In Top Secret America, the post 9/11 bureaucracy 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, says Washington Post reporter Dana Priest.
Top Secret America airs on Frontline, Tuesday night at 9 pm. Award-winning reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin uncover the enormous size, shape, mission, and consequences of this invisible universe in their new book, Top Secret America, a spin off from their Washington Post series.
The reporters found:
- 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.
The Washington Post discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.
On today’s Fresh Air, Dana Priest, joins Terry Gross for a discussion about how the “terrorism industrial complex” created in response to the Sept. 11 attacks grew to be so big.
The national security industrial complex melds government and big business together and is fuelled by an unstoppable flow of money. Six of the 10 richest counties in the United States are clustered around national security operations in “National Business Parks”.
More than 250 companies — 13 percent of all the firms in Top Secret America — have a presence in the Fort Meade cluster. Other “national business parks” include Dulles-Chantilly, Va.; Denver-Aurora, Colo., and Tampa, Fla. All of them are under-the-radar versions of traditional military towns. The difference, of course, is that the military is not a secret culture.
When this apparatus comes home, finding suspicious behavior may have a bottom line attached to it. Monitoring cellular traffic, commercial data centers and search results of everyone is not unthinkable. Just follow the money.
According to Bill Binney, a former NSA analyst, the N.S.A. has built enormous electronic-storage facilities in Texas and Utah that now stores copies of all e-mails transmitted in America. Whereas wiretap surveillance requires trained human operators, data mining is automated, meaning that the entire country can be watched.
In the late nineties, Binney estimated that there were some two and a half billion phones in the world and one and a half billion I.P. addresses. Approximately twenty terabytes of unique information passed around the world every minute. Binney started assembling a system that could trap and map all of it, says author Jane Mayer in The New Yorker. The Memphis Police Department uses predictive crime software.
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