‘Force Multiplier’: Intel Agencies Want To Enlist Private Companies, Nonprofits ‘In Defense’ Of US Interests

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The intelligence community wants to deepen cooperation with private companies and NGOs as a “force multiplier” for the agencies’ missions as rising global threats increasingly target individuals and shared infrastructure, according to a new National Intelligence Strategy released Thursday.

The strategy calls on intelligence agencies to work “systematically” with nation-state allies and public and private sector partners in pursuing a unified response to transnational challenges through increased information-sharing. Nodding to the threats posed by China and Russia, the strategy focuses on perceived global problems like climate change, pandemics and emerging technologies that the U.S. intelligence community (IC) believes requires collaboration outside of America’s 18 intelligence agencies.

Civilian entities “are increasingly able to create influence, compete for information, and secure or deny political and security outcomes, which provides opportunities for new partnerships as well as new challenges to U.S. interests,” Avril Haines, the director of National Intelligence, wrote in a forward to the strategy. (RELATED: Worst Intelligence Failures’: Biden Intel Advisers Urge Renewal Of Surveillance Tool)

“In addition, shared global challenges, including climate change, human and health security, as well as emerging and disruptive technological advances, are converging in ways that produce significant consequences that are often difficult to predict,” she added.

Deeper relationships with allies, partners and non-government groups will “facilitate a common understanding of technological and other risks and how to address them,” the strategy says.

But intelligence agencies have angered Americans in their collaborations with social media platforms and other outside organizations to censor Americans in the name of defending against foreign influence.

The strategy represents a pivot from the post-9/11 Global War on Terror posture the IC adopted over the past two decades. Corporations, academia and civil society organizations and other “non-state and sub-national actors” need to be informed by the IC, especially those operating critical infrastructure vulnerable to cyberattacks from hostile nations.

The last time the intelligence community released a comprehensive strategy was 2019, under the Trump administration. It includes input from leaders of all 18 intelligence entities and helps direct IC operations that provide early warning and inform decision-making.

“The IC must rethink its approach to exchanging information and insights with non-state actors that either have the responsibility to act or are the entities best postured to do so in defense of U.S. national security interests,” the strategy says.

In the wake of several high-profile cyberattacks and insider threat incidents that compromised U.S. government and military networks, the strategy calls for strengthening network barriers to cyber intruders and increasing counterintelligence capabilities.

The IC will exploit artificial intelligence and continue using “big data,” available for sale or lease on the open market — including services intelligence agencies mine when querying under FISA authorities for surveilling foreign targets overseas.

Intelligence agencies have come under fire for violating Americans’ privacy rights under FISA’s Section 702, which allows Americans’ data to be searched incidental to those queries.

“Above all else, the IC will use its authorities and capabilities in ways that strengthen our democratic foundations and principles as we seek to counter increasingly autocratic competitors,” the strategy says.

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