Will 'Top Secret America' bring reform?
Two weeks after the Post's Top Secret America series examined the government's growing counter-terrorism empire, some actions are being taken. But some say they would have expected more.
"I would have thought this series would have been a game changer of how Congress looks at intelligence," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a frequent critic of military and intelligence contractors. "I would have thought they would be having a hearing scheduled immediately. I thought people would have been asking for GAO [Government Accountability Office] reports."
The GAO is already doing some work in this area. A rundown of some other actions being taken:
*Within the House and Senate intelligence committees, there's a push to create an inspector general position that would have broad, sweeping powers to review work being done by various agencies. After some jockeying between the White House and Congress, and negotiations among lawmakers, the proposal is moving forward.
One of the idea's cheerleaders is Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, a member of the Senate intelligence committee. She said The Post's series highlighted the need to "act swiftly" on the proposal.
*Also on the Hill, Rep. Janice Schakowsky, D-Ill., a member of the House intelligence committee, said she plans to help hold hearings this fall that will probe the issues raised in the series. Her worry: "we're not safer."
"We need to get control of what appears to be out of control spending and layering," she said. "I want to see if it can be a catalyst for a more robust discussion and investigation. It certainly sounds like there's a lot of duplication where the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing."
*Prior to Top Secret America's publication, the GAO was already at work examining several of the issues that Priest and Arkin raised. That work includes a review of the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis; an examination of funding and privacy issues related to state and local fusion centers; and evaluating how terrorist watch lists are created and updated in light of the Dec. 25th attempted terrorist attacks.
Why not more sounding of the alarms after the Top Secret America series, some have asked?
Some contractors, Congressional staffers and think tank analysts suggested that while the series broke new ground in documenting how vast the empire had become, it covered debates that were already underway.
"You've got a portrayal of an ever-expanding, multiple-ring circus, but there's no accident where people fell off the trapeze without a net," said Gordon Adams, a former senior White House official for national security budgets under President Clinton. "The stuff that gets the public irate is when there's some malfeasance. Waste, fraud and abuse. You've got the waste, but there wasn't the fraud and abuse."
To what extent the series might ultimately affect the complex web of five dozen government organizations and military command posts that track counter-threat financing efforts, for example, remains unknown. Some observers are skeptical.
"These are fiefdoms inside a larger bureaucracy," said Mike Lewis, a financial analyst at BB&T who covers a dozen defense contractors.
"Everyone is going to try to hold on to their budget as tightly as possible. No one's going to say, 'Oh, remove X dollars from my budget because there's another agency doing nearly the same practices."
July 30, 2010; 2:25 PM ET
Save & Share: Previous: Introducing our newest Top Secret America reporter
Next: DIA under fire on search for new office space
Posted by: Russtinator | July 30, 2010 3:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: retiredreader | July 30, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: innovator101 | July 31, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: axolotl | July 31, 2010 3:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Confuzus | August 1, 2010 5:14 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: WIDOWMAKER06 | August 1, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Yash1 | August 2, 2010 9:14 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jmr12 | August 3, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.