U.S. has been trying to coordinate intelligence since 1955

WASHINGTON — The U.S. intelligence community's information-sharing problems are nothing new, and there have been repeated attempts to correct them since 1955, when a congressional blue-ribbon panel recommended that the CIA director take charge of all U.S. intelligence efforts.

That went nowhere, in part because of resistance from the Defense Department, which controls the bulk of the nation's intelligence budget as well as eight of the nation's 16 intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency, which is responsible for eavesdropping on phone calls, e-mails and other communications.

The rise of international terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s, however, posed an even tougher challenge than spying on the Soviet Union and its allies did, and in late 1985 the CIA created a Counter-Terrorism Center to carry out a secret intelligence order, called a "finding," from President Ronald Reagan authorizing the agency to hunt down and apprehend suspected terrorists.

In the CTC, covert operators — spies — worked side by side with intelligence analysts in an effort to harness all the information the government was collecting on terrorist groups such as Lebanon's Hezbollah.

The coordination and information-sharing problems persisted, however, as the congressional 9/11 commission reported, and then-President George W. Bush's response was to create the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which is supposed to coordinate the work of all 16 intelligence agencies and oversees what's now the National Counterterrorism Center.

That effort has yet to succeed, as the attempted attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 demonstrated.

Even before the Christmas Day incident, though, the ODNI had created an Office of Analytic Transformation, which is headed by a former FBI official and is trying, once again, to get all the intelligence agencies to work and play well together.


The 16 intelligence agencies now under the ODNI umbrella are:

Central Intelligence Agency

Defense Intelligence Agency

Department of Energy (Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence)

Department of Homeland Security (Office of Intelligence and Analysis)

Department of State (Bureau of Intelligence and Research)

Department of the Treasury (Office of Intelligence and Analysis)

Drug Enforcement Administration (Office of National Security Intelligence)

Federal Bureau of Investigation (National Security Branch)

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

National Reconnaissance Office

National Security Agency/Central Security Service

U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency

U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command

U.S. Coast Guard Intelligence and Criminal Investigations

U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence Department

U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence


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