US Intelligence, Inc.

Edward Snowden's leaks of US classified information have demonstrated how little control there may be over individuals within the intelligence community. More important, Snowden's revelations have highlighted the extent to which the US government has handed over responsibility for highly sensitive programs to for-profit entities.

SINGAPORE – Among the stories and rumors prompted by Edward J. Snowden’s leaking of classified material – whistleblowing or treason, depending on where you stand – the revelations that may actually lead to a policy change concern the extent to which private companies now carry out intelligence gathering and analysis in the United States.

Around a third of the 1.4 million people with “top secret” US security clearances are contractors, according to the Office of the US Director of National Intelligence. We now know that this includes individuals like Snowden, whose hiring and firing by the technology consultancy Booz Allen Hamilton is itself the subject of an investigation.

Intelligence contracting is an industry worth tens of billions of dollars, and companies like Booz Allen have made it central to their business models, staffing their executive suites with former senior intelligence officials. Booz Allen’s current vice chairman, Mike McConnell, left the company to serve as Director of National Intelligence from 2007 to 2009, returning to the firm immediately after stepping down.

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