CIA Seen as the Winner in WikiLeaks Scandal

An ex spy says the CIA, not the State Department, may be able to better handle secrets.

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With the State Department and Pentagon's dirty laundry airing on WikiLeaks, it's fair to ask if there are any winners in the scandal over leaked secret documents. Yes say intelligence insiders: The CIA and their intelligence brethren like the Defense Intelligence Agency.

With State reeling, foreign leaders may be more likely in future to share their honest opinions and their own secrets with Americans who can keep a secret, like the CIA, which uses a far more secure information technology system than the leaky Pentagon and State system. "Since the CIA's cable traffic isn't distributed on SIPRnet and is classified at levels far above that which was stolen and given to WikiLeaks, the agency's credibility just got a real boost," says one former CIA officer. [See 5 things we didn't learn from WikiLeaks.]

SIPRnet is the Pentagon's secret database to for those holding a Secret clearance. The State Department also used SIPRnet, at least until the WikiLeaks revelations forced diplomats to pull their traffic off the network in an effort at damage control. "The next time an ally wants to share gossip about Muammar Qadhafi's undies, they'll go to State," says another former intel officer with a chuckle. "But if they've got real secrets they'll go to someone they can trust to keep them."

U.S. officials say that the scandal could lead to a realist change in the way diplomacy is done and talked about in secret channels, with the CIA benefiting. "No government organization is immune from leaks of classified information, but the CIA is well known for having very strong information and personnel security procedures that help mitigate Wiki-risks," said one official.

"The pendulum may be swinging back to need-to-know from need-to-share. In the intelligence community, it's important that the right people get the right degree of access to the right information. We can't operate with a let's-open-all-the-flood-gates mentality," added the U.S. official.

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