After holding a series of technical jobs with the CIA, Edward Snowden began working with Booz Allen Hamilton, a private consulting firm in Virginia. According to a 2010 investigation by The Washington Post, Booz Allen is among the most prominent intelligence contractors for the government. They were contracted to do top-secret work with 26 of the 45 government agencies engaged in intelligence activities, and the AP reports that last year the company earned $1.3 billion dollars from intelligence work. And they are not alone.
While the government has spent heavily on intelligence since September 2011, cutbacks in government funding have paved the way for thousands of private contracting firms. Tens of thousands of workers have moved from government jobs to private jobs, and many of these workers, including at Booz Allen Hamilton, continue to work side by side with government employees and often still hold access to classified information.
Of Booz Allen Hamilton’s 25,000 employees, almost half hold security clearances that provide “access to information that would cause ‘exceptionally grave damage’ to national security if disclosed to the public,” according to a company securities filing. And while the government has saved money by outsourcing huge chunks of the intelligence industry, it has also acknowledged that there is insufficient oversight of these private firms.
What’s the true cost of outsourcing the intelligence industry? How many more people are out there like Edward Snowden?
James Bamford, investigative journalist who’s written extensively on the NSA; his most recent book is “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.”