Am I the only one wondering why there are 17 spy agencies?
I’ve been amused at the way the phrase slides off the tongues of the news readers: “All 17 intelligence agencies…”
Certainly aroused my curiosity.
Sure enough, the U.S. intelligence “community” is officially the composite of 17 overt organizations (more on them later) … but, according to a Washington Post investigation, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
Among WaPo’s findings:
- Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
- An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
- In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.
- Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
- Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.
Back on point, here’s a list of the 17 agencies that make up the U.S. spy network …
Office of the Director of National Intelligence is where all the intelligence should come together for delivery to the president.
Department of Homeland Security – Office of Intelligence and Analysis looks for information on any potential threats to the US — collecting and analyzing information, and sharing intelligence with local and federal law enforcement through the use of “fusion centers.”
Central Intelligence Agency spies on foreign governments and organizes covert ops.
National Security Agency was established in 1952 with a mission primarily dedicated to code breaking, after the Allies’ success in cracking German and Japanese codes during World War II. Today, its scope extends far beyond code-breaking.
FBI’s National Security Branch oversees counterterrorism and intelligence gathering.
State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research provides diplomats the necessary tools for effective foreign policy.
Defense Intelligence Agency works to understand what foreign militaries will do before they do it.
Air Force Intelligence provides reconnaissance for US ground troops, most recently, using aerial drones.
Army Intelligence and Security Command is the major unifying command of army intelligence to troops on the battlefield.
Office of Naval Intelligence provides information on the world’s oceans to sailors everywhere.
Marine Corps Intelligence Activity monitors the Corp’s battlefields and gives tactical and operational intelligence to battlefield commanders.
Coast Guard Intelligence provides information on maritime security and homeland defense.
Department of Energy, Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence gathers information on foreign nuclear weapons.
Treasury’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis collects terrorism and financial intelligence.
Drug Enforcement Administration hunts down illegal drugs.
National Reconnaissance Office is responsible for design, building, launch, and maintenance of America’s spy satellites.
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency provides advanced mapping for military forces.
(1) I’m sure that each agency has some plausible reason for being … but, 17, really?
(2) Man, it’s gotta be tough getting 17 civilian and military agencies to agree on anything.
(2) Why is the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency worrying about Russia hacking the DNC?
Business Insider has published more detailed profiles of each of these intelligence agencies … it’s worth browsing.