“I think there’s this whole notion that there is a belief system, a flawed belief system, an ideology of hate and intolerance that we’ve seen rear itself over the past 20 years, most horrifically on 9/11. So I think it’s unlikely that we are going to see any changes,” he said.
Mr. Ridge helped build and consolidate the bureaucracy that today oversees everything from border security to immigration to coordination of local law enforcement responses to terrorism.
“I can recall the first year there were 180,000 people” in Homeland Security, he said. “I am told today there are 220,000.”
Billions and billions
In his memoir, Richard A. Clarke, the top U.S. bureaucrat in charge of counterterrorism before 9/11, described the budget justifications for homeland security and counterterrorism as a “self-licking ice cream cone.”
The analogy meant that regardless of whether the government’s measures are effective, there is an almost perpetual justification for spending more money for programs designed to fight terrorism.
A scholarly paper released last month noted that nearly $690 billion has been spent on homeland security between 2001 and 2011 by the federal, state and local governments and the private sector.
The paper’s authors - John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University, and Mark G. Stewart, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Newcastle in Australia - estimate another $417 billion has been lost in opportunity costs because of homeland security precautions such as increases in terrorism risk premiums for insurance and delays in air travel.
Mr. Mueller said the chance of a U.S. citizen being killed in a terrorist attack is 1 in 3.5 million. Yet the U.S. government spends more to protect its citizens from those kinds of attacks than more likely risks, such as traffic accidents, he said.
“The threat they are trying to deal with, it’s so limited and the huge expenditures are not cost-effective,” he said in an interview.
In his calculations, Mr. Mueller did not account for foreign wars or the increases in foreign intelligence collection since 9/11.
Steve Aftergood, who is in charge of the U.S. government project on secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, said the overall annual budgets for the U.S. intelligence community before 9/11 was about $30 billion.
The first broad intelligence community budget number was disclosed in 1998 for the fiscal 1997 budget after Mr. Aftergood’s organization won a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the federal government.
For 1997, the overall U.S. intelligence community budget was $26.7 billion. This year, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. disclosed the overall budget to be more than $80 billion.
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