Last week, it was the Washington Post’s big series, Top Secret America, two years in the making. It reported on the massive security shadowland that has arisen since 09/11. The Post basically showed that there is no accountability, no knowledge at the center of what the system as a whole is doing, and too much “product” to make intelligent use of. We’re wasting billions upon billions of dollars on an intelligence system that does not work. It’s an explosive finding but the explosive reactions haven’t followed, not because the series didn’t do its job, but rather: the job of fixing what is broken would break the system responsible for such fixes.This is excerpted from a longer piece that Rosen wrote about wikileaks, which is actually worth reading. (Via Greenwald, by the way. However . . .
"We're wasting billions upon billions of dollars on an intelligence system that does not work." What do you mean, we? What do you mean, wasting? What do you mean, does not work?
Institutions, like organisms, seek survival for themselves and their descendants. One of the conceits at the heart of most theories of government, which has perhaps reached its apogee in this age of technocratic, managerial liberalism, is the idea that institutions are fundamentally instrumental. To an anarchist, this is a flatly silly proposition. (An analogue might be a Christian trying to get an atheist to concede that life has a "purpose.") Institutions aren't simple tools. Organizations aren't implements. And when a sufficient number of institutions coexist, they function like an ecosystem. They neither work nor do not work. They survive, reproduce, replace, predate, evolve, alter, consume, and grow. They are no more responsive to the individuals contained within than a person is to a single cell.
On a more practical note, I continue to be charmed by the base assumption that if the CIA (or whomever) says that their job is to gather information to protect the United States from its enemies, then this is so. Well, first of all, who are these enemies? Why are they enemies? Why should we assume the NSA (or whomever) is interested in whom they say they're interested in anyway?
So look. You have organizations that were constituted largely in secret for purposes that may, in fact, have little relationship to what Whitehousespokesperson or Undersecretaryofdefenseivewhatnot says they were, which, once constituted, proceeded quite heedless of what their ersatz original raisons d'être were, and which now constitute an ungovernable, boundless, self-sustaining, self-referring system of unimaginable complexity. So, you know, you can't fix it. I guess you can pray for a solar gamma burst or an asteroid.