(Ted Rall’s blog)
Gail Collins, at the NYTimes:
… Does the N.S.A. really need all the stuff it’s collecting? Ever since the attack on the World Trade Center, the agency has been exploding. It has an enormous operation outside of Washington, and it is building another million-square-foot complex in the Utah desert. It collects an estimated 1.7 billion pieces of communication a day.
“When you have the ability to get more and more data, the natural inclination is to get as much as possible,” said Representative Henry Waxman, the former chairman of the House oversight committee.
Those of us who have seen the show “Hoarders” know that more is not always better, and “as much as possible” is sometimes covering up a pile of dead cats. After all, the government didn’t fail to stop the attack on the World Trade Center because of a lack of data. It had lots of information about Al Qaeda and its plan to stage an attack on America. The problem was with follow-up.
And the N.S.A. has been known to go overboard. During the administration of George W. Bush, it decided to drop a modest in-house plan for data analysis in favor of a gargantuan program called Trailblazer, which funneled more than $1 billion to private consultants and turned out to have the additional liability of not working. The official who fought most vigorously against it was rewarded in 2010 by being charged with violating the Espionage Act when he released information to a reporter.
That was only one incident, but we do seem to have an ominous combination: an agency with a bad record on thriftiness, and practically everything it spends money on is secret. “It’s a tough balancing act,” an Obama administration official told me. “It’s incumbent on us and Congress to do the job of scrutinizing the budget, both in terms of cost and efficacy.”…
Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, what’s on the agenda for another Saturday night?