1. We have added a Gift Upgrades feature that allows you to gift an account upgrade to another member, just in time for the holiday season. You can see the gift option when going to the Account Upgrades screen, or on any user profile screen.
    Dismiss Notice

Top Secret America

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by JerichoHill, Jul 19, 2010.

  1. JerichoHill

    JerichoHill Bedrock of Knowledge

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2005
    Messages:
    10,384
    Location:
    Washington DC
    I wanted to pass this excellent series from the Washington Post along.

    http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/

    I am hoping our resident military brass (Pat and Mob) can chime in. As a holder of a secret clearance (which lets me look at corporate documents we get through subpeona) I've known how big it is, but never quite like this. I have watched friends go into a Top Secret Compartmentalized job and quietly shuffle out of our friends circle, and even lost touch with a exceptionally good friend due to a NSA job he took, and I surmise that this is at least suggested by the agencies (to help keep information in).

    Outwardly, I often thought our intelligence gathering too clunky.
     
  2. Formaldehyde

    Formaldehyde Both Fair And Balanced

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2003
    Messages:
    33,999
    Location:
    USA #1
    You beat me to it. I saw a synopsis of this article in the paper this morning and was going to start a thread about it myself.

    Too clunky? That's quite an understatement!

    9/11 created the equivalent of the KGB in the US. The only task left is for them to find suitable "targets" since actual terrorism by extremists against the US is obviously not much of an issue anymore - not that it ever was.
     
  3. MobBoss

    MobBoss Off-Topic Overlord

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2005
    Messages:
    46,853
    Location:
    In Perpetual Motion
    Having read the article, it seems the Post is simply playing upon the fears of the unknown in this case. Is the intelligence realm huge and cumbersome? Absolutely. Exepensive? Assuredly. But is it a problem? Since the story doesnt do a very good job (and it cant due to the subject matter) of giving any pro argument for the status quo, it doesnt give the reader much chance to weigh different sides in this issue.

    Again, in the intelligence realm, transparency and secrecy are mutually exclusive. Sure there should be congressional oversight, but lets face it, when 'transparency' is mentioned several times in the video lead in to the story, only the more intelligent or those in the know are going to realize that such transparency is going to simply be hugely self-defeating in such an organization.

    It also lists the number of facilities and personnel with top secret level clearances. I guess the number is given in some attempt to shock the reader as to the number involved, but seriously, why? The story doesnt explain it, but people should realize that simply just having a top secret clearance doesnt get you access to anything and everything. And, in fact, there are many gradients of secret, top secret, and other clearances, and the one overriding of all: need to know. Point being, just because you have a top secret clearance doesnt mean your knee deep in secret documents trying to sift through them to find the one you need. It could mean a wide variety of things and acts. For example, it may mean your job is working with encryption hardware/software. It could mean you have access and work with personal data and records. It might mean your're staring at a satellite image on a computer screen looking for anomalies, or a screen with a whole lot of air traffic on it trying to determine if something is out of the ordinary. Or any one out of thousands of other tasks/jobs that carry a top secret clearance to perform. So, no, the number of people with those clearances doesnt bother me at all.

    As to the friends comment, yeah, I have seen that happen, but I think its usually less a factor of the clearance involved, and more to do with workload of the specific job at hand. People selected for such projects with compartmentalized access are generally doing a job that requires their availability 24/7 thus it becomes their over-riding focus for a period of time. I have had friends drop out for 6 months (or longer) because of such projects, so its not unusual.

    Well, if you consider the amount of data involved, its going to be clunky by its very nature. The problem is going to ensuring that those doing the sifting recognize something important, and feed it up the chain - and that each link of the chain in turn recognizes its importance as well.

    In other words, it has to be clunky, or its simply going to be a victim of its own effectiveness and result in nothing but data overload.

    I think this comment is simply ridiculous. What 9/11 did was wake our nation up to the severe atrophy in our intelligence organizations, and also the problems involved (such as lack of communication between enforcement/investigative/intelligence organizations)....has there possibly been some over-reaction over the last decade? Almost assuredly. But since I have had access to some of these facilties and seen first hand the kind of work being done, I really think the article relies playing upon the fear of the unknown to sell its story to the common person. Personally, I see it as more of a necessary thing in todays world as not. I certainly wouldnt want us to go to the pre-9/11 levels of intel we had. Its literally amazing the differences in US intel today and that of pre-9/11...especially in the fact that its only been about a decade since that day.
     
  4. I'm Cleo!

    I'm Cleo! Deity

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    Messages:
    4,357
    Location:
    USA
    The large numbers of people working for the government in the National Surveillance State is alarming, but not necessarily bad without further information. (But bear in mind that you can't say it's good without further information, either.) But we should be aware that our government's intelligence services are expanding at a tremendous rate, and the extent to which our government is expanding behind a wall of secrecy should lead any American to wonder about its utility, especially because the justification for all of it -- they're keeping your children safe! -- is such a powerful one.

    Tomorrow's piece is going to be on the use of private contractors in the intelligence apparatus, and I think it'll be even more interesting. The large numbers of people working for private companies whose interests do not align perfectly with the people is another situation entirely.

    Cleo
     
  5. Patroklos

    Patroklos Deity

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2003
    Messages:
    12,721
    I have been a bit critical of the bloat in the intelligence community. A good portion of it stems from the basless critisisms from 9/11 (not that all critisism was baseless) which let to a "THROW MORE PEOPLE AT IT!!!" mentality. Then again, what part of the government isn't bloated?

    Some things to keep in mind when considering the brazen attempt at fear mongering with those numbers.

    1.) The world population has increased by 2 billion since the end of the Cold War, or 40% more or less. That means 40% more data to analyze.

    2.) As Mobboss pointed out the use of computers and all sorts of complicated electronic resources is increacing exponentially, and this required a whole new category to support these tech assets. Every network administrator to help desk clerk has to be secret cleared to work on secret machines. I would say this is the biggest contributor to the increased numbers.

    3.) There are far more countries now than 20 years ago. That means entire new embassies, military attache's, department chiefs and staffs, and new expert divisions within every region specific department division amougst multiple agencies.

    4.) Our threats are decentralized in the modern age. This means it less efficiency in the organizations tasked with monitoring them.

    5.) All military officers, senior enlisted, and many ratings are secret cleared. This was not always the case, but with the fast spread of advanced electronics with secret requirments routinely pushed all the way down to the lowest echelons it simply is not efficient to clear someone as required. Instead it is done upfront because eventually said person will need it quickly.

    6.) Clearances last on average 10 years. That means if your clearance expired in your last year before retirement you had to have it updated, and then you have 9 years of clearance left for which you may never have a need.

    Just a few reasons.

    As for friends I haven't really run into that. I have a few crypies in my ciricles and while the can't talk about work they still hang around. I had one buddy join the NSA and he did get distant, but thats because the worked him to death.

    I have a secret clearance btw.
     
  6. Formaldehyde

    Formaldehyde Both Fair And Balanced

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2003
    Messages:
    33,999
    Location:
    USA #1
    You are right. The current US "intelligence" efforts make the KGB look like a bunch of Boy Scouts by comparison. And for what? An almost completely non-existent threat...

    But they will find some victims to rationalize their existence, just as the KGB did and any other bureaucracy does. It just won't likely be the same people they claimed they were looking for when the projects originated. It will be survivalists, "communists", anarchists, and people who disagree with their methodology and even existence.
     
  7. bathsheba666

    bathsheba666 Fast 'n Bulbous

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2005
    Messages:
    10,012
    Location:
    London
    In the UK the police have invented a new category of person: the 'domestic extremist'.

    These people are photographed, and have files.

    There is no definition for this term, but attending a protest meeting is sufficient to get you on the list.
    It's a job creation scheme for the paranoid.

    Reading the article, it's not a hard jump to understand why 6 year olds are now on the US no-fly list.
     
  8. Formaldehyde

    Formaldehyde Both Fair And Balanced

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2003
    Messages:
    33,999
    Location:
    USA #1
    The current google ad for this topic:


    Link to video.

    It's the next great post-Cold War threat. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
     
  9. aelf

    aelf Ashen One

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2005
    Messages:
    16,308
    Location:
    Tir ná Lia
    So... if these secret bodies can't be known then people are just supposed to trust that they will do the nation a great service?

    That seems to be the point of the video.
     
  10. Formaldehyde

    Formaldehyde Both Fair And Balanced

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2003
    Messages:
    33,999
    Location:
    USA #1
    I think it is best perceived as being a new religion. You must have faith except at the airport with 12-year-old girls. After all, anybody could be a terrorist. So it is best to closely monitor the activities of everybody, even if it might be a violation of their basic rights.
     
  11. MobBoss

    MobBoss Off-Topic Overlord

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2005
    Messages:
    46,853
    Location:
    In Perpetual Motion
    Anyone who thinks the security threat to the USA is completely non-existant today is simply ignorant of the facts involved. For example, US government computer networks experience something like over a million cyber-attacks a day.....a day mind you. Just the simple fact that long term embedded spies from Russia were recently uncovered and subsequently deported are just more proof that the threat today is tangible, certainly existent, and active. Its simply a fact that cant be denied.

    And as Pat says, the thing that has compounded this even more so over the last several years is automation. The intelligence community is truly becoming paperless, but that in itself opens itself up to other types of concerns and problems. Sometimes I think the level of concern over security can be self-defeating, as there has been times when security updates themself simply cripple our office productivity by rendering our computers unusable until a quick fix for an issue can be patched and loaded across the network. Security, even to the smallest levels imaginable, has becoming an overriding concern practically above everything else. You would actually have to see it in action to believe it.
     
  12. Patroklos

    Patroklos Deity

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2003
    Messages:
    12,721
    The funny thing about Form and his lot is that he will be the first person screaming and moaning when one of those million attacks gets through. There is simply no winning with them.
     
  13. Formaldehyde

    Formaldehyde Both Fair And Balanced

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2003
    Messages:
    33,999
    Location:
    USA #1
    A million threats a day. :lol:

    That's all you can come up with as the big threat to rationalize this incredibly huge expense at the cost of sacrificing the rights of every American citizen? A few kids trying to hack publicly accessible internet sites which actually contain no sensitive information whatsoever, and the US rounding up a few harmless Russians to make a "spy swap"?

    My "lot"? :lol:

    The really funny thing is that you still don't seem have a clue what my opinions actually are, even after 9600 posts! That you can't seem to discuss the issues instead of making absurd strawmen and engaging in ridiculous personal attacks such as this!
     
  14. Winner

    Winner Diverse in Unity

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2004
    Messages:
    27,947
    Location:
    Brno -> Czech rep. >>European Union
    My tiny country has recently merged two of its three intelligence services (one civilian, one military), because having them separated was thought to be wasteful and inefficient.

    I see that compared to the mess in the US, we were doing rather well...
     
  15. Ayn Rand

    Ayn Rand Deity

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    2,348
    Location:
    UK
    There is no freedom without security. I'm glad the Americans are shouldering their responsibilities, it's essential for all of us that they continue to do so.

    When the threats we face become open and democratic [!!], we/they can think about dismantling our/their security, but not until then ;)
     
  16. Formaldehyde

    Formaldehyde Both Fair And Balanced

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2003
    Messages:
    33,999
    Location:
    USA #1
    It is suprising that you would be for oppressive totalitarian measures such as this which directly threaten the freedom and liberty of everybody on the planet, being such a staunch libertarian.
     
  17. Ayn Rand

    Ayn Rand Deity

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    2,348
    Location:
    UK
    What totalitarian measures?

    There is a difference between totalitarianism and security. The amount of security we need is not determined by political theory - it is determined by the nature of the threats we face.

    It is also impossible to achieve security without secrecy. Why do people want to interfere in the business of the State anyway? Nobody needs to know State security secrets unless an abuse of some sort is being committed - hence secrecy is not a problem.

    Also, I really need to change my sig to "Objectivist" as the differences between objectivism and libertarianism are more important than I thought ;) Objectivists believe that freedom is impossible without the security of a strong State to maintain law and protect rights.
     
  18. Formaldehyde

    Formaldehyde Both Fair And Balanced

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2003
    Messages:
    33,999
    Location:
    USA #1
    So objectivists, such as Ayn Rand, believe in maintaining the huge intelligence apparatus commonly found only in police states and even banning communists because they are evil? No, those ideals aren't libertarian at all. They are actually just the opposite. Those are really qualities commonly found in fascist regimes instead of democratic ones.
     
  19. deanej

    deanej Deity

    Joined:
    Apr 8, 2006
    Messages:
    4,859
    Location:
    New York State
    It's funny how people who are opposed to big government suddenly change their tune when the issue changes from economics to security. Anyways, Benjamin Franklin said:
    Then again, were Franklin alive today, we would lock him in gitmo for being soft on terrorism.

    Anyone remember when we had this big debate over "if we change our lives, the terrorists win"? We've changed quite a bit (little, if any, of it for the better), so the terrorists have one. None of the new security measures have caught a single terrorist anyways - in all terrorist incidents, it's airline passengers, not the TSA, that save the day. We had all the intelligence we needed to stop 9/11 - the only problem was that the CIA and FBI don't talk to each other (they still don't). We'd be better off eliminating the reason the terrorists attack us anyways (our meddling in the affairs of the middle east when it's none of our business - the US is not a policeman).
     
  20. Ayn Rand

    Ayn Rand Deity

    Joined:
    May 26, 2010
    Messages:
    2,348
    Location:
    UK
    States don't get to pick and choose how they maintain their security. If foreign intelligence services, terrorists and mafia are all using covert methods, then we have to protect ourselves with a strong intelligence apparatus.

    It's nothing to do with ideals, Form - if our State doesn't protect us, then we will fall prey to hostile States who will have a far more predatory interest in us, and who are not interested in protecting our rights.

    Fascism was not about security, it was about dominance - and it extended itself into the social and economic sphere. A professional intelligence agency with good oversight is a World away from a Secret Police agency used for political oppression.

    Thanks for the link ;) Everyone knows that Ayn Rand [the author] had her complexities and mistakes, like every other human being. But coming from the USSR, she probably knew more about it than the armchair communists in America which is why she supported McCarthy.

    But the bottom line is - your ideals don't provide me with security in a World of complex and dangerous threats. Intelligence services do provide me with security. Therefore, my freedom is impossible without them and they need to be able to do their jobs. There is no freedom without security - it's an objective fact, which is why objectivists support it.
     

Share This Page