A Hidden World, Growing Beyond Control: The Paranoid US Government
by By Dana Priest and William M. Arkin
Monday, July 19, 2010
The top-secret world the government 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.
These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The
Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative
geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from
public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of
unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put
in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its
effectiveness is impossible to determine.
The investigation’s other findings include:
* 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.
* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for
top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built
since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost
three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square
feet of space.
* 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
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.
They are also issues that greatly concern some of the people in charge
of the nation’s security.