The Washington Post has added a new feature on the subject named Top Secret America. It has stories as well as interactive features to see where companies and agencies are located, who they contract with, etc. The way this stuff has expanded over the past decade is extremely creepy and almost never really reported on.
A major reason for concern about it is that necessity is not what’s driving its growth:
In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials – called Super Users – have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation’s most sensitive work.
“I’m not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything” was how one Super User put it. The other recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn’t take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled ”Stop!” in frustration.
“I wasn’t remembering any of it,” he said.
Underscoring the seriousness of these issues are the conclusions of retired Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who was asked last year to review the method for tracking the Defense Department’s most sensitive programs. Vines, who once commanded 145,000 troops in Iraq and is familiar with complex problems, was stunned by what he discovered.
“I’m not aware of any agency with the authority, responsibility or a process in place to coordinate all these interagency and commercial activities,” he said in an interview. “The complexity of this system defies description.”
The result, he added, is that it’s impossible to tell whether the country is safer because of all this spending and all these activities. “Because it lacks a synchronizing process, it inevitably results in message dissonance, reduced effectiveness and waste,” Vines said. “We consequently can’t effectively assess whether it is making us more safe.”
Another good resource is Spies for Hire, which has some information on the activities of some of the major contractors.
I’ll see if I can find more interesting stuff to post about this now that I have some more substantial background to work from than scattered news stories. For now, I’ll leave you with another recent one: Police Video Shows ProPublica Photographer Detained in Texas (includes video)