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Seal of the Defense Intelligence Agency
|Formed||October 1, 1961|
|Headquarters||DIA Headquarters, Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling, Washington, D.C|
|Motto||Committed to Excellence in Defense of the Nation|
Approx. 17,000 (65% civilian and 35% military)
|Agency executives||Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Director|
David Shedd, Deputy Director
|Parent agency||Department of Defense|
Official Facebook Page
Seal of the Defense Intelligence Agency
|Formed||October 1, 1961|
|Headquarters||DIA Headquarters, Joint Base Anacostia–Bolling, Washington, D.C|
|Motto||Committed to Excellence in Defense of the Nation|
Approx. 17,000 (65% civilian and 35% military)
|Agency executives||Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Director|
David Shedd, Deputy Director
|Parent agency||Department of Defense|
Official Facebook Page
The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is the main foreign military espionage organization of the United States, operating under the jurisdiction of Department of Defense (DoD). As one of the principal members of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), DIA informs national civilian and defense policymakers about the military intentions and capabilities of foreign governments and non-state actors, while also providing department-level intelligence assistance and coordination to individual military service intelligence components and the warfighter. The agency's role encompasses collection and analysis of defense-related foreign political, economic, industrial, geographic, and medical and health intelligence. As part of its national IC responsibilities, DIA regularly provides input for the President's Daily Brief.
Though sometimes compared to foreign military intelligence services, like the Russian GRU or Israeli Aman, DIA is unique in that two-thirds of its 17,000 employees are civilians and the agency's structure bears resemblance to that of its civilian counterpart. DIA's intelligence operations in support of U.S. national security extend far beyond the zones of combat, at hundreds of locations and U.S. Embassies in approximately 140 countries. The agency primarily specializes in collection and analysis of human-source intelligence (HUMINT), has its own Clandestine Service and is in charge of American military-diplomatic efforts overseas. DIA is also designated a national manager for the highly technical measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) and the Department of Defense manager for counterintelligence programs. The agency has no law enforcement authority, although it is occasionally portrayed so in American popular culture.
Established in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, DIA has been at the forefront of U.S. intelligence efforts throughout the Cold War and rapidly expanded, both in size and scope, since the September 11 attacks. Due to the sensitive nature of its work, the spy organization has been embroiled in numerous controversies, including those related to its intelligence-gathering activities, its role in enhanced interrogations, as well as attempts to expand its activities on U.S. soil.
The Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency is a three-star general or admiral who, upon nomination by the President and confirmation by the Senate, serves as the nation's highest-ranking military intelligence officer. He is the primary intelligence adviser to the Secretary of Defense and also answers to the Director of National Intelligence. The Director is also the Commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, a subordinate command of United States Strategic Command, which is co-located with DIA. Additionally, he chairs the Military Intelligence Board, which coordinates activities of the entire defense intelligence community.
DIA is headquartered in Washington, D.C. on Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, with major operational activities at the Pentagon, at each Unified Combatant Command, as well as in more than a hundred U.S. Embassies around the world, where it deploys alongside other government partners (e.g. CIA) and also operates the U.S. Defense Attache Offices. Additionally, the agency has staff deployed at the Col. James N. Rowe Building at Rivanna Station in Charlottesville, Virginia, the National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) in Fort Detrick, Maryland, the Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MSIC) in Huntsville, Alabama, the Russell-Knox Building on Marine Corps Base Quantico, the National Center for Credibility Assessment at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and the Defense Intelligence Support Center (DISC) in Reston, Virginia. DIA is also in the process of building a new campus in Bethesda, Maryland which will serve as the new location of the National Intelligence University as well as a facility for DIA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
DIA and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are alike in that both organizations are focused on collecting human intelligence and both are primarily working to answer National Intelligence Program (NIP) requirements up to Presidential and Cabinet levels, including regular input for the President's Daily Brief. The two differ in that while CIA is more focused on non-military national security intelligence, DIA focuses on national defense-related topics. Due to DIA's designation as a combat support agency, the agency has special responsibilities in meeting intelligence requirements specifically for the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in peace and at war. Although other defense agencies, such as the National Security Agency, also have combat support designation, DIA's specialization in on-site human intelligence makes it one of the first agencies to deploy overseas in times of conflict. Due to the interconnected nature of wartime intelligence requirements, there has been a significant overlap in the work of CIA and DIA during U.S operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This trend is, however, gradually changing as the overextended CIA transfers parts of its military intelligence requirements to the Defense Clandestine Service and other elements of the intelligence community.
Contrary to a popular misconception, DIA is not a collective of all U.S. military intelligence units and the work it performs is not in lieu of that falling under intelligence components of individual services. Unlike the Russian GRU, which encompasses equivalents of nearly all joint U.S. military intelligence operations, DIA assists and coordinates the activities of individual service intelligence units (i.e. AFISRA, INSCOM, etc.), which nevertheless remain separate entities.
DIA is organized into four directorates and five regional centers
Directorate of Operations: The Directorate of Operations manages DIA's intelligence operations which includes the Defense Clandestine Service and the Defense Attache System.
Directorate for Analysis: The Directorate of Analysis manages the all-source analysis elements of DIA. Analysts analyze and disseminate finalized intelligence products, focusing on national, strategic and tactical-level military issues that may arise from worldwide political, economic, medical, natural or other related processes. Analysts contributes to the President's Daily Brief and the National Intelligence Estimates. Analysts serve DIA in all of the agency's facilities as well as globally in the field.
Directorate for Science and Technology: The Directorate for Science and Technology manages DIA's technical assets and personnel. These assets gather and analyze Measurement and Signature Intelligence, which is a technical intelligence discipline that serves to detect, track, identify or describe the signatures (distinctive characteristics) of fixed or dynamic target sources. This often includes radar intelligence, acoustic intelligence, nuclear intelligence, and chemical and biological intelligence. DIA is designated the national manager for MASINT collection within the United States Intelligence Community, coordinating all MASINT gathering across agencies. DIA is also the national manager of the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS), the central Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) for the United States.
Directorate for Mission Services: The Directorate for Mission Services provides administrative, technical, and programmatic support to the agency's domestic and global operations and analytic efforts. This includes providing counterintelligence to the agency as well as serving as the counterintelligence executive agent for the Department of Defense.
Centers: DIA is divided into four regional centers and one functional center which manage the agency's efforts in these areas of responsibility. These centers are the Americas Center, the Asia/Pacific Center, the Europe/Eurasia Center, the Middle East/Africa Center, and the Defense Combating Terrorism Center. DIA also manages Community-wide centers such as the National Center for Medical Intelligence, the Missile and Space Intelligence Center, the National Media Exploitation Center, and the Underground Facilities Analysis Center (UFAC).
Further, DIA is responsible for administering the JIOCEUR and various Joint Intelligence Centers which serve and are co-located with each of the Unified Combatant Commands. Additionally, DIA manages the Directorate for Intelligence, Joint Staff (J2) which advises and supports the Joint Chiefs of Staff with foreign military intelligence for defense policy and war planning.
DIA also currently runs the National Intelligence University (NIU) on behalf of the Intelligence Community and houses the John T. Hughes Library at the Headquarters facility. DIA will be relinquishing management of the NIU to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in 2014 and the university will be moving from DIA Headquarters to a new campus in Bethesda, Maryland.
Due to the sensitive nature of DIA's work, all of its personnel, including interns and contractors, are subject to the same security standards and must obtain a Top Secret clearance with Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) access. Collateral Top Secret clearances granted by the DoD are not sufficient to grant access to DIA's SCI information. Additionally, the SCI access granted by other intelligence agencies, such as CIA or NSA, do not transfer to the DIA and vice versa.
In addition to the rigorous background investigations, psychological and drug screening, as well as security interviews, DIA requires that its applicants pass the agency polygraph. In fact, the DIA exercises operational control over the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA), which establishes polygraphing standards and trains polygraphers for placement across the entire intelligence community. In 2008, the agency started expanding its polygraph program in an attempt to screen 5,700 prospective and current employees every year. This was a several fold increase from 2002 when, according to information provided to Congress, the DIA conducted 1,345 polygraphs. According to the unclassified DIA document cited in the news report, since the mid-2000s the agency started hiring contract polygraphers in addition to the permanent DIA polygraphers, and added 13 polygraphing studios to those the spy organization already operated. This expanded polygraph screening at DIA continued notwithstanding documented technical problems discovered in the Lafayette computerized polygraph system used by the agency; the organization allegedly refused to change the flawed Lafayette polygraph but declined to comment as to the reasoning.
Unlike the CIA and NSA, the DIA polygraph is of Counterintelligence Scope (CI), rather than Full Scope (FS) (also known as Expanded Scope Screening or ESS), meaning that it is less intrusive as far as one's personal life is concerned. The DIA administered only a handful of FS polygraphs and only for those personnel who were to be detailed to the CIA. Additionally, the DIA conducted a handful of FS polygraphs on its personnel remaining overseas in excess of 6.5 years, although this practice appeared to be outside the scope of DIA's authorization at the time.
Like with other intelligence agencies, failing to pass the DIA polygraph is a virtual guarantee that an applicant will be judged unsuitable for agency employment. In fact, according to a report published by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense of Intelligence, while the usually more stringent NSA is willing to give its applicants several shots at passing the polygraph, DIA tends to give one or at most two opportunities to clear the test, after which the employment offer is rescinded. The same report recommended that DIA seek permanent authority to conduct more intrusive Expanded Scope Screenings due to their supposed usefulness in eliciting admissions from applicants.
DIA's budget and exact personnel numbers are classified. The agency does reveal that currently it has approximately 17,000 employees, two-thirds of whom are civilian and approximately 50% of whom work at more than a 141 overseas locations. In 1994, it was revealed that the DIA requested approximately $4 billion in funding for the period of 1996–2001 ($6.3 billion inflation adjusted), averaging $666 million per year ($1.05 billion inflation adjusted). The agency, however, has nearly doubled in size since that period and also assumed additional responsibilities from various intelligence elements from across the Department of Defense, the CIA and the wider intelligence community. In 2006, at the height of Donald Rumsfeld's push to further expand the scope of military intelligence beyond tactical considerations, the DIA was estimated to receive up to $3 billion annually.
According to classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden and published by the Washington Post in 2013, the National Intelligence Program (NIP) component of the overall US intelligence budget contained approximately $4.4 billion/year for the General Defense Intelligence Program (GDIP), which is managed by the DIA, even as it is not exclusively for the agency's use. The numbers exclude the Military Intelligence Component (MIP) of the overall US intelligence budget, which by itself has averaged more than $20 billion per year in the past decade.
The DIA is one of few U.S. federal organizations, such as the CIA and FBI, that rely on human espionage to collect information. For this reason, the agency has been involved in numerous espionage events over the course of decades.
In 2003, the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's "Working Group" on interrogations requested that the DIA come up with prisoner interrogation techniques for the group's consideration. According to the 2008 US Senate Armed Services Committee report on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody, the DIA began drawing up the list of techniques with the help of its civilian employee, a former Guantanamo Interrogation Control Element (ICE) Chief David Becker. Becker claimed that the Working Group members were particularly interested in aggressive methods and that he "was encouraged to talk about techniques that inflict pain."
It is unknown to what extent the agency's recommendations were used or for how long, but according to the same Senate report, the list drawn up by DIA included the use "drugs such as sodium pentothal and demerol", humiliating treatment using female interrogators and sleep deprivation. Becker claimed that he recommended the use of drugs due to rumors that another intelligence agency, name of which was redacted in the Senate report, had successfully used them in the past. According to the analysis of the Office of Defense Inspector General, the DIA's cited justification for the use of drugs was to "[relax] detainee to cooperative state" and that mind-altering substances were not used.
Some of the more lurid revelations of DIA's alleged harsh interrogations came from FBI officers, who conducted their own screenings of detainees in Guantanamo along with other agencies. According to one account, the interrogators of what was then DIA's Defense HUMINT Service (currently the Defense Clandestine Service), forced subjects to watch gay porn, draped them with the Israeli Flag and interrogated them in rooms lit by strobe lights for 16–18 hours, all the while telling prisoners that they were from FBI.
The real FBI operative was concerned that DIA's harsh methods and impersonation of FBI agents would complicate the Bureau's ability to do its job properly, saying "The next time a real Agent tries to talk to that guy, you can imagine the result." A subsequent military inquiry countered FBI's allegations by saying that the prisoner treatment was degrading but not inhuman, without addressing the allegation of DIA staff regularly impersonating FBI officers—usually a felony offense. A year before this investigation was concluded, it was revealed that interrogations by special units of the U.S. military services were much harsher and more physical than any of the above DIA practices, to the point that 2 DIA officials reportedly complained, after which they were threatened by non-DIA interrogators.
Similar activities are thought to have transpired at the hands of DIA operatives in Bagram, where as recently as 2010 the organization ran the so-called "Black Jail". According to a report published by The Atlantic, the jail was manned by DIA's DCHC staff, who were accused of beating and sexually humiliating high-value targets held at the site. The detention center outlived the black sites ran by the Central Intelligence Agency, with the DIA allegedly continuing to use "restricted" interrogation methods in the facility under a secret authorization. It is unclear what happened to the secret facility after the 2013 transfer of the base to Afghan authorities following several postponements.
In 2014, a Canadian electronic music group Skinny Puppy sent the Defense Intelligence Agency a symbolic bill of $666,000, after finding out that the Agency had used their music in Guantanamo during enhanced interrogation sessions. Their music was originally heard at GTMO by a guard, who happened to be a fan of Skinny Puppy and could not understand how his favorite music was being used in such a manner: "[Skinny Puppy's] songs are characterized by ... lyrics that call out corporate wrongdoing. The songs I heard at GTMO were heavily distorted, almost to the point of inaudibility. Even so, I would never have imagined that Skinny Puppy's music would, or could, be used for torture". The officer conducting interrogation sessions allegedly stated that the Canadian group's songs—which are "characterized by relentless drumbeats, panicked, convulsive riffs, synth samples"—were very effective for torture.
Since mid-2000s, the DIA has come under scrutiny for requesting new powers "to covertly approach and cultivate "U.S. persons" and even recruit them as informants" without disclosing they are doing so on behalf of the U.S. government. George Peirce, DIA's general counsel, told The Washington Post that his agency is "not asking for the moon" and that the DIA officers "only want to assess their [individual U.S. citizens'] suitability as a source, person to person", while protecting the ID and security of the agency operatives. The provision allowing DIA to covertly approach U.S. citizens was reportedly removed from the bill at the request of Senator Ron Wyden. It is unclear if the agency has received any additional powers since but it is known that until at least 2005 and possibly later, the DIA's "personnel stationed in major U.S. cities [have been] ... monitoring the movements and activities—through high-tech equipment—of individuals and vehicles"; this occurred parallel to the NSA's warrantless surveillance that was of similarly dubious legality.
In 2008, with the consolidation of the new Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC), the DIA secured an additional authority to conduct "offensive counterintelligence", which entails conducting clandestine operations, domestically and abroad, "to thwart what the opposition is trying to do to us and to learn more about what they're trying to get from us." While the agency remained vague about the exact meaning of offensive counterintelligence, experts opined that it "could include planting a mole in a foreign intelligence service, passing disinformation to mislead the other side, or even disrupting enemy information systems", suggesting strong overlap between CI and traditional HUMINT operations.
According to the agency, Americans spying for a foreign intelligence service would not be covered under this mechanism and that DIA would coordinate in such cases with the FBI which, unlike any DIA components at the time, is designated a law enforcement agency. The media showed particular interest in the domestic aspect of DIA's counterintelligence efforts due to the fact that the agency's newly created DCHC had absorbed the former Counterintelligence Field Activity, which had become infamous for storing data on American peace activists in the controversial TALON database that was eventually shut down.
Anthony Shaffer, a former DIA officer, has claimed that the DIA was aware of and failed to adequately act against one of the organizers of the September 11 attacks prior to the event, in what became known as the Able Danger controversy. Shaffer's claims were rejected and later his security clearance revoked, with the Pentagon denying any wrongdoing. Later Shaffer published his book Operation Dark Heart but, upon complaints from the DIA and NSA that it included national security information, the Defense Department went as far as to buy and destroy the initial 10,000 copies of the book, causing the Streisand effect.
In 2011, Germany uncovered a far-right terrorist group named National Socialist Underground, which had been linked to series of murders, including the murder of a police officer. A report by Stern Magazine stated that German BfV and DIA officers had witnessed the murder of a policewoman during their surveillance of the "Sauerland" group—an Islamist organization that planned attacks on U.S. military installations in Germany—but that neither of the agencies reported it, thus enabling subsequent violent acts by the same criminal entities. The magazine cited an alleged DIA report that confirmed the agency's officers were at the site of the incident.
The authenticity of the alleged DIA observation protocol, on which the Stern Magazine based its report was swiftly denied by the BfV, while the DIA refused to comment. An unnamed U.S. "insider expert" for intelligence matters told Der Spiegel he deemed it unlikely that the DIA could be involved in that type of operation at all; the "expert", however, erroneously described the DIA as an analytic organization, when in fact the agency has been involved in clandestine operations for decades. Der Spiegel report, for its part, noted that security organizations prefer not to disclose the details of their work or the nature of their cooperation with other intelligence organizations, implying that the DIA and German agencies could be denying involvement to maintain secrecy.
After World War II, until the creation of DIA, the three Military Departments collected, produced and distributed their intelligence for individual use. This turned out to be duplicative, costly, and ineffective as each department provided their own, often conflicting estimates to the Secretary of Defense and other Federal agencies. While the Defense Reorganization Act of 1958 aimed to correct these deficiencies, the intelligence responsibilities remained unclear, the coordination was poor and the results fell short of national reliability and focus. As a result of this poor organization, President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed the Joint Study Group in 1960 to find better ways for organizing the nation's military intelligence activities.
Acting on the recommendations of the Joint Study Group, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara advised the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of his decision to establish the DIA in February 1961. He ordered them to develop a plan that would integrate all the military intelligence of the DoD, a move that met strong resistance from the service intelligence units, whose commanders viewed the DIA as undesirable encroachment on their turf. Despite this resistance, during the spring and summer of 1961, as Cold War tensions flared over the Berlin Wall, Air Force Lieutenant General Joseph Carroll took the lead in planning and organizing this new agency. The JCS published Directive 5105.21, "Defense Intelligence Agency" on 1 August, and DIA began operations with a handful of employees in borrowed office space on 1 October 1961.
DIA originally reported to the Secretary through the JCS. The new Agency's mission was the continuous task of collecting, processing, evaluating, analyzing, integrating, producing, and disseminating military intelligence for the DoD. Other objectives included more efficiently allocating scarce intelligence resources, more effectively managing all DoD intelligence activities, and eliminating redundancies in facilities, organizations, and tasks.
Following DIA's establishment, the Services reluctantly transferred intelligence functions and resources to it on a time-phased basis to avoid rapidly degrading the overall effectiveness of defense intelligence. A year after its formation, in October 1962, the Agency faced its first major intelligence test during the superpower confrontation that developed after Soviet missiles were discovered at bases in Cuba by Air Force spy planes.
In late 1962, DIA established the Defense Intelligence School (now the National Intelligence University), and on 1 January 1963, it activated a new Production Center. Several Service elements were merged to form this production facility, which occupied the "A" and "B" Buildings at Arlington Hall Station, Virginia.
The Agency also added an Automated Data Processing (ADP) Center on 19 February, a Dissemination Center on 31 March, and a Scientific and Technical Intelligence Directorate on 30 April 1963. DIA assumed the staff support functions of the J-2, Joint Staff, on 1 July 1963. Two years later, on 1 July 1965, DIA accepted responsibility for the Defense Attaché System—the last function the Services transferred to DIA.
During the 1960s, DIA analysts focused on: China's detonation of an atomic bomb and the launching of its Cultural Revolution; increasing unrest among African and South Asian nations; fighting in Cyprus and Kashmir; and the missile gap between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. In the late 1960s, crises that tested intelligence responsiveness included: the Tet Offensive in Vietnam; the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel; continuing troubles in Africa, particularly Nigeria; North Korea's seizure of the USS Pueblo; and the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia.
The early 1970s were transitional years as the Agency shifted its focus from consolidating its functions and establishing itself as a credible producer of national intelligence. This proved difficult at first since sweeping manpower decrements between 1968 and 1975 had reduced Agency manpower by 31 percent and precipitated mission reductions and a broad organizational restructuring. Challenges facing DIA at this time included: the rise of Ostpolitik in Germany; the emergence of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the Middle East; and the U.S. incursion into Cambodia from South Vietnam.
The Agency's reputation grew considerably by the mid-1970s, as decision makers increasingly recognized the value of its products. Agency analysts in 1972 concentrated on Lebanon, President Richard Nixon's visit to China, the 1973 Chilean coup d'état, the formation of Sri Lanka, and the prisoners of war being held in Southeast Asia. Subsequent challenges involved: détente; the development of arms control agreements; the Paris peace talks (Vietnam); the Yom Kippur War; and global energy concerns.
Intense Congressional review during 1975-76 created turbulence within the national Intelligence Community. The Murphy and Rockefeller Commission investigations of charges of intelligence abuse ultimately led to an Executive Order that modified many Intelligence Community functions. At the same time, with American involvement in Vietnam ending, defense intelligence faced a significant decline in resources. During this period, DIA conducted numerous studies on ways of improving its intelligence products. Ultimately, the Agency strengthened its support to the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and the Unified & Specified Commands, and also modernized the National Military Intelligence Center (NMIC). Faced with similar resource challenges, DoD also sought to centralize its activities. Despite these and other Community-wide efforts to improve intelligence support, the loss of resources during the 1970s limited the Community's ability to collect and produce timely intelligence and ultimately contributed to intelligence shortcomings in Iran, Afghanistan, and other strategic areas.
As resources declined, intelligence requirements expanded. By the late 1970s, Agency analysts were focused on Lebanon, China, South Africa, terrorism, and Southeast Asia POW issues. In 1977, a charter revision further clarified DIA's relationship with the JCS and the Defense Secretary. Specifically, the Secretary assigned staff supervisory responsibility over DIA in the resource area to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence, while giving the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs supervisory responsibility regarding policy matters. Analytical efforts within the Agency at the time centered on the death of Mao Zedong, aircraft hijacking, the Israeli raid on Entebbe Airport, unrest in South Africa, and continuing Middle East tensions.
Special DIA task forces were set up to monitor crises such as the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the overthrow of Iranian monarchy, and the taking of U.S. hostages in the American embassy in Tehran in 1979. Also, of serious concern were the Vietnamese takeover in Phnom Penh, the China-Vietnam border war, the overthrow of Idi Amin in Uganda, the North-South Yemen dispute, troubles in Pakistan, border clashes between Libya and Egypt, the Sandinista takeover in Nicaragua, and the Soviet movement of combat troops to Cuba during the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty II.
Following the promulgation in 1979 of Executive Order 12036, which restructured the Intelligence Community and better outlined DIA's national and departmental responsibilities, the Agency was reorganized around five major directorates: production, operations, resources, external affairs, and J-2 support.
DIA came of age in the 1980s by focusing heavily on the intelligence needs of both field commanders and national-level decision makers. DIA's publication in 1981 of the first in a series of whitepapers on the strengths and capabilities of Soviet military forces titled Soviet Military Power met with wide acclaim. Ten such booklets were published subsequently over roughly the next decade. World crises continued to flare and included the downing of two Libyan Su-22s by American F-14 Tomcats over the Gulf of Sidra, an Israeli F-16 raid to destroy an Iraqi nuclear reactor, two Iranian hijackings, Iranian air raids on Kuwait, and the release of American hostages in Iran.
Other analysis at this time was focused on the war over the Falkland Islands, Israel's invasion of Lebanon, and the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada. Other DIA analytical efforts during the mid-1980s centered on the attack on the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the Iran–Iraq War, the conflict in Afghanistan, the Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, the civil war in Chad, and unrest in the Philippines. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger presented DIA with the Agency's first Joint Meritorious Unit Award in 1986 for outstanding intelligence support over the previous year during a series of crises—the hijackings of TWA Flight 847 and the cruise ship Achille Lauro, unrest in the Philippines, and counter-terrorism operations against Libya.
Also at this time, the Agency concentrated on the rapidly shifting national security environment, characterized by key issues such as changes within the Soviet Union, counter-narcotics, war fighting capabilities and sustainability, and low-intensity conflict. DoD moved decisively to improve its automated data bases and apply additional resources to the monitoring of terrorist groups, illegal arms shipments, and narcotics trafficking. Arms control monitoring also increased the demand for intelligence support from DIA.
In 1983, in order to research the flow of technology to the Soviet Union, the Reagan Administration created Project Socrates within the Agency. Over the following years Project Socrates's scope broadened to include monitoring of foreign advanced technology as a whole. Project Socrates ended in 1990 with Michael Sekora, the project's director, leaving in protest when the Bush Administration reduced funding.
In 1984, the Clandestine Services organization, designated STAR WATCHER, was created under DIA with the mission of conducting intelligence collection on perceived areas of conflict and against potential adversaries in developing countries. A critical objective was to create a Joint Services career path for case officers to flag rank since the individual Services were inconsistent in their support of clandestine operations; and, case officers were routinely sacrificed during reductions in force—or when the Intelligence Chiefs of the individual Services decided that espionage was immoral and military officers should not engage in "sinful activities." Ultimately, the organization was created to balance CIA's espionage operations which primarily targeted Soviet KGB/GRU officers, but ignored and were dismissive of Third World targets in areas of potential military conflict. Although there were previous attempts to establish such a DoD level espionage organization, there was no authorization document by which it could be established.
This changed when Gregory Davis, a military intelligence officer, defined and established a clandestine services program under the U.S Southern Command's "Plan Green". The program was then authorized by JCS Chairman John Vessey, and sanctioned by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), with the sponsorship of Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) and Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ). The Goldwater–Nichols Act|Goldwater-Nichols DoD Reorganization Act was crafted partly to force military officers to serve in a Joint Services assignment in order to qualify for flag rank—ensuring the future of case officers from each Service. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, Frank Aurelio, and Assistant Secretary of the Army, William Clark (son of General Mark Clark), interfaced with the Service Chiefs to gain their support. Davis transferred to DIA in 1984 where he coordinated the authorizing documents and budget for the new organization, and directed the operations of the program for the next six years. The organization grew and flourished, and was cited by the SSCI for its intelligence achievements. Personnel selection and training were rigorous, and the case officers were notable for their advanced educations, area knowledge, and multilingual capabilities. The program was partially gutted under President Bill Clinton as he foresaw no conflict which would justify its existence, but, it was resurrected under President George W. Bush.
Designated a combat support agency under the Goldwater-Nichols Act, DIA moved to increase cooperation with the Unified & Specified Commands and to begin developing a body of joint intelligence doctrine. Intelligence support to U.S. allies in the Middle East intensified as the Iran–Iraq War spilled into the Persian Gulf. DIA provided significant intelligence support to Operation Earnest Will while closely monitoring incidents such as the Iraqi rocket attack on the USS Stark, the destruction of Iranian oil platforms, and Iranian attacks on Kuwaiti oil tankers. The "Toyota War" between Libya and Chad and the turmoil in Haiti added to DIA's heavy production workload, as did unrest in other parts of Latin America, Somalia, Ethiopia, Burma, Pakistan, and the Philippines.
Subsequently, the Agency provided threat data on "hot spots" throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, while assessing the impact of changes in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and, to a lesser degree, Asia. In addition, DIA supported decision makers with intelligence concerning the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, events surrounding the downing of several Libyan jets, the civil war in Liberia, and the investigation of the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which an agent was killed. Weapons acquisition issues, counter-narcotics, and counter-terrorism, likewise, remained high priority issues.
With the end of the Cold War, defense intelligence began a period of reevaluation following the fall of Communism in many Eastern European countries, the reunification of Germany, and ongoing economic reforms in the region. During this phase, DIA emphasized improved management of intelligence production, DoD-wide, as resource reductions once again threatened to negatively impact Agency objectives and manpower. Organizationally, DIA adopted the concept of functional management to better address unified and specified command intelligence issues.
In response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, DIA set up an extensive, 24-hour, crisis management cell designed to tailor national-level intelligence support to the coalition forces assembled to expel Iraq from Kuwait. By the time Operation Desert Storm began, some 2,000 Agency personnel were involved in the intelligence support effort. Most of them associated in some way with the national-level Joint Intelligence Center (JIC), which DIA established in The Pentagon to integrate the intelligence being produced throughout the Community. DIA sent more than 100 employees into the Kuwaiti Theater of Operations to provide intelligence support. This DIA-led effort remains one of the greatest examples of intelligence support to operational forces in modern times.
The Armed Forces Medical Intelligence Center (AFMIC), and the Missile and Space Intelligence Center (MSIC), associated with the Army for over 20 and 50 years respectively, became part of DIA in January 1992. This was part of the continuing effort to consolidate intelligence production and make it more efficient.
Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, DIA has been active in nuclear proliferation intelligence collection and analysis with particular interests in North Korea and Iran as well as counter-terrorism. DIA was also involved with the intelligence build-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and was a subject in the Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq. After the invasion, DIA led the Iraq Survey Group to find the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Agency has conflicted with the CIA in collection and analysis on the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and has often represented the Pentagon in the CIA-DoD intelligence rivalry due to DIA's clandestine HUMINT collection and often overlapping analysis products.
In 2012 DIA announced a massive expansion of clandestine collection efforts. The newly consolidated Defense Clandestine Service (DCS) would absorb the Defense HUMINT Service and the Defense Attache System and expand DIA's overseas espionage apparatus to rival the CIA's. DCS would focus on military intelligence concerns—issues that the CIA has been unable to manage due to lack of personnel, expertise or time—and would initially deal with Islamist militia groups in Africa, weapons transfers between North Korea and Iran, and Chinese military modernization. The DCS works in conjunction with CIA's National Clandestine Service and the Joint Special Operations Command in overseas operations.
A memorial wall at the DIA headquarters honors those DIA personnel who lost their lives while working for the agency around the globe. The wall is not exhaustive presumably due to exclusion of people with links to classified missions, such as the confirmed DIA officer Charles Dennis McKee. The majority of the disclosed fatalities are either a result of terrorist attacks or accidents and random acts of violence. It is unclear how many personnel the agency has lost in classified circumstances during the half-century of its existence.
Unlike the more expansive memorial at DIA's fellow defense agency NSA—which marks not only the losses of NSA's direct employees but servicemen from all US military branches operating on behalf of or assigned to the NSA; the DIA did not include active duty servicemen lost while carrying out missions until 2013, when several soldiers were added to the wall. Further, while the CIA has a practice of marking the losses of its contract employees on its memorial wall, the number of DIA contractor losses, if any, is unknown.
DIA also maintains a memorial in the headquarters courtyard dedicated to personnel lost in the attacks of 9/11 on the Pentagon. Additionally, the agency maintains the Torch Bearers Wall at its Headquarters. The Torch Bearers award is the highest honor bestowed to former DIA employees and recognizes their exceptional contributions to the agency’s mission.
Less known than its civilian equivalent or its cryptologic counterpart, DIA and its personnel have at times been portrayed in works of American popular culture. As with other U.S. foreign intelligence organizations, the agency's role has occasionally been confused with those of law enforcement agencies. DIA's parent organization, the Department of Defense, features in fiction and media much more prominently due to the public's greater awareness of its existence and the general association of military organizations with warfare, rather than spycraft.
The flaming torch and its gold color represent knowledge, i.e., intelligence, and the dark background represents the unknown —“the area of the truth” still sought by the worldwide mission of the Agency. The two red atomic ellipses symbolize the scientific and technical aspects of intelligence today and of the future. The 13 stars and the wreath are adopted from the Department of Defense seal and mean glory and peace, respectively, which the DoD secures as part of its work.
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