Surveillance Apparatus • Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)

The Defense Intelligence Agency, established in 1961, is one of the United States government’s largest intelligence organizations – employing 17,000 individuals, including thousands stationed overseas. Its 2013 fiscal year budget request was for $3.15 billion. Yet, the DIA is also one of the more secretive agencies in the U.S. intelligence community, regularly denying access to basic information about its structure, functions and activities. Today the National Security Archive posts a new sourcebook of over 50 documents, many appearing for the first time, that help to illuminate the DIA’s five-decades-long history.

Highlights of the posting include an internal memo about the infamous Iraqi defector known as CURVEBALL and the false intelligence he provided about Iraq’s supposed WMD programs; a 180-page review of the case of DIA analyst Ana Belen Montes, convicted of supplying secrets to the Cubans several analyses of Iraqi and Chinese weapons of mass destruction programs; and descriptions of DIA’s interest in “psychoenergetics” activities such as extrasensory perception, telepathy, and remote viewing.

Today’s posting also features dozens of issues of the DIA’s in-house publication, Communiqué (see sidebar), containing significant information about the agency that is routinely withheld from the public under the Freedom of Information Act.

Along with the national intelligence agencies (the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is one of the largest United States government intelligence organizations. It employs approximately 17,000 individuals, with thousands deployed overseas. Its fiscal year 2013 budget request was for $3.15 billion dollars.

Some of the intellectual work that led to its creation took place during the later years of the Dwight Eisenhower administration (although it appears Eisenhower was interested in moving toward creation of such an agency as early as 1953). In 1959, the United States Intelligence Board created a Joint Study Group (JSG), chaired by the CIA’s Lyman Kirkpatrick, to study the intelligence-producing agencies. The group concluded that there was considerable overlap and duplication in defense intelligence activities, resulting in an inefficient distribution of resources. It observed that “… the fragmentation of efforts creates ‘barriers’ to the free and complete interchange of intelligence information among the several components of the Department of Defense” and recommended that the Secretary of Defense “bring the military intelligence organization within the Department of Defense into full consonance with the concept of the Defense Reorganization Act of 1958.”

However, as the end of Eisenhower’s tenure as president approached there was no concrete plan to establish a DoD-level intelligence agency. As a result, in an early January 1961 meeting of the National Security Council, Eisenhower was reported to have observed (Document 1, p. 4) that “each Military Service developed its own intelligence organization,” [that] “this situation made little sense in managerial terms” and that “he had suffered an eight year defeat on this question.” As a result, he “would leave a legacy of ashes for his successor.”

The Creation:

In an oral history interview, Kennedy’s first Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, recalled that one event that helped convince him of the need for a defense intelligence agency was a visit, not long after taking office, to Air Force intelligence headquarters in the Pentagon. The Air Force’s intelligence chief “got out all of his photographs. We went over them, and it didn’t prove to me that there was a missile gap. But he was not lying. He was looking at the photographs through Air Force-colored glasses.” Among McNamara’s conclusions was that “we ought to have one defense intelligence agency, and not several, each representing a particular service with operational interests involved it.”

That experience may have further advanced the cause of establishing a DIA. In a February 8, 1961 memo to the Joint Chiefs, McNamara raised the issue of establishing a Defense Intelligence Agency – that would possibly not only include the new agency absorbing the military service intelligence analysis agencies but also the National Security Agency. A flurry of memos produced by staff members of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff followed. Included was an April 21, 1961 memorandum (Document 2) on considerations with regard to establishing a Defense Intelligence Agency, one of which was whether the agency would report directly to the Secretary of Defense or to the Secretary via the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Ultimately, on July 5, McNamara reached the decision to establish the DIA, which he reported to President John F. Kennedy (Document 3) the following day in a memo that also reviewed his reasoning, the expected benefits from creation of the new agency, and the work that already been done. Less than a month later, on August 1, with the issuance of DoD Directive 5105.21 (Document 4), DIA was formally established, reporting to McNamara through the JCS – as the DoD announced (Document 5) the following day.

The directive made DIA responsible for: (1) organization, direction, management, and control over all DoD resources assigned to or included within the DIA; (2) review and coordination of those DoD intelligence functions retained by or assigned to the military departments; (3) supervision over the execution of all approved plans, programs, policies, and procedures for intelligence functions not assigned to the DIA; (4) the exercise of maximum economy and efficiency in the allocation and management of DoD intelligence resources; (5) responses to priority requests by the United States Intelligence Board; and (6) fulfillment of the intelligence requirements of major DoD components. As a consequence of DIA’s creation, the Joint Staff Director of Intelligence (J2) was abolished (although subsequently re-established), as was the Office of Special Operations, the small intelligence arm of the Secretary of Defense.

CIA-DIA Relations:

The DIA’s creation inevitably was of concern to the CIA, since it established a new major intelligence agency, which had an impact on the Intelligence Community’s analytical work as well as, at the very least, tasking of its collection activities – whether human or technical. Thus, in the early 1960s, the CIA monitored and reported on DIAs’ growing pains. In April 1963, CIA Executive Director Lyman Kirkpatrick reported (Document 8) on his conversation with DIA Director Joseph Carroll with regard to clandestine collection, current intelligence production, and DIA participation in the National Photographic Interpretation Center.

In late 1964, both Albert Wheelon, the CIA’s deputy director for science and technology, and Kirpatrick produced memoranda (Document 9, Document 10) – for Kirkpatrick and DCI John McCone, respectively – evaluating DIA and reviewing CIA-DIA relations. Three years later, the chief of the CIA’s Board of National Estimates, Sherman Kent, prepared a memorandum (Document 11) for McCone on McNamara’s possible difficulties with DIA – which he attributed to DIA being a headquarters military intelligence organization “with all the classic maladies of such,” and to the fact that it reported to the Secretary through the JCS.

Organizational Structure:

The DIA, in its 54-year existence, has undergone a large number of major organizational changes – particularly in its early years. Those changes have reflected both alternative structures for accomplishing its analytical mission and the growth of its responsibilities in the areas of human and technical collection.

The first document authoritatively concerning DIA’s organizational structure was the September 29, 1961 Plan for Activation of the Defense Intelligence Agency (Document 6), which specified (pp. 4-5, 10) that DIA would have at least two key directorates – the Directorate for Acquisition (whose responsibilities would include requirements and collection management) and the Directorate for Processing (which would operate an indications center, a production center, and an estimates office). The plan also made provision for organizational components to perform “other functions and activities” to be added in the future. By 1964 (Document 46), the number of key directorates had doubled, with the addition of directorates for mapping, charting, and geodesy as well as scientific and technical intelligence.[6]

Several decades later, in 1986, DIA’s structure had evolved (Document 19) to include a General Defense Intelligence Program Staff, a group of Defense Intelligence Officers (the DIA’s counterpart to the Director of Central Intelligence’s National Intelligence Officers), and six directorates – Security and Counterintelligence; Operations, Plans, Training; Foreign Intelligence; JCS Support; External Relations; and Resources and Systems. DIA’s role in human intelligence collection – via attachés and other sources – was managed by the Directorate for Operations and Attachés within the Operations, Plans, and Training Directorate. The Foreign Intelligence Directorate had absorbed the scientific and technical intelligence production mission in addition to containing a component for imagery exploitation.

A major reorganization of DIA occurred during James Clapper’s tenure (1992-1995) as DIA director. Clapper established three key centers which would be responsible for collection, analysis, and infrastructure – the National Military Intelligence Collection Center, the National Military Intelligence Production Center, and the National Military Intelligence Systems Center. The centers were renamed after Clapper retired as DIA director.

In February 2003, DIA Director Lowell Jacoby approved another significant reorganization (Document 34), which established a Director’s Staff and seven primary operating elements – directorates for HUMINT, MASINT and technical collection, analysis, information management, external relations, intelligence support for the Joint Staff, and administration. Subsequent organizational changes included creation of a human intelligence and counterintelligence center and Defense Intelligence Operations Coordination Center – both now disestablished – although’s Jacoby’s reorganization remained largely intact for years afterward.

Then, in July 2012, DIA Director Michael Flynn ordered a reorganization in some ways similar to the one subsequently undertaken at CIA. While the directorates for operations, analysis, and science and technology were retained, four regional centers were added to the existing Defense Combating Terrorism Center (formerly the Joint Intelligence Task Force – Combating Terrorism – see Document 30). That resulted in a new DIA organizational structure (Document 51) that remains in place today – in which individuals from different directorates are assigned to the Americas, Asia/Pacific, Europe/Eurasia, or Middle East/Africa center and are responsible for the collection and production of the intelligence required to produce finished intelligence support of DoD and its components.


Some of DIA’s organizational change was the result of its shift in responsibilities – one of a number of ways in which DIA has evolved over the last 54 years. Its original charter has been updated a number of times. An updated version of DoD Directive 5105.21 was issued on December 16, 1976, and limited the JCS’s operational control over the agency to obtaining intelligence support required to perform the Joint Chiefs’ statutory functions and responsibilities as well as ensuring adequate, timely, and reliable intelligence for the unified and specified Commands (e.g. European Command, Strategic Air Command). Further updates of 5105.21 were issued in May 1977, February 1997, and most recently March 2008. The March 2008 directive (Document 38) specified twelve categories of responsibilities and functions, with over 70 specific responsibilities and functions for the DIA director.

DIA began as an analytical agency and that has remained its primary focus, but over the years its responsibilities with regard to collection have also expanded. Its role in human intelligence collection has included assuming responsibility for the Defense Attaché Service in 1965, whose representatives in United States embassies throughout the world have performed assorted intelligence collection functions. In 1993, DCI James Woolsey and Deputy Secretary of Defense William Perry agreed to establish, under DIA, a Defense HUMINT Service (DHS), which would absorb the responsibilities of the clandestine and strategic HUMINT activities of the military services, particularly the Army. The DHS reached initial operational capability in 1995 but would eventually be disestablished in 2006 upon the creation of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service. Then in 2013, a Defense Clandestine Service was established within DIA to conduct HUMINT operations.

DIA’s responsibility for managing collection also expanded as the result of the grouping of a diverse number of technical collection activities (including seismic, non-imaging infrared, acoustic, radar) under the title ‘measurement and signature intelligence’ (MASINT). DIA’s responsibilities in the MASINT area were consolidated in 1999 (Document 28) under a Central MASINT Office (CMO). Subsequently, the office’s functions were assigned to the agency’s Directorate of MASINT & Technical Collection (Document 34), and more recently to its Directorate for Science and Technology.

In addition, DIA, partially as a result of reorganization efforts in the Defense intelligence area in the early 1990s, assumed responsibility (Document 23) for two geographically dispersed, Army-managed intelligence organizations. Specifically, it assumed control of the Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center (AFMIC) and Army Missile and Space Intelligence Center (AMSIC) in 1991. AFMIC retained its name and the Army center became the Missile and Space Intelligence Center. Both remained at their locations – AFMIC at Ft. Detrick, Maryland, and MSIC in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2008, AFMIC was retitled (Document 39a, Document 39b, Document 40, Document 42) the National Center for Medical Intelligence to better reflect its role in support of organizations outside the DoD. A third geographically dispersed center, managed by DIA for the Intelligence Community, was established in 1997 – the Underground Facility Analysis Center (UFAC) at Herndon, Virginia.

In addition to the production responsibilities of its directorates and centers, as part of the DoD’s extensive intelligence production efforts (Document 27) DIA has also supervised and tasked production by a number of organizations operated by the military services – including the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, the National Ground Intelligence Center, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity.

DIA & Organizational Transparency:

DIA is one of several agencies that has been given discretionary authority by Congress to refuse to provide even unclassified information about its organizational structure and personnel in response to Freedom of Information Act requests – an authority it has used more extensively in recent years and which it uses more drastically than the CIA, National Reconnaissance Office, or NSA. (The other national intelligence agency – the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency – currently provides no organizational details at all).

Thus, while it released its entire organization and functions manual in earlier years (Document 19) it currently refuses to release more detail than that posted on its website – which consists of a listing of directorates and centers (excluding the Missile and Space Intelligence Center, the National Center for Medical Intelligence, and the Underground Facility Analysis Center) without any statement of their specific functions. Since 2012, it has denied, in their entirety, requests for the organizational charts of the MASINT & Technical Collection, Human Intelligence, and Analysis Directorates as well as of MSIC, NCMI, and UFAC. The agency also refused to release a single word from 15 pages of material concerning the creation and mission of the short-lived Directorate for Collection Management. In addition, it denied a request for any memos or documents that listed current Defense Intelligence Officer (DIO) titles – although those titles and more information about the DIO system appeared in the spring 2012 issue of the DIA journal Communiqué, which had been publicly released.

DIA is also no longer willing to release unclassified brochures similar to the one it released only a few years ago on the Directorate for Analysis (Document 43). A response to a February 2014 FOIA request for any brochures providing an overview of the Directorates of Analysis, Operations, or Science & Technology noted that the one responsive document had been located but it was being denied in its entirety.

A major alternative means of obtaining information about the workings of DIA was eliminated when then-director Michael Flynn ordered – without production of any memos or other documentation – that Communiqué halt publication because he “felt it prudent, with declining resources, to halt the electronic and hardcopy production of this publication,” according to a letter from the DIA’s FOIA chief. The journal, many of whose issues are posted with this briefing book, offered a detailed look into many aspects of DIA organization and operations. And because it was an unclassified magazine that was available to family members of DIA personnel, no FOIA exemptions could be employed to deny any portion of it to a requester – in the same way that NSA was unable to deny author James Bamford issues of its newsletter when he requested copies during his research for The Puzzle Palace.

It is not clear that DIA’s increasing lack of transparency is based on any systematic analysis. In response to a 2012 FOIA request for any 2005-2011 studies of the consequences of public disclosure of DIA organizational structure, the agency reported that “despite a thorough search, no documents responsive to your request were found.”