The takeover of the US by the security-corporate complex

Kevin Kelly says:

The takeover of the US by the Security-Corporate Complex is documented by mainstream press. It is worse than I thought.

According to Dana Priest and William M. Arkin of The Washington Post, "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."

A hidden world, growing beyond control


  1. We can beat this y’all. In 40 years when I am dead or old it will all be three Pentagons of maker-spaces, eco-condominiums, and children’s science education centers. WOLVERINES!

    1. I assume you’re being sardonic, so I’ll say this… the public must have knowledge of a problem before they can defeat one.

    2. So here’s the thing about the way the US government does funding for R&D.  Some of that ‘security’ money is *going* to maker spaces, and a good amount of it is going to researching alternative energy sources.    Advances are also being made in pure mathematics, foundational tech research, and a *lot* of money is going to develop practical computer security tools, to make up for the incredible mess that commercial tech companies keep producing in that department (because secure systems != profit). 

      1. The focus of this article seems to be on counterterrorism spending, not general DOD spending, and it provides plenty of evidence of waste and disproportionate spending besides what you assert are inflated numbers. Do you disagree that the US national security apparatus is getting out of control?

        1. I think lots of things are getting funded under the national security label.  I’m sure some of it is wasteful… but I also know that a good portion of it is fairly important R&D that’s pretty far divorced from the black suits & sunglasses image.   When you decry these things and start cutting funding, you need to be very careful.  I watched defense-cuts in the 90’s leave the bombs and guns untouched, and completely gut the medical research programs (neuroscience/prosthetics, and others).  That’s a good example, actually… do you know how much homeland defense money gets spent working on defenses to bio-terrorism threats, including researching and developing vaccines?   It’s a pretty major thing, and if that gets cut it’s not going to be easily picked up elsewhere… it’s not profit-driven enough for the drug companies, and too practical/applied to get an academic dissertation out of .   They build chemical sensors that can be applied equally well to detecting chemical attacks and getting detailed measurements of pollution.   The 3-d modeling image processing algorithm I described is another reasonable example too.  And seriously, the all important computer security world.  Any progress there is *largely* funded by the government.

          It’s not publicized like it was for the space program, but it’s still happening, this work is getting spun off into the public sector at a reasonably rapid rate..  A lot of work getting done for homeland security is in the form of: “publicly published algorithm, made easily available to help american industry and academics” combined with “private/secret data for intelligence application”.    So, just, when you’re talking about the problems here… I’ll I’m hoping is that you be specific: say something like “don’t spend tons of money spying on random people”,  or “don’t spend tons of money on giant poorly-constructed software initiatives”, or “don’t spend tons of money equipping the police force for some little town with tanks”, or “don’t spend tons of money just to sit on your hands”.   But be very careful about just saying “cut spending on security”.   The development of a lot of things that BoingBoing folks care is getting covered under that funding, and a good number of them have no safety net if that funding is pulled.   When the budget numbers go down… it may not be not the tanks that disappear.

          1. So, just, when you’re talking about the problems here… I’ll I’m hoping is that you be specific: say something like “don’t spend tons of money spying on random people”, or “don’t spend tons of money on giant poorly-constructed software initiatives”, or “don’t spend tons of money equipping the police force for some little town with tanks”, or “don’t spend tons of money just to sit on your hands”.

            I’m pretty sure people are saying those things.

  2. Our tax dollars at work!

    There’s a landline long distance and mobile phone company that donates part of its revenue to nonprofits.  As a customer, once a year you get a ballot so you can vote on what percentage of your contributions go to which organizations. 

    I want something like that on 1040 forms next year.  Then we’ll see what’s really important to The People.

    Big downside though: the tax season advertising deluge for all the special interests trying to get us to increase their proportions.  All the corporate media would be shilling for their owners to boot.

    Sigh.  There seems to be no escape.  The military-industrial and security theatre machines will just carry on blindly until they collapse in ruined, smouldering heaps of rubble.

    1.  “I want something like that on 1040 forms next year.  Then we’ll see what’s really important to The People.”  

      It just doesn’t matter what’s “really important to The People”.  It stopped being about “The People” around 1980 and the corporate/economic elite have never looked back.

    2. Actually, the right wing wants exactly the same thing, so they can each personally veto public schools and the IRS and environmental regulations and all them liberal judges and Obamacare.

      But there’s a reason we don’t fund our nation this way.  It amounts to government by bake sale, and guarantees the most vulnerable will be thrown under the bus first. And that’s exactly what they want.

      1.  If you don’t think the Dems are in on the gravy train, you need to rethink things. The political division in the US is not vertical right/left – it is horizontal. It is the 1% against everyone else. And the political and media classes know how to keep getting paid.

    3.  As much as I like the sentiment, I have two major problems with this.

      1. It’s very easy to fall into the trap you mention.  You’ll just see a lot of advertising for corporate interests.

      2. People as a mass won’t ever check things they don’t understand, even if it benefits them, esp. for science funding or against boring things like farm subsidies. 

      But yeah, the current situation sucks too.  I guess buy small where possible, make friends outside the country, and always, always vote against every incumbent and tell your local friends to do the same?

  3. All of this time, money, effort… and we have less rights to show for it…
    How is this a good thing again?

      1. Oh I thought most of that funding had been diverted to the magic snake oil research council.  Just another billion and we can give you a magic box that will solve the problem.

  4. The scary thing about this is that there are almost a million people employed in this culture of secrecy. Every single one of those people has been vetted for their orthodoxy; this in fact their main job qualification, aside from some sort of college degree. They’ve never taken drugs, been arrested for anything, traveled anywhere suspicious, and they don’t hold foreign citizenships… and these are the ones tasked with understanding the world and keeping us safe from those within it who would, we’re led to believe, want to destroy us.

    And apparently most of what they’ve been doing is accumulating vast stores of write-once read-never information and generating similarly WORN reports, which then get collated into summaries that sit in the inboxes of mid-level bureaucrats until the stack gets big enough that some document-destruction company is paid to throw it into the memory hole.

    Is this vast enterprise even worth engaging in? Even when it succeeds, is it really doing us any good? The labors of a million human beings, all paid from tax money, going to study loosely-knit networks of disgruntled young men in far-flung impoverished little pockets of the world… all so we can save ourselves from a once-a-decade underwear bomber? Or are we doing this to ensure the safety and security of the military as it engages in conflicts aimed at doing the same thing?

    We’ve taken military intelligence from something aimed at studying the actions, intentions, and motivations of foreign armies and turned it instead at foreign people… They’ve set no less a goal for themselves than to surveil a sizable fraction of the world’s population for vague and unknowable threats. Not surprising, then, that it’s beyond anyone’s ability to manage.

    1. It’s worse than you think. That 845,000 have TS vetting is bad enough, but that doesn’t count the additional millions who “only” have S or CV.

  5. Big fat targets for chinese hackers and terrorist EMPs.  There isn’t going to be any electrical backup for these operations either. 

  6. Presumably every state on the planet could, in principle, obtain statistics regarding the proportion of those given top-security clearances eventually known to be a security risk. From which an estimate of those likely to ‘turn’ might be computed. It would be interesting to know how many of those 854,000 are basically untrustworthy. I.e. the number of ‘bad apples’ tolerated by those who run the show.

    1. I read once that the rule is the odds that a secret will get out is proportional to the number of people who know it, squared.

  7. I remember when people in the US used to use the size of the KGB as evidence of our superiority as a free country.

  8. And that was written in 2010!! Just imagine how its grown since. While living in DC, later that year, I would troll the job boards for security clearance jobs to keep track. It’s the hidden boom town which has been funneling $billions from the Fed for years. Glad this has finally made Boingboing 3 years later.

    1. Snag is that an updated, doubtless higher, figure is more likely to be rounded up.

      And it’s much more satisfying to respond to somebody bragging about their top-security clearance with “Yeah, you and eight hundred and fifty three thousand nine hundred ‘n ninety nine others” than “Yeah, you and a million others“.

  9. almost nothing to say but ‘Duh’
    america is batshit crazy thanks to this 2 party system. no mater who’s in charge,  everything goes in the same direction, right down the middle line, and they are all fucking crazy.

    1984 clearly won over brave new world

  10. Ancient “news.”  Oh, well, better late than never, I guess.  Watch the PBS Frontline episode on this:

    or, much better, read the book.  The PBS Frontline documentary pulls far too many punches that the book does not.  Also watch the PBS Nova: The Spy Factory:

    which documents conclusively that EVERYTHING need to stop 9/11 was known by the US intel infrastructure and it was only the near total lack of inter-agency communications that prevented that.  Thus, no real need for the $1 TRILLION of police state infrastructure built since 9/11.

    Add to that great news, a Fahrenheit 451, 1984 citizenry; ignorant, propagandized, American Idol watching idiots acting on behalf of the state.  The following activities are NOT limited to China, they’re just not widely reported about in the US:

    Human flesh search engines: Chinese vigilantes that hunt victims on the web
    A new phenomenon is sweeping China after the quake: digital witch hunts of those who dare to be outspoken or criticise

    China’s CyberposseHuman Flesh Search Engines

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