The 9/11 Commission's report put Intelligence at the center of the policy map in 2004. While the 500+ page report has more criticisms and recommendations than we'd bother listing, its main thrust is that intelligence agencies have to coordinate more to get a handle on terrorism. Congress followed many of the reports recommendations in 2004, creating a grand overseer of terrorism intelligence and a terrorism intelligence center to pool and synthesize analysis.

At the opposite end of the “we-have-to-do-more-to-fight-terrorism” theme is the “not-if-it-steps-on-my-civil-liberties” debate. Civil libertarians point to ominous abuses to individual rights that have arisen since 9/11, including a few provisions in the Patriot Act, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, “voluntary interviews”, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and strict/intrusive security measures at airports (no fly lists and CAPPS).

Getting a handle on the intelligence community

When people think intelligence, the CIA and the FBI usually jump to mind first – but, in fact, they are only two of the fifteen government intelligence agencies. Although an 2004's intelligence act gave more clout to a new intelligence tzar - the Director of National Intelligence - the fifteen agencies all remain intact.

We list the agencies by what they do and their size (using 1996 numbers, which we know is unsatisfying, but more recent numbers don't exist and we figured the '96 numbers will give you an idea of the agencies' relative sizes)

Note on facts: Unsurprisingly, the government likes to keep information about intelligence under wraps. That makes official info and "facts" hard to come by - and makes our facts page spottier than we'd prefer. (That could change soon.)

Who's who and what's what

Taken from chapter 13 of the 9/11 Commission Report and the USIC, with size estimates from the Federation of American Scientists' analysis of a 1996 GPO report, unless otherwise noted:

Director of National Intelligence (DNI). A new post created by the 2004 Intelligence Act, the DNI is charged with overseeing and coordinating all intelligence activities, although - because he only has a limited power over the purse - critics say there's little real coordinating he can do. WP

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA): the only intelligence agency which doesn't fall under another department, the CIA collects human-source intelligence, analyzes all intelligence, and performs the occasional "covert" action.

  • 18,000 employees; $3.1 billion in 1996.

Department of Defense agencies:

  • National Security Agency (NSA): performs signals collection and analysis

    • 38,000 employees, $3.8 billion in 1996; 32,000 employees, $7 billion - NYTimes;
  • National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA): performs imagery collection and analysis;
  • National Reconnaissance Office (NRO): develops, acquires, and launches space systems for intelligence collection

    • 2000 employees; $6.2 billion in 1996 - they contract out.
  • Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA): analyses intelligence specifically for DoD purposes.

    • 19,000 employees; $2 billion n 1996
  • Army Intelligence
  • Navy Intelligence
  • Air Force Intelligence
  • Marine Corps Intelligence

Other departmental intelligence agencies:

  • Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) of the Department of State,
  • Office of Terrorism and Finance Intelligence of the Department of Treasury
  • Office of Intelligence and the Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence Divisions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice
  • Office of Intelligence of the Department of Energy
  • Directorate of Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection (IAIP) and Directorate of Coast Guard Intelligence of the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Bureau of Diplomatic Security: 1,400 special agents, protection and investigation abroad and of foreign diplomats. (Washington Post)

The budget for intelligence agencies:

  • 2007: About $50 billion. (WP)
  • 2005: around $44 billion. This number was supposed to be a secret, but - apparently - slipped out when a top intelligence mentioned it during a public conference. (NYT)

  • 1998: $26.7 billion (this number was made public by the CIA)

  • 80% of the intelligence budget is under the Defense Department (widely quoted number in the press, including Washington Post), although the 2005 Intelligence Act gave the new DNI more say over how those funds are used.

Where to get more info:


  • A former CIA top staffer's take on why intelligence reform is going nowhere.

  • A Newseek writer gives a glimpse into the overwhelming challenges of sifting through intelligence info.

  • The Pentagon releases it's overall strategy for countering terrorism.

  • The Government Accountability Office says the intelligence community is still (April 2006) having a hard time sharing information.

  • In September 2006, the Bush administration released a new strategy for combating terrorism, with less of a focus on al Qaeda

Did we miss something, let some slant slip in, lose a link - or do you just have something to say? Drop a line below! In the spirit of open dialogue, cJ asks you keep it civil, keep it real and keep it focused on the message, not the messenger. See our policy page for more on what that all means.

Posted In

Its amazing how much how

Its amazing how much how much the annual budget has gone up for the U.S. intelligence community. I never knew there were that many different intelligence departments. I think the NSA is one of the most powerful intelligence agencies since it is tasked with monitoring electronic communications. I recently read an interview with a former NSA employee who said they monitor/record all calls coming to America from outside the country. 




frankb344 | April 2, 2009 - 6:40pm