The Dim-Post

June 14, 2013

On why not everyone has a stake in surveillance reduction

Filed under: intelligence — danylmc @ 1:43 pm

The title of Gordon Campbell’s post on PRISM, the GCSB etc is Why everyone has a stake in surveillance reduction. But to me, one of the interesting revelations in the whole Snowden, NSA, PRISM story is that Snowden didn’t work for the National Security Agency, he worked for Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting company who does contract work for the US government. Via the New York Times:

Over the last decade, much of the company’s growth has come from selling expertise, technology and manpower to the National Security Agency and other federal intelligence agencies. Booz Allen earned $1.3 billion, 23 percent of the company’s total revenue, from intelligence work during its most recent fiscal year.

The government has sharply increased spending on high-tech intelligence gathering since 2001, and both the Bush and Obama administrations have chosen to rely on private contractors like Booz Allen for much of the resulting work.

We all know the ACT/National Party drill: the private sector is more awesome than the public sector so it’s better value for the taxpayers to outsource government functions to private companies. This never works in reality, because private companies can lobby and donate money to political parties to encourage them to increase government spending on whatever function they happen to provide, so the taxpayer ends up spending far more than they would have for a public sector solution.

Which is why the stories about Palantir and their advertisement for an ‘embedded analyst‘ to work in the New Zealand government intelligence apparatus are a little alarming. There are all sorts of privacy issues, sure – but it’s also a sign that we’re probably going to start hemorrhaging even more public money on intelligence infrastructure that doesn’t seem to deliver any value to the taxpayer.

(Meanwhile, I found this New Yorker piece on what ‘we’ currently know about PRISM et al to be a useful summary.) 

16 Comments »

  1. “You will have been deployed”. Does sitting in a bedroom masturbating with three televisions tuned to Fox, CNN and Sky during the invasion of Iraq count? Maybe we should send them Whale Oil’s CV? I believe he has clearance to the elite TS (Total Sadcase) level?

    Comment by rich — June 14, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

  2. The United States is a seemingly hopelessly corrupt corporate kleptocratic state. They’ve got the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex and now they built the surveillance state complex. One makes the weapons, one finds the “enemies” and one imprisons the dissenters.

    Comment by Sanctuary — June 14, 2013 @ 2:14 pm

  3. TBH I’m more miffed at Tolkien’s language being hijacked by a company. Where is the Tolkien Estate’s legendary badassedness when millions of movie money isn’t involved?

    Comment by Ataahua — June 14, 2013 @ 2:47 pm

  4. @Sanctuary: There’s a typo in your post, it’s spelt United $tates

    Comment by Hugh — June 14, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

  5. Booz Allen earned $1.3 billion, 23 percent of the company’s total revenue, from intelligence work during its most recent fiscal year.

    I read recently since the inception of the GWOT, about 70% of intelligence funding now goes to the private sector.

    That’s a lot of beans.

    Comment by Gregor W — June 14, 2013 @ 2:55 pm

  6. @Ataahua Tolkien was one of the spook “family”. Although trained as a codebreaker, he was reassigned to more important work cranking out tedious fantasy fiction to rot the brain of potential government opponents (MI6 may have been driven to this by Hitler’s competing work with Wagner, etc).

    Comment by rich — June 14, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

  7. Danyl why don’t you just apply for the job yourself. Bet the pays good. And you can put all you see on this blog.

    Comment by Grant — June 14, 2013 @ 6:07 pm

  8. The thing about calling themselves “Palantir” is… those things ended up being USED FOR EVIL. Sauron got himself one and used it to corrupt Saruman and Denethor through their stones. It’s not really a good association.

    Comment by Flynn — June 15, 2013 @ 2:08 am

  9. *Sigh* I see John Roughan has weighed in with another effort to be the new Garth George, only stupider. Roughan is the sort of guy who would find that his waterboarding was terrifying, but he admired the efficiency of the guys doing it to him.

    Comment by Sanctuary — June 15, 2013 @ 9:26 am

  10. Quickly Sancy, wrap some more tinfoil around your head before ‘they’ gather your intelligence in PRISM.

    Comment by Darren — June 15, 2013 @ 9:41 am

  11. Oh Dazza, you imagine yourself a 9/11 Al Qaeda pilot of the blogs when you are really just that guy who can’t get a girlfriend who ends up in an empty car park wearing a suicide vest and shouting “COCKSUCKERS!!!”

    Comment by Sanctuary — June 15, 2013 @ 9:50 am

  12. Don’t wrap the tinfoil that tight Sancy you’ll sound deranged…(er)

    Comment by Darren — June 15, 2013 @ 9:53 am

  13. >The thing about calling themselves “Palantir” is… those things ended up being USED FOR EVIL. Sauron got himself one and used it to corrupt Saruman and Denethor through their stones. It’s not really a good association.

    Yes, 2 out of 3 Palantir owners were evil. The other went insane. Until Aragorn got hold of one, that is. It instantly aged him ten years, and sent him on a mission to raise an army of undead. Is he a metaphorical cyber terrorist flipping the bird at the Eye Of Sauron (aka the NSA), before unleashing a horde of zombie spambots to allow free people to hide their entirely uninteresting activities from the spook world?

    Comment by Ben Wilson — June 15, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

  14. Holy guacomole, until this broke I’d always thought Booz Allen was one of the two go-to companies (the other was Wilbur Smith) you hired when you wanted a report recommending you got rid of your trams, trains, trolley buses or any other form of passenger-attracting public transport.

    Comment by poneke — June 15, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

  15. The thing about calling themselves “Palantir” is… those things ended up being USED FOR EVIL.

    Seems an apt choice of name, then.

    Comment by Psycho Milt — June 15, 2013 @ 3:23 pm

  16. “The United States is a seemingly hopelessly corrupt corporate kleptocratic state”

    Spot on and there will be no turning back for the yanks.

    NZ has the chance to distance itself from the mess America has become. Time for team red to define state surveilance put the yanks on notice but like team blue they aint up to it.

    Comment by Simon — June 16, 2013 @ 11:44 am


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