Edward Snowden and Washington's revolving-door culture

Discussion in 'Cannabis Activism' started by DdC, Aug 1, 2013.

  1. DdC

    DdC Member

    The recent NSA leak reveals the disturbing extent to which the US' government and corporate sectors have merged.

    Edward Snowden and Washington's revolving-door culture
    Modified: 12 Jun 2013 15:53
    by Nikolas Kozloff, the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008).

    In the wake of the Edward Snowden controversy - the National Security Agency whistleblower who revealed secret US government surveillance programmes - the Obama administration has been forced on the defensive and obliged to answer uncomfortable questions about the extent and power of government eavesdropping.

    The scandal, however, has also placed a spotlight on Washington's revolving-door culture between private contractors and official government agencies. As further details emerge, it seems increasingly clear that Snowden's company Booz Allen Hamilton has been able to amass unprecedented power over the nation's affairs. In a perversion of democracy, Booz Allen now handles everything from consulting services to technology support and analysis for the Obama administration.
    Americans might be surprised to learn of the extent and scope of government outsourcing. Booz Allen holds a contract to provide IT modernisation and support to key Justice Department agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Executive Office for United States Attorneys.

    Snowden's company, which receives nearly all of its funding from the federal government, is in turn owned by private equity firm Carlyle Group. According to Forbes magazine, the Booz Allen sale has proven very lucrative for Carlyle, netting a whopping $2bn for the firm so far. A corporation known for its ties to insider politicians, Carlyle once employed none other than George Herbert Walker Bush as an adviser. His son George W, meanwhile, served on the board of directors of Carterair, an airline food company which was later acquired by Carlyle.

    It's becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between the public and corporate sector in Washington, with Booz Allen employees routinely passing in and out of government. Take, for example, US National Intelligence Director James Clapper, a former executive at Booz Allen. Then there's George Little, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs at the Pentagon, who previously served as an intelligence and business consultant at Booz Allen.

    Not surprisingly, such incestuous ties have raised concerns about excessive corporate influence. As early as 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union sounded the alarm bell about the company's growing surveillance profile, noting that Booz Allen had "been at the forefront of a push to increase information collection from the private sector by the government. Several Booz Allen vice presidents, for example, have publicly called for sweeping efforts in that direction, even if it means sacrifice by and regulation of private industry."

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    In the coming days, many will undoubtedly call for a scaling back of government contractors and a more thorough accounting on intelligence matters. It may not be so easy, however, to disentangle the thorny web of corporate influence. Indeed, Booz Allen's involvement in intelligence gathering may be just the tip of the iceberg. Not only does the company hold contracts with the FBI, but it also provides IT support to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).What is more, the US Air Force awarded Booz Allen a contract in 2011 to research and design joint operations between the US Northern Command and the Mexican military. continued

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