Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Security, like all things, best in moderation

The Washington Post is publishing a series on the state of the United States Security Community, and it's pretty interesting. For example:

* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year - a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

Wow. 51 agencies tracking money. 50,000 intelligence reports a year. I've been saying for a long time that the biggest problems leading up to 9/11 weren't lack of information, but too much information and too little communication. In the 9 years since then we have only added to the problem.  In describing their data gathering, the Post said;

The Post's online database of government organizations and private companies was built entirely on public records. The investigation focused on top-secret work because the amount classified at the secret level is too large to accurately track.

That's scary. The article quotes several sources who say there is no process in place to keep track of all of the inter-agency information, even for the few people who are in a position to try. What's scarier is that means we can't know if all that manpower, information gathering, and money tracking is doing any good. Add to those the fact that we've had recent near miss terrorist attacks in the U.S. and you realize that there is going to be another successful attack. The only question is, how severe will it be?

I recommend checking the Top Secret America website and reading the entire series as it comes out this week, although I admit it will be a bear. The first installment Monday was 17 screens long.