Tuesday, July 20, 2010

King Kong vs. The Flies

I highly recommend the series National Security, Inc. in the Washington Post by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin about the massive secret security network of agencies and private contractors we’ve come up with to gather and interpret intelligence.

What started as a temporary fix in response to the terrorist attacks has turned into a dependency that calls into question whether the federal workforce includes too many people obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest — and whether the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities. In interviews last week, both Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta said they agreed with such concerns.

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.

What is frightening is not that this “alternative geography” has bad intentions or was created to undermine the rights and freedoms of Americans; on the contrary, the point was to preserve them. But it has metastasized into something so large and unwieldy that it’s like King Kong swatting at flies. The biggest fear is that rather than run our lives and control our actions, but that it will be ineffective.