Moral Low Ground


CIA Plans to Increase Spying on Facebook, Twitter


The Central Intelligence Agency is seeking to expand its cyber espionage capabilities so it can increase surveillance of social media sites including Facebook and Twitter.

The Washington Post reports CIA Director John Brennan is planning a major expansion of the agency’s cyber espionage abilities as part of a broad restructuring program.

The proposed changes reflect the CIA’s shift from conventional espionage, including HUMINT, or human intelligence, to more online activity to keep up with technological developments like the universal increase in the use of social media, smartphones and other 21st century inventions.

According to US officials, Brennan’s plan calls for increased reliance upon cyber capabilities for everything from recruiting informants to confirming the identities of enemies marked for death by drone strike to infiltrating adversaries such as Islamic State who possess a high degree of Internet expertise.

“Brennan is trying to update the agency to make sure it is prepared to tackle the challenges in front of it,” a US official familiar with the reorganization plan told the Post. “I just don’t think you can separate the digital world people operate in from the human intelligence” that has been the focus of the agency since its inception.

The CIA, National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) all use backdoor searches to monitor Americans’ online communications without warrants. In 2013, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, who also worked as a cybersecurity expert for the CIA, revealed that the NSA has been spying on the social media profiles of an unknown number of users, including US citizens, since 2010 in what it calls an effort to “discover and track” connections between Americans and suspected terrorists.

Documents leaked by Snowden revealed the NSA is allowed to use social media, geo-location information, tax and insurance records, and other sources, both public and private, to improve spying on phone and electronic communications. The documents showed that the NSA authorized the “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every identifier, such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

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