What Washington is talking about today: "Top Secret America"

Uncovering the secretive "fourth branch" of U.S. government

Two-years in the making, and the subject of much speculation and anticipation, the Washington Post has released its investigative project into the growth of  US intelligence establishment since 9/11 co-authored by Dana Priest — the reporter who won two Pulitzers — one for her story revealing CIA secret prisons, and one for co-authoring a piece on problems with veterans’ care at Walter Reed hospital.

It’s a big, sprawling project with all kind of on-line features. I haven’t browsed them all yet myself.

The bottom line —  a big, expensive, unaccountable, secretive “fourth branch” of government has grown up since 9/11. Priest and William Arkin write:

“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.

The investigation’s other findings include:

* 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.”