The Washington Post has an amazing article on the top-secret hidden world born of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. The sprawling security apparatus (I would add, coupled with the unitary executive mentality), has ultimately made our country less safe, secure and free.
If the problem pre-9/11 was a failure to connect the dots, the problem nine years later is that we've created by an order of magnitude so many more dots that it's impossible to connect them. Instead of honing the tools we have to find the needle in the haystack, we have made the haystack so big that we can't find even an elephant.
It is no surprise that the sources for this article--who include two of only a handful of users called "Super Users" who have the ability to even know about all the Defense Department's activities-- requested anonymity because they are prohibited from speaking publicly or because, they feared retaliation at work for describing their concerns. Thomas Drake is a living example of this--he's facing 35 years in jail.
According to the Washington Post's investigation,
* 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 U.S.
* Nearly 1 1/2 times the number of people who live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
* In the D.C. metropolitan area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since 9/11. They occupy the equivalent of three Pentagons.
* Many security and intelligence agencies do the exact same work, creating redundancy and waste.
* 50,000 intelligence reports are issued each year--amongst 1,000 a week--that even senior officials admit cannot possibly be digested.
According to the Post, lack of focus, not lack of resources, was at the heart of the Ft. Hood shooting and the Christmas Day bombing attempt. I would argue that this is something more toxic than lack of focus. All these people and agencies have as their focus keeping us safe.
Unchecked government, exacerbated by secrecy and an imposed and largely-accepted unitary executive theory (e.g.Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008), have undermined the core of the United States as a democracy. The ACLU pointed out the security, privacy, and civil liberties sacrifices that come with a "big brother" massive money-making "American Surveillance-Industrial Complex" back in 2003 with a report titled "Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The Growth of an American Surveillance Society." An update in 2007 ("Even Bigger, Even Weaker: The Emerging Surveillance Society: Where Are We Now") showed the surveillance state still expanding and practically unabated by legal or financial constrictions. It took seven years, but it seems the MSM has finally caught on to this privacy-invading, liberty-destroying Frankenstein loose on our democracy.
But, according to the Post sources - and in true beltway fashion - it is not only money driving the secrecy surveillance state; ego is a big contributor as well:
Every one of these buildings has at least one of these rooms, known as a SCIF, for sensitive compartmented information facility. Some are as small as a closet; others are four times the size of a football field.
SCIF size has become a measure of status in Top Secret America, or at least in the Washington region of it. "In D.C., everyone talks SCIF, SCIF, SCIF," said Bruce Paquin, who moved to Florida from the Washington region several years ago to start a SCIF construction business. "They've got the penis envy thing going. You can't be a big boy unless you're a three-letter agency and you have a big SCIF."
In fact, the government just made a newly-built SCIF to handle the classified information surrounding prosecution of Thomas Drake.
What is sadder than intelligence community officials using overblown secrecy as a ruler? The tragic irony here is part of the difficulty in connecting the dots before 9/11 was the volume of information, and it seems what we have done, at great expense to our pocketbooks and Constitution, is make more dots.