Sunday, March 18, 2012

Intelligence Analysis: How Dangerous Is Citizen Dataveillance

by Bill Rounds

    I have been fascinated recently with the Washington Post intelligence analysis by William Arkin and Dana Priest. Both are well known journalists who have covered the military and intelligence communities for many years. Realizing that something had changed after 9/11, they dedicated two years to investigating what the intelligence community had evolved into.
    They first dug up the location of as many Top Secret facilities, both government and private, as possible. Then took somewhat of a guided tour, gaining access to several high ranking officials inside the Top Secret intelligence community to explain and clarify what each agency does and how they do it.
What They Discovered
    Almost everyone is amazed when they see the creatures the government had created not only in size and scope, but in the amount of waste, redundancy, cost and ineffectiveness. There are 45 different government agencies with 1,271 subdivisions, all involved with intelligence. More than 2,000 private companies with government contracts provide some service to Top Secret agencies. In total, there are over 850,000 people nationwide who have Top Secret clearance working on intelligence gathering, analysis, support, implementation, etc. The massive size and scope of the intelligence community is larger than it ever was during the cold war and is directed as much at targets within the US as at targets abroad for the first time. They really have spared no expense. The US intelligence community has effectively become the “fourth branch of government.”
    The Post is clearly more shocked about the size and inefficiency of the creatures which have been created. I am more concerned with how dangerous these creatures inherently are and how difficult they are to control by their very nature.
The Real Danger Of The Intelligence Community
    The Washington Post fails to point out the most dangerous part of this scientific marvel that has been created. The judicial branch cannot act as a check on the intelligence community because judicial review is not required for almost any intelligence operations. Subsequent prosecution for any illegal conduct is nearly impossible because of the Top Secret nature of the evidence. The legislative branch requires no accountability or measures of success to check and balance the intelligence community with funding restrictions. The directors of these agencies, appointed by the executive branch and confirmed by the legislative branch, have admitted that the system is beyond their control. Like a more dangerous version of Jurassic Park, these intelligence agencies are vicious creatures which have been animated, have escaped from their cages, and are taking over the park.
    The intelligence community was so preoccupied with whether or not they could build such a surveillance system, they didn’t stop to think if they should. The fourth branch of government is the most dangerous branch regardless of whether this surveillance and dataveillance of citizens is justified or not and whether it is effective or not. The sheer power and scope of this system allows unprecedented power over the lives of individuals. Should someone in any of these agencies want to exert control, no matter what the reason, the lack of accountability and lack of supervision makes it possible...

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