Posts tagged CIA
While Clapper grudgingly accepts the damage the Snowden affair has done to his own reputation, he worries more deeply about the impact it’s had on the intelligence workforce. He hates the thought that America might turn on his employees. He fears that, in the same way the nation and Congress turned their backs on the CIA officers who ran the agency’s “black sites” and torture program in the wake of 9/11, the country will one day turn on the people who carry out drone attacks. “I worry that people will decide retroactively that killing people with drones was wrong, and that will lead us to criticize, indict, and try people who helped kill with drones,” he says. “I find it really bothersome to set a moral standard retrospectively,” he says. “People raise all sorts of good questions about things America has done. Everyone now agrees that interning Japanese [Americans] in World War II was egregious—but at the time it seemed like it was in the best interests of the country.”
Many facts about the SKYNET program remain unknown, however. For instance do analysts review each mobile phone user’s profile before condemning them to death based on metadata? How can the US government be sure it is not killing innocent people, given the apparent flaws in the machine learning algorithm on which that kill list is based?“On whether the use of SKYNET is a war crime, I defer to lawyers,” Ball said. “It’s bad science, that’s for damn sure, because classification is inherently probabilistic. If you’re going to condemn someone to death, usually we have a ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ standard, which is not at all the case when you’re talking about people with 'probable terrorist’ scores anywhere near the threshold. And that’s assuming that the classifier works in the first place, which I doubt because there simply aren’t enough positive cases of known terrorists for the random forest to get a good model of them.”
In any intelligence agency it is important to keep track of crank contacts, not only to improve protection but also to assure continuity of control and analysis. Centralization of records in CIA’s Office of Security permits quick identification of phonies and time-wasters. Professional security officers know how to handle the off-beat approach, and others would do well to rely on the professionals when they receive an irrational letter or find themselves face to face with an apparently unbalanced stranger.