Mona Charen
Congratulations are due to the Washington Post. "Top Secret America," its in-depth, multi-part, two-year investigation into the vast network of government security agencies and private contractors is an eye-opener -- obvious Pulitzer bait. Reporters Dana Priest and William Arkin have revealed a "hidden world, growing beyond control." Within this "alternate geography" of the United States, they found some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies at work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States. Over 850,000 Americans have top-secret security clearances. They spend "a gusher of money" that has flowed since 9/11.

And -- this will blow your socks off -- the Post found that there is tremendous waste, duplication, and lack of accountability. Really? In a government program? "Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks."

Not only that, but they aren't careful about the way they spend taxpayer dollars. "With so much money to spend, managers do not always worry about whether they are spending it effectively. ' Someone says, let's do another study, and because no one shares information, everyone does their own study,' said Elena Mastors ... 'Everybody's just on a spending spree. We don't need all these people doing all this stuff.'"

The growth of counterterrorism spending since 9/11 has been sharp and dramatic. "With the quick infusion of money," write Priest and Arkin, "military and intelligence agencies multiplied. Twenty-four organizations were created by the end of 2001, including the Office of Homeland Security and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force. In 2002, 37 more were created to track weapons of mass destruction, collect threat tips and coordinate the new focus on counterterrorism. That was followed the next year by 36 new organizations; and 26 after that; and 31 more; and 32 more; and 20 or more each in 2007, 2008 and 2009." These analysts and agents produce an estimated 50,000 reports per year -- most of which are never read.

So yes, bravo to the Post. Truly. But why do they tend to notice government waste only when it applies to national security? The Post and other liberal organs have been quick to record how much the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (particularly Iraq) have cost taxpayers. But they seem much less curious about waste, duplication, and even fraud in other areas of government spending.


Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
 
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