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The 'Intelligence Industrial Complex'

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: NSA, secrecy, Senate, intelligence, security apparatus, contractors, Feinstein, Obama )

- 1832 days ago -
An odd thing is happening in the world's self-declared pinnacle of democracy. No one -- except a handful of elected officials and an army of contractors -- is allowed to know how America's surveillance leviathan works.

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Angelika R (143)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 4:42 pm
For the last two years, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) have tried to describe to the American public the sweeping surveillance the National Security Agency conducts inside and outside the United States. But sweeping secrecy rules block them from airing the simplest details.

Over the last few days, President Barack Obama and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, have both said they welcome a national debate about the surveillance programs. But the president and senator have not used their power to declassify information that would make that debate possible.

At worst, Obama and Feinstein are using claims of “national security” to maximize their own power and minimize their accountability. At best, fear of another terrorist attacks is clouding their thinking.

“I flew over the World Trade Center going to Senator Lautenberg’s funeral,” Feinstein said this Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” referring to New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. “And I thought of those bodies jumping out of that building hitting the canopy. Part of our obligation is keeping America safe.”

Feinstein is right, but our obsession with preventing terrorist attacks is going too far. Washington’s reaction to intelligence contractor Edward Snowden’s release of classified documents is a symptom of two interconnected post-Sept. 11, 2001 dynamics: the rise of secrecy and contractors.

First, secrecy. In the initial years after September 11, the focus on thwarting another major terrorist attack was understandable. Given the hijackers’ presence in the United States, so were fears of plotters being present in the United States.

A decade later, there have been only two major al Qaeda-inspired terrorist attacks inside the United States: Major Nidal Hasan’s 2009 killing of 13 soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas, and the April Boston marathon bombing that killed three. No evidence has emerged of terrorist groups infiltrating American executive, intelligence or defense agencies.

Yet government officials’ tendency to keep things secret and avert risk has led to a ballooning amount of classified information in Washington. The White House refuses to release the guidelines it uses to approve drone strikes. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) refuses to release redacted versions of its rulings explaining the rationale for National Security Agency surveillance programs. And Feinstein refuses to release a redacted version of its 6,000 page report on the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques.

From drone strikes to eavesdropping to torture, the American public is not allowed to know the rules and results of major counterterrorism policies. At the same time, a sprawling secrecy industrial complex does. More than 4.9 million Americans now have government security clearances, according to the Office of the National Intelligence Director. Another 1.4 million have “top secret” clearance.

As always, politics lies just below the surface. For a Democratic or Republican president, another major terrorist attack in the United States would be politically devastating. Erring on the side of overzealous counterterrorism and under-zealous disclosure is smart politics.

But as Obama himself argued two weeks ago, the time has come for the United States to move forward. A perpetual “war on terror,” perpetual fear and perpetual secrecy must end.

At the same time, so must our dependence on contractors like Snowden. As I’ve written before, core U.S. civilian government agencies — particularly the State Department and the CIA — have become too dependent on contractors. As much as possible, secret information and core government functions should remain in the hands of government agencies, not for-profit companies.

Neither government nor the private sector is perfect, but they function differently. Government is inherently cautious and bureaucratic. The private sector focuses on efficiency and speed. When it comes to secrets, government is better.

he fact that Snowden, a 29-year-old contractor, had access to such important information was emblematic of the post-September 11 U.S. security state. Instead of taking the politically unpopular move of increasing the size of the government, Republican and Democratic administrations made contractors a cornerstone of the American counterterrorism effort.

Today, the federal government pays contractors $300 billion a year, according to the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog group. Many operate in intelligence agencies.

“The government workforce has pretty much stayed the same over the last 30 to 40 years,” Scott Amey, the group’s general counsel, told Reuters yesterday. “But we’ve supplemented that with a contractor workforce that has grown dramatically.”

Contracting has become a huge profit center for defense contractors and Wall Street alike. Snowden’s firm, Booz Allen, was purchased by the Carlyle Group in 2008. Last year, 99 percent of the firm’s $3.8 billion revenue comes from government contracts.

The rise of Booz and Carlyle is part of a broad, long-term shift of money, talent and authority from the public sector to the private sector. The Defense Department, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, for example, all rely on contractors to function. Roughly 480,000 – one-third – of the 1.4 million people with security clearances — are contractors

Yes, certain details of our counterterrorism operations should be secret. And our elected leaders may be telling the truth when they say the NSA’s surveillance procedures are correct. But our September 11-inspired culture of secrecy — where terrorists lurk in every corner — is overblown.

So is our 4.9 million-strong phalanx of Americans with security clearances. Redacted versions of FISC rulings, the Senate report on torture and the administration’s legal justification for drone strikes can be released without endangering our security.

Government’s most feared powers — from execution to deportation to spying on its citizens — must be transparent and publicly debated. America’s secrecy industrial complex must answer to the public, not tell us it knows best.

John C (75)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 6:26 pm
I find irony in the fact that Feinstein introduced legislation to emasculate the 2nd amendment while she violated the 4th.
Seems we are moving closer to China than they are towards us.

Jo S (619)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 12:08 pm
I'm going to find a very comfortable seat and watch this play out. I'll probably have bedsores if and or when it is ever concluded!
Noted & shared.
Thanks Angie.

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 12:29 pm
I sure hope it will be WHEN rather than IF ! It also depends on how large or limited public outcry is and how much pressure the internet companies will use on US govt. While Americans appear to be content with this, the rest of the world is not.

Angelika R (143)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 12:33 pm
I'm actually waiting for someone , probably another brave journalist, to come out using the word "paranoia"...

Kit B (276)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 5:55 pm

This should play out to our interest if differing views on what it all means. I heard Lawrence O' Donnell say something in passing the other night, "I know that every phone call ever made has in some way, been traced and tracked." He is correct. We don't like it when it comes out and we actually have to take a look at what is happening but, most of this if not these details, has been known if we choose to look.

Will it change because we don't like it? I have my doubts.

Melody Long (1)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 10:52 am
Shared and noted, thanks.

Ravenna C (20)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 11:09 am
At this point I don't think anything short of a new Revolution will change anything. The corrupt are too firmly entrenched. We can't vote them out because politicians are bought and paid for. The MONEY runs the show. The politicians are just there to pacify the masses. They will "debate" and have "panel discussions" and wait us out.
They have trained our minds to have a very small attention span. They will give us another 9/11 if they have to but I assure you that absolutely NOTHING will change.
The same Corrupt Corporations that have been running things will continue to do so as long as they have control. The only way to take away their control is to take away their money. I truly see no way that doesn't involve a Revolution of some kind. Some of our forefathers said it best:

”If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.”
James Madison

”If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”
George Washington

”Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government.”
James Madison

“Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth.”
George Washington

It was almost like they had a crystal ball. But let us not forget one of the most important lessons Santayana wrote (in The Life of Reason, 1905) was: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Our forefathers warned us about exactly what is happening now. And they provided in the constitution a way for the people to fight for their liberty if need be.
Why do you think they are trying so hard to repeal the 2nd amendment. They are going to scare the people into it if we let them. (keep in mind I don't have a gun but I am terrified of not having the Right to bear one if I need to)

Birgit W (160)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 3:57 pm

Past Member (0)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 4:14 pm
Wow, this past decade has taken its toll on Feinstein. Maybe, a guilty conscience, if she has one?

Lois Jordan (63)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 7:25 pm
Thanks, Angelika. This is really more like the "Intelligence-Corporate-Military-Industrial Complex." When $300 BILLION a Year of our tax dollars is spent on this behemoth, I'd call it overkill. The mess of alphabet soup military & corporations involved just seems to grow by the month. People should absolutely be outraged that we can't afford to feed those who are without, threaten to reduce Social Security or privatize it, continue to let the banksters go unrestrained....The Empire seems to be imploding. It took enough rope, now it's hanging itself.

Colleen L (3)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 11:20 pm
This is crazy what they have been doing. messing around with our privacy. They of course are trying to use it saying that if they had it in action years ago, they could of avoided certain hijacking, etc. When are they ever going to be honest with us? How they can live with themselves know that they lie and keep secrets from us, I'll never understand. Thanks Angelika

Frances Darcy (133)
Friday June 14, 2013, 4:46 am

Herbert E (10)
Friday June 14, 2013, 7:42 am
Are we all now registered terrorists, anarchists ? Another Peace Prize candidate - Edward Snowden !

Angelika R (143)
Friday June 14, 2013, 1:22 pm
I still have many open questions on my mind, things I don't understand.. such as, what was the purpose of Obama threatening to veto CISPA when THIS has been going on for years?
And what was the purpose of GOOGLE's recent first ever release of its Transparency report revealing the number of govt. requests for user data?? Feed the public with tips of the iceberg? I don't get it.

Jason R (67)
Friday June 14, 2013, 2:36 pm
Two answers. No President is really the president. Congress is as brainwashed as any one on the right.

How is it, we have only a dozen Reps that are just like us? How ignorant and just stupid can a society get?

Thanks, Love

Jason R (67)
Friday June 14, 2013, 5:46 pm
Thanks, Angel

Yvonne White (229)
Sunday June 16, 2013, 5:54 pm
The main problem is the ARTIFICIAL Intelligence Industrial Complex -even with all that massive data dumping on them, they Have to make up bull$hit to make arrests (through entrapment or just plain mistaken identity) - refuse to arrest bank$ters & other mobsters, and America is over-run with Mall Cop Mentality running things - bullies with NO idea what "protect & serve" means!
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