The Final Word from a Three-Agency SIS
28 July 2010
In my opinion the Washington Post series that exposed the exponential increase in the size and cost of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) was not taken seriously by official Washington and is considered a minor nuisance. That is why the only response to the series, as crafted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), was largely vintage intelligence agency boilerplate with a few bizarre additions such as the claim that the collection and analysis of intelligence are not essential government functions of intelligence agencies and so can be left to contractor personal. The series did not merit a serious response in the thinking of the Executive Branch and Intelligence Community.
In fact the series, although much touted, was a huge disappointment to readers expecting a more deeply researched and in-depth look at the IC. Clearly the craft of investigative journalism has fallen on hard times.
Also it is the case that in this country quantity always trumps quality. The growth in the size of the Intelligence Community is taken by official Washington as a priori evidence of the value it has provided since 9/11. The facts that the current IC is ruinously expensive to operate, is producing largely worthless intelligence, and has frequently failed even in the most basic warning functions are irrelevant. A bloated IC serves as ‘proof’ that political Washington is serious about protecting American citizens from terrorist threats. As with quantity, in the political arena form always trumps substance.
Rolling Update Cancelled–Nothing There
Phi Beta Iota: The Washington Post has evidently done all it plans for the newspaper, and is now going ahead with the book, which we certainly hope is more substantive and well-organized that the three-part series. This is a dead horse. They blew it. Two tiny tid-bits before we ignore them completely:
Is Top Secret America a threat to lives and security? The Post’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, wrote about readers’ reactions and government responses to the Top Secret America series Sunday.
Highlighted comment: Can we assess every threat? Does it matter how many or how few al-Qaeda there really are if even just one of them were to succeed. Can we draw this idea out a bit more? Does this mean the size of the threat actually does not matter? Does it mean the kind of threat doesn’t either?
Nothing New: 25-27 July 2010
Phi Beta Iota: This may be the biggest “dud” in Washington Post history. Great lead-in, and then zero in the way of residual follow-up. They should be profiling companies, agencies, inputs versus outputs, etcetera. Plop.
Washington Post Exclusive: Top Secret America
But see background below…
Figuring out exactly who’s cashing in on the post-9/11 boom in secret programs just got a whole lot easier
With too many analysts and too many capabilities documenting too much, with too few filters in place to sort out the useful stuff or discover hidden connections, the information overload has become its own information blackout.
Strategic Pause: 23-24 July 2010
Nothing immediately apparent within Washington Post
Editorial: 22 July 2010
SINCE SEPT. 11, 2001, the United States has increased its spending on intelligence by 250 percent and created or revamped 263 organizations. Yet the problems that gusher of money and bureaucracy were meant to solve — such as the failure of existing intelligence organizations to share information or “connect the dots” about terrorism threats — have not been alleviated. Instead, as a series of articles in The Post this week documented, the vast expansion of agencies, programs and personnel — including tens of thousands of private contractors — has overwhelmed many of the policymakers and military commanders it was meant to serve.
Late 22nd: Bleat from ODNI added, in place below on date issued, 19 July 2010.
Yet in his confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday, Mr. Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who has headed two Pentagon intelligence agencies, sounded curiously complacent about the complex he is taking on. Dismissing the Post’s detailed reporting as “sensationalism,” he defended the bloat, saying “one man’s duplication is another man’s competitive analysis.” He said that the article’s description of a profligate expansion of private contractors “is in some ways a testimony to the ingenuity, innovation and capability of the contractor base.”
Having conceded that as a Defense Department intelligence satrap he joined in the turf battles that have tied the hands of the four DNIs to serve since 2005, Mr. Clapper blithely asserted that he would have no problem supervising defense intelligence agencies, since “I’ve been there, done that and got the T-shirt.”
Yet streamlining and rationalizing the “top secret world” described by Ms. Priest and Mr. Arkin will require more than a business-as-usual approach. Mr. Clapper did say he would review the 51 federal organizations and military commands identified by The Post that now track the flow of money to terrorist networks, and he appeared to endorse a proposal by Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) for an inspector general who could cover the entire intelligence community and help to identify duplication and waste. He also pointed out that Congress, which appropriates the more than $75 billion now spent on intelligence programs, ultimately has the ability to impose limits. If the new DNI does not work to identify and eliminate the overgrowth in the intelligence community, legislators will have to do just that.
Phi Beta Iota: Jim Clapper and Bob Gates are both good men with good minds and good hearts. They are not, however, up to any challenge other than maintaining the status quo. They simply do not know–nor accept–what they need to know about transformation, Whole of Government, waging peace, Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), M4IS2, and so on. Unless Barack Obama wakes up one morning wanting to be a second term President more than he wants to join Bill Bradley at Allen & Company, nothing is going to change in the near term. America needs the Smart Nation Act and Electoral Reform Act. Obama has the power to make both real between now and November, but he appears to be surrounded by manipulative sychophants who have also made him fear assassination if he breaks free of control from the Hidden Powers in the USA that are the foundation for Hidden Powers everywhere else. We are not as stuck as we think. All it takes is one word: INTEGRITY.
Part 3: 21 July 2010
Extract: In suburbs across the nation, the intelligence community goes about its anonymous business. Its work isn’t seen, but its impact is surely felt.
Part 2: 20 July 2010
Extract: To ensure that the country’s most sensitive duties are carried out only by people loyal above all to the nation’s interest, federal rules say contractors may not perform what are called “inherently government functions.” But they do, all the time and in every intelligence and counterterrorism agency, according to a two-year investigation by The Washington Post.
Part 1: 19 July 2010
Extract: 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.
Photo Gallery (13)
Prequel of 16 July 2010
The reporters & other links:
Investigative reporter Dana Priest has been The Washington Post‘s intelligence, Pentagon and health-care reporter. She has won numerous awards, including the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for public service for “The Other Walter Reed” and the 2006 Pulitzer for beat reporting for her work on CIA secret prisons and counterterrorism operations overseas. She is author of the 2003 book, The Mission: Waging War and Keeping Peace With America’s Military, (W.W. Norton).
William M. Arkin has been a columnist and reporter with The Washington Post and washingtonpost.com since 1998. He has worked on the subject of government secrecy and national security affairs for more than 30 years. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books about the U.S. military and national security.