Diana West

A clarifying bomblet drops in the final paragraph of the opening installment of the big Washington Post series on what is best described as National Intelligence Sprawl:

"Soon, on the grounds of the former St. Elizabeth's mental hospital in Anacostia, a $3.4 billion showcase of security will rise from the crumbling brick wards. The new headquarters will be the largest government complex built since the Pentagon ..."

National security meets mental hospital: How tragically appropriate. And yes, these inmates will definitely be running the asylum -- some of the Post-estimated 854,000 Americans with top secret clearance now filling massive new government complexes all over the country -- another unwanted legacy of 9/11. Some of my conservative brethren worry that the Post series reveals national security secrets. The question is, with nearly a million people possessing top secret clearance, how many secrets are left to reveal? Is it possible that our national security apparatus has gotten too big not to fail?

The Post series focuses on the gargantuan-ness that, more than ever, bloats the intelligence realm. Last year's budget was $75 billion, 2-1/2 times larger than the budget was on 9/11. At least 20 percent of the government organizations pitted against terrorism, the Post reports, have been "created or refashioned" since 9/11, while many that previously existed have ballooned to historic size. For example, the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency went from 7,500 employees in 2002 to 16,500 today. Since the 2001 attacks, 17 million square feet of new office space has been built or is now under construction in the Washington area alone.

I feel safer?

As the intelligence budget increased by tens of billions, the Post reports, "military and intelligence agencies multiplied. ... In all, at least 263 (government) organizations have been created or reorganized as a response to 9/11." In round numbers, U.S. intelligence activity is now spread among 1,200 government organizations supported by 2,000 private corporations at 10,000 locations across the country.

But still we must endure the indignities of shuffling shoeless through full-body scanners at our airports just to have a nice flight, maybe. Our great halls and institutions remain defended by state-of-siege-like installations. And we continue to adapt, accommodate and accept the "post-9/11 world," and seemingly forever now that these massive new government bureaucracies and new industries will attempt to retain indefinite support. Why?

The reason is this: In all of these scores and hundreds and thousands of organizations created and boosted and buffed up since 9/11 there is one thing they all forgot.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).