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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15044/why-this-gigantic-intelligence-apparatus/

Why This Gigantic “Intelligence” Apparatus?

December 17, 2010 by

Why would these hundreds of organizations and contracting companies be willing to take gigantic amounts of the taxpayers’ money when everyone agrees that the money cannot be spent sensibly and that the system already in place cannot function effectively or efficiently to attain its ostensible purpose? FULL ARTICLE by Robert Higgs


John P. Cunnane December 17, 2010 at 9:53 am

I have some unfortunate anecdotal experience with this. I knew a federal employee that transferred to Homeland Security in 2005. One day I asked him how it was going, protecting us from those that wish us dead. He went on a 10 minute diatribe about the then current administration having funded a branch in a moderately sized city in the southeastern united states without providing any mission. He had been there over a year, they would go in, read the newspaper, shuffle papers and leave, usually early. He wasn’t a lazy person (by government worker standards), he actually claimed to want to do something at work, anything really. They just literally had jobs with no purpose. I don’t know how much longer that went on or how pervasive it was but I could venture a guess.

Dave Albin December 17, 2010 at 10:19 am

The nature of too many government positions – people who actually want to do something, but have nothing or little to do.

ET December 17, 2010 at 1:55 pm

This is nothing new to homeland security. When I worked at a Nasa lab in the 80′s we had a somewhat realistic project for the military, a war game training simulation. First it grew to 80 people and even had a few successes. So, then in the door waltzes this hot shot Colonel with a ton of money. He wants to build an airline reservation system for military transports, the big ones.

The next thing you knew another 100 people were hired. The two projects were merged and nobody knew just which project they were really working on. Since most of the people didn’t understand the new project, every worker had sitting beside them a few consultants to help them do their task. They even hired consultants from the computer company they were buying their gear from to advise them what to buy. Naturally that consultant had them buy every thing their company sold.

Then came the political fighting. Some wanted to use one programming language that nobody knew at that time (ADA) because, as I was told when I asked, “Do you know how much they’re paying ADA programmers out there”. Screw the project, let’s get something new on our resume.

Eventually they created some mess that cost nearly a billion dollars which could probably have been bought off the shelf from some commercial airline for a few million at most.

That Colonel went on to become a General and the system was taken over by the computer company selling all the gear, who completely rewrote the whole system from scratch with a handful of people calling it a maintenance release.

And that was just one case that I was personally familiar with. There’s probably another million stories like that one floating around.

Gil December 17, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Thus it can be proved men never landed on the Moon?

J. Murray December 17, 2010 at 10:13 am

$75 billion a year and the two biggest terror attempts in the last 10 years were stopped by a passanger in an aircraft and a hot dog vendor. What an investment.

Enjoy Every Sandwich December 17, 2010 at 10:51 am

One thing that would definitely cause a higher rate of “terrorist” incidents: if Congress were to talk about–just talk about mind you, not do–cutting the budgets of this antheap of agencies*. The agencies would all scramble about trying to “prove” that they’re desperately needed or else the Mooslims will all git us. Every moron in the country would have a gaggle of feds trying to talk him into blowing something up.

*Yeah, I know; the odds of Congress doing anything of the sort are on the far side of astronomical. But a guy can dream.

bogi666 December 18, 2010 at 7:11 am

If they aren’t already, these agencies will create terrists threat or acts to continue their existence which is for the purpose of graft and corruption.

Deefburger December 17, 2010 at 10:56 am

I don’t know if any of you have noticed, but in this day and age of central banking, it is not possible for there to be no one who knows where the money goes. They may loose track of the paperwork, but somebody at the central bank knows where the money used is going and, at the very least, what account it came from and for what amount. If they didn’t know or cannot know, what is the central bank doing?

Even the cash we use is serialized and traceable. There is no transaction of funds of any significant degree that the central bank is unaware of. So the question before you is this: Who wrote the checks and what banking institution processed them, and on what account?

Somebody is spending a great deal of money. Somebody at the bank knows, they have to.

Kavius December 17, 2010 at 11:51 am

Analysts … publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year — a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

This is a classic problem; we see this with email. Most people, in my office, receive so much email in a day, that they only read a small portion of them. To be fair, only a small portion are relevant, but acurately seperating the useless from the useful is time consuming. People end up skimming emails and incorrectly ignoring relevant ones. People also assume that because they cc’ed you on a giant 22 page conversation email, you are informed: obviously that is not true.

If the volume of reports coming out of the intelligance agencies is too large for their audience to consume, they may as well not be doing anything. I have often said: creating documentation, just for the sake of saying you created documenation, is the same as throwing your documentation in the landfill; both mechanisms are using the same indexing system. Basically, these positions are as productive as paying someone to dig holes, and then refill them…

Wait a minute…

The New “New Deal”?

bogi666 December 18, 2010 at 7:19 am

at least the new deal made sense, at least they were moving dirt around, possibly creating a road, a park or a dam. moving around paper to create imagined fears for the purpose to KEEP FEAR ALIVE to justify their existence and for the purpose of gaining graft and corruption from tax monies makes the New Deal be a bargain and much more useful. Demeaning it because it involved manual labor is just ignorance.

Joe December 18, 2010 at 4:21 pm

He wasn’t responding to the “manual labor” but the waste of money and time. The graft and waste of taxpayer money was rampant during the “new deal.” The sorry thing about is was the tax system was regressive and not progressive. The poor and middle class contributed most to the treasury. The reason for this was the form of taxation that was used. The Excise tax was the tax in favor. Most excise taxes directly penalized the poor since they used most of the products consumed that had excise taxes. Look up the total dollars collected from Income tax, excise tax, corporate tax and see who paid for the New Deal.

EnEm December 17, 2010 at 12:01 pm

“Virtually everyone the reporters consulted told them in effect that “the Bush administration and Congress gave agencies more money than they were capable of responsibly spending.”"

The Bush administration was made up of buffoons and the king buffoon was rumored to be a brain donor. I bet congressmen of every hue were among the looters and rabid plunderers. Consider the benefits America would have reaped if the $75 billion could have been spent in figuring out exactly why these “terrorists” hated our country and why they were trying to blow it up. But it takes people with intelligence to ponder and think. On the other hand, brain donors need excuses so they give themselves to wild imaginings of WMDs at every street corner and their daddies being threatened and then resurrect our God-given right to defend the existence of a tiny little State that is being propped up by our money and an over zealous lobby.

And then we get absurd instances of the equally mindless carrying bombs in their underwear while we avoid the root cause.

W Jones December 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm

The reality is that no federal administration can be seen as soft of terrorism and certainly cannot stand any serious attack on US soil. So we get into this “do everything possible” even if it’s ineffective or simply the wrong thing. Politics!

geoih December 17, 2010 at 12:38 pm

Makes it easy to understand how a place like WikiLeaks can end up with a half million pages of “secret” documents without anybody detecting it.

Deefburger December 17, 2010 at 12:55 pm

All of these anecdotal comments and jokes all y’all are making (myself included) are really, at their core, very good illustrations of the knowledge problem posed by Mises. It’s true that the government, as it expands, becomes less and less in touch with itself as well as the general reality. I would venture that it also becomes paranoid and delusional on the whole, as it’s means of power and it’s “reasons” for exercising that power become more and more disconnected from reality. The power is based upon a belief in effectiveness and ability. The ends are based upon whatever power exists to wield. (The power of a knife requires something to cut, the power of a gun requires something to shoot, etc.)

So we see a vast and powerful DHS with a need to do something, anything, to prove the existence of the belief in the power as well as justify the attainment of the power believed to have been attained. If everyone simply stops believing in the power, the power disappears. So it is only natural that power will find a reason to continue the belief in itself. Anything will do, so long as it provides an excuse for power…Even if it means destroying the very nation it is supposed to be protecting. Sort of like Munchausen’s on a grand scale!

Frank J Schonfeld December 17, 2010 at 6:01 pm

More talk talk obvious gets us NOTHING!
Must we all watch as our “goverment” obviously is helpless . No-one stepped up to challange the “president” when he led the charge to loot the goverments “our” money! FJS

Curt Howland December 17, 2010 at 9:54 pm

My opinion as to “why such a huge intelligence apparatus”, is that someone has J. Edgar Hoover’s files. Metaphorically, or literally.

You know what Wikileaks got on Hillary “steal their credit card numbers!”? Who is kidding who that this is the only “embarrassing” information on politicians that has been collected and stored by the NSA and/or CIA?

David December 17, 2010 at 11:01 pm

“The most plausible reason why so few attacks or attempted attacks have occurred is that very few persons have been trying to carry them out. (I refer to genuine attempts, not to the phony-baloney schemes planted in the minds of simpletons by government undercover agents and then trumpeted to the heavens when the FBI “captures” the unfortunate victims of the government’s entrapment.)”

“We can, though, endure some losses from terrorism in the same way that we routinely endure some losses from accidents, diseases, and ordinary crime” (!)

And its because of statements like these that the Mises Institute (or Rothbard-Anarchist Institute? I cant tell anymore) should be re-branded as the incredible Institute of Dhimmitudes (or CAIR the II), so that new-comers can get the idea right away.

Enjoy Every Sandwich December 18, 2010 at 11:29 am

What is so odd about observing that few genuine attacks have occurred? Is the truth really so scary?

Dagnytg December 18, 2010 at 3:14 pm


We have spoken before on the Muslim issue. (I am assuming you’re the same David).

Even if I step over into your corner and see the world through your eyes, I still have to question the $75 billion price tag for security and its lack of efficient use. That is the essence of the article.

The quotes you site are nothing more than supporting details. They allude to probabilities and outcomes. Simply put, they are pointing out the obvious.

But to take the point further…

By declaring a war on terrorism, we did nothing more than legitimize a cause (a cause that was ignored or unknown to most people), give credence to an organization (though I question if any real organization exists) and spread fear throughout the population.

In many ways, I have to admire their praxeological understanding of the United States. With very little effort, they have forced Americans to be stripped searched and spied upon. They have instituted fear and suspicion among the population. They no longer have to commit resources to terrorist acts because our government now creates those acts for them.

David, it should give you pause that a small group, from the backwaters of the third world, understands your psyche so well.

Iain December 18, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I sympathize with what you’re saying, but the reality is that there were thousands of terrorist attacks before 9/11 and many afterwards. These attacks have not taken place in our country thankfully but they do exist in many places throughout the world. Not to mention persecution of Christians.

Autolykos December 19, 2010 at 1:20 pm

So you agree with the dictum of the US national-security state that national security equals global security? Why not explicitly support the idea that the US should police the world (and thus de facto rule it)?

David December 19, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Um ok, this blog seems to be deleting my posts, in any case Lain makes a good point. Ignoring the crazy claim that Mohamed Mohamud isnt a “real” terrorist and actually an “unfortunate victim of the government’s entrapment”(!!), here is the “small” list of fatal muslim terrorist attacks since 9/11:


So maybe the author should think twice before downplaying the jihadi threat to the absurdity of naiveness. Any sensitive person understands that the global jihad is a serious danger to the world and to the US. Does Robert really expect us to threat this enormous list of deaths and bodies just the same way we deal with “accidents and diseases”(!) ?

The only real point that could be made here is the one of economic efficiency and waste. Want to say that the money is too much and poorly spent? Fine. Want to say that we should just privatize the whole thing? Fine, you’ll get my support on all of this. But don’t come here pretending to be serious and saying that the jihadi threat is some sort of straw man.

David December 21, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Ok third time I post this, the mises blog apparently enjoys deleting my posts because of its inconvenient links to the list of terrorist attacks.
In any case Lain makes a good point. Ignoring here the crazy claim that Mohamed Mohamud isnt a “real” terrorist and actually an “unfortunate victim of the government’s entrapment”(!), the author must know that fatal muslim terrorist attacks happened by the thousands worldwide, over 16 thousand since 9/11 to be more exact. We’re talking here of around 80.000 (yes eighty thousand) deaths and bodies since 9/11 because of muslim jihadi attacks. And the 3 thousand corpses on ground zero shows us that even ONE attack can be one too many.

So maybe he should think twice before downplaying the jihadi threat to the absurdity of naiveness. Any sensitive person understands that the global jihad is a serious danger to the world and to the US. Does Robert really expect us to threat this enormous list of deaths and bodies just the same way we deal with “accidents and diseases”(!) ?

The real point that could be made here is the one of economic efficiency and waste. Want to say that the money is too much and poorly spent? Fine. Want to say that we should just privatize the whole thing? Fine, you’ll get my support on all of this. But don’t come here pretending to be serious and saying that the jihadi threat is some sort of straw man.

Jeffrey December 21, 2010 at 9:32 pm

wow that must be some smart software!

Autolykos December 19, 2010 at 1:21 pm

David, perhaps you’d like to, you know, present some actual reasoning instead of smear attacks.

elgecko84 December 20, 2010 at 12:17 am

You added an exclamation mark on the second quote, which I’m assuming means you found it particularly offensive. This is interesting to me, because if I am correct, it means you believe we should do everything possible to avoid terrorist attacks. That sounds good, right? Except for when it means we will be strip-searching and crotch groping anyone interested in flying. Except for when it means the government grants itself control of the internet. Except for when it means McCain can introduce a bill eliminating writ of habeus corpus for anyone the president deems “dangerous”. I’m sure we can get to the point where our government knows exactly what every person is doing, and exactly who is entering our country. Personally, however, I would rather enjoy my freedoms and brave the horrible odds that I will be a victim of a terrorist attack. If we stopped invading so many countries those odds would be even worse than they already are…

David December 21, 2010 at 2:04 pm

“strip-searching and crotch groping anyone interested in flying” not really, this policy of considering everyone an equal threat of committing jihadists attacks is absurd. We simply need to follow Israel sane example and start profiling. But that would mean to imply that a 20 year old Somali muslim is more likely to commit a jihadist attack than a 60 year old nun in a wheel chair, and that’s just too “islamophobic” to accept apparently.

In any case, there are always those that will take this great threat we face and try to use it to expand permanently government power, they cant let “a good crisis go to waste” after all. This is a legitimate debate that we should be having. What we cant do is put our heads in the sand, go to the easy answer that jihad is a straw man, and pretend there’s nothing to worry about and its all just some neocon fear mongering. The author needs to acknowledge the seriousness of the threat we face.

alex karas December 18, 2010 at 3:38 am

I am 100% agreed with this comment. I am European living in Asia and I can see many Europeans Americans Australians in Thailand Malaysia Indonesia having a holly days. I am sure if there are many terrorist as alleged it would be easy to travel to Asia and harm those people.But it is not happening.
So it is a good excuse to spend a lot of money to security of the people or gain the political point to do so. When in fact there is not many terrorist attacks.
And in airports seen even a young boy (on you tube)been searched he is obviously not happy about been naked front of the strangers.
Look for a clue,deal with a reason hear why they want to attack,Osama said live holly land go home,others say be fair with the Middle East policy,do not support Israel unconditionally,stop invading Muslim lands. Thats what they say,thats why they are becoming terrorist so its very simple actually to solve the problem.

bogi666 December 18, 2010 at 7:28 am

The problem with your comments is that they are coherently put and would solve the problem. The USG doesn’t want solutions, it wants terrist’s and if their are not enough they will create them or concoct incidents of imagined terrist threats for the purpose of increasing budgets for the purpose of graft and corruption which is the real purpose of the DHS.

John P. Cunnane December 18, 2010 at 9:00 am

What a leap to portray a fearful strategy as courageous! Are we more subservient to terrorists if we foresake our liberty by creating massive government intelligence agencies to monitor our telephone conversations and to detain us indefinitely at airports or if we adhere to our principles of self reliance? The fact of the matter is that we do make calculated risks that put us in some degree of peril everyday. The statement you take issue with is an obvious one.

It is true the Mises Institute is pretty Rothbardian at present but minarchists are well represented and they still sell Hayek tee shirts.

Oh-Noes December 18, 2010 at 2:45 pm

It’s a racket, and just like every other facet of government, can be politicized and abused. Conservatives just can’t seem to grasp that government monopolized security can be distorted and abused just like everything else it does, regardless of the “Bad Guy”, and the (Non-Negotiable) Constitutional Authority that is taken the nth degree, that gets a pass. Mainly because of the notion of brave soldiers fighting for freedom, but who are they ultimately fighting for, i.e. “whose interests”.

Well at this point you might want to objectively look at the whole enchilada.

Rupert Murdoch December 20, 2010 at 9:47 am

The fear and paranoia thus created becomes a drum beat. A product of a massive right wing conspiracy. Which drowns out any sensible middle from US politics. Those who think that this is all about corruption haven’t been watching FOX news. This is the kind of “Big Lie” operation that Himmler would be proud. This is not about the government losing track of reality – this is about creating a new reality – as Rove so eloquently put it – we create reality and you report on it. The Tea Party has been hi-jacked. Palin is on deck for the a White House run. Cheney is waiting in the wings. PNAC is back in business. Job well done.

Dodgy Geezer May 14, 2011 at 7:31 am

The intelligence services know exactly what they are doing. They are setting us up for a long, unwinnable war. My own experience is in the UK side, but the intelligence services on both sides of the Atlantic are closely connected, and have similar aims.

Do you remember the short spring after the Berlin Wall came down, when everyone was talking about the ‘Peace Dividend’? Especially the Treasury? Well, the UK Cabinet Office Security Division was in uproar at that point. The Intelligence Services had become a quiet little exclusive gentleman’s club by this time, with a guaranteed budget and no oversight of what little they did. Now, at one fell swoop, they had lost their reason for existence. In the UK you would have seen short leaked paragraphs in the papers as they tried to muscle in on the ‘drugs war’ and ‘organised crime’, and the Police/Home Office and HM Customs & Excise (as was) fought back? The intelligence services on both sides of the Pond were frantic for a job, and when the Twin Towers went down they seized the opportunity with both hands.

The whole Middle East fiasco has been handled exactly as if a powerful military/industrial body, prompted by a small but influential group attached to the highest levels of government, wanted to maintain a continual threat to the West of a similar size to that which we lost when the Eastern Bloc threat went away. You may think that that was intentional, but I couldn’t possibly comment…

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