Edward Snowden and the Spies for Hire


james clapper

Photo of James Clapper, our chief spy

In what has been an all-out effort to protect Americans from terrorists after 9/11/01, US intelligence has been collecting enormous amounts of information on people around the world and in the United States. In order to store data, sift through it, and share it among agencies, the NSA has had to rely on private contractors.

Thousands of private spies-for-hire now sit alongside federal workers and have unprecedented access to intelligence databases. Government workers and contract workers are often indistinguishable.

Clearances of private contractors are approved by NSA, not the private companies, however.

About 1.2 million Americans hold top-secret clearances and more than a third – 38% – are private contractors according to the Director of National Intelligence report in 2012. Almost 3 million – 2,757,333 – have confidential/secret clearance.

Congress will undoubtedly push for reduced numbers of contract workers in light of Edward Snowden’s revelations which will leave us with…guess what…more unionized government workers like we see in the IRS. We won’t see a reduction in the collection of records since the government is now adding every US citizen’s e-mails, videos, audios and credit card information to the already unsustainable collection.

There will be no guarantee of increased security as the IRS scandal has shown us.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Sen. Ron Wyden in March that the NSA does not “wittingly” collect data on millions of Americans. He had a day to think about that answer because the question was given to him in advance.

Now that we know it was an untruthful response. Clapper has a new response, “It’s an unfair question, he said, like “When are you going to stop beating your wife?” And it seems to depend on the meaning of “collect.”

“I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying ‘no,'” Clapper told NBC News on Sunday.

Clapper tells the National Journal, “What I said was, the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails. I stand by that.”

Clapper also said that the data collected is like books on a shelf and we haven’t looked at them. [I’m sure that no one will ever look at them without permission, aren’t you?!?]

Booz-Allen, the company that employed Edward Snowden for the last four years, has had a number of security breaches. When security breaches occur in government we don’t find out about it so there is no basis for comparison. The Bradley Manning case is one government breach that was so egregious we did find out about it. Manning was a government employee.

IT workers must have access to high security clearances in order to do their job and they can’t be eliminated.

It’s a conundrum but hiring more government workers guarantees nothing.

Collecting data on every American won’t guarantee security but it will guarantee constitutional violations of American’s privacy rights. We can’t even find the murderers of our Ambassador to Libya and we know who they are and where they are.

Hiring more government workers in lieu of private contractors will be another exercise in futility. We could alleviate the problem by collecting less data on Americans and go back to targeting terrorists.

[Some data for this article sourced from Wall Street Journal June 11 2013, front page]