WASHINGTON, April 20 — John D. Negroponte, the director of national intelligence, said Thursday that the United States' global spying apparatus now numbered nearly 100,000 people assigned to stealing secrets and analyzing information to help protect national security.
The total number of personnel who report to the 16 disparate intelligence agencies and departments has until now remained secret, an effort by the government to mask the size of its spying operations. Mr. Negroponte disclosed the figure at a lunchtime speech here, calling those who serve in the intelligence field "patriotic, talented and hard-working Americans."
The disclosure came just months after another American intelligence official divulged, apparently by accident, another closely guarded secret: that the budget for American intelligence agencies last year totaled $44 billion. That disclosure was made by Mary Margaret Graham, a top deputy to Mr. Negroponte who served previously as a senior official of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Mr. Negroponte's office was created a year ago to overhaul American intelligence operations after multiple intelligence failures, including the faulty reports about Saddam Hussein's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, which the intelligence chief referred to Thursday as the "W.M.D. fiasco."
Defending his office against critics, some of them senior lawmakers, Mr. Negroponte said the intelligence reforms had not been an "exercise in bureaucratic bloat" but an effort to create an intelligence culture that "closes the breach in our defenses" that were revealed by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Mr. Negroponte was asked after his speech whether the new intelligence structure had brought the government any closer to catching Osama bin Laden. He said that while he wished the United States had already found Mr. bin Laden, the government had made great progress in capturing or killing several other members of the high command of Al Qaeda.
"I think we've dealt them a number of body blows," he said, "but we haven't yet dealt a knockout blow to Mr. bin Laden himself."