Multiple intelligence agencies: a blessing or a recipe for failure? Part 1

ריבוי גופי מודיעין – יתרון או מתכון לכישלון? פרק שלישי

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Multiple intelligence agencies: a blessing or recipe for failure? Part 1
Multiple intelligence agencies: a blessing or recipe for failure? Part 1

The US, the most powerful country on earth, has an intelligence community comprising 17 major intelligence agencies: CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigations), NSA (National Security Agency), NGA (National Geospatial Intelligence Agency), DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), NRO (National Reconnaissance Office), ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence), I&A (Intelligence & Analysis), AFISRA (Air Force Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency), OICI (Office of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence), CGI (Coast Guard Intelligence), INR (State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research), TFI (Treasury Department’s Terrorism and Financial Intelligence), NGIC (US Army’s National Ground Intelligence Center), MCIA (Marine Corps Intelligence Activity) and ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence).

The federal budget of US intelligence array consists of two major parts. The first is national intelligence (NIP – National Intelligence Program Funding), which is an appropriation for all domestic and foreign intelligence gathering services. The second is military intelligence (MIP – Military Intelligence Program Funding), which caters to all military agencies: the Navy, US Air Force and US Army. At the end of fiscal year 2013 the budget reached $72 billion.

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There is no doubt that history (ancient and modern alike) on the one hand and human nature on the other have taught enlightened democracies, as well as autocrats who held their own reign and hide in high regard, to divide institutions and people who know too much, and rule wisely.

The exploits of East Germany’s Stasi, Romania’s Securitate and even major US intelligence agencies (Watergate) and the ways in which all these services have operated, not to mentioned their original goals and in particular how they ended up, have caused most democracies in the free world to adopt a model in which no intelligence organization could possess too much power, lest ‘the dummy would rise up against its own maker’.

iHLS Israel Homeland Security

The way one intelligence service, however powerful, could evolve into dominating an entire country is a far cry from decentralizing, separating and demarcating intelligence missions and goals over 17 different bodies and agencies. This long, historic development is very interesting to analyze and interpret in the framework of American history. Nevertheless, it is clear (at least ostensibly) that something has gone fundamentally wrong in the concept of intelligence – if it takes 17 autonomous bodies to provide it.


What is the concern of authorities and autocrats alike from their own intelligence services? Their anxiety probably stems from the total exposure as leaders. After all, any intelligence gathering body is capable of wiretapping the entire leadership’s phone calls, along with whom they call, including family members, acquaintances and so on, thereby mapping the leaders’ social contacts in their entirety, become familiar with their income and property, obligations and innermost secrets – and thus endanger the leader’s own rule.

Though the definitions of intelligence in ancient days compared with our own time may differ and vary considerably, the role of intelligence has not changed fundamentally since Moses sent 12 men to tour the Land of Kannan after he has delivered his own people from the desert. See Number 13:18-20 (KJV):

And see the land, what it is, and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many;

And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds;

And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land. 

It took Moses five guidelines to summarize anything that leaders, whether in the US or any other country, require to this very day, and have come to expect of their intelligence services: Observation, Mapping and Assessment. These are the three fundamental elements of Intelligence. To ensure the intelligence product is balanced rather than biased, Moses sent one representative from each of the twelve tribes.

In this special series, the newsdesk will attempt to set the record straight when it comes to the complex world of intelligence. The second part will examine how efficient an intelligence community of 17 different bodies can be. The third and last part will propose alternatives more suitable to the second decade of the third millennium than to pre-WWI reality.