NSA case exposes tangled web of intelligence work

The NSA whistleblower case illustrates the tangled world of private contracting and government intelligence work.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper was one of the named parties in Clapper v. Amnesty International America, a lawsuit filed by Amnesty on behalf of non-governmental organizations and journalists who claimed the surveillance program violated the First Amendment.

cloakanddaggerClapper  is also a former executive of Booz Allen Hamilton, the private intelligence contractor that self-identified whistleblower Edward Snowden worked for, according to a report in the Guardian, the British-based newspaper that broke the story about the National Security Agency’s communications surveillance program known as Prism.

The man who held Clapper’s job during the Bush administration, former Director of National Intelligence John McConnell, is now an executive with Booz Allen.

Careers like Clapper’s and McConnell’s are examples of the numerous ties between government intelligence agencies and private contractors.

For instance, James Woolsey, a former CIA director, was also a Booz Allen vice-president, according to the Guardian report.

According to a Washington Post account in 2010, almost 2,000 private companies were engaged in government contract work “on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the country.”

The entanglement between the government and private companies in the shadowy world of intelligence and information collection worries privacy advocates.

“The national security apparatus has been more and more privatized and turned over to contractors,” Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, told The New York Times.

“This is something the public is largely unaware of, how more than a million private contractors are cleared to handle highly sensitive matters.”

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