US officials pushed back Monday at a lengthy Washington Post report critical of the bloated and sometimes inefficient US intelligence network, which one called a "roadmap" for US foes.
The second segment of the three-part Post series on the intelligence bureaucracy comes out Tuesday, the same day that President Barack Obama's nominee to head US intelligence efforts, retired air force general James Clapper, heads to Capitol Hill for a confirmation hearing.
The US intelligence network is so unwieldy and secretive that even principal actors within it are unable to grasp its size or scope, according to the newspaper's two-year probe.
"There has been so much growth since 9/11 that getting your arms around that -- not just for the DNI (director of national intelligence), but for any individual, for the director of the CIA, for the secretary of defense -- is a challenge," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Post.
Homeland security and intelligence programs take place in some 10,000 locations across the country, while the various agencies produce 50,000 intelligence reports each year, a volume so large "many are routinely ignored," according to the Post.
'So much growth.' Obama and Clapper last month (Photo: MCT)
The newspaper, which relied heavily on publicly available information, reported that some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies worked on counterterrorism-related programs.
One anonymous Obama administration official reacted to the report with alarm.
"The very existence of this database... is troubling," the unnamed official told ABC News. The official described the report as "a roadmap to our adversaries."
Interim DNI chief David Gompert said "the reporting does not reflect the intelligence community we know."
'Goodness in having robust capability'
While intelligence agencies "operate in an environment that limits the amount of information we can share," US agents have "thwarted attacks, and are achieving untold successes every day," he added.
"Our commitment to keeping America safe will remain steadfast, whether they are reflected in the day's news or not."
The office of the DNI later put out two statements, one in a question-and-answer format -- with the DNI providing both the questions and the answers -- and the other a document debunking DNI-supplied "myths" about private contractors.
Marine Colonel David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, acknowledged "some redundancy and inefficiencies" in the growth of the intelligence agencies.
"At the same time, we are reminded that since 9/11 we have not had a successful major attack on the United States, so there is obviously goodness in having a robust capability," he said.
Others were more welcoming of the investigative series, and the debate it renewed.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, who praised the work of US intelligence agents, focused on the waste aspect of the article.
"I don't think anybody in the intelligence community would abet excessive waste. We have to balance the necessity of the resources needed to fight our adversaries and, at the same time, balancing that against waste," he said.
Representative Pete Hoekstra, the top opposition Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said the Post account confirmed "the national security bureaucracy is large, redundant and lacks the nimbleness to respond to threats posed to our nation."
He said it was "frustrating" that, years after the US Congress cast a critical eye on US intelligence efforts after the September 11 strikes, problems had still gone unanswered.
Addressing threats to US security "will come from building a streamlined and integrated national security community that is capable of quickly responding to current and emerging threats," Hoekstra added.