Expensive, ineffective,* dangerous… unaccountable?

If you’ve been watching or reading news the past few days, you know that Iraq is falling apart at what Spaceballs would refer to as “ludicrous speed.”  This has left a lot of people scratching their heads, wondering where all this renewed insurgency potential came from.  And it led the journal Foreign Policy to ask a darn good question:

First Crimea, now Iraq.  Why does America’s $50 billion intelligence community keep getting taken by surprise?”

Let’s be fair up front: the world is a very complex place.  No agency, regardless of funding or complete freedom of action, will have omniscience on future developments.  But the journal could have added a few more examples to their headline:  the fall of the Soviet Union.  9/11.  For all it seems we’re intent on meddling in every part of the world, we sure don’t seem to have a good system for staying abreast of the tea leaves.

And let’s be honest: the exasperation in the above question has more to do with recent revelations of questionable information gathering by the U.S. government than it does with the price tag (although that’s not chump change, either).  To rephrase it: “you mean you collect everybody’s cell phone metadata, intercept computers and install back doors, generally ignore the spirit of the 4th Amendment, and you STILL don’t see this stuff coming?”

I have to admit a certain agreement with Vox on this subject (to whom I owe a hat tip, having first read this article via his blog).  Our intelligence community is far too involved with domestic law enforcement, and has blurred the lines between being an external watchdog and an internal busybody/Big Brother.  Indeed, it has become very effective in that latter area (hence the asterisk in the post title).  For all the talk of ‘fusion centers’ and one hand knowing what the other is doing after 9/11, the effect has been to increase government power at home, not vision abroad.

Is that really what we want?  If not, what will it take to reign it in?

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