Monday, July 26, 2010

America's national security and intelligence revisted

Last week the Washington Post published a three-article series on our national security and intelligence system. Entitled "Top Secret America," the series examines what that system has become since 9-11, and the picture ain't pretty. I am not surprised--and anyone who has been paying attention the last few years would not be surprised. This post will be the first in a series in response to "Top Secret America."

I have previously commented about the intelligence structure and "homeland security." This post from May 9, 2006, provides a summary of some of my earlier writings. For the sake of convenience, I am going to reprint here some of what is in that post (and some other prior posts). I first commented on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the legislation which created it just over 5.5 years ago (Dec. 17, 2004) at the end of a post about the nomination of Bernie Kerik as Secretary of the Department of DHS in which I said
Quick--just what does the Department of Homeland Security do? What does the DHS Secretary do? Just what did Tom Ridge do in the office? You see, folks, the Homeland Security Act's major effect was NOT the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Instead, the primary, overarching effect of that legislation was a massive reorganization of the federal bureaucracy...DHS is not a clearly defined agency, so it can be molded into whatever, the President wants it to be. I think that DHS was always intended to be a bit of a smokescreen which could be used to cover any activity the President wanted to undertake.
And in comments to my September 8, 2005, post I said
As for the Homeland Security Act, it is a huge piece of unnecessary legislation. Did there need to be better organization and coordination? Yes. Could it have been done in an easier way? Yes. As I have said before, the chief feature of the Act is NOT the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. The chief feature is the massive, wholesale reorganization of the federal bureaucracy. Read the Act sometime and you will see what I mean. The Act created a new cabinet-level department--which adds to the bureaucracy--and created so many new levels of bureaucratic chaos. This creation/reorganization resulted in further confusion and red tape and inefficiency and thus hurt efforts in the war on terror.
*******
The HSA produced changes in the bureaucracy that will take YEARS to sort out. It has been almost three years since its passage, and things aren't worked out yet (the recent FEMA situation is a good example). In my opinion, we did not have the luxury of wasting this kind of time in combating terrorism. Thus, while I agree that there was a "need," the means chosen to address that need was and is inefficient and unnecessary. There were other ways to go about this.
On September 27, 2005, I noted that
First came the USA PATRIOT Act (check out Truth in acronyms). Next came the Homeland Security Act, which 1) created a new cabinet level agency that supposedly was to oversee all homeland security efforts in the country, and 2) so poorly defined just what DHS was supposed to do and made such a mess of the federal bureaucracy that it would be easy for DHS to do just about anything and either justify it or hide it.
My May 18, 2006, post entitled "DHS is a big unnecessary mess" provided some detailed support for my observations listed above and summarized my conclusions as follows:
  • DHS is ill defined and no one knows what it does.
  • The Homeland Security Act’s main feature was NOT the creation of DHS but a massive reorganization of the federal bureacracy.
  • As a result of the Homeland Security Act and creation of DHS, the federal bureaucracy is a big mess which has yet to be sorted out.
  • This creation/reorganization resulted in further confusion and red tape and inefficiency and thus hurt efforts in the war on terror.
"Top Secret America" largely corroborates my conclusions--and shows that I didn't go far enough.

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