Top Secret America: A hidden world, growing beyond control

Washington Post

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.

 These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine. 

The investigation’s other findings 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.

These are not academic issues; lack of focus, not lack of resources, was at the heart of the Fort Hood shooting that left 13 dead, as well as the Christmas Day bomb attempt thwarted not by the thousands of analysts employed to find lone terrorists but by an alert airline passenger who saw smoke coming from his seatmate.

They are also issues that greatly concern some of the people in charge of the nation’s security.

“There has been so much growth since 9/11 that getting your arms around that – not just for the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], but for any individual, for the director of the CIA, for the secretary of defense – is a challenge,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in an interview with The Post last week.

In the Department of Defense, where more than two-thirds of the intelligence programs reside, only a handful of senior officials – called Super Users – have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation’s most sensitive work.

“I’m not going to live long enough to be briefed on everything” was how one Super User put it. The other recounted that for his initial briefing, he was escorted into a tiny, dark room, seated at a small table and told he couldn’t take notes. Program after program began flashing on a screen, he said, until he yelled ”Stop!” in frustration.

“I wasn’t remembering any of it,” he said.

Underscoring the seriousness of these issues are the conclusions of retired Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, who was asked last year to review the method for tracking the Defense Department’s most sensitive programs. Vines, who once commanded 145,000 troops in Iraq and is familiar with complex problems, was stunned by what he discovered.  Read the complete details…

NASA: Solar flares from ‘huge space storm’ will cause devastation

Telegraph

Britain could face widespread power blackouts and be left without critical communication signals for long periods of time, after the earth is hit by a once-in-a-generation “space storm”, Nasa has warned.

National power grids could overheat and air travel severely disrupted while electronic items, navigation devices and major satellites could stop working.

National power grids could overheat and air travel severely disrupted while electronic items, navigation devices and major satellites could stop working after the Sun reaches its maximum power in a few years.

Senior space agency scientists believe the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes “from a deep slumber” sometime around 2013, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

In a new warning, Nasa said the super storm would hit like “a bolt of lightning” and could cause catastrophic consequences for the world’s health, emergency services and national security unless precautions are taken.

Scientists believe it could damage everything from emergency services’ systems, hospital equipment, banking systems and air traffic control devices, through to “everyday” items such as home computers, iPods and Sat Navs.

Due to humans’ heavy reliance on electronic devices, which are sensitive to magnetic energy, the storm could leave a multi-billion pound damage bill and “potentially devastating” problems for governments.

“We know it is coming but we don’t know how bad it is going to be,” Dr Richard Fisher, the director of Nasa’s Heliophysics division, said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

“It will disrupt communication devices such as satellites and car navigations, air travel, the banking system, our computers, everything that is electronic. It will cause major problems for the world.

“Large areas will be without electricity power and to repair that damage will be hard as that takes time.”

Dr Fisher added: “Systems will just not work. The flares change the magnetic field on the earth that is rapid and like a lightning bolt. That is the solar affect.”

A “space weather” conference in Washington DC last week, attended by Nasa scientists, policy-makers, researchers and government officials, was told of similar warnings.

While scientists have previously told of the dangers of the storm, Dr Fisher’s comments are the most comprehensive warnings from Nasa to date.

Dr Fisher, 69, said the storm, which will cause the Sun to reach temperatures of more than 10,000 F (5500C), occurred only a few times over a person’s life.

Every 22 years the Sun’s magnetic energy cycle peaks while the number of sun spots – or flares – hits a maximum level every 11 years.

Dr Fisher, a Nasa scientist for 20 years, said these two events would combine in 2013 to produce huge levels of radiation.

He said large swathes of the world could face being without power for several months, although he admitted that was unlikely.

A more likely scenario was that large areas, including northern Europe and Britain which have “fragile” power grids, would be without power and access to electronic devices for hours, possibly even days.

He said preparations were similar to those in a hurricane season, where authorities knew a problem was imminent but did not know how serious it would be.

“I think the issue is now that modern society is so dependent on electronics, mobile phones and satellites, much more so than the last time this occurred,” he said.

“There is a severe economic impact from this. We take it very seriously. The economic impact could be like a large, major hurricane or storm.”

The National Academy of Sciences warned two years ago that power grids, GPS navigation, air travel, financial services and emergency radio communications could “all be knocked out by intense solar activity”.

It warned a powerful solar storm could cause “twenty times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina”. That storm devastated New Orleans in 2005 and left an estimated damage bill of more than $125bn (£85bn).

Dr Fisher said precautions could be taken including creating back up systems for hospitals and power grids and allow development on satellite “safe modes”.

“If you know that a hazard is coming … and you have time enough to prepare and take precautions, then you can avoid trouble,” he added.

His division, a department of the Science Mission Directorate at Nasa headquarters in Washington DC, which investigates the Sun’s influence on the earth, uses dozens of satellites to study the threat.

The government has said it was aware of the threat and “contingency plans were in place” to cope with the fall out from such a storm.

These included allowing for certain transformers at the edge of the National Grid to be temporarily switched off and to improve voltage levels throughout the network.

The National Risk Register, established in 2008 to identify different dangers to Britain, also has “comprehensive” plans on how to handle a complete outage of electricity supplies.

Watch Dr. Richard Fisher’s explanation here.

BP’s Top Kill Procedure fails as Coast Guard Blocks Media Access

Natural News

BP officials have announced today that the “top kill” effort to stop the Gulf oil leak has failed. Unanticipated problems doomed the project, which involved trying to pump tens of thousands of gallons of mud, shredded rubber tires and other “junk” into the hole to try to halt the outflow of oil.

At 6pm Saturday evening, BP officials announced the “top kill” effort had failed and now they were moving on to another plan (more below).

I am on site at the Gulf Coast right now, and while I haven’t reached the areas where oil is washing up on the beaches, I’m learning some interesting information nonetheless. In particular, finding a hotel room anywhere near New Orleans has become virtually impossible, as BP has rented out virtually every available hotel room from St. Charles, Louisiana all the way to Pensacola, Florida. (I am currently staying in a fleabag hotel that miraculously has internet access…)

But it raises the question: Where are all these people? I haven’t seen a single BP person anywhere, and I was out on some beaches today filming editorial segments for NaturalNews. I did see some small watercraft laying out protective barriers, but I didn’t see any BP people anywhere.

I’ll keep you posted on what we find tomorrow as we approach the beaches to the East of New Orleans.

Expect more oil for the next 10 weeks

Now that the top kill effort has failed, it means oil will keep spewing into the Gulf of Mexico until at least August. That’s when two “pressure release” wells are expected to be completed. The purpose of these two wells is to siphon off the oil from underneath the ocean bed, thereby releasing the pressure that’s currently pushing crude oil out of the existing hole under the doomed Deepwater Horizon rig.

This “plan C” effort remains extremely risky, of course. There’s no guarantee it will work at all. And if it fails, this “volcano of oil” could continue to pollute the Earth’s oceans for years. This could, in fact, be the global killer event I warned about in an earlier story about this BP oil spill. (http://www.naturalnews.com/028805_G…)

We could be looking at a global-scale environmental catastrophe that destroys virtually all marine life in the Gulf of Mexico and takes a century to fully recover. It’s really that bad. If they can’t stop this volcano of oil in the next week, we could be looking at the single most destructive environmental catastrophe ever to strike our planet since the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.

Get ready for more chemicals

In the mean time, now that the top kill effort has failed, BP has announced it is resuming the spraying of chemical dispersants into the massive oil plumes that remain deep under the surface of the Gulf of Mexico water. This means more chemicals that will kill more forms of marine life throughout the Gulf.

But it’s not just aquatic life that’s being threatened by these chemicals: BP workers are increasingly being sent to the hospital complaining of symptoms like vomiting, dizziness, difficult breathing and others. The obvious cause of such symptoms is the huge amount of crude oil bubbling up to the surface (some of which evaporates into the air) along with the massive injection of chemical dispersants into the waters (some of which also evaporates). CNN is reporting that BP claims it is monitoring air quality, but so far BP has not gone public with any air quality test results.

None of the cleanup workers have been outfitted with chemical masks that might protect them from the volatile chemicals now present in the Gulf waters. Yet CNN is reporting that the warning label on the chemical product made by NALCO states: “Avoid breathing vapor.”

The EPA, meanwhile, remains silent on this whole issue. Remember: It is the EPA that ordered BP to stop using its selected brand of chemical dispersant, but BP utterly ignored the EPA and continues to dump that very same chemical into the Gulf of Mexico right now.

A chemical attack on America

What we are watching here, folks, is very nearly a chemical attack on America by BP and the oil industry. It’s hard to say what’s worse: The oil or the chemical dispersants. In fact, no one knows the answer to that question, and it can’t even be studied by scientists because the disaster keeps growing by the day.

This is one environmental catastrophe that just keeps getting worse, and the cost to the marine ecosystem is incalculable. And that’s not to even mention the economic cost to the region and all the people who depend on life in the Gulf of Mexico for their own livelihoods. Their lives are now being destroyed by this oil drilling catastrophe.

If there’s one lesson that comes from all this, it is a reminder of the immense value Mother Nature provides us each and every day at no charge. The VALUE of a healthy ocean is incalculable. And the COST of killing it may be more than what human civilization can bear.

I suppose this resolves the whole question of what’s more important: The environment or the economy? As we’re rudely discovering today, the economy cannot exist without protecting the environment first.