"National Security:" A Global Police State-Within-a-State (July 21, 2010)
The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) has spawned a national security "state-within-a-state" with essentially unlimited funding and support of America's political machine. This National Security State has infected domestic policing and courts; it is both ubiquitous and completely unaccountable.
The Democrats and Republicans have enthusiastically joined hands to create a global police/national security state-within-a-state of unimaginable reach and power. Frequent contributor Michael Goodfellow sent me this investigative report, which I consider one of the most important of the decade: Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control (Washington Post).
Let's go back briefly to September 1, 2001, before the 9/11 attack. The national security "assets" of the nation had all the information needed to stop the attack. The various agencies did not stop the attack because there was essentially zero coordination and data-sharing between the CIA, NSA and FBI.
This was laid out in the PBS program The Spy Factory.
Now the national security "assets" have metastasized into a gargantuan national security state-within-a-state--and the exact same problem not only exists, it has become even more intracable.
Now that the national security state (NSS) has become much larger and even more unwieldy, coordination, collaboration and data-sharing have been rendered essentially impossible. This report makes that absolutely clear.
Rather than fix the problem of coordinating our national security assets, the Federal government and its leaders have amplified the problem. At the same time, they have created a monster which is beyond the control of elected officials or the citizenry, a secretive state-within-a-state which protects itself behind the inpenetrable shield of "national security" and "need to know."
The national security state is the ultimate protected fiefdom. Cutting one dollar of funding would be instantly characterized as "weakening our fight against global terrorism," as would any limits on the NSS's powers.
This is in effect a new arm of the "military-industrial complex" which dwarfs the power of the traditional military-industrial complex: "defense" contractors and the revolving door between the DoD (Department of Defense) and these Pentagon-dependent industrial corporations.
GWOT is the perfect defense for a state-within-a-state that is insatiable and beyond accountability. Even simple inquiries are quickly dismissed as "dangerous"--as if global terrorists would glean some useful information from knowing just how many hundreds of billions of dollars are being spent tracking them.
What's essential to our "fight"? It's a secret, so don't ask--just give us the money and don't try to limit our reach: we'll accuse you of being unpatriotic and "supporting the terrorists."
Just as "healthcare reform" wasn't about healthcare at all--it was all about securing an ever-larger share of the national income for the cartels which control sickcare in the U.S.--the global war on terror isn't about countering terrorism at all. It's about establishing overlapping bureaucratic fiefdoms with unlimited budgets and unlimited powers to mask their actions and their failures.
Despite spending hundreds of billions on "fighting terrorism," the last attempted terrorist attack in the U.S. was not foiled by this vast global machinery but by the alert passenger sitting next to the bomber.
What we have is a Keystones Cops tragi-comedy in which incompetence is rewarded with unlimited budgets and zero oversight and accountability. Since we couldn't integrate the reams of data we were collecting in 2001, then we expand that data stream a hundred-fold while hardening the bureaucratic silos around each feudal territory.
There is another pernicious feature of the global war on terror which benefits an ever-expanding national security state: we have to wire the entire world to root out terrorists. Terrorists can be anywhere, so we have to track every account, every message, every phone call, every email, and then mine it for meaning.
The scope and scale of this enterprise truly beggars imagination, but the U.S. national security state has long practice in global reach. To keep track of Soviet "boomers" (submarines armed with strategic nuclear missiles), the U.S. effectively wired the entire world's oceans for sound.
For more on this, please watch Submarines, Secrets and Spies.
There is something appealingly grandiose about such technical ambition--but there is something qualitatively different about this new expansion of the national security state: tracking Soviet submarines did not impinge on the rights of U.S. citizens, or indeed, the rights of citizens of other nations. Tracking every phone conversation and email in the world is not like tracking subs.
Publicly, the national security state agencies complain about being hamstrung by domestic civil liberties, and they express caution about tracking potential terror suspects in the U.S. I suppose we should be thankful for small favors, but a case can be made that domestic civil liberties have been degraded in the rush to track terrorists anywhere, anytime. Outside the U.S., of course, there are no restraints, no audits, and no accountability. The Empire can strike back at its own discretion.
If we reckon there are perhaps 8,000 real terrorists in the entire world, then the U.S. now fields 100 Federal employees for each terrorist. There are some 850,000 Americans with top secret clearance, which gives us a small taste of the size of the state-within-a-state.
It would be comical if it wasn't so insane: we have 850,000 people chasing 8,000 people, and the 850,000 people are generating so much data that we can't possibly make any sense of it, much less integrate it into anything remotely useful.
In the report Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control, one top bureaucrat said that just getting all his email on one computer was a major victory.
This is a project doomed to fail; it cannot stop terrorism because it can't even integrate its information into useful knowledge. The attempts being made to force integration of the fiefdoms are also comically wrongheaded; all they do is add yet another layer of bureaucracy on top of incompetent, protected fiefdoms whose only goal is expansion and protection from inquiry and audit.
The Department of Homeland Security now boats a payroll of hundreds of thousands; are we safer as a result? We are told "yes, but don't ask how; it's a secret."
This could be a story by Kakfa, except it is global. An impregnable state-within-a-state with an untouchable task--"protect us from terrorism"--and an unlimited scope-- go and do whatever it takes--is effectively beyond the control of the elected state. Don't ask, because you don't need to know. The book listing secret DoD (Department of Defense) projects is hundreds of pages long; you don't need to know what they're doing, because they're fighting global terrorism. Now go away, we're handling it.
The state of fear and paranoia which feeds a heavy-handed government has poisoned our entire culture and society. Two of my favorite bloggers, Chris Sullins and Tommy K. (by happenstance, both U.S. Army veterans), recently described how this plays out in our everyday life.
Tommy is an accomplished dumpster-diver, and thus he recognized the import of what's happening in New York City: apparently a man (and his mother) were fined $4000 and had their car impounded by the city as a result of picking up an air conditioning unit off the street that was destined for the dump.
The city's reasoning is that the city collects $300,000 a year from the sale of recycled refuse. $300K in a city budget in the mega-billions? Who's kidding who? Once again we find ourselves in a Kafka story, only it's real.
Chris Sullins found that the simple act of selling used DVDs now requires fingerprinting and registration.
Meanwhile, the FBI and local law enforcement have the resources and leisure to raid small farms and private food clubs seeking out miscreants who make cheese from raw milk. Thank goodness the GWOT is going so well that we can run those dangerous raw-milk users to ground.
If no matter who we elect, nothing really changes, how is this "democracy" any different from a feudal state? If you have to get fingerprinted to sell a used DVD, how is this different from a police state? If any nonviolent domestic protest or resistance can be labeled "domestic terrorism" and the uncompliant citizens essentially stripped of their civil rights by judicial legerdemain, then how is this different from a police state?
If a gargantuan national security
state exists, untouchable, unaccountable, ever-expanding and inherently incompetent,
within our supposedly accountable Central State, then how is the U.S. any
different from a global Empire which operates without any domestic control or limits?
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