NATO eyes new intel official to improve information sharing

AP News
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Posted: Jun 03, 2016 2:00 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Spurred on by persistent threats from Russia and recent attacks in Europe, NATO will likely establish a new high-level intelligence coordinator to improve information sharing among allies, a senior defense official said Friday.

The official said NATO nations appear to have agreed on plans to create a new assistant secretary general who would encourage countries to better collect and distribute intelligence so the alliance can act more quickly in the face of such threats. The official wasn't authorized to discuss the matter publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

The discussions have been going on for six to eight months and were triggered by worries about Moscow, including its military action in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea. NATO nations, particularly those in Eastern Europe, have been alarmed at Russia's aggressive and often rapid moves, and worry that they may be next.

The plan for a new NATO intelligence chief gained traction after the Paris attacks. Allied leaders could act on the plan during the NATO summit in July.

There have been persistent concerns that NATO needs to be able to act more quickly in response to what it sees as aggressive moves by Russia. And Defense Secretary Ash Carter echoed those concerns with allied defense ministers earlier this year, in connection with the fight against the Islamic State as its militants move north from the battlefields in Iraq and Syria to Europe.

Last month, U.S. government officials, including Lisa Monaco, the president's homeland security adviser, urged better intelligence sharing in Europe in the fight against Islamic state.

"The only way we are going to be effective ... is if we work together in partnership," Monaco said during a visit to Brussels.

Under the current plan, the new intelligence chief would report directly to the NATO secretary general, and work with the top NATO commander, U.S. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti.

There was initial opposition to the idea, but the official said it now appears that the allies have worked through their questions and could decide this, among other issues, when President Barack Obama and other leaders meet in Warsaw for the summit.

The move would not likely change the amount of intelligence sharing that the U.S. already does with NATO. About 75 percent of the intelligence flowing into NATO comes from the U.S., according to the official. But the U.S. might be able to better refine the information it sends, and ensure it gets used more effectively.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the March 22 bombings in Brussels, as well as the November 13 attacks in Paris. Officials have said the bombings revealed breakdowns in communication between law enforcement agencies and with other nations.