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CIA spy communication system faced ‘catastrophic’ compromise: 2018 spy-related report

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Washington, Jan 4: This has been rated as one of the top spy-related stories of 2018 by Intel News. The US intelligence agency CIA faced a "catastrophic" compromise of the system it uses to set up links with spies and it resulted in the death of "dozens of people around the world", Intel News cited sources as saying. The same was published in a report by Yahoo News on November 2 which cited "conversations with eleven former US intelligence and government officials directly familiar with the matter". The report spoke about the compromise of an Internet-based covert platform used by the external intelligence body to facilitate secret communication between its officers and their sources located around the world.

CIA spy communication system faced ‘catastrophic’ compromise: 2018 spy-related report

As per the Yahoo News report, the online communication system was developed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks by the US Intelligence Community to be used in the warzones in West and Central Asia. It was eventually adopted to be extensively used by the CIA which found it to be a realistic method for exchanging sensitive information between the case officers and their assets in so called 'denied areas' - regions where face-to-face communication between the case officers and their assets is difficult because of presence of threats in the form of non-state enemies like Taliban or al Qaeda or ultra-hostile intelligence services. However, the system proved to be flawed as it was too basic to withstand sustained monitoring by counter-intelligence experts working for American foes like Iran, China and Russia.

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"In September of 2009, Washington made a series of impressively detailed revelations about the advanced status of Iran's nuclear program. These angered Tehran, which redoubled its efforts to stop the US and others from acquiring intelligence information about the status of its nuclear program. Some sources told Yahoo News that one of the CIA assets inside Iran's nuclear program was convinced by the Iranians to become a double spy. He proceeded to give Tehran crucial information about the CIA's online communication system. Based on these initial clues, the Iranians allegedly used Google-based techniques "that one official described as rudimentary" to identify an entire network of CIA-maintained websites that were used to communicate with assets in Iran and elsewhere. The Iranians then kept tabs on these websites and located their users in order to gradually unravel an entire network of CIA agents inside their country. Around that time, Iranian media announced that the Islamic Republic's counterintelligence agencies had broken up an extensive CIA spy ring consisting of more than 30 informants," Intel News reported.

The Yahoo News suggested that the CIA had been cautioned about the potential flaws of its online communication system before 2009 when it received its first blow. The CIA had reportedly modified and at times completely abandoned its online communication system. However, the implications of the system's compromise continued to "unwind" across the world and the intelligence agency is "still dealing with the fallout", according to sources. The effects are expected to continue yet for years, the Yahoo News reported.

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