Booz Allen Hamilton: NSA’s ‘Digital Blackwater’ A Sign Of Deep Ties Between US Gov’t & Private Spies
Booz Allen Hamilton Chairman and CEO Ralph Shrader, center, and guests attend the opening bell ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange.
AUSTIN, Texas — Booz Allen Hamilton, a powerful government contractor at the heart of multiple leaks of classified material from the NSA, also spends big on D.C. lobbying, and its employees have given generously to presidential campaigns this election cycle.
In light of Booz Allen Hamilton’s role in two major leaks of government surveillance secrets, the corporation’s lobbying efforts and its employees’ campaign contributions reflect the deep ties between private corporations and the U.S. government and its national intelligence apparatus.
In August, the FBI quietly arrested Harold Thomas Martin, a Booz Allen Hamilton contractor, for stealing classified documents. News of his arrest finally surfaced last week. Martin may have been responsible for the leak of a suite of malware tools that the NSA uses to secretly access computers.
It’s the second high-profile NSA leak to originate at the contractor in the last three years. In 2013, Edward Snowden, another NSA contractor employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, leaked thousands of classified agency documents and files to journalists Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, and Ewen MacAskill, then fled to Russia, where he was forced to seek asylum after the U.S. government canceled his passport.
The U.S. government increasingly relies on private corporations like Booz Allen Hamilton to maintain its sprawling surveillance state. As Snowden revealed, the NSA has, at least at times, monitored virtually every internet-connected human being on Earth.
Booz Allen Hamilton isn’t the only intelligence contractor to see its secrets exposed. In 2012, Jeremy Hammond, a hacktivist associated with Anonymous, shared with WikiLeaks thousands of emails from Strategic Forecasting, a corporate intelligence firm with heavy government ties. In 2013, a federal court sentenced Hammond to 10 years in prison.
According to a 2015 analysis by journalist Tim Shorrock, author of “Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence,” about 70 percent of the national security budget is spent on private contractors. As Democracy Now! noted in 2013, Michael Hayden, the former NSA director, once referred to this complex of private firms as a “Digital Blackwater,” a reference to the controversial private military contractor implicated in war crimes in Iraq.
Firms like Booz Allen Hamilton and their employees also spend big to maintain their influence in Washington through lobbying and campaign contributions. According to OpenSecrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics, Booz Allen Hamilton employees donated $139,907 to candidates in the 2016 election cycle, and the company has spent $310,000 lobbying since 2015.
Booz Allen Hamilton’s lobbyists also benefit from the “revolving door” of the military-industrial complex. According to OpenSecrets, “4 out of 6 Booz Allen Hamilton lobbyists in 2015-2016 have previously held government jobs.”
At $35,017, Hillary Clinton was the top recipient of contributions from Booz Allen Hamilton employees. The contractor’s employees also donated $15,165 to DNC Services Corp, a Democratic Party PAC, and $13,603 to Bernie Sanders during the same time period.
Employees also supported the Republican Party, with just under $20,000 in contributions going to top GOP candidates Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush. Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, netted $4,100, less than his GOP rivals.
Both Clinton and Trump have sharply criticized Snowden, with Trump going so far as to call for him to be executed. Even Sanders was reluctant to praise the whistleblower during his campaign, though he has joined the “Pardon Snowden” movement since ending his candidacy for president.
In a 2013 interview with Democracy Now!, Shorrock warned that Americans should be alarmed by the cozy relationship between U.S. intelligence agencies and the corporate 1%. He told Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman:
“[W]e have hundreds of thousands of contractors with security clearances. We have hundreds of thousands of federal workers in, you know, Homeland Security and intelligence. We have a massive number of people that are monitoring other Americans. I think it’s a very dangerous situation.”
Watch “Digital Blackwater: How the NSA Gives Private Contractors Control of the Surveillance State:”
Header image credit: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout
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