Nothing new about this issue. We saw it coming over a decade ago, maybe longer. Dana Priest and William Arkin gave it substantial coverage in their front-page WaPo series, "Top Secret America," now a book. Paul Pillar has been talking and writing about it since 9/11. Eric Schmidt and Thom Shanker of the New York Times have been covering the searches for and campaigns against Al Qaeda, and they, too, have summarized their findings in "Counterstrike." In a review of their books, and of where our "secret American security state," has taken us, Steve Coll writes:
... After September 11, newspaper Op-Ed pages were full of recommendations for radical departures in American intelligence, changes that might place new emphasis on lean and adaptable operations. There was much talk of a long-term development of “human sources of information”; of the need for risk-taking and the bold penetration of what are known in the intelligence agencies as “denied areas,” such as Iran and North Korea. Some of that ambition has been fulfilled; it is difficult to measure how much, since so much of the detail of post–September 11 covert action and intelligence collection remains secret.
What is plain, nonetheless, is that the larger story of the American intelligence system is one of continuity. The bureaucracy has defended itself from outside investigation and oversight and has followed many of the trajectories set during the Eisenhower years. The relative strengths of tactical American intelligence tradecraft today include innovative technology, vacuum cleaner–like collection of electronic data worldwide, computer algorithms that sort valuable information from noise, and the bludgeoning effects on adversaries of huge if wasteful spending. These methods look very similar to those of the anti-Soviet intelligence system. The bureaucracy’s weaknesses—inefficiency, ignorance of local cultures, revolving doors, self-perpetuation, vulnerability to political pressure, and an overall lack of accountability—are deeply familiar, too. ...NYRB
Younger Americans can throw about the word "commie" without really knowing what they're talking about. Our right-leaning leaders have, for years, used the word to separate themselves from what was in fact a very authoritarian, not communistic, state, riddled with corruption and cover-up. But we're finding the cold warriors of the Republican party, at least, are hardly different from the methodical Soviet totalitarians their Cold War intelligence agencies were created to defeat. What was once a democracy is now governance in which the state is allowed to know everything about its citizens and in which the citizens are permitted to know less and less about their governance.
Eisenhower, of course, saw it coming. Thomas Powers notes that "the cold eye of history has altered its verdict on Eisenhower considerably in the last half-century, finding within the Sunday painter a man with a learned understanding, firmer than that of perhaps any other president, of the nature of the power wielded by nations—that thing, described by Thucydides, which explains why 'the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must.'” ...NYRB