Friday

November 24th, 2017

Insight

There Ain't 17 Intelligence Agencies

Bruce Bialosky

By Bruce Bialosky

Published Jan. 23, 2017

The Russians are coming. The Russians are coming. This all started when Hillary Clinton reversed what Barack Obama had started four years earlier in a debate with Mitt Romney who actually stated the Russians were a problem. The only thing is that she stated that all 17 intelligence agencies agreed that the Russians had hacked the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Though technically correct there are "17" intelligence agencies, Ms. Clinton knows that these agencies "agreeing" is a hoax.

My initial reaction to the statement was a logical and rational one. I stated Mr. Trump should have replied to her: "Why do we have 17 intelligence agencies and why can they not stop the Russians from hacking?" I thought this issue would go away after Hillary was sent into retirement, but the sore loser Democrats keep making a big deal about this.

There are actually 17 government entities considered part of our "Intelligence Community." That is if you consider the Office of the Director of National Intelligence one of them. That position goes back to 1955 when our sprawling intelligence community was determined to be too big and too diverse so they needed another person (and all their staff) to oversee all the operating entities. Ten of the 17 agencies were formed after the director position was established. The coordination did not seem to work because Attorney General John Ashcroft stated his biggest challenge after 9/11 was synchronizing efforts between the various intelligence agencies.

The 17 agencies are broken into three groups. The first are ones within the different arms of the military. There is the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and that could be considered warranted, but why do we need separate departments within every branch and why would they not just be considered part of the DIA? The Marines, Navy, Army, Air Force and Coast Guard do not need separate intelligence departments. No wonder we can't get anything right when just our Defense Department has eight separate intelligence agencies.

If we go back to the claim that all 17 agencies agreed it was the Russians who were hacking, please explain to me what information the Coast Guard had on that. Or, for that matter, any of the other four wings of our armed forces. Why would they be following domestic matters like this? That would seem improper or illegal to me.

Then there are the agencies that are part of cabinet departments. Energy, State, Treasury, Homeland Security and Justice all have intelligence agencies. Why do any of these departments except for maybe Homeland Security need their own agency? The Justice Department, which has the FBI (an important domestic intelligence agency), has another agency (Office of National Security Intelligence) that was created in 2006 under the DEA. What a waste. All these departments should have their efforts coordinated through one entity - the FBI. If the FBI needs people assigned to these departments they should do so, but everything should run through one central point.

Back to the Clinton claim, why would the agency under the DEA have any knowledge about Russian hacking of the DNC? Or the agency in the Energy Department? Again, obviously a ridiculous claim.

Then there are the Big Five of the intelligence community. They are the CIA, DIA, National Security Agency (NSA), National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (GEOINT). We all know what the CIA does (as much as we are allowed to know). But why is there the DIA and NSA? They are both part of the Defense Department. The NSA was formed in 1952 and the DIA in 1961 and I cannot tell why it exists. It seems we allow our government to create overlapping entities so they can all miss out on accomplishing their mission.

The ones that baffle me totally are the NRO and the GEOINT. GEOINT states "Geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT, is the exploitation and analysis of imagery and geospatial information to describe, assess and visually depict physical features and geographically-referenced activities on the Earth. GEOINT consists of imagery, imagery intelligence and geospatial information." What exactly is that? Maybe this should be a separate agency feeding the others, but they should be under either the CIA or NSA and not another separate operation.

When you look at the description of what the NRO does it certainly seems like it is splitting hairs between what it does and GEOINT. Both are part of the Defense Department and provide services to other intelligence agencies. These are certainly two entities that by definition should have no clue whether the Russians hacked the DNC nor an opinion.

In conclusion, there maybe should be three or four separate intelligence agencies: CIA, FBI, NSA and maybe the director of national intelligence. The other agencies should be folded into these. One would be independent (CIA), one part of Justice (FBI) and one part of Defense (NSA). All the confusing overlap and inefficiency will be eliminated. There will be enough infighting within those remaining agencies.

Also, maybe four of the 17 could have or should have had an opinion on the Russian hacking. The rest having an opinion is either because of coercion or it is simply false that they had any direct knowledge of the hacking of the DNC by anyone.

Bruce Bialosky is the founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition of California and a former Presidential appointee.

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