Two Washington Post reporters took two years to unearth this story: The intelligence community is big and secret and uses a lot of contractors.
Presented as an exposé, the three-part series, “Top Secret America,” uncovered no abuse. Instead, it presented the conclusion that the intelligence community is a “hidden world” that is “growing beyond control.”
On its website, the Post listed the names and headquarters locations of companies with classified contracts, proving nothing. The Post pieced together the data from public records.
Originally, the newspaper planned to list details of contracts and specific locations where the work was being done. After months of negotiations with the FBI and other agencies, the paper acted responsibly and withheld details that would make it easier for foreign intelligence services to target our secrets.
A front-page subhead read: “The government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it’s fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping citizens safe.”
Quite the contrary, the intelligence community has kept us safe since 9/11.
That is a tribute to the hard work of the FBI, CIA and other agencies, which constantly pinpoint and roll up terrorists.
The series characterized the intelligence community’s $75 billion annual budget as “vast.” But that figure is less than 9 percent of the stimulus package. The intelligence budget could be doubled and Americans would still be getting a good deal for their money. Ironically, a co-author of the series is himself on contract.
Before the Church Committee hearings in 1975 and 1976, the intelligence community was indeed out of control. Congress wanted to be in the position of not knowing what the CIA and FBI were doing.
Contrary to conservative wisdom, the Church Committee exposed real abuses and a lack of focus that undercut the mission of those agencies. The hearings ultimately improved both agencies and established an effective oversight mechanism.
Today, if anything, the intelligence community is micromanaged by overlapping congressional committees, which must be notified of any significant plans, such as that involving covert action.
To be sure, improvements could be made, especially within the Office of Director of National Intelligence. As detailed in the Newsmax story "Abolish the Office of Director of National Intelligence,"
while the 9/11 commission originally envisioned the DNI as having several hundred employees, the DNI has ballooned to 1,500 employees.
While a small segment of those employees work for the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which is vital, the rest of the agency produces little to enhance the intelligence effort.
Under new publisher Katharine Weymouth and new Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli, The Washington Post has undergone a sea change: The newspaper has become a generally fair, balanced, and honest paper.
As outlined in the Newsmax story "Washington Post Has Become a Model for the Media,"
it now covers issues of interest to conservatives, who comprise 40 percent of the American population, and displays those stories prominently. But The Washington Post took a step backward with “Top Secret America.”
Contrary to the Post series, the intelligence community is both accountable through elected leaders and remarkably successful.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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