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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Be Afraid, Be Very Very Afraid

You’ve probably never heard of Mike McConnell. No, he’s not the slightly less insane Senator from Kentucky, that’s Mitch McConnell. He currently works for Booz Allen a company that has profited greatly from the privatization of surveillance and intelligence gathering and has done so a couple of times when a Democrat is in the White House. When there’s a Bush in the White House he’s the Director of National Intelligence.

It was he who made sure that the telecom companies faced no repercussions for their illegal phone surveillance after 9/11. One of the prime beneficiaries of this was Booz Allen where he has worked in the Clinton years. In an excellent piece by Glenn Greenwald on he describes this employment shell game.

It's vital to understand how this really works: it isn't that people like Mike McConnell move from public office to the private sector and back again. That implies more separation than really exists. At this point, it's more accurate to view the U.S. Government and these huge industry interests as one gigantic, amalgamated, inseparable entity -- with a public division and a private one. When someone like McConnell goes from a top private sector position to a top government post in the same field, it's more like an intra-corporate re-assignment than it is changing employers.

Today far more surveillance of all types is conducted by private contractors. Their activities are almost always kept in the dark, beyond the reach of oversight or the law.

The Washington Post published an Op-Ed by Mike McConnell about a month ago in which he used the same scare tactics the Bush administration used after 9/11 about terrorism, to guard against cyber attacks. Cyber attacks are a threat but McConnell’s solution is more surveillance and far less privacy on the Internet. The Washington Post in an example of the media’s laziness and dishonesty identified McConnell only as the form Director of National Intelligence. The fact that he has a gigantic conflict of interest and will profit greatly from his suggestions is obviously too complex an issue to be comprehended by the editors of Post.

Take the time to read Greenwald’s full article here. He’s a constitutional lawyer and former blogger who is both always both brilliant and perceptive.

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