They are openly talking about a New Cold War.
The CIA is creating a new center focused exclusively on gathering intelligence about China and countering its espionage against the United States, another sign that senior U.S. officials are preparing for an all-encompassing, years-long struggle with Beijing.
Describing an effort that will enlist every corner of the spy agency, a senior CIA official drew comparisons to the Cold War fight against the Soviet Union, but said China was a more formidable and complicated rival given the size of its economy, which is completely entwined with that of the United States, and its own global reach.
Just as it did against the Soviets, the CIA will deploy more officers, linguists, technicians and specialists in countries around the world to gather intelligence and counter China’s interests, said the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to more fully describe Burns’s remarks.
Former director John O. Brennan, who oversaw a sweeping reorganization of the CIA during the Obama administration, credited Burns for the new approach on China.
“If there is any country that deserves its own mission center, it is China, which has global ambitions and presents the greatest challenge to U.S. interests and to international order,” Brennan said.
Under Burns’s predecessor, Gina Haspel, the CIA began to come down from a wartime footing in which it was principally focused on penetrating and dismantling terrorist networks and began to return its focus to so-called hard targets, chiefly China, but also Russia, Iran and North Korea.
They are merging their Iran and North Korea centers back into their typical regional desks.
Asked why agency leaders believed China needed its own mission center when they were effectively shutting them down for two other hard targets, the senior official described China as unique, because no other single country requires work that stretches across all of the agency’s mission areas, including intelligence collectors, analysts, linguists and technologists.
They are shortening the security clearance process to six months from two years, and creating a “new technology fellowship program to allow private-sector experts to work for a year or two at the agency.”
A couple of years ago someone who claimed to be CIA complained that its harder to recruit becase too many of the younger generation have lived their entire lives online and can’t go undercover.
While the CIA has excelled throughout its history at crafting technology to spy on its adversaries, the rapid evolution of commercial technology has put the agency at a disadvantage. Today, through simple Internet searches, a rival intelligence service can sometimes identify CIA officers in their country and discover whom they might be trying to recruit as spies, current and former officials have said.
Ten years ago the entire CIA network in China was rolled up.
At the same time, the agency’s reliance on technology to communicate with its foreign sources may have helped identify them. About 10 years ago, Chinese and Iranian authorities penetrated the CIA’s covert communications system and managed to identify and round up agents in their countries, according to people familiar with the debacles.
They are telegraphing a three-pronged attack on China:
That new center will also encompass transnational threats such as climate change, disease outbreaks and humanitariancrises.
Climate change is an economic attack, humanitarianism is Color Revolutions in Hong Kong and among Uyghurs, and “disease outbreaks” should terrify everyone for the obvious reasons.
The focus on tradecraft comes amid warnings from CIA counterintelligence officials. In a cable dispatched to personnel around the world last week, the agency pointed out the number of agents who had been executed by foreign governments to persuade CIA officers to work harder to protect their sources from being discovered, according to people familiar with the matter.
It looks like the new generation has not adjusted to new technological and cultural realities, typical failure of a third generation organization.