From out of the past come the thundering hoofbeats — OK, make that thundering words — of Sean Spicer.
On Jan. 5, 2017, I said it’s a mystery wrapped in a conundrum why someone dispatched White House press secretary-designate Sean Spicer to say the Wall Street Journal was 100 percent false in reporting that President Trump will restructure intelligence community.
There were 17 separate agencies and bureaus doing intelligence gathering, analysis, field ops of one kind or another, civilian and military at the time. There still are. To the inexpert mind, half that number might seem excessive.
Critics on the right — including Mr. Trump, I think — said there are too many intelligence agencies, some bloated and/or with too much of their strength assigned to their headquarters rather than in the field where they might be useful.
Unless I was sick that day in 2017 — or in first few days of the new year — I don’t remember anything being done about the eye-popping redundancy of the U.S. government having more intelligence agencies than Saudi Arabia’s royals have wives.
Though the actual budget of the U.S. intelligence agencies is anybody’s guess, since a portion is classified or hidden, the official figure for those 17 agencies in the fiscal 2017 U.S. budget was $73 billion, much of it borrowed from the likes of the People’s Republic of China.
Is 73 billion one-dollar bills too big a figure to grasp? It’s more than total annual government revenues of 189 countries listed in the CIA’s 2016 Factbook, which reports the annual government budgets of all 228 countries on the planet.
Or try this: The $73 billion annual Intel bill is nearly $10 for every man, woman and child — all 7.6 billion of them — in the whole world.
In 1947, Harry Truman signed an Act of Congress that established the CIA as the only agency in the U.S. government charged with a national intelligence. And what Truman signed was murkily-defined, having (boy, is this hard to believe) not a single reference to espionage or covert operations.
A year ago, I concluded my snoop-agencies thoughts this way: That when Mr. Trump becomes president in a few days, he should plan to take on that powerful intel bloc and restructure it. This rang right with his supporters — and I suspect with many people generally skeptical of Mr. Trump.
So why stomp on a good message, Mr. Spicer?
A year later, with Mr. Spicer long gone, we can now say that, despite the clownish bipartisan opposition his former boss has faced, Mr. Trump has achieved a host of thigh-slappingly good reforms.
But grappling with the following 17 isn’t one of them: 1) Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2) Central Intelligence Agency, 3) National Security Agency, 4) Defense Intelligence Agency, 5) Federal Bureau of Investigation, 6) Department of State — Bureau of Intelligence and Research, 7) Department of Homeland Security — Office of Intelligence and Analysis, 8) Drug Enforcement Administration — Office of National Security Intelligence, 9) Department of the Treasury — Office of Intelligence and Analysis, 10) Department of Energy — Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 11) National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, 12) National Reconnaissance Office, 13) Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, 14) Army Military Intelligence, 15) Office of Naval Intelligence, 16) Marine Corps Intelligence, 17) Coast Guard Intelligence.