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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Jul 28, 2010

An investigation by the Washington Post has confirmed what many Americans probably suspected, that the U.S. intelligence community has grown by leaps and bounds since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

More than 1,200 agencies at all levels of government, combined with more than 1,900 companies, are involved in intelligence and homeland security work, the Post found. More than 850,000 people have top-secret government security clearances.

As the newspaper pointed out, there is no way of knowing precisely how much all this is costing taxpayers. Many intelligence agency budgets are top-secret. Some spying operations are funded covertly through agencies ostensibly not involved in defense.

What Americans – and our elected representatives and senators in Congress – should be asking is not how much the effort is costing and how expansive it has become but, rather, how effective intelligence and security programs are.

An enormous duplication of efforts is involved, of course. That was a problem before 9/11 but it appears to have grown. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Post an evaluation of just what is being done is necessary. He explained, “it makes sense to sort of take a look at this and say, ‘OK, we’ve built tremendous capability, but do we have more than we need?'”

Gates is right. Again, however, a more basic question is whether the proliferation and duplication of efforts has been productive – or, worse than wasteful, tending to create a false sense of security such as that before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The bottom line is whether we can “connect the dots” better now. Members of Congress should be asking that question, and demanding answers.