Should the United States Establish a Dedicated Domestic Intelligence Agency for Counterterrorism?

For Release

October 22, 2008

One lesson of 9/11 is that the signs of the attack were not assembled into a warning that might have made it possible to prevent the disaster. In the wake of that failure, one question on the U.S. agenda is whether the country needs a dedicated domestic intelligence agency – separate from law enforcement – to address the U.S. terrorist threat.

The Department of Homeland Security asked the RAND Corporation to conduct an independent study on the feasibility of creating a counter-terrorism intelligence agency. While it asked RAND not to offer specific recommendations, DHS wanted to know the relevant considerations for creating such an agency, as well as the benefits and pitfalls of doing so.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • The motivating question is one of organization, and depending on how the problem with the nation's domestic intelligence approach is defined, changing organizations is one solution. However, other approaches – such as reallocation resources, changing regulations or laws, or enhancing agency collaboration – are options as well.
  • Fundamentally, what the United States seeks by way of domestic intelligence remains unclear, and existing arrangements have not been assessed in detail, all of which raises questions about the objectives of any reorganization effort.
  • "Break-even" analysis provides a systematic means of exploring the question of how much a new domestic intelligence agency would have to reduce terrorism risk – given a presumed level of threat and estimates of agency cost – to justify creating it.

The report, "Reorganizing U.S. Domestic Intelligence: Assessing the Options," can be found at

The author of the report is Gregory Treverton.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Joe Dougherty at the RAND Office of Media Relations at or by calling (703) 413-1100, ext. 5137.

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