The CIA, the FBI and the NSA – just three of America’s most well known crime fighting agencies.
But few people may be aware that a total of 16 agencies make up the country’s intelligence network.
That might explain the lack of communication between them – a charge levelled at the CIA and the FBI after the deadly 9/11 attacks.
The intelligence that could have prevented the tragedies had already been gathered but the FBI ignored warnings about terrorism suspects taking flight lessons.
The CIA was accused of not sharing what it knew.
Historic rivalry between the two agencies was said to be partly to blame for the fiasco as well as a mountain of bureaucratic red tape.
Whatever the reasons, there was widespread agreement that changes were needed urgently.
To that end, President George Bush made law the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act in 2004.
Its aim was to centralise information gathered on terrorism threats through a new agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Shortly after signing the act into law, Bush said:
“The DNI will have the authority to order the collection of new intelligence to ensure the sharing of information among agencies.”
Among the 16 agencies that have to report to the DNI is the National Counterterrorism Centre, one of America’s most secret establishments.
Described as the stock-exchange of intelligence, three times a day, every day, counter-terrorism experts gather to share what they know.
Its technology and resources are vast and therein perhaps lies the problem and the weakness of the system; too much information to analyse – which may have allowed a young Nigerian terror suspect to slip through the security net.