Trump team considers slimming, refocusing intelligence agencies

President-elect Donald Trump and his transition team believe the U.S. intelligence agencies have become bloated, ineffective and politicized, and need to be restructured.
By Stephen Feller  |  Jan. 5, 2017 at 3:37 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 (UPI) -- President-elect Donald Trump and his incoming administration are considering ways to restructure and scale back the intelligence community, specifically the Central Intelligence Agency and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Members of Trump's transition team told the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday that the president-elect wants to restructure and scale back the CIA and DNI. Trump believes they have become politicized, as well as too reliant on electronic methods of surveillance rather than in-person spying, officials on his team told the newspaper.

The plan includes cutting staff at the CIA's Virginia headquarters and sending more agents to field offices around the world, while downsizing and more closely focusing what DNI is responsible for. Both ideas are based on years-long criticism by Republicans of the agencies and how they have been run by President Barack Obama.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence was created in 2004 with the goal of better coordinating work among the 17 intelligence agencies and bridge competitive gaps made more noticeable in the aftermath of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

In 2010, a White House panel suggested DNI could be shrunk and better focused, however nothing was changed at the time. In 2015, however, DNI reorganized itself to focus on work in intelligence field offices and the gathering and analysis of intelligence.

The plans emerge as Trump has ratcheted up his harsh criticism of the intelligence community over its reporting that Russia was behind hacks of the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic-linked servers and email accounts. The hacks are said to have resulted in internal documents being published by Wikileaks, and are thought to have had an effect on the outcome of the presidential election.

Trump has suggested the investigation into the hacks has been politicized because he won the election. He also publicly criticized Obama's decision to place new sanctions on Russia and kick 35 of their diplomats out of the United States in retaliation for the hacks, which he does not believe Russia is guilty of.

On Wednesday, Trump claimed in a tweet that intelligence officials were delaying a briefing on the investigation because they needed more time to "make the case," however officials say the scheduled date of the briefing never changed.

Members of both parties have been critical of Trump's public doubt and mocking of the intelligence community, which has included pointing out intelligence failures in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq and suggesting Wikileaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange is a more reliable source than the U.S. intelligence agencies he is set to take over in three weeks.

"We have two choices: Some guy living in an embassy on the run from the law... who has a history of undermining American democracy and releasing classified information to put our troops at risk, or the 17 intelligence agencies sworn to defend us," said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham. "I'm going with them."

Trump echoed comments Assange made in an interview with Fox News, including that "a 14-year-old could have hacked" the computer of John Podesta, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign manager, and that the documents he published during the presidential campaign were not given to him by the Russians.

California Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee suggested Trump's accusations of bias and ideas for changes in the intelligence agencies are bad ideas.

"[The CIA] is appropriately staffed and resourced," Schiff said in a statement. "Moreover, to propose changing the CIA's operational structure because of loose allegations of politicization -- claims based on nothing more than the agency's willingness to contradict the President-elect's preferred version of events -- would be a mistake of the highest order."

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