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Today’s Washington Post features the latest installment in its epic “Top Secret America” series. Like many readers I am on the fence about this series, starting with the fact that it isn’t called “Police State America” or “Secret Police America” or something along those slightly more descriptive, meaning-possessing lines, but as you may remember its co-author William Arkin has alreadycaused enough trouble for the newspaper over his use of meaningful words. (Remember the firestorm three years ago over the Greenpeace zealot who accused America of having “mercenary” forces fighting its wars? That was Arkin, who was obviously just jealousTM since he served in the Army before you could make six figures doing that for Xe Worldwide.TM)
Anyway, the semi-crappy title seems to point to a larger on the fence-ness among the Post’s editors about whether “Top Secret America” is mainly a series about how scary and Orwellian America’s sprawling post-9/11 intelligence apparatus has become, a story about how comically bloated and inefficient it has become, or just an opportunity to use a gazillion bullet points and color-coded graphs. So while today’s piece features a few interesting “takeaways”—for instance: when in Memphis, do not drive a car; there is definitely a lot of $$ being made by “private security contractors” who teach beat cops how to be “terrorism intelligence agents” and someone should obviously start a charter school for that—I mostly upon finishing thought, “crap, both the size of government and the newspaper stories about it could use a lot more shrinking!”
Rereading some of the paragraphs in which the Obama Administration justified the size of this domestic intelligence behemoth, however, I realized this was the wrong reaction:
The need to identify U.S.-born or naturalized citizens who are planning violent attacks is more urgent than ever, U.S. intelligence officials say. This month’s FBI sting operation involving a Baltimore construction worker who allegedly planned to bomb a Maryland military recruiting station is the latest example. It followed a similar arrest of a Somali-born naturalized U.S. citizen allegedly seeking to detonate a bomb near a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore. There have been nearly two dozen other cases just this year.
Wait a sec, is it just okay now to just leave it at that, without the obligatory mention of how all those alleged terror plots were “masterminded” by FBI agents and networks of paid “informants” for whom “bravely averting a deadly terror attack” has become a fun game of “let’s ruin the life of some misguided barely-literate kid on Facebook”? Yes, apparently it is now, because there does not seem to be any mention of the “entrapment” controversy here or in the associated online Q&A or “Top Secret America” blog. Maybe that’s another banned word for the Post‘s controversial chroniclers of Top Secret America? Or maybe the inevitable casualty of a story so big and bureaucracy-laden that it commands more text than any editor can ever manage to read…