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Government Intel in the Digital Age

News Story

This month, our professors discuss the recent CIA hacks and the state of digitally vulnerable government intelligence.

There’s no question that the past few years have brought with them unprecedented challenges for governments worldwide—particularly when it comes to keeping information secret. With the rise of high-level hacking, sensitive communication, for better or for worse, increasingly has the potential to be compromised.

On the heels of last month’s major CIA hack, we thought it’d be apt to focus on this timely issue for this month’s edition of PROFspectives: namely, how much has the digital age completely changed the nature and processes of government intelligence?

Joseph Ryan, PhD
Professor and Chair of the MA in Management for Public Safety and Homeland Security Professionals, Dyson College

Under the US Constitution, we the American people have agreed to give up some of our rights and in return the government would provide for the general defense of the people. 

In assessing how the government will provide for the general defense, it is realistic to recognize that some agency in the government would be responsible to collect insight on who our friends are, but more importantly, on our enemies. In collecting this information, we should expect a certain level of transparency from our government, but when it deals with our enemies, we need a different understanding of transparency; that is, known threats to the American people should have a limited audience, otherwise, the average citizen would live in a world of constant fear. 

The problem with secrets is how you keep it secret. The old adage is true; that is, once you tell one other person, it is no longer a secret. WikiLeaks has clearly demonstrated this reality, and has opened a window of transparency letting us know how much information our government has collected.

The reality is that we need our intelligence community to protect us by collecting necessary information. The challenge intelligence agencies face is that that they need to quickly figure out how best to secure this information. It is also important to reassure Americans that there is bipartisan overview of all intelligence gathering agencies.

Hasan Arslan, PhD
Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice and Security, Dyson College

The United States intelligence community consists of 16 separate agencies that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities. Nationally, the FBI is the leading agency on intelligence matters, and the CIA is not authorized to gather information concerning the domestic activities of US citizens.

Since the revelations made by Edward Snowden in 2013, the debate on the issues of privacy and security has been a focal point of our time. The clash between the two sides of the argument make legitimate arguments for their cases. While one group is concerned about their civil liberties and data collection methods of the NSA, the other finds the importance of effective intelligence against the threat of terrorism.

Here is the irony; people show great concern about their privacy and civil liberties when they learn about the government involvement. However, they are less outraged when tech companies, which are the biggest collectors of personal information, openly sell their data to advertisers and other businesses, while misleading consumers about just how much information they collect. There is no period in history that information is more available to the public; it is a valuable asset to many as much as a menace to the society.