Report: U.S. Intel Complex Inefficient, Bloated

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Since Sept. 11 there has been no major terrorist attack in the U.S., but the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars creating a sprawling top secret intelligence complex that is bloated and inefficient.
CBS
A month after Sept. 11, President Bush created the office of Homeland Security, pledging to spare no effort in stopping the next terrorist attack.

"We're going to be ongoing and relentless," said Bush on Oct. 8, 2001.

In the nine years since Sept. 11 there has been no major attack. But the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars creating a sprawling top secret intelligence complex that the Washington Post concludes is bloated and inefficient, reports Justice and Homeland Security correspondent Bob Orr.

Top Secret America's Revelations
Report: U.S. Intel Operations Unwieldy Post-Sept. 11

Washington Post reporter Dana Priest led a two year investigation that's revealed mind-boggling numbers:

• 3,200 government organizations and private firms work on homeland security, counter-terrorism and intelligence.
• 854,000 people hold top secret security clearances.
• Analysts publish 50,000 intelligence reports a year.

The Washington Post found the effort to be "[So] unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many programs exist or exactly how many agencies do the same work."

"It didn't give me great confidence to hear the government itself say we really don't have our arms around what we've built," said Priest.

When asked if the people administering the big complex of national security don't even know how big it is, Priest said, "That's right."

For example, take terrorist financing. Cutting off the flow of cash to terror networks like al Qaeda is the first line of defense and the Treasury Department has historically led that effort.

Now the Post analysis reveals there are 51 federal organizations and military commands all tracking terror financing and many are not sharing their information with each other.

Since Sept. 11, 33 complexes have been built for top-secret intelligence work. That's 17 million square feet of space, the size of three new Pentagons.

The report also notes that despite the broad build up of defenses terrorists have still slipped through. Army Maj. Nidal Hassan at Fort Hood, the so-called underwear bomber in Detroit and Faisel Shahzad in Times Square in New York City.

Complete Coverage: Terrorism in the U.S.

Analysts point out other attacks have been stopped: an al Qaeda plot to blow up transatlantic flights in 2006 and the plot by Najibullah Zazi to bomb New York subways.

"There have been dozens of attacks, plots, terrorist networks, that have been not only discovered, but foiled in the post-Sept. 11 world," said CBS News National Security Analyst Juan Zarate.

The government insists some of the redundancies are deliberate and necessary but there is wide agreement the system has gotten too big. The challenge is to cut the waste without increasing the risk.

Many agencies now share information effectively despite the failure at Ft. Hood. The biggest problem is the shear crush of information. There's so much, analysts have to sort through a huge amount of data to find the real leads. A clogged system is a threat in its own right.