Washington reacts to 'Top Secret America' revelations

Acting as Director of National Intelligence David C. Gompert issued a statement Monday morning time (PDF) reacting to The Washington Post series "Top Secret America," by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin.

"The reporting does not reflect the Intelligence Community we know," he said.

"We accept that we operate in an environment that limits the amount of information we can share," he said. "However, the fact is, the men and women of the Intelligence Community have improved our operations, thwarted attacks, and are achieving untold successes every day.

"In recent years, we have reformed the IC in ways that have improved the quality, quantity, regularity, and speed of our support to policymakers, warfighters, and homeland defenders, and we will continue our reform efforts. We provide oversight, while also encouraging initiative. We work constantly to reduce inefficiencies and redundancies, while preserving a degree of intentional overlap among agencies to strengthen analysis, challenge conventional thinking, and eliminate single points of failure. We are mindful of the size of our contractor ranks, but greatly value the critical flexibility and specialized skills they contribute to our mission.

"The challenges that lie ahead are difficult and complex. We will continue to scrutinize our own operations, seek ways to improve and adapt, and work with Congress on its crucial oversight and reform efforts. We can always do better, and we will. And the importance of our mission and our commitment to keeping America safe will remain steadfast, whether they are reflected in the day's news or not."

His statement followed a message last week from the ODNI to its contractors (PDF), warning them that "Early next week, the Washington Post is expected to publish articles and an interactive website that will likely contain a compendium of government agencies and contractors allegedly conductingTop Secret work. ...We request that all ODNI contractors remind all cleared employees of their responsibility to protect classified information and relationships, and to abide by contractual agreements regarding non-publicity."

The State Department's Diplomatic Security Bureau on Thursday also warned all employees in the Washington area -- 14, 574 people -- to "remain aware of their responsibility to protect classified and other sensitive information, such as the Department's relationships with contract firms, other U.S. Government agencies, and foreign governments" in light of the upcoming Post report, according to a report in Foreign Policy's The Cable.

Foreign policy and national security bloggers have begun chewing over "Top Secret America."

The series is "bound to provoke all sorts of questions -- both from taxpayers wondering where their money goes, and from U.S. adversaries looking to penetrate America's spy complex," write Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman on Wired's Danger Room blog.

"But this piece is about much more than dollars," they continue. "It's about what used to be called the Garrison State -- the impact on society of a Praetorian class of war-focused elites....With too many analysts and too many capabilities documenting too much, with too few filters in place to sort out the useful stuff or discover hidden connections, the information overload is its own information blackout."

In Racine, Wis., the Racine Post notes that named local outfit Perceptral "isn't much of a secret." Its owner, Jonathon Pearl -- "a trained opera singer who moved with his family from California to Racine to start a business" -- won RAMAC's 2010 Apollo Award for new and innovative businesses and has become well-known within the area business community for his work on sound technologies.

Conservative and liberal bloggers alike are pointing to the Priest-Arkin story as providing an example of government spending run amok. "If the Washington Post's investigative report 'Top Secret America' by Dana Priest doesn't exemplify how the federal government is an out of control leviathan, I don't know what does," writes The Lonely Conservative.

Meanwhile, liberal Robert Dreyfuss notes in The Nation: "The core problem... is that Al Qaeda and its affiliates, its sympathizers, and even self-starting terrorist actors who aren't part of Al Qaeda itself, are a tiny and manageable problem. Yet the apparatus that has been created is designed to meet nothing less than an existential threat. Even at the height of the Cold War ... there was nothing like the post-9/11 behemoth in existence. A thousand smart intelligence analysts, a thousand smart FBI and law enforcement officers, and a few hundred Special Operations military folk are all that's needed to deal with the terrorism threat."


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