Lack of clear DNI legal mandate complicating US intelligence effort: report

[JURIST] The lack of a concrete legal mandate for the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) [official website], constant infighting within the intelligence community and an unprecedented expansion of resources and intelligence-gathering capacities following the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive] have created an unfocused and chaotic environment where intelligence efforts are duplicated and effectiveness is impossible to assess, according to a report released by the Washington Post [media website] Monday. The report, Top Secret America [materials], is the product of a two-year investigation conducted by the newspaper into the intelligence community. The findings detail a complex and amorphous assortment of government agencies and private companies engaged in intelligence gathering efforts that are largely duplicative and disjointed, making effective analysis and oversight nearly impossible. This opaque intelligence structure has been perpetuated in spite of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 [text, PDF] which established the DNI [JURIST report] but denied the new oversight position the legal and budgetary authority to manage the 16 agencies [official website] the office was intended to control and coordinate. This structure, which largely mirrors that existing before 9/11, caused the intelligence failures leading to the Fort Hood shooting [BBC backgrounder], where the military agency that should have been aware of warning signs before the shooting was ineffectively duplicating the efforts of other agencies, according to the report. These intelligence failures also led to the near-success of Christmas 2009 transatlantic airline bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], when critical information was possessed by several different agencies that were either unable to differentiate it from the great deal of intelligence compiled every day, or were unaware of information possessed by other agencies.

The generally negative report comes despite continued efforts to streamline and oversee intelligence gathering and coordinate government agencies. In July 2008, former president George W. Bush [official profile] issued an executive order [JURIST report] giving the DNI the authority to coordinate information sharing between different US and foreign intelligence services and to make funding decisions for the various US agencies. Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 into law in December 2004, implementing a series of intelligence reforms recommended by the 9/11 Commission [official website] and authorizing the broadest re-working of the US intelligence structure since President Harry Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947.

 

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