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500,000 Contractors Can Access NSA Data Hoards

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: abuse, constitution, corruption, lies )

- 1804 days ago -
The AP reported Tuesday that nearly 500,000 contractors -- employees like whistleblower Edward Snowden -- have access to the government's top secret program

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Arielle S (313)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 6:48 am
As Tim Shorrock pointed out as long ago as 2007 (and reminded us in light of the NSA leaks) “about 70 percent of our national intelligence budgets being spent on the private sector.” The AP reported Tuesday that nearly 500,000 contractors — employees like whistleblower Edward Snowden — have access to the government’s top secret programs.

Of the 4.9 million people with clearance to access “confidential and secret” government information, 1.1 million, or 21 percent, work for outside contractors, according to a report from Clapper’s office. Of the 1.4 million who have the higher “top secret” access, 483,000, or 34 percent, work for contractors.

A number of writers like Shorrock have highlighted in the past week the vast government contracts and huge sums that play a formative part in expanding state surveillance. That point has been well made. What I want to stress here is simply that 500,000 employees is a lot of people — a lot of people with a lot of access. A lot of people, unlike Snowden, who have chosen to march in step.

For ideologues like David Brooks (whose depiction this week of Ed Snowden as a lonesome, fragile basement-dweller, lacking regard for the apparently necessary hierarchies of “family, neighborhood, religious group, state,” is as offensive as it is fatuous) all these thousands of employees do their jobs and, for Brooks, their patriotic duty by acting as “servants.” The more troubling aspect of the fact that 500,000 private employees have access to programs like the NSA’s PRISM and Blarney is that within those masses — the mid-level overseers of our top-down cyberpower nexus — only Snowden chose to step out of line and speak out as the surveillance state creeped.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 8:21 am

It only takes one whistle blower to allow the rest to wake from sleep. The facts, overlaid with creepy reality are now open to us and we have a opportunity for a national dialogue about what we have learned, what we think and feel about this. What are Americans going to do with this information?

I'm not so sure these folks have as much direct access to our personal information as is being touted. I think for safety reasons, there are most likely many built-in safety mechanisms to catch would-be hackers. People voluntarily give out so much information about themselves and their life on sites like Facebook and to advertisers each day that it sure does not seem that privacy it of the utmost importance.

I'm more concerned about the use of this information and not having to go to even a FISA court. To me, that is just too much access for any government to have on citizens.

Arielle S (313)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 10:01 am
Once again, I share your thoughts, Kit - I doubt most of us are so fascinating that many would care what we do or say. And if I say my senator is a miserable excuse for a human being on line, I would say it to him as well. But the secrecy of it all is worrisome. As is the power that goes with knowledge.

JL A (281)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 9:19 pm
These numbers seem to make it questionable whether any of it can really be deemed confidential or protected information whatsoever with so many having access.

Yvonne White (229)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 9:35 pm
Back when AT&T (probably other phone companies too, but I KNOW AT&T for sure) had special "black boxes" that data went through, nobody seemed to care. Even with Super Computers & decryption programs, etc., it it all raw data that HAS to be cherry picked to find "special phrases" & other code crap - so Nobody cared.. but it only takes 1 Joe McCarthy to start the Terrorist witch hunt & Watch Lists! Given the track record of Washington these last 30 odd (very odd!) years, I don't want any dipstick CONtractor going through my drawers! How many are Blackwater related Bu$h League Wannabes? How many have Already pushed innocents onto a black list?
These same Mega-Info-"Researchers" can't seem to identify & Stop Identity Theft, Troll-stalkers, or even Spam - yet we're supposed to be okay with them collecting Everything (I assume God sorts it out????;)!!! Wouldn't it be More Convenient for Hackers & Identity Thieves to hack THEIR special servers to get Anyone's info??? Seriously, the government Doesn't think these things through & Doesn't Hire enough Real Experts (there's a freeze on ya know) to even know what they Don't Know!!!!

Joanne Dixon (38)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 9:35 pm
Another example of privatization resulting in the government spending more to get less. Are we the only ones who can see that?
Arielle, so sorry I have to agree with you about your Senator.

Terrie Williams (798)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 9:37 pm
Now for something really loathesome.......all our medical infor mation will be accessable to the likes of these techs as well. THAT makes me sick. Literally.

I agree with you, Kit.

Yvonne White (229)
Tuesday June 11, 2013, 9:44 pm
Oh god, Terrie, don't say you're sick - that'll cost you extra!;) But I see what you're saying & agree 100%!

paul m (93)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 5:56 am

Noted.....all good comments...Thanks..

Mike M (40)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 6:34 am
Your government knows more about you than you do and now if anyone else whats to rat out America so they can be the savior of the dream so will the rest of the world and they may even take your country and your freedoms too

Arielle S (313)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 6:39 am
Actually, on the news last night, the report was that companies like Google and Yahoo are the ones who know more about us than anybody.... to really keep your privacy, you would have to stay offline, never use any store shopper cards, never order anything by mail, pay cash for everything, not have a mortgage, and probably move to Tazmania....

Robert Tomlinson (62)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 6:56 am
Let me add a new perspective. First, NSA is far more powerful than Google and Yahoo. Second, During the current dust up about the IRS people knew which agency to blame or to appeal. If sensitive records were leaked about you.....who would you blame? These folks are not transparent. Third, if President Ted Cruz and his administration decided to use this agency to silence critics what is to stop him? Fourth, there are NO Whistle Blower protections built into this program. Fifth, what did people expect when Bush 43 promised protections when this program was signed into law? This is the administration that thought torture was a good idea. In fact, people were sent all over the world to be tortured. There is so much more to say about this, but I have gone on long enough.

Gene J (290)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 11:55 am
Gee, what a surprise. The talking heads, and I included politicians, who have opined on this matter have all been in agreement that we, the people, are perfectly safe and we should just trust them, because, after all, they have been briefed. And all that top secret stuff is just over our little heads. Besides if WE knew then the bad guys would know. My guess? The bad guys already know and probably more than the "briefed" politicians. Every day something even smellier comes out of this mess, but if there is one crystal clear message I've been hearing since it first broke it is that politicians don't really care about our constitutional right to privacy at all, inconvenient thing, that. It upsets their apple cart if people know what they are doing behind closed doors. I think people who think like that are what Orwell called Big Brother and they are every bit as terrifying as actual terrorists, maybe more so, because with the real deal, you can prepare and defend yourself, but with politicians and their stealth attack, only when a whistle blower comes forward do we even get a breath of what they are up to. The health of our democracy and the confidence of the people in it has never been lower, well, until tomorrow's revelations anyway. The lot of them make me sick.

Birgit W (160)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 1:12 pm

Jason R (67)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 2:28 pm
Look at their abuse!!!

Past Member (0)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 3:00 pm
This fascist government will turn over anyone's information to any crook that wants to make a buck off it.

Mary Donnelly (47)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 3:41 pm
How surprising!

The best way to preserve one's confidentiality is to be anonymous and pay cash--even that is not foolproof.

Robert Tomlinson (62)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 3:44 pm
Before someone lumps me in with Rand and Ron Paul let me set the record straight. For example, Ron Paul thinks that a Drone will take out Mr. Snowden. I don't believe that at all.
My real disagreement with the NSA listening program is that there are not enough safeguards. As I understand it the way is paved for abuse. We need an civilian oversight committee that will be allowed to do on sight inspections Without Prior Notice! As I said in a previous email I am not one of those who are satisfied with the "safeguards" set up by the Bush 43 administration.

Theodore Shayne (56)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 5:23 pm
Noted. Now don't you feel safe?

Freya H (357)
Wednesday June 12, 2013, 7:21 pm
Any ay-hole with a nasty agenda could use these data to harass people he doesn't like - or spread ridiculous claims that they are terrorists, criminals, Yankees fans, etc. Imagine anti-choice filth using these data feeds to ferret out who supports Planned Parenthood.

Judy C (97)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 12:17 am
I suspect the NSA would be snoozing if they were tracking me. Do I feel safe now? NO!

Lois Jordan (63)
Thursday June 13, 2013, 6:27 pm
Thanks, Arielle. The more info that we the people have on these programs, the better. I'm very grateful for the whistleblowers, and have signed petitions and sent many letters to protect them. Unfortunately, our compromised Congress is more terrified of the truth getting out than respecting their constituents right to know where our tax dollars are going. I'm disgusted.

Arielle S (313)
Friday June 14, 2013, 7:23 am
Could we be any more disgusted with our obstructionist, do-nothing Congress? And now after cutting food stamps, meals on wheels, or for that matter anything and everything that helps the average person, they want $638 Billion for the Pentagon?

Sheryl G (363)
Friday June 14, 2013, 4:13 pm
Do You Want To Know A Secret

Arielle S (313)
Friday June 14, 2013, 5:19 pm
LOL! You made me smile, Dandelion....and you made me wish for those simpler times....

Jelica R (144)
Saturday June 15, 2013, 8:26 pm
A couple of years ago EFF run an article about data harvesting, warning that super-hyper-ultra-mega store facilities make it possible to collect and store all the data they can get. It is NOT about analysing data, but to keep them just in case. Thus, NSA is merely collecting data now and, in case they need to incriminate a person, only then the data will be analysed to make a case against a suspect. A chilling example would be how Hitler used data about some grandparents religion to pinpoint Jews. This to make you understand why are we in Europe so enraged about this. Further, in January EU has agreed to weaken privacy protection in a trade agreement with U.S.A. which is under negotiation now, only to find out that U.S.A. has an ongoing strong motive to push in that direction.

Particularly problematic is the vast number of contractors included in this operation - 1 of 680 Americans. I guess that statistically every US citizen is familiar with one or two of them. Generally, those contractors are selected among young computer specialists, they are not properly trained in security field. After all, young people today have grown up on Facebook and do not hold the private matters high on their priority lists like older generations.

Other problematic issue is wide access to those data which makes it almost impossible to locate the particular security breach. Also, I am not sure that their training will prevent them from abusing the data for some personal vendetta. Then, here is also a question of their loyalty to the U.S.A. and personal morality to keep to themselves what they learned on their jobs, like lawyers or physicians do.

I believe that my on-line privacy should be protected just as my real-life privacy. If government can't open my letter or search my car without court order; given by a judge under legal premises of what they expect to get, and strong allegation of my complicity in an illegal activity; I do not see why my e-mails or any other electronic communication should not have exactly the same level of protection against intrusion.
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