WASHINGTON POST: The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine. The investigation’s other findings include:
* 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. MORE
RELATED: While we sleep, intelligence analysts have their ears to the ground in 72 countries, sifting through threats of terrorism near and far, according to James F. Powers Jr., the director of the state Office of Homeland Security. In the fall, a company called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response – with offices, or at least post office boxes, in Philadelphia and Jerusalem – won a $103,000 contract to watch our backs. […] He was a little taken aback by some of the events flagged; the list includes the 28th annual Riyaadah, a Muslim family celebration in Philadelphia, and a gay-pride festival in Harrisburg. But he said they were included probably so that law enforcement could be alerted to events that might attract violent counterprotests. The circus, for instance, “has been a frequent target of animal rights protesters,” a February bulletin noted. But why the warning about the Coalition for Peace Action, which was to hold candlelight vigils across the region the day after the death of the 1,000th U.S. soldier in Afghanistan? Or the groups that were advocating for more education funding in the state, such as the Pennsylvania Citizens for Children and Youth, whose leader, Shelly Yanoff, is a former winner of the Philadelphia Award? Or the Good Schools Pennsylvania group, which was founded by Donna Cooper, Gov. Rendell’s chief policy adviser? MORE
RELATED: As CNET reports, some 73,000 blogs hosted by WordPress blogging platform Blogetery.com, were shut down last week by BurstNet , Blogetery’s web hosting company. According to CNET “nobody seems willing to say why or who is responsible.” What is known is that BurstNet informed Blogetery’s operator, via email, that the its service had been terminated “by request of law enforcement officials, due to material hosted on the server.” “Please note that this was not a typical case, in which suspension and notification would be the norm. This was a critical matter brought to our attention by law enforcement officials. We had to immediately remove the server,” BurstNet additionally told Blogetery (see quotes from the email exchange here). A BurstNet representative told TorrentFreak that additional information on the shutdown of the blogs cannot be provided. “Simply put: We cannot give him his data nor can we provide any other details. By stating this, most would recognize that something serious is afoot,” the representative reportedly said. MORE
RELATED: What really has some observers scratching their heads is that it’s unclear under what circumstance a law enforcement group could walk in and order an Internet host to boot a customer off the Web without any apparent warning or court order? None of this makes sense, according to one law enforcement official with experience in cybercrime investigations who wasn’t connected to the cases but wished to be anonymous because he is isn’t authorized to speak on the matter. He said that he didn’t know of any agency that had the authority to terminate service for thousands of people without essentially jumping through all kinds of legal hoops. Not even federal officials in child pornography investigations can immediately shut down hosting services. MORE
RELATED: On a sweltering January afternoon in 2008, Kelly Keagy — aging rock star, drummer for Night Ranger, the guy who belts MOTORINNN’ on that one power anthem from the ’80s — found himself in the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. He and his bandmates walked alongside a chain-link fence topped with rolls of razor wire. On the other side, a group of men in head-wraps and loose-fitting white clothes stood in a small yard paved in gravel. They were prisoners — men designated “unlawful combatants” by the Bush administration and held without charges or trial. The band’s handlers wanted them to move along. But the rockers stopped to look at the men on the other side of the fence. The men looked back. “We made eye contact,” Keagy recalled. It was shocking. Wow, he thought. This is a real thing. These people are real. Then he thought, “These guys probably hate us. They want to kill us. That’s why they’re in there. It was weird,” Keagy said. “It was a little tense.” Since 2002, more than 400 entertainers — rock bands, rappers, celebrity chefs and cheerleaders — have quietly visited Guantanamo Bay to perform for the troops stationed there. Nearly all of them have been treated to a tour of the base’s most notorious attraction: the prison. MORE