Donald Trump Hopes To Abolish The Intelligence Chief Position, Reverse CIA Reforms

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BY: Matthew Cole 11.18.16

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Donald Trump’s national security team is discussing plans to dismantle the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the organization that was created in response to the 9/11 attacks, according to an adviser to the president-elect and a former senior intelligence official. The news comes as the current director of national intelligence, James Clapper, announced his resignation Thursday.

The Trump national security team has been meeting in recent days, planning the removal of the cabinet-level position and assessing how to fold parts of the organization into the 16 federal intelligence agencies it oversees, according to both people with knowledge of the plans. If the restructuring is accomplished, it would undo legislation passed by Congress in 2004, dismantle the biggest American intelligence bureaucracy created since the end of World War II, and roll back a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.

The national security team believes the effort will be “long and messy” but is confident it will be successful, according to the former senior U.S. intelligence official who is consulting with those involved in the transition.

Both sources asked for anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about confidential plans.

The former senior intelligence official, who supports the proposal, said the DNI was never a solution to the 9/11 attacks. “It was always a naive idea that American intelligence can be ‘fixed.’ You’ll never get it all correct,” the former official said. “You can never have 100 percent intelligence, never stop every terror plot or penetrate every terrorist cell. There will always be gaps.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment, but a source close to Clapper said the director was not aware of the Trump transition team’s plans.

The Trump team sees removing the office as an opportunity to reorganize other parts of the intelligence community, something that some career officials have long sought. The transition team, for example, is also contemplating reversing the recent restructuring of the CIA that took place under its current director, John O. Brennan. “Assuming the DNI gets taken apart, they want to undo Brennan’s reorganization of the agency,” the former senior official said.

Last year, Brennan restructured the CIA by removing the wall between analysts and spies, putting them together in mission centers, rather than geographic divisions, as had been the organization since the agency was created. The new structure was largely modeled after the Counterterrorism Center, which had become the agency’s dominant section after 9/11. Critics from inside the agency complained that it weakened the core skill of the agency — human espionage — and removed expertise. Brennan said the move allowed the agency to better reflect the changing landscape of global threats, including cyberspace.