has had a lasting impact on the CIA and the global intelligence community. She’s taken steps to bolster the CIA’s efforts to address modern security threats and has been met with widespread approval for her contributions thus far. Moving forward, she hopes to make further advances in technology and modernization to ensure the CIA continues to operate with the utmost excellence and integrity.
Modernization of Technology
Under Gina Haspel’s leadership, the CIA has prioritized transforming their technology approach. This includes leveraging opportunities such as cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI), to allow collection and analysis of global intelligence that significantly exceeds the limits of any manual approach. Haspel has also emphasized on building strong artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning capabilities that allow the agency to effectively tackle data-driven threats. This approach has led to the development of automated AI-driven technologies, such as the Persistent Foresight Platform (PFP), which supports analysts with risk detection and attack vector identification capabilities.
The CIA has also embraced modern tools to enhance its human capabilities. For instance, predictive analytics tools have been deployed to provide rapid sentiment or threat analysis in a matter of seconds. Additionally, cognitive empathy engines are being incorporated in the agency’s workflows for enhanced insight into international actions and behaviors. These tools and capabilities are designed to help accelerate the CIA’s mission to protect the national security of the United States.
Collaboration with the Private Sector
Haspel has made it a point to pursue meaningful public-private partnerships to maximize opportunities to utilize cutting-edge technology and modern intelligence expertise. To that effect, the CIA has expanded collaboration with technology giants such as IBM, Microsoft and Google, as well as more niche tech companies such as Palantir, CymWedge and Fidelis. These collaborations have enabled the CIA to rapidly replicate successful strategies and practices to improve their operations and strengthen the agency’s core competencies.
Additionally, the CIA has collaborated with a number of venture capital firms, such as In-Q-Tel, to identify potential external opportunities and leverage the latest internet technologies from all over the world. This approach has helped the CIA build relationships with a variety of partners, from start-ups to large corporates, to solve some of the most pressing national security challenges faced by the United States.
With the focus on data-driven security, the CIA has adopted a variety of methods to improve their analysis and decision making process. For example, the agency has incorporated data mining and text mining techniques to quickly analyze large datasets and extract relevant insights. Moreover, the agency has utilized data-driven decision-making models to identify potential hotspots of activities and map nations’ responses to threats. This data-driven approach has allowed the CIA to take proactive steps to counter the threats posed by malicious actors.
In addition to the increased use of data and analytics, the CIA has adopted an evidence-based approach to understand and anticipate global threats. To that effect, the agency has partnered with several academic institutions, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to leverage predictive analytics and machine-learning capabilities to process and analyze complex data. CIA analysts are also regularly participating in multiple academic pursuits, such as research projects and ongoing case studies, to gain a deeper understanding of the agency’s capabilities and the external environment in which it operates.
Transparency and Communication
Under Gina Haspel’s leadership, the CIA has sought to become more transparent and engage with the public. This includes actively participating in dialogue on issues such as public-private partnerships, which have enabled the agency to leverage outside resources, as well as launching initiatives to increase the public’s understanding of the agency’s work. Haspel has also actively pursued speaking engagements, such as interviews and lectures, to further spread awareness of the CIA’s mission and purpose.
Additionally, the CIA has improved its communication and social media presence with the launch of multiple Twitter accounts and other digital resources. These accounts are helping to bridge the gap between the agency and the wider public by providing direct and on-demand access to the latest agency updates and activities. This includes @CIA, which is the official CIA account, as well as @CIATweet, which shares stories and facts about the CIA’s history and current operations.
At the same time, Haspel is also making efforts to increase public access to agency documents and other information. Miles Copeland, Assistant Chief of the CIA’s Information and Document Division, recently said, “The CIA has moved to make more and more information available to the public so people can better understand their government’s role.” The CIA has also significantly increased its involvement in open-source intelligence (OSINT), with the aim of utilizing publicly accessible information to identify, analyze and monitor global threats. These efforts have allowed the agency to more accurately and effectively counter potential threats.