Top Secret America: Time to reign in National Security?

Is the U.S. intelligence community, as a Washington Post expose asserts, a bureaucracy too unwieldy to do its job properly?  

The 'Top Secret America' campaign has critics calling for an overhaul of US intelligence.
(Image credit: Corbis)

Dana Priest and William Arkin's recent Washington Post investigation into U.S. national security asserts that its network of 1200 organizations has become so massive, wasteful, and redundant that "its effectiveness is impossible to determine." Of the more than 50,000 intelligence reports published each year, "many are routinely ignored." And today came the revelation that almost 30 percent of the network's intelligence staff (265,000 individuals) are contract employees. Is it time to reign in the sprawling security complex — or could widespread cuts make America less safe? (Watch a promo for "Top Secret America")

Congress must act now: Let's admit, says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air, that "we went the wrong direction... in intelligence reform" and that the 9/11 commission has unnecessarily bulked up the network — "costing us both money and security." Hopefully, The Washington Post's report will provoke Congress to "demand real restructuring, streamlining and bureaucratic reduction" before another Nidal Hasan or Umar Abdulmutallab slips through the net.

"WaPo: Counterterrorism effort overblown and unmanageable"

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Redundancy isn't necessarily a bad thing: The system clearly needs some rethinking, says Daniel W. Drezner at Foreign Policy, but we should be careful about eradicating all "redundancy and waste." We're better off having two offices with similar agendas — and some redundancy — than a single office which only catches some of the "emergent threats." When it comes to counter-terrorism, we can't be too safe.

"Two cheers for bureaucratic redundancy; I said, two cheers for redundancy"

Self-serving contractors are the real issue here: The crux of the problem is not the civil service, says Robert Baer at Time, but the extraordinary "outsourcing of intelligence" to contractors who are "writing their own contracts," transforming their jobs into "comfortable careers," and burning up taxpayer money. Intelligence should be "inherently a government function." If Washington wants to "retake control," it must regain the ground it's lost to contractors.

"Time to tame Washington's intelligence beast"

True reform is currently impossible: It's difficult to see how this will change, says Glenn Greenwald at Salon. While our politicians are paralyzed by their fear of being labeled "soft on terror," the intelligence community is so "inextricably intertwined with the private sector" that it's in no one's interest to clean up this mess. Unfortunately, the "sprawling, secretive" complex will continue to make "enormous corporate profits" by over-analyzing the War on Terror.

"The real U.S. government"

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