It should be self-evident that recent NSA revelations bring up some grave concerns about civil liberties. But they also raise other profound and troubling questions -- about the privatization of our military, our culture's inflated expectations for digital technology, and the increasingly cozy relationship between Big Corporations (including Wall Street) and Big Defense.
Are these corporations perverting our political process? The campaign war chest for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who today said NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden committed "treason," is heavily subsidized by defense and intelligence contractors that include General Dynamics, General Atomic, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and Bechtel.
One might argue that a politician with that kind of backing is in no moral position to lecture others about "treason."
But Feinstein's funders are decidedly old-school Military/Industrial Complex types. What about the new crowd? This confluence of forces hasn't been named yet, so for the time being we'll use a cumbersome label: the "Security/Digital Complex."
With computers and communications encompassing an ever-larger portion of human activity, we may someday learn that this new force dwarfs even its predecessors in the Feinstein camp when it comes to its impact on our democracy, our economy and our values.
There's much we don't know yet, so it's wise to be cautious in describing this new force. But Edward Snowden's revelations, and the reactions to them, are offering us a glimpse into rarely-seen intersections of Wall Street wealth, information technology, and the national security state.
Reports say that Snowden left government and joined the private sector as part of the massive privatization of government functions, including national security. His recent employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, earns more than 98 percent of its revenue from the government.
Privatization is an ideological pathway. It's also, as with bank regulation, a path to riches for pliant officials. And, as with Wall Street, the officials feeding at the trough are entirely "bipartisan." From a New York Times article:
"As evidence of the company's close relationship with government, the Obama administration's chief intelligence official, James R. Clapper Jr., is a former Booz Allen executive. The official who held that post in the Bush administration, John M. McConnell, now works for Booz Allen."
That's the revolving door in its purest form, spinning like an electron in your digital profile.
And there's a lot of money to be made. Last February Booz Allen Hamilton announced two new contracts with Homeland Security, worth a total of $11 billion, for "program management, engineering, technology, business and financial management, and audit support services."
Wonder who signed off on that deal - and where they'll be working next year?
It's who you know.
Booz Allen Hamilton is now a part of the Carlyle Group, the leverage-buyout firm which has contributed to the personal enrichment of a number of very well-known public figures from Administrations of both parties. They include:
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