Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Privateers - Via Randi Rhodes

We need to have a debate over surveillance. Even more, we need to have a debate over exactly who is doing the surveilling. Government surveillance can be worrisome, but it’s much more worrisome when the surveillance is being done by private contractors. Ultimately, we are willing to accept a certain level of surveillance if the final goal is to keep us safer. But the final goal of a private company is not to keep us safer—the final goal of a private company is always to make money. We have to make a difficult tradeoff between our privacy and our safety, but by leaving surveillance in the hands of private contractors we’re risking both of them.

Outsourcing intelligence work is risky—it will cost us much more in the long run. That’s almost a moot point though, since it costs us much more in the short run too! A private contractor doing intelligence work costs twice as much as a government employee. That pretty much takes the “intelligence” out of the equation right at the start. A report to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said that a private contractor in intelligence costs $250,000 per year, while a government employee costs $126,500. Contractors are supposed to keep us safe from attack? They can’t even keep us safe from being overcharged.

There are hundreds of thousands of private contractors with the kind of Top Secret clearance that Edward Snowden had. If Snowden alerted us to nothing else, he alerted us to all the potential Snowdens out there. A report this year to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that a total of 483,263 contractors held Top Secret clearances in 2012. It’s almost as easy to get Top Secret clearance in this country as it is to get a gun! 483,263 private contractors! That’s 483,263 potential leakers. I certainly wouldn’t buy a boat if there was that much of a possibility of damaging leaks.

His employer Booz Allen has announced that they have fired Ed Snowden. That’s a step forward—the next step should be to fire Booz Allen. In their statement, Booz Allen said that Snowden “was an employee of our firm for less than 3 months.” Right. Guys, that doesn’t make it sound any better. “Less than three months”? What are you saying, Booz Allen—that you hardly knew this Snowden guy? That’s not a good thing to be saying about somebody that you got top secret security clearance for!

It turns out that Edward Snowden had a live-in girlfriend who is a pole dancer. She is described in news reports as “an acrobatic pole performer.” If you look at the video from her YouTube channel, you’ll realize that it ain’t Cirque du Soleil. So Edward Snowden had a cushy job in Hawaii with a poll-dancing girlfriend! In his interview with the Guardian, Snowden asked “What would it take to make you leave everything behind?” How about “terrible decision-making skills”?
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