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Snowden Leaks Reflect Weakness in Feds' Reliance on Contractors

Image: Snowden Leaks Reflect Weakness in Feds' Reliance on Contractors

By    |   Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013 09:14 AM

The leaks about electronic surveillance by Edward Snowden are indicative of security weaknesses in the U.S. intelligence community caused by a vast increase in private data collection since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the addition of thousands of contractors to manage it, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Figures from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence show that last year private government contractors made up roughly 22 percent of all people holding security clearances to access intelligence databases. Of the 1.2 million Americans with top-secret clearances, 38 percent are private contractors.

"There is no guarantee of 100 percent security," Ronald Marks, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and former contractor, told the Journal. "The problem you have now is that the amount of material that can be gotten out at one time is huge."

Experts say reliance on private contractors developed from the need to quickly expand data collection and analysis after 9/11. 

The size of the expansion is staggering. For example, Snowden's former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, which provides the government with security and intelligence consulting services, was one of 6,000 private vendors working for the National Security Agency in 2006. In 2001, there were just 140 companies working in a similar capacity.

Intelligence agencies promised five years ago to cut back on private contractors after facing congressional criticism, but, the Journal reported, few have made significant progress due to a dependence on the specialized technical skills of contractors that many federal workers lack.

Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution, told the Journal that the intelligence work done by private contractors goes "well beyond the scope of anything the public is aware of or even imagines."

"It's hard to think of a single thing the intelligence community can do on its own anymore without a contractor being involved in some way," he added, "from the most mundane of data crunching to the pointy end of the black ops side."




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The leaks by Edward Snowden are indicative of security weaknesses in the U.S. intelligence community caused by a vast increase in private data collection since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the addition of thousands of contractors to manage it, according to...
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Tuesday, 11 Jun 2013 09:14 AM
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