Spy Agencies Turn to Scientists as they grapple with mysteries


But recent intelligence challenges have required a different spectrum of scientific expertise, including some areas where institutions have invested less resources over the years.

“This is a really interesting moment when some of the Cold War interests national security interests shifted,” said Sue Gordon, a former senior intelligence official. “Priorities are changing now.”

Faced not only with pressing unresolved security questions, but also with the long-term challenge of improving intelligence gathering on climate change, national intelligence director Avril D. Haines has pushed institutions to recruit undergraduate and graduate students more aggressively. a wide range of scientific knowledge.

“DNI believes that the changing threat landscape requires the intelligence community to develop and invest in a talented workforce that includes individuals with science and technology backgrounds,” said Matt Lahr, spokesperson for Ms. Haines. “Without such expertise, we will not only be unable to compete, but also unable to meet the challenges we face today.”

Authorities are also trying to use existing initiatives more broadly. For example, Ms. Haines’ office is more aggressively interrogating the science and technology expert group of about 500 scientists who volunteer to help intelligence agencies respond to scientific problems.

Authorities asked these scientists about how coronaviruses mutate, climate change and the availability of natural resources. Intelligence officials said that although scientists in the expert group did not conduct intelligence analysis, their answers could help such analysts within the agency draw more accurate conclusions.

In other cases, efforts to bring in outside expertise are new.

During the Trump administration, the State Department commissioned the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine to study Havana syndrome. The report concluded that: a microwave gun was a possible cause many of the sections were blocked, but in part due to lack of access to information; Officials said the scientists were not given all the materials collected by intelligence agencies.


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