In the wake of 9/11, the US has built an unspeakably massive top-secret counter-terrorism apparatus that appears to be riddled with waste, according to a major investigative piece that some 20 journalists spent nearly two years working on for the Washington Post. The paper found that 1,271 government organizations, and another 1,931 private ones are working on homeland security, intelligence, and counter-terrorism. A whopping 854,000 people—1.5 times the population of Washington—have “top-secret” security clearance, including everyone from phone operators to janitors.
Analysts at those groups produce some 50,000 reports a year, many of which are routinely ignored. Many organizations are also covering the same ground; 51 federal organizations, for example, are tracking terrorist cash flow. At the Defense Department, only a handful of “Super Users” can access all the data, but two admitted it was an impossible task. “I’m not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything,” said one. “The complexity of this system defies description,” says one general asked to analyze that system last year. “We consequently can’t effectively assess whether it is making us more safe.”