Monday, June 10, 2013

The outsourcing of U.S. intelligence raises risks among the benefits

If I were conducting unconventional warfare to try to subvert the legitimacy of the US government I would be grateful for this event.  What a great way to attack a key US institution.  Of course no one could have foreseen this event but that does not mean that it won't be exploited by our enemies.

I can imagine the ripple effects through the intelligence community as this undermines the legitimacy of the community (and dependence on contractors per the article below  and I can see a real slow down as new processes and procedures are implemented to try to prevent anyone else from acting like Snowden.  We could see the intelligence equivalent of TSA airport procedures put in place that will do nothing except create long lines of intelligence analysts trying to get their intelligence processed with no real improvement in security except for an appearance of such.  

If I were a bad guy I would be looking for a way to exploit the blind spots we are going to create for ourselves over the next year or two as we work hard to protect ourselves from ourselves (e.g., future leakers).  This could be one of the finest examples of subversion not directly caused by our enemies.  We have met the enemy and he is us.

Then of course there are the larger political questions that could rip apart our political processes as we debate securing our nation against terrorism versus the perception of violation of fundamental values such as privacy, free speech and free press.  I can see the debate emerging about the efficacy of our Bill of Rights in the modern technological society and what should take precedence; securing our nation from the terrorist threat (is it an existential one that requires suspension of Constitutional protections?) versus supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic?  Perhaps this would be a good time to remind ourselves of the oath that members of the US government take.

The outsourcing of U.S. intelligence raises risks among the benefits
By Robert O’Harrow Jr., Published: June 9

The unprecedented leak of National Security Agency secrets by an intelligence contractor, including bombshells about top-secret programs to collect telephone records, e-mail and other personal data, was probably an inevitable consequence of the massive growth of the U.S. security-industrial complex.
Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old man who identified himself as the source behind stories in The Washington Post and the Guardian newspapers, has worked at Booz Allen Hamilton and other intelligence contractors. Before entering the private sector, he says he held a series of technical jobs at the Central Intelligence Agency.

In a statement Sunday, Booz Allen said, “Booz Allen can confirm that Edward Snowden, 29, has been an employee of our firm for less than 3 months, assigned to a team in Hawaii. News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm. We will work closely with our clients and authorities in their investigation of this matter.”

Snowden was among tens of thousands of private intelligence contractors hired in the unprecedented push to “connect the dots” after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They work side by side with civil servants as analysts, technical support specialists and mission managers. An unknown number have access to secret and top-secret material.

Several years ago, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence estimated that almost one in four intelligence workers were employed by contractors.

The growing reliance on contractors reflects a massive shift toward outsourcing over the past 15 years, in part because of cutbacks in the government agencies. It has dramatically increased the risk of waste and contracting abuses, government auditors have found, in part because the government has repeatedly acknowledged that it does not have a sufficient workforce to oversee the contractors.

But given the threat of terrorism and the national security mandates from Congress, the intelligence community had little choice. In a briefing presentation several years ago, the ODNI estimated that 70 percent of the intelligence community’s secret budget goes to contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton.
“We Can’t Spy . . . If We Can’t Buy!” the briefing said.

The former director of naval intelligence, retired Rear Adm. Thomas A. Brooks, said in a report in 2007 that private contractors had become a crucial part of the nation’s intelligence infrastructure.
“The extensive use of contractor personnel to augment military intelligence operations is now an established fact of life. . . . It is apparent that contractors are a permanent part of the intelligence landscape,” he said.

Since Sept. 11, more than 30 secure complexes have been constructed to accommodate top-secret intelligence work in the Washington area. They occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons, about 17 million square feet.
(Continued at the link below)

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