Quantum Computing and Counterintelligence

Suppose a quantum computer in 2025 can break every CIA code. It’s safe to say that this technology won’t remain confined.  Someone will pay top dollar for it. Due to an American-created global market, the natural lifespan of technology leads to its eventual dissemination throughout the world; it becomes cheaper and more plentiful. Such is the history of war between the West and its unfree enemies, the latter having grown parasitic on Western technology they did not create and cannot adequately use on their own accord.

This is part of the dangerous irony of living in an open and democratic society. We develop astounding technologies for national security purposes. These technologies eventually transcend their initial purpose and enter the marketplace. They become commercialized for the betterment of our society and are then sold in the global market to other countries. In short, our military technology matures and is put to a civilian purpose, whereas other nations -- perhaps hostile to us -- take the civilian-version of that technology and put it to military purpose.  This fosters an international environment of parity and equilibrium. And we should expect this to continue.

Is it too far of a stretch to infer that a super-secret CIA document on Stalin from 1949 looks somewhat similar to Wikipedia’s page on Stalin? Information that was once hard to collect is now easy to collect (and will grow easier). Francis Gary Powers’ U-2 spy plane has given way to Google Earth. Open-source information and photo-imagery intelligence is prevalent throughout the Internet. Digital banking is a reality. Cloud-computing, according to some futurists, will have the same impact as electricity generators had on the frozen water trade in the early twentieth-century.

The implication for counterintelligence is clear. The CIA should become more of a “De-Centralized” Intelligence Agency, deferring to private companies with expertise in nanotechnology, encryption codes, and particle physics. But this alone will not suffice. We may soon reach a tipping point when twentieth and even nineteenth-century intelligence tactics regain their operational relevance. When the grid goes down, or when anyone can get on the grid, it might be time to take stuff off the grid.  Counterintelligence might need to go back to its roots; when files were kept in file cabinets; when secrets weren’t encrypted or coded, but were kept in their most pure form -- in the mind and conscience of a loyal individual.