Saturday, July 24, 2010

US college students now major in counter-terrorism

The other day I was traveling in an airport shuttle bus out of Reagan National in Washington DC when a fellow passenger (who I will call Nancy) inquired about how I liked my new ebook reader.  I was holding the small PocketBook 360.   A marriage of Taiwanese hardware and Russian software, the device is not outstanding in terms of its specifications; but I was nevertheless won over by how the Russians had successfully pushed the compact hardware to its limits.  For example, of the various ereaders devices I have examined, this was the only one of its size that could handle pdf documents to my satisfaction.

Nancy told me that she was a college senior majoring in "national security."  Having never heard of such a major, I asked her what that entailed.

"We study national security threats."

"That sounds like political science or international relations," I said.

"Not exactly -- it's more interdisciplinary. We learn how to write national security briefings."

Some fifty thousand intelligence reports are produced each year in the United States.   I knew this because -- as it happened -- on the plane I had been reading the third installment of a groundbreaking Washington Post investigation on "The Secret Government."  So many of the facts presented in the article were simply mind-boggling:
  • 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.
Having read the article, I realized that Nancy's employment prospects upon graduation were boundless.  But what might the future hold in store for her country and its supposedly democratic institutions?   It occurs to me that those who had programmed my little ereader -- the Russians -- ought to know.

1 comment:

  1. We've already surpassed the dystopian futures of Brave New World and 1984. Perpetual War is the keyword of the New Economy, and the so-called "Popular Media" long-ago embraced Doubleplus-Goodspeak. We can only look foreward to some amalgamation of Mad Max, RoboCop, and Terminator as an increasingly dysfunctional society breaks down and those with wealth and power try to maintain their privileged status.


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