Gilbertson: CIA vs FBI, Who Is in Charge of Investigating the Hacks?
As a former intelligence officer, I wanted to get some facts out to my readers to help you understand the roles played by the various agencies. Two in particular for purposes of this discussion are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where I was employed, and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) the chief law enforcement agency in America.
First you should know that spying is crime in every country in the world. Whenever the CIA does work without the host country’s permission, it is a crime in that country, often a capital crime. This means if you get caught, and your government cannot finagle your release, you could be shot or imprisoned for life.
CIA officers are trained with the attitude and paranoia of a criminal (a highly advanced and professional one), albeit with the pride that we are the pointy end of the stick when it comes to fighting for our country. If we do it well, then perhaps the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines can relax a bit.
But getting shot almost never happens, because first, our officers (CIA has “officers”, a CIA “agent” is a foreign national we have recruited) are well trained to not get caught and second, our government is exceptionally good at finagling our release. Countries do invite us to work “liaison” with them on intelligence goals we have in common, but it is considered embarrassing to the host country, so we don’t talk about it much.
But the CIA is not a law enforcement body, only the headquarters security guards have powers of arrest.
The CIA is not all knowing and all seeing, there are always intelligence gaps that cannot be filled. In “denied” areas, like North Korea, Iran and some other places, it is tough to even get into the country, much less get close to the target.
And because absolute knowledge is impossible, the product of the CIA is an “estimate” based on “intelligence.” Note that I did not say “evidence.” Evidence is something to be used in court, with the goal of providing proof to a jury. While CIA intelligence sources are vetted and tested to the nth degree, they do not always rise to the level of “evidence.”
The FBI on the other hand is a law enforcement agency. If you ask them their specialty they will say “investigations,” a skill where the FBI is unsurpassed. The DEA, Secret Service, and U.S. Marshals Service have good skills and other specialties, but FBI agents will maintain it is the best in the world at “investigations.”
And since spying is a crime here, the FBI investigates spy operations against America. In fact, the FBI by charter is the lead agency on all Counterintelligence matters. They investigate, they gather evidence, they determine if they have proof sufficient for a court of law and then they make an arrest. They are not satisfied with an “estimate” as is the CIA, they are law enforcement and the judge of their action is an actual judge or a skeptical jury.
In this respect all other agencies report to and/or defer to the FBI for counterintelligence activities. To aid in its investigations, the FBI has access to and frequently uses the resources of the CIA, NSA and others, however the intelligence agencies are not law enforcement and cannot make arrests. Note that the intelligence agencies often don’t like this arrangement since it could subject their sensitive intelligence sources and methods to exposure in court.
So let’s talk about jurisdiction with regard to the case of the hacking and the assertion that Russia has been involved. According to reports, FBI Director Comey has told President-elect Trump that the Russians did not influence the presidential campaign. Since this is considered spying on the United States, and thus illegal and since counterintelligence is within the purview of the FBI, the FBI is responsible and authoritative on this issue.
Comey’s statements indicate there is not enough evidence to convict Russia in a court of law. This does not mean the Russian didn’t hack (let’s face it, it was easy, they probably did along with dozens of others), it means there is no proof that the Russians hacked and then leaked the information with the intention of influencing the election.
And while my alma mater, the CIA appears to be producing “secret” reports that say Russia was interfering with elections, they do not have proof. If anything they have an “estimate.” To satisfy an FBI investigation, they would need the “chain of evidence” to include not only proof of a Russian hack, but also that they were exposed to the media by a Russian source under the direction of the Russian government. In any case this would be nearly impossible. Spy agencies are very good at being criminals, they would not last long otherwise.
And anyone who knows Washington, knows that if there were any conclusive evidence, it would have been leaked long ago. Any top secret source or method, no matter how sensitive or expensive, would be sacrificed without a second thought by a political party to win such a victory. After all, the supposedly “secret” CIA estimate has already been referenced through the liberal media.
So at this point, I will stick to my guns and say the Russian hacking story was a figment of the imagination of the Clinton campaign, and classifies as a “fake news” story.
Author’s disclaimer: I’m being somewhat facetious in the use of the word criminal with respect to the CIA. In fact, their background investigations sometimes last over a year, and their integrity is of the highest order. Considering the temptations they must endure you must have the best people in the intelligence world, and in my own opinion this applies to the CIA.