Top Secret America: ‘Goodness in having a robust capacity’
Ah, spy speak. “Goodness in having a robust capacity.” That’s Marine Colonel David Lapin, a Pentagon spokesperson, describing the ridiculously large super secret spy network that was spawned after 9/11. What does it mean? Let me get out my decoder ring and see if I can translate it.
The Washington Post writers, Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, are releasing a series of articles entitled “Top Secret America” that outline the incredible expansion of the US spy agencies and their contractors after 9/11 and it’s making those spy agencies nervous enough to try and defend themselves with completely incomprehensible spy speak. See, no real attacks on US soil after 9/11 is “goodness” and is the result of insane amounts of money being poured into spy agencies and their contractors.
What Priest and Arkin have found may surprise you, but probably not.
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… What started as a temporary fix in response to the terrorist attacks has turned into a dependency that calls into question whether… the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities… The Post investigation uncovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America created since 9/11 that is hidden from public view, lacking in thorough oversight and so unwieldy that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.
The Post investigation makes clear what we already know: bureaucracy’s main function is to grow. Spy agency bureaucracy is no different. Given the injection of post-9/11 hysteria and helplessness, spy agency bureaucracy grew like e-coli bacteria in a pile of manure.
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.
And the news media can’t stop talking about it. On True/Slant alone there are already at least five stories about the series.
Yet what do we really know now that we didn’t know before? The series, an amazing piece of actual journalism at a time when our news is dominated by opinionated bloggers like myself, but it’s real use is in the facts and figures, not the story. We already knew that defense spending (secret or not) is completely out of proportion to what the US can afford to spend and it only grows bigger by the day. There is little accountability in terms of private contractors or, let’s face it, the paid employees of the US defense industry, here or around the world. And like a BP oil spill, curbing the military industrial complex seems unstoppable.
The real value of the Post series is that the facts and figures coming out might shame politicians in Washington to investigate and possibly limit some of these excesses. But a real shift in American priorities and spending would require a lot more than facts and figures. It would require a revolution. Curbing defense spending excesses would require dismantling the ideology that justifies the military industrial complex. Then the structure of politicians and corporations that feeds off military spending would also have to be taken apart. Only then can we say that “Top Secret America’s” “goodness” is “in having a robust capacity.”