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June 10, 2013 12:44 pm
The National Security Agency’s sweeping surveillance of Americans’ telephone and internet usage is a stark reminder of just how privatised the core business of security and intelligence gathering has become.
Booz Allen, along with other defence companies such as General Dynamics, and Lockheed Martin, have generated millions in revenues from cybersecurity and other intelligence contracts with the US government.
The shift towards widescale outsourcing by government intelligence agencies soared after September 11 2001, as the US government rushed to boost security services.
At the time, Bob Graham, then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for “a symbiotic relationship between the intelligence community and the private sector”.
In a short statement released over the weekend Booz Allen said: “News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter.”
Because budget figures are highly classified, it is unclear how many private contractors are employed by the CIA and other intelligence agencies.
According to The Washington Post’s Top Secret America series on the US intelligence industry published in 2011, a total of 265,000 of the 854,000 government workers with top-secret clearances worked for private organisations.
According to Washington Technology, an information website, Booz Allen had contracts with the government that totalled $3.85bn in 2011. Dell had contracts that were worth $1.87bn in the same year. Respectively, the two companies ranked just eighth and 19th in that category.
The links between the NSA and Booz Allen are deep. The vice-chairman of Booz Allen is Michael McConnell who headed the NSA from 1992 to 1996 and was Director of National Intelligence (DNI) from 2007 to 2009.
James Clapper, the current director of national intelligence, is also a former Booz Allen executive.
“The NSA is the only agency in the US with the legal authority, oversight and budget dedicated to breaking the codes and understanding the capabilities and intentions of potential enemies,” Mr McConnell wrote in the Washington Post in 2012.
“The challenge is to shape an effective partnership with the private sector so information can move quickly back and forth from public to private – and classified to unclassified – to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure,” he added.
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