I just read one of the most terrifying articles I’ve seen in a long time. Personally, I’m a lot more scared of our shadow government than the terrorists in the Middle East.
If you’re like most people you’re probably thinking, shadow government? What is that? I don’t claim to know it all, but just by reading and gathering as much information as I can, I see that this stuff is very real. If you’re not aware of it already I’ll try to help pull your head out of the sand. The Washington Post just did a huge investigation and wrote an outstanding piece called Top Secret America: A Hidden World, Growing Beyond Control. They’ve been investigating all of the programs George Bush implemented after 9/11 and it’s insane. All this screams Big Brother.
First watch this video from Frontline:
The article begins:
The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, 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.
* 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.
Just days after 9/11, a sort of blueprint began execution constructing over a thousand different organizations, located in over 10,000 different locations across the country, most of them top-secret. There’s even some near where I live. Enormous budgets were and are being spent on this stuff. Clandestine operations are going on all over the place, and I fear they’re not just spying on the terrorists overseas but on you and me as well.
In an Arlington County office building, the lobby directory doesn’t include the Air Force’s mysteriously named XOIWS unit, but there’s a big “Welcome!” sign in the hallway greeting visitors who know to step off the elevator on the third floor. In Elkridge, Md., a clandestine program hides in a tall concrete structure fitted with false windows to look like a normal office building. In Arnold, Mo., the location is across the street from a Target and a Home Depot. In St. Petersburg, Fla., it’s in a modest brick bungalow in a run-down business park.
As a Michaels craft store and a Books-A-Million give way to the military intelligence giants Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, find the off-ramp and turn left. Those two shimmering-blue five-story ice cubes belong to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which analyzes images and mapping data of the Earth’s geography. A small sign obscured by a boxwood hedge says so.
Across the street, in the chocolate-brown blocks, is Carahsoft, an intelligence agency contractor specializing in mapping, speech analysis and data harvesting. Nearby is the government’s Underground Facility Analysis Center. It identifies overseas underground command centers associated with weapons of mass destruction and terrorist groups, and advises the military on how to destroy them.
You’re just minding your business, buying some screws and boards in Home Depot to repair your back deck, and just across the street is a clandestine military-type operation and you don’t even know it! Underground there’s military bases running covert information gathering!
These places are locked down with the best security systems available. These buildings aren’t located on maps. If you get near them the men in black are all over you. They may well gun you down.
Outside a gated subdivision of mansions in McLean, a line of cars idles every weekday morning as a new day in Top Secret America gets underway. The drivers wait patiently to turn left, then crawl up a hill and around a bend to a destination that is not on any public map and not announced by any street sign.
Liberty Crossing tries hard to hide from view. But in the winter, leafless trees can’t conceal a mountain of cement and windows the size of five Wal-Mart stores stacked on top of one another rising behind a grassy berm. One step too close without the right badge, and men in black jump out of nowhere, guns at the ready.
Past the armed guards and the hydraulic steel barriers, at least 1,700 federal employees and 1,200 private contractors work at Liberty Crossing, the nickname for the two headquarters of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and its National Counterterrorism Center. The two share a police force, a canine unit and thousands of parking spaces.
Liberty Crossing is at the center of the collection of U.S. government agencies and corporate contractors that mushroomed after the 2001 attacks. But it is not nearly the biggest, the most costly or even the most secretive part of the 9/11 enterprise.
Every day across the United States, 854,000 civil servants, military personnel and private contractors with top-secret security clearances are scanned into offices protected by electromagnetic locks, retinal cameras and fortified walls that eavesdropping equipment cannot penetrate
In all, at least 263 organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11. Each has required more people, and those people have required more administrative and logistic support: phone operators, secretaries, librarians, architects, carpenters, construction workers, air-conditioning mechanics and, because of where they work, even janitors with top-secret clearances.
It’s not only the number of buildings that suggests the size and cost of this expansion, it’s also what is inside: banks of television monitors. “Escort-required” badges. X-ray machines and lockers to store cellphones and pagers. Keypad door locks that open special rooms encased in metal or permanent dry wall, impenetrable to eavesdropping tools and protected by alarms and a security force capable of responding within 15 minutes. Every one of these buildings has at least one of these rooms, known as a SCIF, for sensitive compartmented information facility. Some are as small as a closet; others are four times the size of a football field.
From what everyone’s saying, most of our elected representatives aren’t even given clearance to half of this stuff. That means we’re all in the dark as this shadow government conducts its operations, and they’re given billions and billions of dollars. They can’t afford to pay for your healthcare, but they sure find money to spy on you and god knows what else.
At least 20 percent of the government organizations that exist to fend off terrorist threats were established or refashioned in the wake of 9/11. Many that existed before the attacks grew to historic proportions as the Bush administration and Congress gave agencies more money than they were capable of responsibly spending
The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency, for example, has gone from 7,500 employees in 2002 to 16,500 today. The budget of the National Security Agency, which conducts electronic eavesdropping, doubled. Thirty-five FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces became 106. It was phenomenal growth that began almost as soon as the Sept. 11 attacks ended.
Nine days after the attacks, Congress committed $40 billion beyond what was in the federal budget to fortify domestic defenses and to launch a global offensive against al-Qaeda. It followed that up with an additional $36.5 billion in 2002 and $44 billion in 2003. That was only a beginning.
Supposedly they’re gathering intelligence on Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. You want to know why I don’t believe that? They couldn’t stop the underwear bomber whose father literally called them up warning he’s an extremist. His father! Then they don’t even deter the man from getting on the plane; but they make sure submit all of us to x-ray scans before getting on our flights!
But improvements have been overtaken by volume at the ODNI, as the increased flow of intelligence data overwhelms the system’s ability to analyze and use it. Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases. The same problem bedevils every other intelligence agency, none of which have enough analysts and translators for all this work.
Among the most important people inside the SCIFs are the low-paid employees carrying their lunches to work to save money. They are the analysts, the 20- and 30-year-olds making $41,000 to $65,000 a year, whose job is at the core of everything Top Secret America tries to do.
At its best, analysis melds cultural understanding with snippets of conversations, coded dialogue, anonymous tips, even scraps of trash, turning them into clues that lead to individuals and groups trying to harm the United States.
What was really suspicious is how half of the analysts who are supposedly gathering all this intelligence in the Middle East can’t even speak the languages over there.
That cries out to be investigated. I feel there’s a serious threat looming on the horizon. If the government were to begin recording all our cell phone conversations, monitoring our emails, analyzing our text messages, and intercepting our IM conversations, our personal liberty would greatly be a stake. Who knows, maybe they’re doing so already. How would we know? What I do is know is the Patriot Act tells ISPs to send the government everything we’re doing online if they request it. They may well be requesting it all without us knowing, logging it all away.
If all of this isn’t going on now, the threat that it could potentially happen is something we need to think about and prepare for. I fear they will be doing all this before too long if we don’t stop them.
There’s all this talk about “cyber-warfare”. I think that amounts to them suppressing and controlling the information found on the internet. Apparently it’s the “hot and sexy” thing to work on these days in the CIA.
And all the major intelligence agencies and at least two major military commands claim a major role in cyber-warfare, the newest and least-defined frontier.
“Frankly, it hasn’t been brought together in a unified approach,” CIA Director Panetta said of the many agencies now involved in cyber-warfare.
“Cyber is tremendously difficult” to coordinate, said Benjamin A. Powell, who served as general counsel for three directors of national intelligence until he left the government last year. “Sometimes there was an unfortunate attitude of bring your knives, your guns, your fists and be fully prepared to defend your turf.” Why? “Because it’s funded, it’s hot and it’s sexy.”
And just like any nefarious operation, it all operates on a “need to know” basis. Even four star generals are often kept out of the loop. It’s all fractured, people only knowing what pertains to them and their operation, not understanding the big picture.
One military officer involved in one such program said he was ordered to sign a document prohibiting him from disclosing it to his four-star commander, with whom he worked closely every day, because the commander was not authorized to know about it. Another senior defense official recalls the day he tried to find out about a program in his budget, only to be rebuffed by a peer. “What do you mean you can’t tell me? I pay for the program,” he recalled saying in a heated exchange.
Am I just being paranoid? Maybe. But I’m thinking we need to get a lot more paranoid. This smells a lot like the beginnings of a police state to me. I don’t like it one bit. If the economy goes sour and we sink into a major depression, people start rioting and protesting, and all of this stuff ramps up in intensity… I don’t like it at all.