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The End of the Rainbow: The Intelligence-Industrial Complex

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The Edward Snowden-National Security Agency leak case raises anew the balance between means and ends that has been simmering on the back burner of the nation’s consciousness for a decade or so.

The terror attacks of 9/11 generated a predictable push to do everything to ensure such a thing would not happen again. When that’s the government’s mission, there can be only one outcome: cash, and lots of it.

It’s something tangible that the nation’s leaders can point to – “Look – we’ve created a Department of Homeland Security!” Perhaps some of it was even necessary.

But that relies on a core belief:

First of all, that al Qaeda and other terrorists pose such a threat to the U.S. that the only way to stop them is an annual stew of billions of dollars spiced up with AGM-114 Hellfire missiles. Osama bin Laden was able to do the damage he did by harnessing our airplanes against our skyscrapers. Are there other unlocked cockpit doors out there, metaphorically speaking, that we need to bolt? In other words, how much of a fat target did we present to the terrorists, and how likely are they to be able to replicate it?

Second, the shocking nature of the 9/11 attacks were their boldness – and that the perpetrators were willing to kill themselves to carry them out. Absent things like planes and skyscrapers, what tools do they have? Anything short of a nuclear weapon is something, to some degree, we may have to learn to live with in this era of non-state actors armed with malice and menace. We are never going to be able to eliminate everyone who wants to place backpack bombs on marathon sidewalks.

The nation’s over-reaction to 9/11 has led to the widespread surveillance to which Snowden, and a fair share of Americans, object. That’s fine: let them work through the political system to change it.

But make no mistake: there will be a lot of opposition to paring back the post-9/11 security state not because of the threat, but because of the billions of dollars pouring into the intelligence-industrial complex every year:

– You can see it along the major highways around Washington, D.C., where major intelligence firms have sprouted in recent years like mushrooms after the rain.

– You can hear it on the airwaves of Washington radio stations, where contractors warn of perpetual threats and the need to retain them to handle them.

– You can sense it around the nation’s capital, ringed by seven of the country’s 10 richest counties.

The Washington Post notes that 70% of the intelligence community’s budget flows to private firms. Since 9/11, the nation has spent close to $1 trillion on intelligence, meaning about $700 billion has gone to contractors like Booz Allen Hamilton, which hired the 29-year old Snowden, a computer expert, three months ago.

The $122,000 job gave Snowden a ringside seat to the intelligence community’s crown jewels.

How can Booz Allen – in reality, you – afford to pay a high school dropout that much (they fired him Monday for “for violations of the firm’s code of ethics and firm policy”)?

Simply scan this list of Pentagon contracts awarded to Booz Allen — all 42,000 of them — for the answer.

Or check out this section of a story in the Wall Street Journal last month:

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 9.28.03 AM

That is the real scandal.

19 comments
grape_crush
grape_crush

> How can Booz Allen – in reality, you – afford to pay a high school dropout that much?

If you possess a high degree of competence in a given specialty...say, computer science....than it's not unheard of. If anything, they might have got Snowden on the cheap because he didn't complete school.

> The Washington Post notes that 70% of the intelligence community’s budget flows to private firms.

Well, what do you expect? People would hyperventilate if the federal government paid government employees for expertise on a competitive basis with the private sector, not to mention that it has been ideologically unpalatable to do this sort of work in-house for years.

> That is the real scandal.

Yes, if only we had the laser-like focus on how much government contractors make that we do on, say, teachers.

But we don't because it's spending on national security. And we really don't because pols a) like throwing money at possible campaign contributors who are b) exercising their God-given American right to fleece We The People in the name of capitalism.

bobcn
bobcn

Privatization has been a costly mistake nearly everywhere it's been used.  It generally produces poorer results for much higher costs.  We need to recognize this and return to the more effective system of civil service employees that we have largely abandoned.  We also need to resist the right wing ideologues who frequently insult and harass government employees (except those in the military, of course).

ahandout
ahandout

Another socialist government bogged down in its own corruption.

To be honest, our gigantic central government already has many other resources for influencing the electoral process.  It has many resources for purchasing votes and intimidating dissent.  The ideal of a giant government that humbly serves The People is the absurd primal delusion of the modern Left.  Let us begin with the absolutely unacceptable sin of corrupting the IRS, work our way back through every agency, and see how many Americans we can set free from that delusion.

http://www.redstate.com/2013/05/14/corruption-in-sacred-temple-of-socialism/

TyPollard
TyPollard

I hope we can rein in the Intelligence-Industrial Complex like we did with Military- Industrial Complex.

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

If one is looking for a good example of the new fascist state of today, one need look no further than the Booz Allen Hamilton contract with the U.S. electronic intelligence agency.

ex animo
davidfarrar

DAS37
DAS37

@bobcn 

Resistance to the right on this topic must be focused against their two-prong strategy employed vs. government bodies.  Because they know it's incredibly difficult to get rid of them once they have been created and put in place, they instead do 2 things.  One is to "starve the beast" by limiting funding so they can't perform their mission.  The other is to appoint leadership who are either loyal to the cause and/or downright incompetent.  Thus, not only can they prevent government from functioning properly, they can loudly proclaim to the world: "see, we told you government doesn't work."

MrObvious
MrObvious

@ahandout 

Rusty - maybe you shouldn't read redstate. They're idiots. What we have is closer to fascism then we do socialism; we don't own production - production owns our political power.

I so wish 'wingers at least had somewhat of an idea about social science.

shepherdwong
shepherdwong

@ahandout In socialism, government owns "corporate" power. Our problem is the exact opposite of that, as Thompson explains pretty well. Get your head out of the elephant's @ss, you moron.

tommyudo
tommyudo

@DavidFarrar 


Booz and other outfits like The Carlyle Group are only the tip of the iceburg. These are the Masters of the Universe. They have a great thing going for themselves. The National Security State is intertwined with Wall Street and theyown the political system .How can anyone be in their right mind to think they can be curtailed and house broken? Whether you are a resident in the WH or a high school drop out $122K a year tech analyst, you mess with this thing of there's - a White Bread Costra Nostra -  at your peril.

ahandout
ahandout

@Ohiolib @ahandout  Socialists consolidate power in big government.  The power and wealth corrupts the big government, which becomes uncontrollable. 

ahandout
ahandout

@mantisdragon91 @ahandout @Ohiolib AND, like the link you posted in the MMR thread explained, MOST of the job cuts, under Obama, were in local and state government, not the federal government.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ahandout @Ohiolib Is that why GWB added 1.7 Million Jobs to the Public sector? And yet it seems that Public sector jobs have gone down under Obama to the tune of over 780,000