CIA agents tracked by technology in 30 countries

Washington—The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) admits that at least 30 countries have been able to identify and actively track American agents using modern technology.

Dawn Meyerriecks, deputy director of the CIA’s science and technology division, told an intelligence conference in Tampa, Florida, on Sunday that foreign governments had gone digital and no longer needed physical tracking practices to monitor spies.

According to Meyerriecks, closed-circuit television and wireless infrastructure had made it easy for intelligence agencies to discover espionage.

“Singapore’s been doing it for years,” she said, without naming any other countries.

To counter those efforts, the CIA has been working on some 140 artificial intelligence projects that it hopes would provide spies abroad with better protection.

In one project, a team of CIA experts “took a bunch of unclassified overhead and street view” and paired it with machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to create “a map of cameras in one of the big capitals that we don’t have easy access to,” Meyerriecks said.

That way, agents can try to figure out where they are being tracked and how they might evade the trackers.

The projects are considered high priority for the CIA at a time when Russia is expelling American diplomats in retaliation for a similar move by the US government, Meyerriecks noted.

They are also important for intelligence efforts against China since American sources and spies in the country have ended up killed or missing, she said.

Apart from cameras and other digital devices, CIA agents have also find it difficult to keep a low profile on the internet and social networking websites.

Earlier this year, when fitness company Strava published data from users wearing its fitness tracking devices, US military and intelligence agencies expressed concern about the digital footprints left by their employees wearing those devices.

The data was said to have included sensitive information about bases and hidden sites used by the CIA.

“Even if you turn your phone off 10 minutes before you get to your place of employment, do you think anyone’s fooled by where you’re going?” Meyerriecks asked at the event.

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