I’m reading Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, by Dana Priest and William R. Arkin. The book catalogs the mind-boggling number of secret and semi-secret government agencies and programs that have proliferated since the 9/11 attacks.  (“Code names linked companies and agencies and activities, and the number of locations doubled again, quadrupled, and then doubled again.”)  By looking through publicly available job postings, budget requests, and other documents, and by interviewing numerous current and former government official who were willing to share information (often anonymously),  the authors were able to piece together a partial view of the new security establishment, which operates largely independently and in parallel to the official U.S. government.   By cloaking almost everything about the programs in secrecy, and by prosecuting whistle-blowers, the security state immunizes itself from scrutiny and accountability.

Secret Special Access Programs (SAPs) and Controlled Access Programs (CAPS) are so numerous, compartmentalized, and shielded in secrecy from each other, that nobody understands the system in its entirety. Even the few congressional committee members who are supposed to monitor the activities of the security state are largely unaware of its doings.   When it comes time for the lawmakers to review documents concerning security programs, the lawmakers are made to sit alone in a room, without aides and without the ability to take notes. They’re handed thick, impenetrable documents and are expected to be able to pass judgement on them.  Also,

When the names of the Defense Department’s SAPs  are printed out and delivered to the leadership of the congressional defense committees every March 1, the list is three hundred pages long — and those are just the names of the programs.  The database doesn’t include two other categories of deep secrets: “waived SAPs” and “unacknowledged SAPs,” neither of which the full committees have to be briefed on. Nor does it contain the many Special Access Programs hosted within the other federal agencies, ….

Since 2001, “the number of newly classified documents has tripled to 23 million.”

“The Washington [D.C.] area had thirty-three large complexes for top-secret intelligence work under construction or already finished since 9/11. Together these buildings occupied the equivalent, in square footage, of nearly three Pentagons.”

The intelligence agencies produce so many intelligence reports that most go unread.

One of the government’s solutions to this indiscriminate over-production has been to create, in 2010, yet another publication, an online newspaper called Intelligence Today. Every day, a staff of twenty-two culled twenty-nine agencies’ reports and sixty-three analytic websites on the classified networks, selected the best information, and packaged it … It was … another new product, just more to read.

The authors write, “This sort of wasteful redundancy is endemic in Top Secret America, not just in analysis but everywhere Born of the blank check that Congress first gave national security agencies in the wake of the 9/11 attack, Top Secret America’s wasteful duplication was cultivated by the bureaucratic instinct that bigger is always better…”

After two years of investigating, Arkin had come up with a jaw-dropping 1,074 federal government organizations and nearly two thousand private companies involved with programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence, in at least 17,000 locations across the United States — all of them working at the top secret classification level.

When President Obama first took office in 2008 he made motions to reverse the secrecy but since then things have become even more secretive than during the time of Obama’s predecessor, with Obama prosecuting whistle blowers, not torturers and war criminals. And yet:

Our military and intelligence sources cannot think of a single instance in which security has been seriously damaged by the release of information. On the contrary, much harm has been done to the counter-terrorism effort itself, and to the American economy and U.S. strategic goals, by allowing the government to operate in the dark, by continuing to dole out taxpayer money to programs that have no value and to employees, many of them private contractors, who are making no significant contribution to the country’s safety.

There is a large brain drain from civil servants to higher paying private contractors. “A 2008 study, published by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, found that contractors made up 29 percent of the workforce in the intelligence agencies but cost the equivalent of 49 percent of their personnel budgets.” (p 181) So much for private industry being more efficient than government agencies….

Addendum

Naomi Wolf reports in the Guardian: Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy: New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent.

I generally assiduously avoid content that smacks of 9/11 trutherism, but the following video seems legit: 911 Hijackers Passports were issued by the CIA – US Consulate Whistleblower. See the links on that page to related articles in the mainstream press: New York Times, BBC, The Guardian, ABC, CNN, etc.