The National Security Industrial Complex and NSA Spying: The Revolving Doors Between State Agencies and Private Contractors
When Edward Snowden, an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton – a military contractor based in McLean, Virginia - blew the whistle on the extent of U.S. global electronic surveillance, he unexpectedly shone a light on the world of contractors that consume some 70 percent of the $52 billion U.S. intelligence budget.
Some commentators have pounced on Snowden’s disclosures to denounce the role of private contractors in the world of government and national security, arguing that such work is best left to public servants. But their criticism misses the point.
It is no longer possible to determine the difference between employees of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) or the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the employees of companies such as Booz Allen, who have integrated to the extent that they slip from one role in industry to another in government, cross-promoting each other and self-dealing in ways that make the fabled revolving door redundant, if not completely disorienting.
Snowden, who was employed by Booz Allen as a contract systems administrator at the NSA’s Threat Operations Centre in Hawaii for three months, had worked for the CIA and Dell before getting his most recent job. But his rather obscure role pales in comparison to those of others.
Pushing for Expanded Surveillance
To best understand this tale, one must first turn to R. James Woolsey, a former director of CIA, who appeared before the U.S. Congress in the summer of 2004 to promote the idea of integrating U.S. domestic and foreign spying efforts to track “terrorists”.
One month later, he appeared on MSNBC television, where he spoke of the urgent need to create a new U.S. intelligence czar to help expand the post-9/11 national surveillance apparatus.
On neither occasion did Woolsey mention that he was employed as senior vice president for global strategic security at Booz Allen, a job he held from 2002 to 2008.
“The source of information about vulnerabilities of and potential attacks on the homeland will not be dominated by foreign intelligence, as was the case in the Cold War. The terrorists understood us well, and so they lived and planned where we did not spy (inside the U.S.),” said Woolsey in prepared remarks before the U.S. House Select Committee on Homeland Security on June 24, 2004.
In a prescient suggestion of what Snowden would later reveal, Woolsey went on to discuss expanding surveillance to cover domestic, as well as foreign sources.
“One source will be our vulnerability assessments, based on our own judgments about weak links in our society’s networks that can be exploited by terrorists,” he said. “A second source will be domestic intelligence. How to deal with such information is an extraordinarily difficult issue in our free society.”
In late July 2004, Woolsey appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball”, a news-talk show hosted by Chris Matthews, and told Matthews that the federal government needed a new high-level office – a director of national intelligence – to straddle domestic and foreign intelligence. Until then, the director of the CIA served as the head of the entire U.S. intelligence community.
“The problem is that the intelligence community has grown so much since 1947, when the position of director of central intelligence was created, that it’s (become) impossible to do both jobs, running the CIA and managing the community,” he said.
Both these suggestions would lead to influential jobs and lucrative sources of income for Woolsey’s employer and colleagues.
The Director of National Intelligence
Fast forward to 2007. Vice Admiral Michael McConnell (retired), Booz Allen’s then-senior vice president of policy, transformation, homeland security and intelligence analytics, was hired as the second czar of the new “Office of the Director of National Intelligence” which was coincidentally located just three kilometers from the company’s corporate headquarters.
Upon retiring as DNI, McConnell returned to Booz Allen in 2009, where he serves as vice chairman to this day. In August 2010, Lieutenant General James Clapper (retired), a former vice president for military intelligence at Booz Allen from 1997 to 1998, was hired as the fourth intelligence czar, a job he has held ever since. Indeed, one-time Booz Allenexecutives have filled the position five of the eight years of its existence.
When these two men took charge of the national-security state, they helped expand and privatize it as never before.
McConnell, for example, asked Congress to alter the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow the NSA to spy on foreigners without a warrant if they were using Internet technology that routed through the United States.
“The resulting changes in both law and legal interpretations (… and the) new technologies created a flood of new work for the intelligence agencies – and huge opportunities for companies like Booz Allen,” wrote David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth in a profile of McConnell published in the New York Times this weekend.
Last week, Snowden revealed to the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald that the NSA had created a secret system called “Prism” that allowed the agency to spy on electronic data of ordinary citizens around the world, both within and outside the United States.
Snowden’s job at Booz Allen’s offices in Hawaii was to maintain the NSA’s information technology systems. While he did not specify his precise connection to Prism, he told the South China Morning Post newspaper that the NSA hacked “network backbones – like huge Internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one”.
Indeed Woolsey had argued in favor of such surveillance following the disclosure of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping by the New York Times in December 2005.
“Unlike the Cold War, our intelligence requirements are not just overseas,” he told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the NSA in February 2006. “Courts are not designed to deal with fast-moving battlefield electronic mapping in which an al Qaeda or a Hezbollah computer might be captured which contains a large number of email addresses and phone numbers which would have to be checked out very promptly.”
Roger Cressey, a senior vice president for cybersecurity and counter-terrorism at Booz Allen who is also a paid commentator for NBC News, went on air multiple times to explain how the government would pursue the Boston Marathon case in April 2013. “We always need to understand there are priority targets the counter-terrorism community is always looking at,” he told the TV station.
Cressey took a position “on one of the most controversial aspects of the government response to Boston that completely reflects the views of the government agencies – such as the FBI and the CIA – that their companies ultimately serve,” wrote Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire, on Salon. “Their views, in turn, convinces NBC hosts of the wisdom of the policy, a stance which could easily sway an uncertain public about the legitimacy of the new face of state power that has emerged in the post-9/11 period. That is influence, yet it is not fully disclosed by NBC.”
Read the full article at: globalresearch.ca
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