A new Washington Post piece was just released which details just how large the intelligence community has become post 9-11. We all knew that intelligence spending had increased dramatically, but this piece really sheds light on just how chaotic, unorganized, compartmentalized, and under-supervised the whole intelligence community is, despite efforts to improve it.
Tax payers have been on the hook for billions of extra dollars per year (compared to pre-911 levels) and we have essentially nothing to show for it except for a massive expansion of the military industrial complex. Newly created organizations like the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) that were tasked with oversight have themselves just gotten larger and have not accomplished their goal of the consolidation of intelligence gathering. It appears that, in effect, the ODNI is nothing but a sinecure put in place to give the illusion of oversight.
I am all in favor of a strong intelligence community but the sheer size and complexity of the beast has gotten unwieldy. It appears that some of the work being done is redundant and much of the bureaucracy could be slashed. Why is it OK to ask the government to tame domestic spending on unclassified domestic programs but not demand the same oversight on intelligence matters? And if Congress cannot oversee these agencies, then who does? It's as if these three-letter agencies compose a sort of shadow government, answerable to no one but themselves (though this complaint is nothing new and has been around for decades).
On an interesting technical note, the article points out that the NSA intercepts 1.7 billion e-mails and phone calls per day. If that's not enough reason to use encryption, then nothing is.
Another interesting tidbit is the excessive use of Faraday cages by most of these agencies. (The government calls them SCIF's). The government seems really paranoid about electronic eavesdropping. Is this a sign that they are very good at it themselves? One must wonder if these agencies are not stuck in the cold war when sophisticated espionage was common-place and compartmentalization and paranoia were needed to encumber the Russian espionage effort. Is Al-Qaeda really going to launch TEMPEST attacks on government installations?