WaPo’s Post-9/11 Intelligence Expose: Secrets and Shadows

July 19, 2010

(ChattahBox)—The Washington Post’s three-part piece on the massive growth of our national intelligence apparatus, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, was finally published today, after two-years of extensive research by reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin. The unwieldy Intelligence Industrial Complex that we now have, was designed to make us safer and to create a system to better “connect the dots” that were missed prior to the 9/11 attacks. But are we really that much safer? And why didn’t this new system work to “connect the dots” of the thwarted underwear bomber and the radicalized Fort Hood shooter? The first part of the piece arrives at a conclusion that we already know– we really aren’t much safer. But what’s fascinating, is the shadow agencies operating quietly in the background meshed with private contractors that operate with little or no oversight. And like the mythical many-head Hydra, our 21st century Intelligence Industrial Complex can’t be cut down to size—the elimination of one shadowy enterprise results in two or three more.

The over 5,000-word expose of our bloated intelligence system provides a few interesting takeaways:

  • Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
  • An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
  • Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.
  • Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

“These are not academic issues; lack of focus, not lack of resources, was at the heart of the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead, as well as the Christmas Day bomb attempt thwarted not by the thousands of analysts employed to find lone terrorists but by an alert airline passenger who saw smoke coming from his seatmate.”

Read the entire piece. It’s well worth it. Also check out Salon’s Glenn Greenwald‘s take on WaPo’s expose.


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