Trump team has differences of opinion on
shaping spy agencies: sources
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[January 06, 2017]
By Mark Hosenball and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There is
disagreement within President-elect Donald Trump's camp about the
structure of the top U.S. intelligence agency when he takes office and
it is unclear whether his national security adviser will prevail in
advocating a reorganization, sources familiar with the matter said on
At issue is the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI),
which Congress created after the Sept. 11 attacks to better coordinate
the efforts of U.S. intelligence agencies to protect the United States.
Trump security adviser Michael Flynn, who as head of the Pentagon's
Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama sometimes
clashed with other intelligence agencies, favors restructuring and
paring back the ODNI, the sources said.
But one source close to the Trump transition cautioned that the outcome
is not certain.
"There is a general consensus that the ODNI is too big and grown too
fast. Some around him (Trump) believe this, but whether they plan to
address it or how, I just donít know," said the source, who like others
requested anonymity to discuss the Trump team's internal deliberations.
Flynn has had a fraught relationship with the ODNI. After complaints
over his management style at the Defense Intelligence Agency, he was
fired by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
A senior transition official told Reuters on Thursday that Trump has
picked former U.S. Senator Dan Coats as his director of national
intelligence - a sign Trump does not plan to try to eliminate ODNI.
A U.S. official familiar with Coats' views suggested he would not move
precipitously to overhaul U.S. intelligence agencies.
"Any possible reforms to the structure of the intelligence community, he
would approach with great caution and responsibility," the official
Relations between Trump and U.S. intelligence agencies are
extraordinarily rocky even before he is sworn in on Jan. 20.
Trump disparaged the spy agencies' conclusions that Russia was behind
hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the campaign staff of his
2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton. Clapper told Congress Thursday
he was "even more resolute" that Russia staged cyber attacks, rebuking
Trump was scheduled to be briefed on Friday on an intelligence report
that reaches that conclusion. Russia has denied the hacking allegations.
"I think the president-elect is more skeptical of the conclusions that
are drawn from the raw data rather than the intelligence in the raw data
that's provided," Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on
Coats, according to another U.S. official familiar with his views, said
he knew a lot about Europe and Russia and may well "butt heads with
Trump over Russia."
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President-elect Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the
media after a meeting with Pentagon officials at Mar-a-Lago estate
in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Trump is working with
top advisers to restructure and reduce the size of the ODNI.
That report largely reflects the views of Flynn, said a source
familiar with the retired lieutenant general's thinking who declined
to be identified.
Trump spokesman Sean Spicer on Thursday rejected the report.
"There is no truth to this idea of restructuring the intelligence
community infrastructure," Spicer said. "All transition activities
are for information gathering purposes and all discussions are
A broad intelligence reorganization would require congressional
action. Congress created ODNI in a 2004 law that makes it the parent
of 16 other U.S. intelligence agencies, ranging from the CIA and the
DIA to the eavesdropping National Security Agency and the State
Department's intelligence bureau.
Flynn, who served as a top military intelligence officer in
Afghanistan and Iraq, is said by those familiar with his views to
favor major changes at the CIA as well.
Both on the battlefield and at the DIA, Flynn pushed for
intelligence personnel to be moved out of compounds and offices and
closer to front lines, where Flynn believed they would be more
effective intelligence collectors, said the source familiar with his
Flynn would like the CIA to reorganize itself along these lines, the
source said. The CIA was just reorganized last year, however, to
bring frontline spies and backroom analysts together in new units
focused tightly on specific issues or regions.
Republican congressman Mike Pompeo, Trump's choice for CIA director,
is known to share Flynn's views about the need for restructuring at
CIA, the source said. But two other people familiar with Trump
transition discussions said Pompeo has not been involved in talks
about possible CIA reorganization.
(Reporting by Mark Hosenball and Steve Holland; Writing by Arshad
Mohammed and Warren Strobel; editing by Grant McCool)
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