Reorganization of the CIA to focus on China
Ten years ago, the Chinese government systematically dismantled the CIA’s espionage operation in the country, with informants captured or killed. Some former officials blamed a breach of the agency’s classified communications system, while others blamed a former CIA officer later convicted of leaking secrets to China. Since then, the agency has attempted to rebuild its networks, but the Chinese government’s power to track people’s movements and communications has slowed the effort.
A senior CIA official said the new tech hub would help the agency stay ahead of new technologies to identify spies. In recent years, the official said, the agency has struggled to keep up with new technological developments and urged officers not to underestimate conflicting intelligence services.
In CIA parlance, commerce refers to the skills used by spies to evade enemy agents, find new sources, and communicate with them securely. Technological advancements in countries like China have forced the agency to update 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 crafts.
The changes are also an attempt to refine the sweeping CIA reorganization undertaken in 2015 by John O. Brennan, when he became director in the later years of the Obama administration. Ahead of the announcement, Mr Burns reached out to former agency directors to brief them on the reorganization and its thinking, several of whom said the changes made sense to them.
“The CIA must adapt to the political priorities of each new administration as well as the changing global landscape of national security challenges and opportunities,” said Mr. Brennan. “If there is one 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 is not as broad as that of Mr. Brennan. But Mr. Burns is reversing two changes put in place by Mr. Brennan’s successor, Mike Pompeo, who was President Donald J. Trump’s first CIA director. Mr. Pompeo created mission centers focused on North Korea and Iran. These groups will now be folded 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, is stepping down from the agency. The 2017 appointment of Mr. 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 on Iran . And within the CIA, Mr. D’Andrea helped craft a more muscular approach against Tehran.