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Monday, July 19, 2010
Top Secret America
groundbreaking series of articles in the Washington Post, authors Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, draw us a terrifying picture of government secrecy out of control.
* 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, with 858,000 Top-Secret Employees.
* 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. (yet none can tell us who dumped all that airline stock right before 9/11?)
"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 M. Gates said in an interview with The Post last week.
In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials - called Super Users - have the ability to even know about all the department's activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation's most sensitive work. For his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn't take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled ''Stop!" in frustration.
The Post's online database of government organizations and private companies was built entirely on public records. The investigation focused on top-secret work because the amount classified at the secret level is too large to accurately track.
Today's article describes the government's role in this expanding enterprise. Tuesday's article describes the government's dependence on private contractors. Wednesday's is a portrait of one Top Secret America community. On the Web, an extensive, searchable database built by The Post about Top Secret America is available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/topsecretamerica.
CIA Director Leon Panetta, who was also interviewed by The Post last week, said he's begun mapping out a five-year plan for his agency because the levels of spending since 9/11 are not sustainable.
Liberty Crossing, nickname for the two headquarters of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, tries hard to hide from view. But in the winter, leafless trees can't conceal a mountain of cement and windows the size of five Wal-Mart stores stacked on top of one another rising behind a grassy berm. One step too close without the right badge, and men in black jump out of nowhere, guns at the ready. Liberty Crossing is at the center of the collection of U.S. government agencies and corporate contractors that mushroomed after the 2001 attacks. But it is not nearly the biggest, the most costly or even the most secretive part of the 9/11 enterprise. The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as $75 billion, 21/2 times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001. But the figure doesn't include many military activities or domestic counterterrorism programs.
Besides the expanded Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), there is the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), The Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at U.S. Central Command, The National Security Agency (NSA), One-hundred and six Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Forces, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force (FTATTF), also the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA), which analyzes images and mapping data of the Earth's geography, and the Underground Facility Analysis Center (UFAC), It identifies overseas underground command centers associated with weapons of mass destruction and terrorist groups. These are just a few examples of the spectrum of Government offices created.
In all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11. Many of the newest buildings are not just utilitarian offices but also edifices "on the order of the pyramids," in the words of one senior military intelligence officer. Each has required more people, and those people have required more administrative and logistic support: phone operators, secretaries, librarians, architects, carpenters, construction workers, air-conditioning mechanics and, because of where they work, even janitors with top-secret clearances. At the recommendation of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, the George W. Bush administration and Congress decided to create an agency in 2004 with overarching responsibilities called the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to bring the colossal effort under control.
See the Map and zoom in to your city to see who's paying your neighbors to spy on you.
Beyond redundancy, secrecy within the intelligence world hampers effectiveness in other ways. For the Defense Department, the root of this problem goes back to an ultra-secret group of programs for which access is extremely limited and monitored by specially trained security officers. These are called Special Access Programs - or SAPs - and the Pentagon's list of code names for them runs 300 pages. Such secrecy can undermine the normal chain of command when senior officials use it to cut out rivals or when subordinates are ordered to keep secrets from their commanders. Secrecy is sometimes used to protect ineffective projects.
Go here for an interactive map of the connections of all these agencies and corporations! (Especially look up "Unconventional Warfare - Psychological Operations". )
SCIF = Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, some are as small as a closet; others are four times the size of a football field. SCIFs are not the only must-have items people pay attention to. Command centers, internal television networks, video walls, armored SUVs and personal security guards have also become the bling of national security. "Fear has caused everyone to have stuff. Then comes, 'If he has one, then I have to have one.' It's become a status symbol."
Among the most important people inside the SCIFs are the low-paid employees carrying their lunches to work to save money. They are the analysts, the 20- and 30-year-olds making $41,000 to $65,000 a year, whose job is at the core of everything Top Secret America tries to do. But in the end, analysis requires human judgment, and half the analysts are relatively inexperienced, having been hired in the past several years, said a senior ODNI official. Contract analysts are often straight out of college and trained at corporate headquarters.
For Example (click here): SAIC in San Diego had $10.1-Billion in revenue for fiscal year 2009.
Monday, July 12, 2010
War contains so much folly, as well as wickedness, that much is to be hoped from the progress of reason. War should only be declared by the authority of the people, whose toils and treasures are to support its burdens, instead of the government which is to reap its fruits. Each generation should be made to bear the burden of its own wars, instead of carrying them on, at the expense of other generations. Of all the enemies of public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. - James Madison