by MSNBC Staff / July 18, 2010
Since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, top-secret intelligence gathering by the government has grown so unwieldy and expensive that no-one really knows what it costs and how many people are involved, The Washington Post reported Monday.
A two-year investigation by the newspaper found what it called a “Top Secret America” that’s hidden from public view and largely lacking in oversight. The newspaper’s investigation is based on hundreds of interviews with intelligence, military and other officials, as well as public documents and records.
In its first installment of a series of reports, the Post said there are now more than 1,200 government organizations and more than 1,900 private companies working on counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in some 10,000 locations across the U.S.
Some 854,000 people — or nearly 1 1/2 times the number of people who live in Washington — have top-secret security clearance, the paper said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Post that he doesn’t believe the massive bureaucracy of government and private intelligence has grown too large to manage, but it is sometimes hard to get precise information.
“Nine years after 9/11, it makes sense to sort of take a look at this and say, ‘OK, we’ve built tremendous capability, but do we have more than we need?'” he said.
The head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, said he knows that with the growing budget deficits the level of spending on intelligence will likely be reduced and he’s at work on a five-year plan for the agency.
After the Sept. 11 terror attacks nearly ten years ago, Congress authorized an extra $40 billion — beyond what was in the federal budget — to bolster domestic defenses and fight al-Qaida. In 2002, it added $36.5 billion more and, in 2003, another $44 billion, the Post reported. With all that spending came more analysts, more organizations and more entities gathering intelligence — but with little coordination over the effort as a whole.
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