Is Intelligence Reform Working? Essay

Pages: 15 (4027 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 15  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Terrorism

Intelligence Reform

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Following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001, calls arose for a dramatic reformation of the American intelligence superstructure, in response to the perceived failures of communication and investigation that contributed to the success of the attacks. These calls for reform ultimately found an outlet in the form of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), which sought to streamline and organize American's intelligence efforts in order to make up for perceived failures of the CIA and FBI to share information effectively in the years and months leading up to the September 11th attacks. In some cases, the changes instituted by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act were born out of recommendations suggested by the 9/11 Commission, the Congressionally-mandated group responsible for preparing a full account of the attacks and the events leading up to them. Other implemented reforms were the culmination of ideas which had been around for some time, but which had not previously been implemented due to various factors, such as resistance to change on the part of entrenched politicians and bureaucrats, or concerns regarding civil liberties and the legitimate extent of government power in intelligence gathering and analysis. Therefore, determining the success of these reform efforts in years following the September 11th attacks and the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act requires a consideration of the state of intelligence prior to the last decade as well as an in-depth analysis of the different structural and legal changes made to the American intelligence community as a result of these reforms.

Essay on Is Intelligence Reform Working? Assignment

Before discussing the scope of this project, the methodology necessary for executing it, and the prior research on the subject, it will be useful to provide a brief history of United States' intelligence agencies and practices, as a means of placing this larger discussion of intelligence reform in the proper historical context. Firstly, it is crucial to recognize that although "intelligence -- a government activity that provides information to help leaders make and implement national security decisions -- has always been a part of United States history […], U.S. leaders have tended to give intelligence focused attention […] mainly when threats to the country's security appeared particularly serious."

This phenomenon has two important consequences for the history of intelligence in America, one of which stems from the other. Firstly, it means that American intelligence policy has largely been developed and reformed during times of tension and in response to specific threats, such that the development of the American intelligence apparatus has been largely reactive, rather than proactive. Therefore, the American intelligence apparatus has almost never benefited from a coherent vision, but instead has been made up of policies and organizations cobbled together over time.

Subsequently, the "expansion of U.S. national security concerns during the 20th century -- combined with technological advances -- encouraged an increased scope and complexity of intelligence missions" even as these missions were increasingly carried out by "multiple, relatively independent intelligence organizations."

This has resulted in perennial calls for greater centralized control and organizational clarity, even as this control failed to develop over decades, and for the most part still eludes to country, in spite of the reforms put in place as a result of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. As mentioned above, intelligence has been an important part of United States national defense strategy throughout its history, going all the way back to the establishment of the Culper network during the Revolutionary War, but it has not been approached from a comprehensive, unifying perspective until very recently. Even when faced with the previously unprecedented range of threats seen during World War II, the American intelligence community remained fragmented and disorganized, such that "prewar clashes over 'turf' would persist during the war, especially with OSS [Office of Strategic Services] competing with Army and Navy intelligence, the FBI, State Department, and Army and Navy signals intelligence, and several smaller efforts by other departments."

Following the war, these disparate efforts were somewhat streamlined with the passage of the National Security Act of 1947, which, among other things, established the Central Intelligence Agency and the role of the Director of Central Intelligence, who "was to coordinate the activities of U.S. intelligence organizations, but without having direct authority over them."

This general structure would remained largely unchanged for decades, coming into its own during the height of the Cold War until, much like in the case of the September 11th attacks, a dramatic failure of intelligence and planning would force a reevaluation of the role, function, and organization of intelligence in the United States.

The 1979 Iranian revolution took the American intelligence community almost entirely by surprise, and the subsequent hostage crisis and disastrous rescue attempt served to dramatize the results of this failure. While "the failed CIA attempt in April 1961 to overthrow Fidel Castro by landing roughly 1,400 Cuban emigres at the Bay of Pigs came to symbolize the problems facing covert action management" during the Cold War, the disastrous planning and execution of Operation Eagle Claw, in which United States' Special Forces were prevented from successfully executing a daring rescue of 52 American hostages due to poor planning and inter-agency cooperation, represented the first and perhaps the most dramatic rebuke of the American intelligence community's disorganization in the modern era until the 9/11 Commission Report nearly twenty years later.

The result was the first major shakeup of intelligence and special forces organization since the end of World War II, and from the failure of Operation Eagle Claw emerged the Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, the organization responsible for overseeing the Special Operations of the various branches of the military.

Although the institution of SOCOM was more concerned with direct military actions and not more generalized intelligence gathering, in many ways the backlash which precipitated the creation of SOCOM mirrors the process by which post-9/11 intelligence reforms came about, and indeed, in the years since the passage of Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, the newly reorganized intelligence community has worked closer than ever with the Joint Special Operations Command, the group responsible for studying and planning special operations as well as commanding the Special Mission Units of SOCOM, such as the U.S. Army's Delta Force and the Navy's Special Warfare Development Group, commonly referred to as SEAL Team Six.

Before this cooperation emerged, however, the United States intelligence community would go through a period of expansion without an attendant increase in coordination, such that "by the late 1990s, the Intelligence Community would have 13 members," with "the largest -- especially CIA, NSA [National Security Administration], NRO [National Reconnaissance Office], and NIMA [National Imagery and Mapping Agency] -- […] often called 'stovepipes' because they were vertically structured organizations concentrating on specific functions such as signals or imagery intelligence."

With the Cold War over and no overarching threat to unify these disparate endeavors, American intelligence agencies became increasingly isolated from each other and "unwilling to coordinate their priorities and unable to examine trade-offs across programs -- increasingly necessary steps given tighter resources and more diverse intelligence targets."

Finally, however, the al Qaeda attacks of September 11th, 2001, coupled with "Community failure to estimate Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," led to the passage of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004.

The most substantial change made to the intelligence community by IRTPA was the establishment of the Office of Director of National Intelligence and its head, the Director of National Intelligence, who would replace the Director of Central Intelligence as the head of the now sixteen-agency strong Intelligence Community. IRTPA amended the National Security Act of 1947 by inserting language creating the position of Director of National Intelligence and outlining his or her duties, which includes serving "as the head of the intelligence community," and acting "as the principal adviser to the President, to the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to national security."

While the 9/11 Commission Report recommended a Director of National Intelligence "possessing strong central authority over Community resources and personnel, [….] ultimately, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of December 2004 gave the DNI powers somewhere in between" those suggested by the 9/11 Commission (and the Senate) and the more limited power envisioned by the House of Representatives.

Despite the somewhat limited powers granted to the DNI, President Bush, in his remarks given at the signing of the IRNTPA, noted that in addition to serving as chief adviser to the president on national intelligence matters, "the DNI will have the authority to order the collection of new intelligence to ensure the sharing of information among agencies and to establish common standards for the intelligence community's personnel," and furthermore, "it will be the DNI's responsibility to determine the annual budgets for all national intelligence agencies and offices and to direct how these funds are spent."

Though not nearly as dramatic or exciting as the institution of JSOC following Operation Eagle Claw or the formation of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Is Intelligence Reform Working?" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Is Intelligence Reform Working?.  (2012, March 11).  Retrieved October 31, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Is Intelligence Reform Working?."  11 March 2012.  Web.  31 October 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Is Intelligence Reform Working?."  March 11, 2012.  Accessed October 31, 2020.