President Eisenhower famously warned about the 'military-industrial complex' in his farewell address in January 1961. Now, in the light of the NSA scandal, Time magazine adapts that label to what it calls the 'intelligence-industrial complex'.
The Edward Snowden-National Security Agency leak case raises anew the balance between means and ends that has been simmering on the back burner of the nation’s consciousness for a decade or so.
The terror attacks of 9/11 generated a predictable push to do everything to ensure such a thing would not happen again. When that’s the government’s mission, there can be only one outcome: cash, and lots of it.
It’s something tangible that the nation’s leaders can point to – “Look – we’ve created a Department of Homeland Security!” Perhaps some of it was even necessary.
. . .
The nation’s over-reaction to 9/11 has led to the widespread surveillance to which Snowden, and a fair share of Americans, object. That’s fine: let them work through the political system to change it.
But make no mistake: there will be a lot of opposition to paring back the post-9/11 security state not because of the threat, but because of the billions of dollars pouring into the intelligence-industrial complex every year.
There's more at the link.
This is a very real problem. For over a decade we've poured money into the intelligence establishment on the principle that 'we've got to do something to prevent another 9/11!'. Today it's burgeoned beyond all recognition. It's become a self-sustaining machine, bloated, unmanageable.
Unfortunately, the simple truth is that the government and its organs and agencies can't protect us 24/7/365 against all hazards. A terrorist will always find ways to sneak through our defenses, no matter how elaborate or sophisticated they may be. Consider, for example:
- The Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995;
- The London bombings of 2005;
- The Boston Marathon bombings of 2013;
- The murder of a British soldier in May 2013.
All these incidents took place in heavily patrolled cities, the latter three after 9/11 heightened security awareness all over the world. Security organs, authorities and sources could not prevent any of them. They will not be able to prevent all future attacks.
We need to trim back the 'security-industrial complex' to where it can be managed, and where its operations don't spread their tentacles into every aspect of our lives: but to do so, we'll have to accept the fact that government can't always protect us. The complex, on the other hand, will scream to the heavens that any cuts in its funding will expose us to precisely that risk - notwithstanding the fact that we aren't safe even with that level of expenditure.