Intel Chief Says Personnel Number 100,000
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Nearly 100,000 Americans are working in intelligence in the U.S. and around the world, the nation’s spy chief says, revealing the number for the first time.
In a speech at the National Press Club marking his first year on the job, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte indicated his willingness to make some normally classified information public.
``The United States intelligence community comprises almost 100,000 patriotic, talented and hardworking Americans in 16 federal departments and agencies,″ he said.
``To the extent that the requirements of secrecy permit,″ Negroponte added later, ``the country should know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how well they are doing it.″
The figure means the total U.S. intelligence force is slightly smaller than the population of Green Bay, Wis. Secrecy expert Steven Aftergood of the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists welcomed the disclosure and said the government had no reason to keep the figure secret.
``If you think about all of the infrastructure needed to support that number of people, you start to get a sense of just how vast our intelligence system has become,″ Aftergood said. ``Think about all the things going on that we don’t know about.″
The government has long protected details about the size and budget of its spy agencies, which include the CIA, National Security Agency, parts of the FBI and other lesser-known outfits, such as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
But some classified morsels have gotten out.
For instance, Mary Margaret Graham, Negroponte’s top deputy for intelligence collection, goofed in a speech last fall and said the overall U.S. intelligence budget is $44 billion _ a number that open-government advocates have sued unsuccessfully to get.
It’s not clear how far Negroponte is willing to go to provide more information to the public. On Thursday, he condemned leaks of classified information, but he also said, ``Public understanding is important.″
Negroponte’s comments came as part of a speech summing up his first year as the nation’s inaugural spy chief. The position was created to get intelligence agencies to work together after the mistakes of Sept. 11, 2001, and Iraq.
Without delving into details, Negroponte said he has used his powers to fix a satellite program that was on the wrong track.
He rejected the idea that his job overseeing intelligence reform is too burdensome to allow him to be among President Bush’s top advisers on national security and attend the daily White House briefing.
And Negroponte challenged those who say his office has become another bureaucratic layer on top of an old one. One of his deputies last week said Negroponte has requested more than 1,500 people for his office next year. ``Intelligence reform has not been a theory-based experiment or an exercise in bureaucratic bloat,″ Negroponte said.
In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, Negroponte touched on other hot intelligence issues:
_Negroponte said Osama bin Laden’s ability to operate has been diminished since 2001 and ``his style has been cramped.″ He added: ``It would of course be desirable that he be captured or killed at the earliest opportunity. ... And we wish that this might have happened sooner.″
_He reiterated the U.S. assessment that Iran is determined to acquire a nuclear weapon, but remains years away from having enough fissile material _ perhaps into the next decade. ``It’s important that this issue be kept in perspective,″ Negroponte said.
_The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Negroponte called it ``important and urgent″ that Iraqis form a new government under the constitution approved last year. He said only when new senior officials take office will the government ``be able to take on some of the serious challenges that are posed by the sectarian violence.″
_Negroponte was asked if Russia shared wartime intelligence with Iraq in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, as some recently released documents suggested. The State Department has asked Russia to investigate. ``I don’t believe it’s been confirmed that the government in Moscow itself was witting to any of the activities that took place, although _ perhaps _ the Russian ambassador in Baghdad was involved in some of these activities,″ he said.
_He said he has made it one of his highest priorities to improve U.S. intelligence analysis. He noted that his office has hired an ombudsman who will test the quality of reports and receive complaints. ``We can’t afford to repeat the mistakes that led to the WMD fiasco with respect to Iraq,″ he said, referring to the overblown estimates of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. No WMD were found.
_Negroponte said he planned to improve information sharing within the government. A written question from an audience member who claimed to have worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency asked Negroponte how he’d handle a stamp marked ``Military Eyes Only,″ meaning the material couldn’t go to the CIA and elsewhere.
Negroponte replied: ``Take away the stamp.″
On the Web:
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence: http://odni.gov/