More than half a century ago, Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans of the dangers posed by the country’s growing “military-industrial complex” – a phrase that entered instantly into everyday language.

“The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the federal government,” the outgoing Republican president said. “We must be alert to the … danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.”

Ike was chiefly warning about the power of the Pentagon and the big defence companies that had grown up around it. Today his prescience would be applied to America’s vast army of federally-employed data analysts and the hundreds of software companies they employ.

The US spends at least $80bn a year on intelligence alone, which is more than the defence budgets of all but a handful of countries.

 

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