Why the US risks outsourcing secret intelligence

If there were Top Secrets whose disclosure would endanger the nation, wouldn’t you restrict knowledge of those secrets to as few people as possible?  Wouldn’t the last thing you would do is to share them with private contractors over which you do not exercise direct control?

Booz_Allen_logo_strat_tag_blackYet an estimated 400,000 employees of private contractors are cleared for Top Secret information, the highest level of security clearance, including 10,000 at Booz Allen Hamilton, the former employer both of Edward Snowden, the fugitive whistleblower, and James Clapper, the current director of national intelligence.  Even the process of granting Top Secret clearances has been outsourced to a private company.

Why would you do such a thing?  Here’s what I think.

Outsourcing creates the possibility of a revolving door for lucrative jobs in the private sector for intelligence officials who want more than the limited pay of a federal civil servant.  Many former CIA and NSA officials work for Booz Hamilton, including the former director of national intelligence under the Bush administration.

The cutoff between the federal government and the private company allows the government to plausibly deny responsibility for bad behavior of the private company, and makes it harder for Congress and the press to keep track of secret intelligence work.

Corporate employees, unlike civil servants, are allowed to participate in politics and hire lobbyists to represent their interests.  Booz Allen is a Fortune 500 company, with more than $5 billion in annual revenue, almost all with the government and about a third with secret intelligence work.  That is a powerful vested economic interest.

We are developing a security-industrial complex more dangerous than the military-industrial complex against which President Eisenhower warned, because it operates in secret and without accountability.


Click on Booz Allen, the World’s Most Profitable Spy Organization for a profile in Business Week.

Click on Contracting out US national security for a report in The Guardian, which continues to do the best reporting on this subject by far.

Click on What if the people running our secret programs are idiots? for a good question by Digby of Hullabaloo.

Click on Top Ten Ways the Beltway Press Will Treat Gen. Cartwright Differently From Snowden for comment by Juan Cole on how gently you are treasted when you disclose secret information that may well be harmful to national security, but is not embarrassing to the administration.

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2 Responses to “Why the US risks outsourcing secret intelligence”

  1. b-psycho Says:

    Basically they’ve created a self-perpetuating Amen Corner for the surveillance state. Using what little division there is between state & connected corporation so each hand washes the other.

    Create “business” whose main customer is the government, so expansion of power means expansion of wallet. Then call it “free enterprise!” Such rackets are quite common these days, huh?


  2. kjens1089 Says:

    Reblogged this on Tredding Deep Waters.


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