“Top Secret America” meets “Snoozepac”

The Washington Post is publishing a very important investigative series called “Top Secret America”, exploring the explosion of secret government programs in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks:

The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.

Some of the findings of their investigation include:

* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.

* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings – about 17 million square feet of space.

* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks.

* Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year – a volume so large that many are routinely ignored.

Something that should be of interest to people concerned about Hawai’i and the Pacific region is that the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) is listed as having the “most activity” related to the various top secret programs covered by the investigation.  Check out the interactive graphics and maps.

PACOM has 6 top secret work locations and 27 contracting clients.  It conducts twenty-two out of twenty-three types of top secret work:

* Management consulting and administration

* Air and satellite operations

* Border control

* Counter-drug operations

* Counter-IED explosives operations

* Counterintelligence

* Cyber operations

* Disaster preparedness

* Facilities and Infrastructure

* Ground force operations

* Human intelligence

* Information technology

* Intelligence analysis

* Law enforcement

* Naval operations

* Nuclear operations

* Staffing and personnel

* Psychological operations

* Building and personal security

* Specialized military operations

* Technical intelligence

* Training

In contrast to the menacing profile of the military’s secret operations in Hawai’i painted by the Washington Post article, a former public affairs representative for the Marine Corps described the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises as “snoozepac” and the “world’s largest floating cocktail party” in a private blog.  The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported:

On July 8 , DiNicolo wrote on her blog that despite its size, locale and agenda, “these (RIMPAC) games seem anything but exciting. Take away the French, and really, what’s left?”

“Snoozepac is 38 days of too many visitors gorging themselves on foreign and U.S. naval delicacies,” DiNicolo wrote. “Air assets become personal taxis transporting their fares from vessel to vessel. (Maybe that’s how it got its rep as the world’s largest floating cocktail party).”

DiNicolo insists the “cocktail party” reference was to social gatherings and not drinking, but RIMPAC officials found themselves explaining in-port social events aboard participating nation’s ships that did involve alcohol, including “Singapore Slings” being served up by that nation’s navy.

The old WWII slogan “Loose lips sink ships” could be rephrased “Loose lips sink careers”.  I guess some secrets are never meant to see the light of day.

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