Stupid Intelligence

I have no opinion whether Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, is a big jerk or the best dude ever. The more important point (other than the focus on what the feds have been up to) is explained by Robert O’Harrow Jr., Dana Priest and Marjorie Censer in WaPo — that a humungous amount of intelligence is being gathered by outside contractors, who get paid a gazillion taxpayer bucks for it, and the actual federal government is not even supervising much of this.

Never before have so many U.S. intelligence workers been hired so quickly, or been given access to secret government information through networked computers. In recent years, about one in four intelligence workers has been a contractor, and 70 percent or more of the intelligence community’s secret budget has gone to private firms. …

… But in the rush to fill jobs, the government has relied on faulty procedures to vet intelligence workers, documents and interviews show. At the same time, intelligence agencies have not hired enough in-house government workers to manage and oversee the contractors, contracting specialists said.

The rush to fill jobs began right after 9/11, of course, and this whole behemoth private intelligence gathering operation was set up by the Bush Administration. But I can’t see that the Obama Administration has done much to change it.

By the mid-2000s, all of the intelligence agencies had become dependent on private contractors such as Snowden — who says he made $200,000 a year — to perform everything from information technology installation and maintenance to intelligence analysis and agent protection.

This article says Snowden never finished high school. There are plans to add another 10,000 employees to the behemoth, so get your resume in now.

Private contractors working for the CIA recruited spies, protected CIA directors, helped snatch suspected extremists off the streets of Italy and even interrogated suspected terrorists in secret prisons aboard.

The Defense Security Service, the agency that grants security clearances to many of the Defense Department’s intelligence agencies, became so overwhelmed with that task that on April 28, 2006, it shut down the clearance process altogether. Its backlog of pending cases had reached 700,000, and it had run out of money to process any more. The government’s solution was to hire more contractors to administer the security clearance reviews.

Are we feeling safer yet?

The McLean-based Booz Allen has almost 25,000 employees and recorded $5.8 billion in revenue for fiscal 2013, earning $219 million in profit. Its profits have been soaring in recent years. Nearly all of its revenue comes as a result of “strong and longstanding relationships with a diverse group of clients at all levels of the U.S. government,” the company said in a financial filing.

The largest shareholder of the firm is the Carlyle Group, which owns more than two thirds of the shares.

Oh, my dears, it has been years since I’ve thought of the Carlyle Group. Talk about a blast from the past. You’ll remember that the Carlyle Group connected the Bush and bin Laden families in business. I understand the bin Ladens liquidated their holdings in Carlyle after 9/11. But the point is that anybody from anywhere can buy into Carlyle, and it owns two-thirds of a private corporation running U.S. security operations.

This is stupid. Seriously.

Update: Why Snowden was paid $200,000 a year.