Government Has Run Amok Since 9/11

By SHELDON RICHMAN

Those
who understand the exploitative nature of big government suspected that
the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks had little to do with the
security of the American people and much to do with power and money.
Still, the magnitude of the scam, as revealed by the Washington Post
last week, is astonishing.

Naturally, the politicians
justify the growth in intelligence operations on national security
grounds. To make sure such attacks never happen again, they said, new
powers, agencies, personnel, and facilities were imperative.

Now the truth is out: the post–9/11 activity has been an obscene
feeding frenzy at the public trough. Any resemblance to efforts at
keeping Americans safe is strictly coincidental.

“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” the Post’s Dana Priest and William
Arkin write. “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.”

It would be a mistake to chalk up the government’s conduct to
bureaucratic bumbling. This is not bumbling. It is highway robbery.
Everyone who was well connected, either in government or the “private”
sector, wanted a piece of the action, and chances are that he — and
many others — got it. It doesn’t matter that multiple agencies do the
same work and keep their findings secret from one another. It doesn’t
matter that the volume of paperwork is beyond anyone’s capacity to
absorb it. What matters is money, power, and prestige. This is the
mother of all boondoggles.

Chew on some of the numbers from the Post investigation and see if it
sounds as though protection of American society was a
national-intelligence priority:

* “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.”

Moreover, the Post writes, “51 federal organizations and military
commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and
from terrorist networks,” and “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 routinely ignored” (emphasis added).

Since 9/11 no fewer than 263 intelligence and counterterrorism organizations have been “created or reorganized.”

And what about cost?

“The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as
$75 billion, 2 1/2 times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001. But the
figure doesn’t include many military activities or domestic
counterterrorism programs.” In other words, no one knows how much the
whole thieving operation costs.

According to Priest and Arkin, “[Many] officials who work in the
intelligence agencies say they remain unclear about what the [Office of
the Director of National Intelligence] is in charge of.”

It comes as no surprise that the mega-bureaucracy isn’t even much help
fighting wars: “When Maj. Gen. John M. Custer was the director of
intelligence at U.S. Central Command, he grew angry at how little
helpful information came out of the [National Counterterrorism Center].
In 2007, he visited its director at the time, retired Vice Adm. John
Scott Redd, to tell him so. ‘I told him that after 4 1/2 years, this
organization had never produced one shred of information that helped me
prosecute three wars!’ he said loudly, leaning over the table during an
interview” (emphasis added).

These revelations should have any professed opponent of big government
screaming bloody murder. So far the silence from conservatives has been
deafening.

Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation (www.fff.org) and editor of The Freeman magazine.

http://www.counterpunch.org/richman07292010.html

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