Ike’s Nightmare: America’s National Intelligence Complex Exposed

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning Dana Priest and William Arkin have in the Washington Post blown the top of America’s fear-fueled national intelligence complex that has grown so large and extensive that the government can’t track redundancies, costs, personnel, and the like.
More later — but read the series, which will continue during the next two days.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

27 comments on “Ike’s Nightmare: America’s National Intelligence Complex Exposed

  1. Paul Norheim says:

    As you probably noted, UK was not included in this report,
    due to “differences between the UK and rest of the EU in
    the criteria applied to record terrorist incidents.”
    Speaking of the UK, the recent news from the Iraq inquiry
    is highly relevant:
    “20 July 2010 Last updated at 22:44 GMT
    Iraq inquiry: Ex-MI5 boss says war raised terror threat
    Baroness Manningham-Buller said the Iraq war
    “undoubtedly increased” the level of terrorist threat.
    The invasion of Iraq “substantially” increased the terrorist
    threat to the UK, the former head of MI5 has said.
    Giving evidence to the Iraq inquiry, Baroness
    Manningham-Buller said the action had radicalised “a few
    among a generation”.
    As a result, she said she was not “surprised” that UK
    nationals were involved in the 7/7 bombings in London.
    She said she believed the intelligence on Iraq’s threat was
    not “substantial enough” to justify the action.
    Baroness Manningham-Buller said she had advised
    officials a year before the war that the threat posed by Iraq
    to the UK was “very limited”, and she believed that
    assessment had “turned out to be the right judgement”.
    Describing the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons threat as
    “fragmentary”, she said: “If you are going to go to war, you
    need to have a pretty high threshold to decide on that.”
    (….)
    A year after the invasion, she said MI5 was “swamped” by
    leads about terrorist threats to the UK.
    “Our involvement in Iraq, for want of a better word,
    radicalised a whole generation of young people, some of
    them British citizens who saw our involvement in Iraq, on
    top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack
    on Islam,” she said, before immediately correcting herself
    by adding “not a whole generation, a few among a
    generation”.
    (…)
    MI5 did not “foresee the degree to which British citizens
    would become involved” in terrorist activity after 2004,
    she admitted.
    “What Iraq did was produce fresh impetus on people
    prepared to engage in terrorism,” she said, adding that
    she could produce evidence to back this up.
    “The Iraq war heightened the extremist view that the West
    was trying to bring down Islam. We gave Bin Laden his
    jihad.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-10693001
    ——————–
    Add to that the continuing involvement in the Afghanistan
    war.
    As Rummy also said: “Stuff happens”.
    And to the extent that “stuff happens” in the UK, most of it
    seems linked to the two invasions and wars.

    Reply

  2. questions says:

    Paul,
    What a post!
    The interesting thing I think goes back to Rumsfeld’s epistemology — which of course is entirely descriptive of a real state of affairs.
    Potential terrorism attacks fall somewhere in the known unknowns and unknown unknowns range.
    Because there is a quality of unknowing, we can’t ever rest out vigilance — or something. It’s a real hole we’ve dug for ourselves.
    When people insist that the dearth of direct members of Al Qaeda is so low as to be meaningless, they miss out on the networking effects of small numbers of people. If those 50 people each knows 50 others and so on, very soon you end up with a whole lot of people, and a whole lot of one kind of unknown or another.
    The structure of the fear then is hard to put to rest.
    Now separatist movements have a different structure as the power shift is very different. Taking land away from the center just doesn’t play out quite the way that having a non-member bomb the center does. These insider-outsider dynamics are likely central in how we read terror attacks and what we tolerate.
    Note that the US is the recipient of a fair number of rightwing attacks (and occasional bursts of leftwing moments over the course of its history as well).
    We are less frightened as a nation by those who hate the feds than we are by outsiders who would come in and bomb us.
    It’s a sobering thing to run through, but not entirely unexpected.

    Reply

  3. Paul Norheim says:

    “Only one Islamist terrorism attack in EU in 2009”:
    “Decrease in acts of terrorism in 2009
    The Hague – The Netherlands.
    The Member States of the EU continue to be exposed to a
    serious threat from Islamist, ethno-nationalist and separatist,
    as well as from left

    Reply

  4. questions says:

    Okay, here’s the game!
    Every time WigWag cites a poll that says that Americans support Israel overwhelmingly, denounce the poll as hasbaric and racist.
    Every time a poll says Americans hate “illegals” and want to send them back to where they came from in the name of “illegal immigration” fixing, cheer the poll on.
    In fact, I’m not super interested in polls except insofar as they give some hints about the next election. Health care reform polls under 50% as an overall package, though most of the line items poll in the 60s and 70s. But I’m very happy it passed.
    Immigration, even of the “illegal” sort, polls badly but more open borders and broader status types seem to me to be humane. The crack downs are horrible for the people involved, most of whom are not drug traffickers who are slaughtering white people in California slums.
    Not that highly partisan intensely held views are open to actual facts, but the crime rate data and the economic data would, together, seem to suggest that the “illegal” issue is not really the underlying problem.
    The number of communities that worry about making English the official language (even though there aren’t very many Spanish speakers in the area), the panic over “crime” — this all seems to rest on something other than fact and reason.
    And there is so much double-think running through so much of the concern, that yes, I will point it out.
    Anyone who leaves home, language, custom, pays huge amounts of money to be smuggled across the desert, puts up with migrant farm work or restaurant kitchen work, or outdoor landscaping work at low wages with little security and potential legal problems is likely leaving something pretty awful behind because it’s not like they’re getting much out of it here. So I actually have some fellow-feeling for these people.
    The deportations break up families, dump basically American kids into a culture they aren’t really ready for, and do damage to an economy that depends on remittances.
    And if you could force yourself to listen to Odetta singing “Pastures of Plenty” and Pete Seeger singing “Deportee” , or if you could look at some migrant farm worker in the eyes, or if you could take a bite of a strawberry or grape and realized that some migrant worker bent and picked and barely made it through so that you could eat that strawberry, maybe you would feel something.
    You go on and on and on about Emily and Tristan. They suffered mightily for a cause you believe in. They had choices and they chose to protest and you feel for them. The migrant workers don’t have a hell of a lot of choice, and you feel nothing at all.
    Don’t conflate migrant workers and drug dealers, by the way. The numbers don’t work on your side, and it’s just wrong.
    The Mexican migrant issue is a blind spot you suffer from, and it’s so blind you’ll never see it. Whateveh.

    Reply

  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Yeah questions. All us bigots out here in mainstream America who oppose illegal immigration, (the clear majority if EVERY poll is to be believed) are just neo-nazi wackos.
    Fuck you. Your tactics of debate are despicable.

    Reply

  6. questions says:

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2010/7/20/886040/-Cost-of-Arizona-Anti-Immigration-Law-in-Money-and-Hate
    The cost:
    “This law has come at a significant price to Arizona. While the state is facing a budget deficit of more than $4.5 billion dollars, the law is going to cost the state millions of dollars. In addition to the $10 million in initial cost of implementing the law, county and municipal law enforcement agencies will be forced to spend millions of dollars enforcing the law. According to the Immigration Policy Center law-enforcement agencies in Yuma County alone will have to spend between $775,880 and $1,163,820 in processing expenses; jail costs would be between $21,195,600 and $96,086,720; attorney and staff fees would be $810,067-$1,620,134; and additional detention facilities would have to be built at unknown costs. Arizona will also be affected by Latino and immigrant populations that may migrate to states with less hostile environments towards these populations. According to a 2008 study by the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy at the University of Arizona, the Latino and immigrant generated $10.2 billion in state economic output, and generated tax revenues of roughly $776 million.”
    The company one keeps:
    “While the arguments in the courts begin, Governor Brewer began soliciting donations for the legal cost of defending the law in court. To date the legal defense fund Keep Arizona Safe has collected approximately $1.2 million in donations from over 24,000 individuals from almost every state. However, the legal defense fund has attracted controversial supporters. The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that the white supremacist political party American Third Position announced “a triple-digit donation to Arizona

    Reply

  7. PiussedOffAmerican says:

    “Any threat from foreign inspired bad guys is far, far below — statistically insignificant, in fact — a host of domestic and personal threats to one’s health and safety”
    No shit. Try walking through Arvin, Lamont, or East Bakersfield at three in the morning.
    We’d do something about it, but we’re afraid Obama will sue us.

    Reply

  8. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Then you won’t lose control of yourself and say stupid shit that has no basis in reality”
    Wow, sounds like somethin’ I’d say.
    Hey Drew, wanna have an obnoxiousness competition??
    I’d challenge you to a “Misrepresent What The Other Person Says” contest, but Nadine and Questions have won the Silver and the Gold, so the best either of us could hope for is a bronze. Its just not worth it.

    Reply

  9. Drew says:

    Erichwwk,
    I didn’t say how “private intelligence works”. You made that up.
    So you’ll have to make up an answer to the question that is based
    on a made-up statement.
    Another approach would be to not read what I post — because
    evidently my text so disturbs you that you proceed to embarrass
    yourself by questioning things that I didn’t write. Just don’t read
    what I write. Then you won’t lose control of yourself and say
    stupid shit that has no basis in reality.
    –drew

    Reply

  10. erichwwk says:

    Drew writes:
    ” The gap in intellectual and professional accomplishment, between an aggressive and successful private sector enterprise, and a conference room filled with our government’s ‘analysts’, is so great as to defy description. It is also so great that good people will not return to that environment, nor will the current
    mediocrities allow them to. It is now a closed and self- perpetuating society, consuming much, signifying little. ”
    I’m wondering if he would care to sketch out his model of how “private intelligence works”?
    I would especially be interested in who he sees as the end user of that intelligence, and how he sees that such an incentive structure will result in whatever product he sees as being produced being of benefit to a larger society.

    Reply

  11. Don Bacon says:

    “The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either.” — Ben Franklin
    Actually, none of us ever enjoys complete security. A malady can hit us at any time, and as far as elective acts go, just about the most dangerous action (not considering sky diving, etc.) one can take is to drive to the grocery store.
    Any threat from foreign inspired bad guys is far, far below — statistically insignificant, in fact — a host of domestic and personal threats to one’s health and safety.
    But what pays the best? Wars — on terror, concocted threats, drugs, poverty, ignorance — you name it.
    Obama’s last thought at bed-time, he says, is how to keep Americans safe. He needs some diversions.

    Reply

  12. David says:

    An historian friend and former community college teaching colleague, and a 3-year veteran of Army intelligence during the Viet Nam War, sent this to me as soon as it was posted. The look on Dana Priest’s face says it all.
    There is no such thing as privacy in America, which is fine with the average American: anything goes in counterterrorism (and in corporate collection of everything about you as a consumer or potential consumer). My favorite: If you have nothing to hide, why worry? Reminds me of when random drug-testing of athletes at my community college came into being. An assistant basketball coach took the line: Don’t you welcome the opportunity to show that you don’t use drugs? My response as a faculty member: If they as me for a urine sample, I will ask which of their shoes they want me to piss on. We’ve won the war on privacy and lost the war on drugs, and if we continue on our current military strategies, we will lose the war on terrorism (those are two of the great misnomers in American history, of course, another being Operation Iraqi Freedom).

    Reply

  13. drew says:

    The story — the overlapping agencies, metastizing bureaucracies,
    competing assignments, lack of coordination, lack of operational
    and information integration, explosion in claimed secrecy, dangers
    of stovepiping and compartmentalization, black budgets — has
    been covered piecemeal in the popular press and addressed more
    completely in any book written on the intelligence community over
    the past 20 years.
    So I thought there would be some news here but I haven’t seen any
    yet.
    Obviously Priest is a good reporter who is doing a good rollup of
    the broadly understood conditions of this particular world.

    Reply

  14. Dan Kervick says:

    Well, drew, perhaps the story *does* contain news for the 300 million of us who are not in the business of providing analysis and R&D services to the intelligence to the intelligence community.

    Reply

  15. drew says:

    The Post’s feature seems to summarize what is self-evident and
    previously reported, offers no new insights nor breaks any news,
    so I don’t see its point.
    As a supplier to the IC, on the analysis and r&d sides, I can say
    that is an object lesson in the bureaucratization of complex
    tasks — a process that immediately must define the complex
    tasks as being simple enough to be prosecuted by a dumb and
    dumber bureaucracy. This, of course, destroys the value of the
    activity.
    The gap in intellectual and professional accomplishment,
    between an aggressive and successful private sector enterprise,
    and a conference room filled with our government’s ‘analysts’, is
    so great as to defy description. It is also so great that good
    people will not return to that environment, nor will the current
    mediocrities allow them to. It is now a closed and self-
    perpetuating society, consuming much, signifying little.
    I’m reminded of what Reuel Marc Gerecht says about Brennan, in
    The New Republic July 14:
    “…the president’s senior counterterrorism advisor gives
    speeches on Islam that would be more appropriate on “Sesame
    Street,” you gotta wonder whether the dumbed-down level of
    public Washington discourse is the visible sign of internal
    bureaucratic rot.”

    Reply

  16. PissedOffAmerican says:

    And all an aspiring nasty boogie man terrist need do is amble across our southern border with his bio-contaminated golf bags, an exploding dildo, and his faithful dog “Bibi”.
    But don’t try to stop ‘im, or Obama will sue ya!

    Reply

  17. Don Bacon says:

    The latest National Security Strategy, May 2010, used 9/11:
    “The dark side of this globalized world came to the forefront for the American people on September 11, 2001. The immediate threat demonstrated by the deadliest attacks ever launched upon American soil demanded strong and durable approaches to defend our homeland.
    “In the years since, we have launched a war against al-Qa

    Reply

  18. susan says:

    “There’s only one national “threat” these days, a couple hundred al-Qaedas.”
    If Americans wise up and refuse to fund the GWT, the CIA will find ways to scare the bejezus out of us so they can proceed with impunity.
    We really are screwed.

    Reply

  19. erich kuerschner says:

    As Steve knows, my major thrust is to stop the spin re nuclear weapons, along the line of Garry Wills “Bomb Power” or Gar Asperovitz’s “The decision to Use the Atomic Bomb – and the Architecture of an American Myth.
    To me this is the most important “intelligence” issue to understand, one that cause
    http://amzn.to/aVf0Xd
    Also studying Pat Moynihan’s career is another window in the role of intelligence in post WWII America, written up in his book entitled “Secrecy”.
    The three introductory quotes:
    “Secrecy is the first essential in affairs of the State” — Cardinal De Richelieu
    “Everything secret degenerates, even the ad,ministration of justice: nothing is safe that does not shoe how it can bear discussion and publicity” — Lord Acton
    “Secrecy is for losers.” — Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan
    BTW, Warren Metzler, re your comment of the “failure to predict… the collapse of the USSR”,
    Moynihan wrote in 1979 “The Soviet Empire is coming un der tremendous strain. It could blow up” [ IN “Will Russia Blow Up?”, Newsweek, Nov. 19, 1979 p. 144 ] THAT was the thrust of Brezenski’s effort to move mujahideen from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan, something Reagan expanded bigtime, by increasing USSR (and USA, btw) financial debt burdens. Public and private perception of what happened in the 1979-1990 period was something quite different. Ditto the Vietnam war, the Korean War, Gulf War I, the Iraq War and just about every US policy involving the use of force. In fact a title of a John Gaddis Cold War book is entitled “We Now Know”.
    Pat was so disgusted that at one point (1984?) he resigned from as vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

    Reply

  20. susan says:

    Glenn Greenwald has a lot to say about this:
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/

    Reply

  21. Don Bacon says:

    There’s only one national “threat” these days, a couple hundred al-Qaedas. But the US has 200,000 people eating up seventy-five billion dollars per annum trying to learn more about these people, plus of course the other newspaper-reading about China, India, Iran, Russia etc.
    They’re about as useful as those eleven US Navy nuclear carrier groups rusting away in various world oceans.
    And remember, a lot of this “intelligence”, at least at the CIA, is black ops, killing and torture and other stuff you don’t want to hear about. Not even the president is told — deniability is important.
    The Pentagon’s DIA is currently in the process of awarding a six billion dollar contract(s) — it’s just business as usual for these rats while teachers and firefighters bite the financial dust.
    There are no limits to their treachery. Be afraid, very afraid, of these “enemies domestick,”
    and good for you, Priest and Arkin. Sic ’em.

    Reply

  22. erichwwk says:

    To me “intelligence” is as much about pushing perception to the domestic population as it is about obtaining an understanding about the position/thinking of one’s “enemies”. Thus what is fed the domestic population may be quite different from what is held by various “intelligence” entities.
    For example, while JFK publicly stated the US had a “missile gap” re the USSR in 1962, the private government views held that the US had 175 ICBMs and the USSR had 4.
    Ditto for the situation a decade later. Much of the driving force for both intelligence and hardware seems to be the motive for private gain, whether a turf battle among the military branches or battle between private consumer goods and military goods.
    That said, i agree with Warren’s general view that understanding how criminal acts by small discreet groups morph into major wars is the crucial element in understanding “defense”. One perspective I find useful sees national looks to understand how regional warlords reach the dominant position of what Mancur Olsen calls a stationary bandit, reaching the Weberian position of monopoly on the use of violence within a geographical area, as much re its citizens as against intruders or extension outside the boundaries.
    http://www.amazon.com/Power-Prosperity-Outgrowing-Capitalist-Dictatorships/dp/0465051960

    Reply

  23. JohnH says:

    Next up will there be a revelation about how bloated and wasteful the DOD is? Hint: they have never passed an audit…

    Reply

  24. erichwwk says:

    Actually came here to see if Steve had any thoughts on “which way US thinking is evolving” re an article by M K Bhadrakumar “Kyrgyz deal a Silk Road turning point” where he writes:
    “It is unclear [to M K Bhadrakumar] which way US thinking is evolving”
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/LG20Ag01.html

    Reply

  25. Warren Metzler says:

    I am not being a gad fly, as I recommend that we seriously consider the philosophical basis for “intelligence”. First I ask you to remember the repeated failures of our intelligence persons to predict almost all of the major paradigm shattering events of the past 60 years: the Korean War, the Vietnam war, the USSR invasion of Afghanistan, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Iranian occupation of our embassy in Tehran, the Oklahoma bombing, 9/11, no wmd’s in Iraq, etc, etc, etc.
    For almost two centuries we lived in this country without a major intelligence operation. We won the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, etc.
    On the civilian front, we believe in innocent until proven guilty, and have our police go after criminals after they have committed a crime. We don’t have the police out trying to ferret out potential criminals. Why not the same in our international relationship.
    For those of you who remember the pre-airport security days, do you actually feel more safe now? I certainly don’t. And I fell much much more encumbered now. I suggest there is not a smidgen of evidence that intelligence gathering saves us from anything. And it sure helps increase the national debt.
    And while we are at it. How about closing every single military base we have outside the borders of the US. Let’s implement FDR’s advice, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. Com’on my fellow Americans, develop some faith, give up your belief in insurance, live free and experience all the quality sensations (moments of pleasure) you were designed to happen all day long, every day.

    Reply

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