At Local Level, Secrecy Industry Puts a Damper on Neighborliness

In an op-ed for the Baltimore Sun, Focal Pointers Bonnie Bricker and Adil Shamoo wrote about the Dana Priest and William Arkin’s Washington Post series on the exponential growth of the U.S. intelligence industry. They approached it from a perspective with which you may not be familiar, especially if there’s no intelligence complex near you (though that would be fewer and fewer of us, it seems).

“Marylanders in Odenton, Annapolis, Frederick and our home town of Columbia had their suspicions answered last week when The Washington Post published a three-part series about our unchecked, out-of-control expansion of the defense and intelligence operations that have grown since 2001. The expansion of this influential sector has been evident to us, as it has to Americans all around the country living near other defense and intelligence contractors and federal intelligence agencies. … How does the presence of almost a million individuals with top-secret clearances shape our society? How will our culture be changed when the possibility of government surveillance of citizens seems commonplace?”

The authors give us some idea.

“Living in an area populated by the workforce for these agencies and contractors, the presence of many people with various levels of security clearances . . . affects how neighbors and friends relate to one another. Talk about work life is virtually eliminated. Neighbors are interviewed about any possible suspicious activities of the intelligence employee on a regular basis. We watch some of the children of the neighborhood, once animated and engaging, grow up into silent adults as they gain coveted employment with these agencies and contractors. They are afraid of interacting with foreign-born neighbors from “target” countries. …

“The millions of Americans with varying levels of security clearances may shy away from a more participatory citizenship because of the need to protect their jobs. How does this affect our democracy? Will the ever-expanding breadth of this intelligence behemoth eventually create a silent citizenry?”

An even more silent citizenry, I might add. More and more, we seem to be living under the thumb of a kind of Stasi Light, with its attendant chilling effects on assembly and interpersonal communication. Read the op-ed in its entirety at the Sun.