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News Link • Intelligence: Use and Abuse

For Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone, a Terror Topping

• Ray McGovern

A recent exposé in the Washington Post shows that if you have a security clearance and are comfortable being part of a lucrative “self-licking ice cream cone” – a process that offers few if any benefits while perpetuating its own existence – then the “war on terror” is definitely for you!

The conclusion that the Long War against Islamic militants abroad can be enriching for a host of “counter-terror” contractors at home leaps out of the Post’s “Top Secret America,” a comprehensive three-part series by Dana Priest and William M. Arkin on July 19, 20 and 21.

The series presents a graphic account of how lawmakers afraid to be seen as laggards in the “war on terror” threw billions of dollars willy-nilly at a profusion of intelligence and security contractors after 9/11.

The U.S. intelligence budget grew like Topsey to a publicly announced $75 billion last year — two and a half times its $30 billion figure on Sept. 10, 2001. Even so, the $75 billion figure doesn’t include the cost of many military and domestic counterterrorism programs.

You don’t have to be an economist to marvel at – and bemoan – the “opportunity costs” of such an investment, at a time when so many Americans are losing jobs, homes and dreams for retirement.

The Post shows clearly that the post-9/11 environment has been a boon for defense and intelligence contractors who fattened up at the government feeding trough before trying to show their worth in the mission of “defeating transnational violent extremists,” like al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and others too many to mention.

And the feeding trough won’t disappear anytime soon, if ever. We are told that this “war” will not end like World War II with a surrender ceremony on the battleship Missouri; indeed, it will be impossible to tell when (or if) it is over – since the “war” is so vaguely defined as to guarantee its continuation in perpetuity as long as there are some angry Islamists out there, enflamed over all the people the U.S. government has been killing.

With the Afghan War alone, corporate strategic planning can count on the budget as reasonably secure for at least four more years in view of the low-key announcement this week of a withdrawal target date sliding to 2014, though even that was caveated with the familiar adjective “conditions-based.”

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