Wired.com, in a July 26, 2013 piece by David Cravats, details that not-very-surprising fact that those congressional representatives who received the largest political donations from defense contractors voted last week, 217 to 205, to oppose cuts to NSA’s phone-spying dragnet budget. Those who opposed the cuts, and thus the “Amash amendment” received 122% more defense contractor funds than those who voted against it, with one Democratic exception of Representative Dennis Moran of Virginia.
An analysis done by the Berkeley non-profit, MapLight for Wired showed that Defense contractor donations averaged $41,635 from the pot, whereas House members who voted to repeal authority averaged $18,765 for the previous two year period.
The only really surprising fact is how very little the defense contractors had to pony-up to buy their contractor-collusive representative over the two year period: $12.97 million.
In contrast to the billions of dollars these big corporations make each year from their defense contracts in the surveillance industry, the going price for representatives is trifling low. (Of course, undoubtedly some representatives with committee assignments critical to surveillance budget issues do undoubtedly get lucrative extra perks in the form of post-term jobs, many as lobbyists, should they leave Congress, but still the cost of doing business with friendly congressional representatives is virtually a rounding error in their corporate budgets.
Deborah Charles and Ben Berkowitz report on Reuters of June 10, 2013, that:
The U.S. government spends more than $300 billion a year on services that are contracted out, according to Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, an independent watchdog that investigates corruption and misconduct in government.
The government workforce has pretty much stayed the same over the last 30 to 40 years but we’ve supplemented that with a contractor workforce that has grown dramatically,” he said. More than 4.9 million people had government security clearances as of October 1, 2012, including about 1.4 million with “top secret” clearance, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Nearly 800,000 government employees had “top secret” clearances, versus 480,000 contractors; the remaining “top secret” holders were not broken down.
In 2009, Lockheed Martin, one of the largest contractors, received 38.4 billion from government contracts, while Boeing received 22 billion and 23 billion in 2008 and 2009 respectively.
NSA Whistle-blower Edward Snowden last corporate employer was Booz-Allen. Booz is not one of the biggest government contractors, but it has done very well from its surveillance work. According to the NY Times of 6/10/2013, Booze earned 1.3 billion in 2012. (Our truth-defying Director of National Intelligence and head of NSA, furtive functionary James Clapper, was formerly with Booze, which is a subsidiary of the Carlyle Group. He is but one of the revolving door clique that routinely alternates between government and Booze employment.)
Companies such as Lockheed, Boeing and Booze-Allen are critical players in building and running the government surveillance network. Their employees — or former employees — in the case of Edward Snowden, collect and analyze massive quantities of information, in fact virtually all the information that is spoken, written, heard and read by millions and millions of people in the U.S. and around the world, content as well as ‘metadata”.
We learned from retired AT&T employee, Mark Klein, that NSA had a conduit right into AT&T’s office to grab all its telephone calls.
We know that the FISA court issues orders permitting the wholesale access to Verizon’s communications, and many with reason to know suspect that this is only one of the communications companies which are under such orders.
We know from NSA whistle-blowers such as Edward Snowden, Russell Tice, Thomas Andrews Drake, and William Binney, as well as from former FBI translator, Sibel Edmunds, that top ranking government officials, elected and appointed, have been targets of the surveillance network. We know from private contractor employee, Snowden, that he had access to all the communications of virtually anyone, including the president.
Former NSA executive (and himself a Republican) Russell Tice, in an interview on boilingfrogspost tells us that he read transcripts of conversations involving Senate candidate Barack Obama in 2004, and those of Secretary of State, General Colin Power, General Eric Shinseki and General Petraeus, as well as high ranking Congressional representatives and Senators of both parties. His list includes Supreme Court justices, reportedly all nine.
Tice relates sitting in on a television news panel with both Senator Orin Hatch and Barbara Feinstein, both of whom were vigorously defending existing surveillance practices. Tice knew that both these senators had been the targets of communications surveillance. Did they?
It may be that Senators Hatch and Feinstein knew very well that the NSA and FBI had information on them and so, in fear of its betrayal, rushed to defend the existing NSA and FBI practices. Their votes have helped to create these surveillance programs and kept them well funded to an amount which has increased virtually every year.
How likely is it that if NSA or the FBI or private contractors had potentially damaging information on important government actors that they would not use it to further their own plans?
James Bamford, writing in “Wired” on June 13, 20013, discusses the of our government’s massive surveillance centers, its Fort Meade, Maryland headquarters, as well as its “emperor”, General Keith Alexander. Fort Meade is:
the undisputed domain of General Keith Alexander, a man few even in Washington would likely recognize. Never before in America’s intelligence sphere has anyone come close to his degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy. A four-star Army general, his authority extends across three domains: He is director of the world’s largest intelligence service, the National Security Agency; chief of the Central Security Service; and commander of the US Cyber Command. As such, he has his own secret military, presiding over the Navy’s 10th Fleet, the 24th Air Force, and the Second Army.
Inside the government, the general is regarded with a mixture of respect and fear, not unlike J. Edgar Hoover, another security figure whose tenure spanned multiple presidencies. “We jokingly referred to him as Emperor Alexander—with good cause, because whatever Keith wants, Keith gets,” says one former senior CIA official who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. “We would sit back literally in awe of what he was able to get from Congress, from the White House, and at the expense of everybody else.”
General Alexander has claimed that he intends to retire in 2014. One wonders which of the big defense contractors will have the honor of his future services. What private contractor executive will slip into Alexander’s place as emperor of the surveillance world who will have the power to surveill everyone of us, including all our government officials, and thus capture them for the new public-private partnership’s needs. Now government and big business are truly merged.
The very real danger of having our elected and appointed officials, indeed every one of our government employees, subject to potential extortion and pressure by those who control the information gathering process, both governmental and private, is beyond appalling.
As Sibel Edmunds points out in the below podcast, J. Edgar Hoover may be dead, but his methods of obtaining damaging information on potential opponents for use when needed, lives on, on steroids. Now the damaging information that used to be kept in J. Edgar Hoover’s office safe are available to hundreds of thousands of private corporation and government employees with the required clearances, which the private companies themselves, distribute by the thousands. Thus potentially damaging information no longer fits in Hoover’s safe. It requires enormous secret “cities” such as Fort Meade and the new Utah information storage facility to hold it all.
Former FBI translator Edmunds, who first tried to expose illegal government surveillance activities in 2002, founded National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC) as well as a website (www.boilingfrongspost.com ) to disseminate public awareness of these surveillance dangers. In this youtube podcast, she puts some of the facts in context (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW6OA11mqYE). In the last ten minutes of the video, she offers some important ideas about how the American people can unite to end the invasion of their privacy and the destruction of their representative government.