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Effectiveness of US spy agencies questionable

world Updated: Jul 19, 2010 17:40 IST

The top secret world the US government created in response to the Sep 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has become so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine, according to the Washington Post.

The system 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 programmes exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work," the influential US daily said Monday after a two-year investigation.

"When hired, a typical analyst knows very little about the priority countries - Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan - and is not fluent in their languages," it said.

Still, the number of intelligence reports they produce on these key countries is overwhelming, the Post said citing current and former intelligence officials who try to cull them every day.

"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," the daily said in the first part of the report.

"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 defence - is a challenge," Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates was cited as saying in an interview with the Post last week.

The investigation's other findings include:

* Many security and intelligence agencies do the same work, creating redundancy and waste. For example, 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 US 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.

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

* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 11/2 times as many people as live in Washington, DC, hold top-secret security clearances.