By Annu Subramanian / SDNN / Originally posted July 19, 2010
Across the country, an unprecedented operation is developing at an accelerating clip, unseen and unknown by most Americans.
Until now, that is.
On Monday (7/19/10) The Washington Post launched “Top Secret America,” an ongoing report of the private intelligence operations—which the report calls “our 4th branch of government– that have surfaced in America since September 11, 2001. The project has been in the making for two years now.
“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,” reads the report’s introduction, spearheaded by long-time reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin.
“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.”
Using engaging interactive features and compelling infographics, the report’s “immersive reading experience” assists readers in understanding the harrowing and vast nature of these intelligence agencies that contribute to “a hidden world growing beyond control.”
And the growth of these agencies is vast, indeed.
Scattered over about 10,000 locations, there are over 3,000 government agencies and companies that work in counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in America.
San Diego alone has 56 top-secret government agencies and companies, reveals the “Top Secret America” interactive map.
These security agencies have grown and asserted their influence in such great numbers and scope that thorough oversight of their proceedings has been absent throughout their expansion.
As the agencies continue to spend unparalleled funds and increase in size, the leadership assigned to ensure these operations’ efficacy is unable to process it all.
“I’m not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities,” Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who manages oversight of the Defense Department’s top-secret programs, told The Post. “The complexity of this system defies description.”
That the government is not certain that these agencies are producing unique and relevant data begs the question of redundancy as more of these companies emerge. Even the National Counterterrorism Center, a notably high-security intelligence center, has not produced reports that are different or better than existing CIA, FBI, NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency reports.
“Because [these activities] lack a synchronizing process, it inevitably results in message dissonance, reduced effectiveness and waste,” Vines said. “We consequently can’t effectively assess whether it is making us more safe.”
There is no way around it: that is highly suspect and frankly a problem, as our safety is the function of these government bodies.
“Top Secret America” is a living project that will continue to report on these intelligence agencies’ actions across the country, holding them accountable for their spending and continued growth.
Editor: SDNN (San Diego News Network) has ceased its operations.