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Jun 10 2013

Booz Allen probably just recorded my Google search on “Booz Allen”

It worries me that private contractors are bellying up to the super double-secret Intel taxpayer gravy train. The one Snowden worked for and got access to a dizzying array of classified info is called Booz Allen, and they probably just recorded my search on that name on Google while researching this post. They’re probably recording you reading it, too. And I have a message for them:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
– 4th Amendment US Constitution

Maybe I’ll just leave that up on every post from now on. Since they know so much about us, what can we find out about them?

Wiki — As of August 2008, what was formerly Booz Allen Hamilton’s parent company (which used the Booz Allen name itself) divided in two. The Booz Allen Hamilton moniker was retained by the half focusing on U.S. governmental matters, with Booz & Company taking sole control of its commercial strategy and international portfolio. Booz Allen Hamilton is majority owned by private equity firm The Carlyle Group, while Booz & Company is owned and operated as a partnership.[3] On November 17, 2010, Booz Allen’s shares of common stock began trading at the New York Stock Exchange.
In June 2013, employee Edward Snowden revealed information and supporting documentation of a supposed Booz Allen Hamilton-contracted mass digital surveillance project called PRISM. Snowden fled to Hong Kong seeking asylum issuing a statement “I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded… That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”[4]

The company released a statement condemning his whistle blowing actions as “shocking” and “a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm”.[5]

Carlyle Group huh? Not comforting. The core values of Carlyle and Booz Allen are no doubt same as any other soulless behemoth: profit. In this case the profit comes from 1) providing NSA all kinds of spooky surveillance work on our phone and Internet habits, 2) cutting expenses as much as possible, and 3) ginning up as much business as they can in anyway they can from their giantest customer, the NSA. Which in this case all boils down to a junior level 29 year-old systems analyst having access to the phone calls of the POTUS and every other American. Vetting and security is ‘spensive dontya know! Moreover, like any company, we can infer Booz Allen will fight fair or dirty to keep that gravy train going, and they have all the dirt there is in the world at their disposal.

If that’s not alarming enough, these guys sound more connected than Goldman-Sachs — and of course it’s all secret, so no one can get any questions answered or make sure audits are accurate. It’s a real problem both ethically and for nat’l security. We don’t know what these guys are doing with those truckloads of US dollars, they could be doing a bang up job, cutting corners like every other company does, or playing touch football with bricks of 100 dollar bills:

WaPo — Thousands of people formerly employed by the government, and still approved to deal with classified information, now do essentially the same work for private companies. Mr. Snowden, who revealed on Sunday that he provided the recent leak of national security documents, is among them.

As evidence of the company’s close relationship with government, the Obama administration’s chief intelligence official, James R. Clapper Jr., is a former Booz Allen executive. The official who held that post in the Bush administration, John M. McConnell, now works for Booz Allen.

“The national security apparatus has been more and more privatized and turned over to contractors,” said Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit group that studies federal government contracting. “This is something the public is largely unaware of, how more than a million private contractors are cleared to handle highly sensitive matters.”

11 comments

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  1. 1
    trucreep

    Another huge thing about these private contractors – they’re all paid way more than it would cost to have a government employee in the same position. I think Mano Singham had a good post covering that.

  2. 2
    Scr... Archivist

    It’s bad enough when President Nixon (or whichever) can have his men listen in on the phonecalls of his election opponents. Now those kinds of men work for themselves and take Congressional funds to keep doing it.

    I wonder how long it will be before we hear about Booz Allen leaking negative information about candidates or elected officials who want to change these surveillance policies or reverse the corporatization of the national security apparatus.

  3. 3
    magistramarla

    Yes, way too much of the work that used to be done by active duty military and trusted government workers has now been privatized and turned over to for-profit companies, at a much higher cost. Whose idea was all of this privatization? Why, the republicans, of course!
    I’ve watched the quality and efficiency decline over the 30+ years that my hubby has worked for the government, as an active duty officer, and as a government employee.
    Military housing used to be maintained by the military itself. There were strict rules, and both the residents and the maintenance crews (often active duty themselves) took pride in the housing. MWR and community centers were run by and for the service members. Today, the management and maintenance is contracted out to a for-profit group. The rent that is charged for those units is sky-high and the maintenance is deplorable. MWR is mandated to make a profit, so it is now too expensive for many service members to use the facilities.
    The guards at the gates of military bases used to be active duty security forces. Today, those guards are often rent-a-cops. This doesn’t add to my feeling of security on base at all.
    I think that the contracting out of intelligence work to contractors is the worst of all. When an active duty member or a government employee is entrusted with a security clearance, he/she makes some oaths that are supposed to be taken seriously. This is what angers me about this guy. He took some oaths that he now disregarded. No matter how one feels about this scandal ( I’m no more worried about this data than I am about the data that businesses collect in order to send coupons to my inbox), I think that it is this utter disregard for the oaths that this person took about the security of this country that bother me the most.
    Perhaps congress needs to reconsider and turn the work with classified material back over the the people that should be doing it, not private for-profit companies. That would be too much to ask, though.

  4. 4
    Pierce R. Butler

    magistramarla @ # 3: This is what angers me about this guy. He took some oaths that he now disregarded.

    Funny, that same problem angers me about a guy named Barack Obama, and the guys who had his job before him.

  5. 5
    Marcus Ranum

    I wonder how long it will be before we hear about Booz Allen leaking negative information about candidates or elected officials who want to change these surveillance policies or reverse the corporatization of the national security apparatus.

    What do you think happened when David Petraeus’ promising career got blown away because somehow the FBI was able to dig through years-old emails and text messages he’d sent?

    It’s not Booz that’s specifically doing this. There are dozens of contractors involved in such programs and – yes – internal oversight is pretty shitty. That’s how a noob intelligence analyst like Manning was able to get full access to an assload of stuff, or Snowden got access to critical programs. Because, right now, the dumbassess are running the lunatic asylum because the lunatics are outsourcing the madness.

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    BTW I should have scare-quoted “David Petraeus’ promising career” — I think the guy was a shitheel with useless ideas about COIN, who shouldn’t have been running a lemonade stand, let alone a war – but as soon as there was talk that he might try to move into other high offices, someone turned over a shovelful of dirt.

  7. 7
    stracci

    magistramarla – The majority of the leaks and major security violations thru US history were actually perpetuated by Gov’t employees (see Walker, Ames, Ana Montes) not contractors. The same kind of background checks are done for gov’t and contractor employees. The reason contractors are used is to provide the gov’t with flexibility. Contracts end and the employees go elsewhere. If the contractor employee is good, they get brought onto another contract…many times with another company, doing the same job at the same desk. They lose their seniority and vesting in their retirement program though.

    Last time I saw a study, gov’t employees, when you calculate the benefits that are guaranteed, make the equivalent of contractors. Many of the contractors are retired military. They are dedicated to mission. And those that are not tend to get removed or are a reason their company doesn’t win the next contract award. It’s not perfect…anymore than the gov’t is and many of those contractor positions should be government positions, but it’s too easy to say contractors are the problem.

  8. 8
    Stephen "DarkSyde" Andrew

    That is interesting Marcus, we never did an accounting of where that dirt came from did we?

  9. 9
    Suido

    Relevant xkcd comic is relevant.

  10. 10
    Marcus Ranum

    we never did an accounting of where that dirt came from did we?

    The media overlooked to ask questions about that. Because they don’t want to lose their access.

    Read Weiner’s book “enemies” and you’ll find that the CIA and FBI are constantly dropping hits on eachother to make eachother look bad. For example, there’s solid evidence that the Bay of Pigs operation was blown to the Cubans by … the FBI. Nice, huh?

  11. 11
    Marcus Ranum

    The reason contractors are used is to provide the gov’t with flexibility

    The reason contractors are used is to transfer wealth from the treasury to the large corporations that provide these services. Corporations that hire former senior government executives as lobbyists. It amounts to a massive covert looting of the taxpayers, in the name of efficiency and flexibility.

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