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Intelligence Reform

- May 29, 2015
Are U.S. spy agencies prepared for 21st-century threats?
  • Overview
  • Current Situation
  • Chronology
  • Pro/Con
  • More...
Featured Report

New and evolving national security threats are raising questions about the U.S. intelligence community's effectiveness. A decade after the nation's 16 spy agencies were consolidated under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, security experts are expressing concerns about interagency rivalries and questioning whether the intelligence community is prepared to deal with domestic and foreign threats, including cyberattacks and recruitment of young Westerners by the Islamic State (ISIS). Meanwhile, Congress has been wrangling over whether to allow the National Security Agency to continue collecting bulk cellphone data from Americans, a practice the spy agency says is necessary to safeguard the nation from terrorism but that civil libertarians say erodes one of the very principles of democracy it is intended to protect — citizens' right to privacy. At the same time, critics say international reactions to alleged CIA torture of terrorism suspects in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to undermine the intelligence community's effectiveness on the world stage.

‘Dragnet Surveillance’

Proposed legislation would curb mass collection of data.

Encryption Debate

Tech companies have resisted spy agencies’ calls for access to encrypted devices.

Homegrown Threats

Officials say domestic terrorism increasingly imperils national security.

1940s–1950sA national intelligence system takes shape.
1960s–1970sThe scope of intelligence work broadens; overreach leads to reforms.
1980sSecurity incidents and illegal activity raise questions about the CIA's effectiveness; the end of the Cold War leads to cuts in intelligence resources.
2000s–2015Terrorism brings new focus, powers and controversy to the intelligence community.

Should the National Intelligence director serve for a fixed term?


Melvin A. Goodman
Former CIA senior analyst; Senior Fellow, Center for International Politics, Johns Hopkins University; Author of The Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA .


Richard K. Betts
Director, Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University; Author of Enemies of Intelligence .
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