The opening line of the Washington Post story Monday morning: “The top-secret world the government has created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.”
I guess we sort of had a sense that things were huge and duplicative and out of control, but the Post’s story blows it wide open and gives us a rare look at just how big and uncoordinated the intelligence effort is. The article says 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism and homeland security.
I see Dick Cheney’s fingerprints all over this. From his “One Percent Doctrine” (if a threat is even one percent likely to happen, we must respond to it as though it were 100 percent likely) to his secretive and vindictive ways, and the Bush administration’s essentially unlimited supply of national support and funding immediately after the 9-11 attacks, a huge and unmanageable bureaucracy has been created.
The Post gathered so much information for this special report that other news organizations were reporting that top-level government officials implored the paper’s editors not to print certain aspects of the information its reporters had gathered, fearful that such information would be highly useful to our nation’s enemies.
Such is the culture of paranoia that exists in the intelligence community that they’re worried that a Washington Post reporter can dig up more stuff than a terrorist organization. Maybe there’s something to it, because the paper supposedly acquiesced to the request.
The article says about 854,000 people (1.5 times the population of Washington DC) hold top-secret security clearances.
Does it take a security expert to tell you that when nearly a million people have access to our most sensitive information, it’s really not that secret?
Another stunning tidbit: In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since 9-11, totaling about 17 million square feet of space.
And no one can tell you how many of these agencies duplicate each other’s work or how much it’s really costing us.
The intelligence communities’ defense: we haven’t been successfully attacked since 9-11 and we’ve thwarted some very real threats, like the would-be Times Square bomber.
It’s like the hot-rodders used to say: speed costs money; how fast do you want to go? Only in this case, if we do indeed have the best national security money can buy, we still don’t know what we’re paying for.