5 November 2013, FAS: Report of the National Commission for the Review of the Research and Development Programs of the United States Intelligence Community (PDF)
November 5, 2013
U.S. Is Losing Advantage in Spying, Report Says
By DAVID E. SANGER
WASHINGTON -- A congressional panel created long before the recent revelations about government electronic spying operations issued a blistering report on Tuesday charging that the intelligence world's research-and-development efforts are disorganized and unfocused.
An unclassified version of the report, based on two years of work by independent experts and two officials from inside the agencies, concludes that the United States is losing its technological superiority over its rivals, which are gaining "asymmetric advantages" by making their own investments in such efforts and, in some cases, stealing American inventions.
In a separate white paper on cybercapabilities -- an area in which the Defense Department, the National Security Agency and the United States Cyber Command have made big investments -- the panel, the National Commission for the Review of the Research and Development Programs of the United States Intelligence Community, concludes that President Obama's efforts to differentiate the roles of competing agencies have largely failed.
One member of the commission, Gilman Louie, a venture capitalist who was the founder of In-Q-Tel, a private fund that was set up by intelligence agencies to capitalize on advances in Silicon Valley, said commission members found that intelligence agency employees had little understanding of how Mr. Obama's efforts would affect their work.
Mr. Louie also said the intelligence agencies were heavily focused on the development of offensive cyberweapons because "it is easier and more intellectually interesting to play offense than defense."
"Defense is where we are losing the ballgame," he said.
The most well-known American cyberweapons were developed in a program called Olympic Games and used against Iran's nuclear facilities.
But the unclassified version of the commission's report makes no mention of the effort against Iran, an attempt to develop an entirely new class of weapons, or other individual research-and-development programs. All specific examples were stripped out, though the criticisms of the holes in the system remained, described entirely in generic terms.
The document's findings have none of specificity and examples of the 9/11 Commission's report or a Bush-era commission report on the American efforts to track unconventional weapons.
Commission members said the classified version of the report was more specific.
The report questions the effectiveness of the administration's efforts, and heavy investment, in deterring and detecting cyberattacks. The commission also suggested that no one had an overview of the research and development underway.
"We couldn't even get a list," said Maurice Sonnenberg, a co-chairman of the commission.
The panel's members were particularly critical of the role of the director of national intelligence, whose office was created after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, to coordinate the nation's 16 intelligence agencies.
The leader of science and technology for the director's office, commission members said Tuesday, was not aware of some of the most classified research and development programs. They also found that intelligence agencies were duplicating efforts by pursuing similar projects at the same time, but because operations were compartmentalized, few researchers were aware of their colleagues' work.
One commission member, Shirley Ann Jackson, the president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, found particular fault with the intelligence agencies' approach, "which involves gathering more data than you need."
Though the report makes no reference to the National Security Agency's bulk collection of telephone records, Ms. Jackson appeared to be referring to efforts like it.