U.S. spy chief in favor of less secrecy

Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair addressed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this Wednesday, July 22 and it seems he’s looking to involve the private sector in intelligence operations.

This is an indication of a few things: 1. the recognition of the need to bring in outsider expertise, and 2. the belief that it’s ok to slacken up a little on the über-secretive approach that’s always been the trademark of many of the sixteen intelligence agencies that Blair oversees.

Dennis BlairBlair explained that although they sometimes describe the future of the U.S. intelligence community as an enterprise, “in the future, we have to include a larger membership and think of it as an electron surrounding that nucleus.”

U.S. intelligence agencies currently collaborate with foreign intelligence groups, but Blair believes that valuable partnerships could be forged with academics, think tanks and other experts in the commercial private sector.

The apprehension around widening the sphere of collaboration to non-intelligence parties is of course related to confidentiality. Who can be trusted? The more people involved – especially those not indoctrinated in the ways of the world of espionage – the more possibility for leaks. Blair touched upon this concern as well, saying, “There will always be an element of secrecy in our profession, but I don’t think there has to be so much an element of mystery as we currently have.”

Blair noted that intelligence agencies can no longer hope to protect national security simply by uncovering the secrets of others. Cyber espionage and cyber attacks are currently a very real threat, and fortifying the U.S. cyber infrastructure is critical to the nation’s continued safety.

Blair does not believe the U.S. is as vulnerable as countries who have recently suffered severe cyber attacks were (think Estonia and Georgia), but the U.S. won’t continue to be safe unless it works hard at maintaining its cyber armor.

The government’s still trying to figure out who was behind the cyber attacks that hit government websites in both South Korea and the U.S. on July 4. Even though the attack was “unsophisticated,” said Blair, the perpetrator knew enough to go through “a series of cutouts, different IDs, and the process of going back and sorting that out just takes some … time.”

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