Best of the Week
Most Popular
1.UK General Election 2015 - Forecasting Seats for SNP, LIb-Dems, UKIP and Others - Nadeem_Walayat
2.UK General Election 2015 Seats Forecast - Who Will Win? - - Nadeem_Walayat
3.Gold Price Downtrend Looks Set to Continue - Clive_Maund
4.Commodity Prices Set To Plunge Below 2008 Lows - Austin_Galt
5.New Greece Drachma Revealed Amid Bank Runs - Greeks Buy Gold Sovereigns - GoldCore
6.Gold and Silver Stocks or General Stock Market Indices? - Rambus_Chartology
7.“Forgive Us Our Debts” – Only Way To Prevent Economic Meltdown - GoldCore
8.UK House Prices Trend 2015 and the May General Election - Nadeem_Walayat
9.12 Reasons Why Barry Ritholtz and Many UK Experts Are Mistaken On Gold - GoldCore
10.Recession is On The Way; Beat The Stock Market Crowd, Panic Now! - Mike_Shedlock
Last 5 days
Gold Price and Mining Stocks Decline Together - 3rd Mar 15
Financial Slaughter - The Silence of the Lambs - 3rd Mar 15
Bondholders “Bailed In” In Austria – New Banking Crisis? - 3rd Mar 15
How to Profit from the Coming Oil Price Crunch - 3rd Mar 15
Is Japan Zimbabwe? Could Japan go Hyperinflation? - 3rd Mar 15
Bill Gross Says Fed May Raise Rates 25 Basis Points in June - 3rd Mar 15
The Secret Behind My Hedge Fund Trade on U.S. Housing Market - 3rd Mar 15
BLS CPI Lie - How's That Dsflation Working Out for You? - 3rd Mar 15
Tesla Bonfire of the Money Printers’ Vanities - 3rd Mar 15
Gold Demand in UK, Europe and U.S. – Reuters Interview GoldCore - 2nd Mar 15
Watch the Skies... for Investor Profits - 2nd Mar 15
How Investors Can Identify the Best Small-Cap Stocks - 2nd Mar 15
Gold and Silver - What If the Precious Metal Stocks Bulls are Back - 2nd Mar 15
Students Getting a PhD in Subprime Debt - U.S. Debt Breaking Bad Part 3 - 2nd Mar 15
The Stock Market is in The Process of Major Top! - 2nd Mar 15
Stock Market Weakening Trend - 2nd Mar 15
Gold Price Glimmer of Hope - 1st Mar 15
Stock Markets Are Riding High on Thin Air - 1st Mar 15
Varoufakis vs. the Troika - Showdown in Athens - 1st Mar 15
Subprime Rising - U.S. Debt Breaking Bad Part 2 - 1st Mar 15
Gold CoT Improving, But ... - 1st Mar 15
UK General Election 2015 Seats Forecast - Who Will Win? - 28th Feb 15
UK General Election 2015 - Forecasting Seats for SNP, LIb-Dems, UKIP and Others - 28th Feb 15
Stocks Bull Market Continues - 28th Feb 15
U.S. Debt Breaking Bad - 28th Feb 15
NATO Frankenstein - When Centralization Scales Beyond Our Control - 28th Feb 15
Gold And Silver Insanity Prevails; Precious Metals Without Direction - 28th Feb 15
Fed Raising U.S. Interest Rates - Shovelin’ Schmitt Against the Tide - 28th Feb 15
Don't Let This Stock Market Myth Cost You Your Gains - 28th Feb 15
Recession is On The Way; Beat The Stock Market Crowd, Panic Now! - 28th Feb 15
Stock Market Indexes Creeping Towards the Edge - 28th Feb 15
GGD Going for Mexican Gold - 27th Feb 15
Foreign Real Estate Is the New Swiss Bank Account - 27th Feb 15
10 Reasons Washington Has War Fever - 27th Feb 15
Gold and the Euro Tragedy, Iraq 3.0, Ukraine Conflict Three Ring Circus - 27th Feb 15
Deepak Chopra - New Age Genius or Bullshit Expert? - Video - 27th Feb 15 - Videos
New Greece Drachma Revealed Amid Bank Runs - Greeks Buy Gold Sovereigns - 27th Feb 15
Will Month Long Stocks Rally Continue? - 27th Feb 15
The Only Public Hedge Fund You Should Own - 27th Feb 15
UK House Prices Trend 2015 and the May General Election - 27th Feb 15
Why America is Ungovernable - The Republicans’ Civil War - 27th Feb 15
Gold vs Gold Stocks: Bullish Anomaly Developing? - 27th Feb 15
I Heart Capitalism, Nasdaq Stocks, Then And Now - 27th Feb 15
The Fed’s History of Assassination - 27th Feb 15 i
Gold Bull Market Forecast - Money Will Rotate Into These Dead Investments - 27th Feb 15
"Audit the Fed"? We've Already Done That (Well, Kind of) - 26th Feb 15
Forget Peak Oil; Worry About Peak Demand - 26th Feb 15
Currency Wars, Again - 26th Feb 15
The Fed Waited Too Long: Here Comes Inflation - 26th Feb 15
Investing Inertia Won’t Keep Your Cash Safe - 26th Feb 15
The Net Neutrality Scam - 26th Feb 15
Will Conservatives Out of Control Immigration Crisis Boost UKIP Election 2015 Prospects? - 26th Feb 15
EU Warns Ireland and Euro Zone of Debt Dangers - 26th Feb 15
Commodity Prices Set To Plunge Below 2008 Lows - 26th Feb 15
Ukraine Hyperinflation as Currency Plunges 44% in One Week! - 26th Feb 15
The State of the Global Markets 2015 - 53 Page Report - 26th Feb 15
NASDAQ New 15 Year High - Stock Market Death By Overdose - 25th Feb 15
12 Reasons Why Barry Ritholtz and Many UK Experts Are Mistaken On Gold - 25th Feb 15
Sugar Commodity Price To Sweeten Up - 25th Feb 15
Investor Profits from China 2,000-Year Unstoppable Trends - 25th Feb 15
How to Borrow Cheaply from a Government-Owned Bank - 25th Feb 15
Debt Be Not Proud - 25th Feb 15
Liberal Democrat Election Blood Bath - Could Nick Clegg Lose Sheffield Hallam? - 25th Feb 15

Free Instant Analysis

Free Instant Technical Analysis


Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

The State of the Global Markets 2015

Why the U.S. Gigantic Intelligence Apparatus Is a Mega Fraud

Politics / Government Spending Dec 17, 2010 - 11:01 AM GMT

By: Robert_Higgs

Politics

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleOn July 19, 2010, the Washington Post published the first of three large reports by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin on the dimensions of the gigantic US apparatus of "intelligence" activities being undertaken to combat terrorist acts against the United States, such as the 9/11 attacks. To say that this activity amounts to mobilizing every police officer in the country to stop street fights in Camden only begins to suggest its almost-unbelievable disproportion to the alleged threat.


Among Priest and Arkin's findings from a two-year study are the following:

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

[We] discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings — about 17 million square feet of space.

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.

Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year — a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

According to retired admiral Dennis C. Blair, formerly the director of national intelligence, after 9/11 "the attitude was, if it's worth doing, it's probably worth overdoing." I submit that this explanation does not cut to the heart of the matter. As it stands, it suggests a sort of mindless desire to pile mountains of money, technology, and personnel on top of an already-enormous mountain of money, technology, and personnel for no reason other than the vague notion that more must be better. In my view, national politics does not work in that way.

As Priest and Arkin report, "The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as $75 billion, 2 ½ times the size it was on September 10, 2001. But the figure doesn't include many military activities or domestic counterterrorism programs." Virtually everyone the reporters consulted told them in effect that "the Bush administration and Congress gave agencies more money than they were capable of responsibly spending." To be sure, they received more than they could spend responsibly, but not more than they were eager to spend irresponsibly. After all, it's not as if they were spending their own money.

"The most plausible reason why so few attacks have occurred is that very few persons have been trying to carry them out."

Why would these hundreds of organizations and contracting companies be willing to take gigantic amounts of the taxpayers' money when everyone agrees that the money cannot be spent sensibly and that the system already in place cannot function effectively or efficiently to attain its ostensible purpose? The question answers itself. It's loot for the taking, and there has been no shortage of takers. Indeed, these stationary bandits continue to demand more money each year.

And for what? The announced goal is to identify terrorists and eliminate them or prevent them from carrying out their nefarious acts. This is simultaneously a small task and an impossible one.

It is small because the number of persons seeking to carry out a terrorist act of substantial consequence against the United States and in a position to do so cannot be more than a handful. If the number were greater, we would have seen many more attacks or attempted attacks during the past decade — after all, the number of possible targets is virtually unlimited, and the attackers might cause some form of damage in countless ways. The most plausible reason why so few attacks or attempted attacks have occurred is that very few persons have been trying to carry them out. (I refer to genuine attempts, not to the phony-baloney schemes planted in the minds of simpletons by government undercover agents and then trumpeted to the heavens when the FBI "captures" the unfortunate victims of the government's entrapment.)

So the true dimension of the terrorism problem that forms the excuse for these hundreds of programs of official predation against the taxpayers is small — not even in the same class with, say, reducing automobile-accident or household-accident deaths by 20 percent.

Yet, at the same time, the antiterrorism task is impossible because terrorism is a simple act available in some form to practically any determined adult with access to Americans and their property at home or abroad. It is simply not possible to stop all acts of terrorism if potential terrorists have been given a sufficient grievance to motivate their wreaking some form of havoc against Americans. However, it is silly to make the prevention of all terrorist acts the goal. What can't be done won't be done, regardless of how many people and how much money one devotes to doing it. We can, though, endure some losses from terrorism in the same way that we routinely endure some losses from accidents, diseases, and ordinary crime.

The sheer idiocy of paying legions of twenty-something grads of Harvard and Yale — youngsters who cannot speak Arabic, Farsi, Pashtun, or any of the other languages of the areas they purport to be analyzing and who know practically nothing of the history, customs, folkways, and traditions of these places — indicates that no one seriously expects the promised payoff in intelligence to emerge from the effort. The whole business is akin to sending a blind person to find a needle inside a maze buried somewhere in a hillside.

That the massive effort is utterly uncoordinated and scarcely able to communicate one part's "findings" to another only strengthens the conclusion that the goal is not stopping terrorism, but getting the taxpayers' money and putting it into privileged pockets. Even if the expected damage from acts of terrorism against the United States were $10 billion per year, which seems much too high a guess, it makes no sense to spend more than $75 billion every year to prevent it — and it certainly makes no sense to spend any money only pretending to prevent it.

What we see here is not really an "intelligence" or counterterrorism operation at all. It's a rip-off, plain and simple, fed by irrational fear and continually stoked by the government plunderers who are exercising the power and raking in the booty to "fight terrorism."

Robert Higgs is senior fellow in political economy for the Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. He is the 2007 recipient of the Gary G. Schlarbaum Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Cause of Liberty. Send him mail. See Robert Higgs's article archives. Comment on the blog.

© 2010 Copyright Robert Higgs- All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.


© 2005-2015 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in

Free Report - Financial Markets 2014