Digital Blackwater: How the NSA Gives Private Contractors Control of the Surveillance State
As the Justice Department prepares to file charges against Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden for leaking classified documents about the National Security Agency, the role of private intelligence firms has entered the national spotlight.
Despite being on the job as a contract worker inside the NSA’s Hawaii office for less than three months, Snowden claimed he had power to spy on almost anyone in the country. “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge, to even the president, if I had a personal email," Snowden told The Guardian newspaper.
Over the past decade, the U.S. intelligence community has relied increasingly on the technical expertise of private firms such as Booz Allen, SAIC, the Boeing subsidiary Narus and Northrop Grumman. About 70 percent of the national intelligence budget is now spent on the private sector. Former NSA Director Michael V. Hayden has described these firms as a quote "digital Blackwater." We speak to Tim Shorrock, author of the book "Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence."