Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Why does WikiLeaks keep publishing U.S. state secrets? Private contractors.
When WikiLeaks released more than 8,000 files about the CIA’s global hacking programs this month, it dropped a tantalizing clue: The leak came from private contractors. Federal investigators quickly confirmed this, calling contractors the likeliest sources. As a result of the breach, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said, the CIA had “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal.”
Intelligence insiders were dismayed. Agencies “take a chance with contractors” because “they may not have the same loyalty” as officers employed by the government, former CIA director Leon Panetta lamented to NBC.
But this is a liability built into our system that intelligence officials have long known about and done nothing to correct. As I first reported in 2007, some 70 cents of every intelligence dollar is allocated to the private sector. And the relentless pace of mergers and acquisitions in the spies-for-hire business has left five corporations in control of about 80 percent of the 45,000 contractors employed in U.S. intelligence. The threat from unreliable employees in this multibillion-dollar industry is only getting worse.
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The five market leaders are Booz Allen Hamilton, CSRA, SAIC, CACI International and Leidos. All of them are based in Virginia and are deeply involved in developing cyber and hacking tools. Other players in the cyber realm include Accenture, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. The CIA, which has historically hired retired agents for its clandestine contractor force, has increasingly turned to corporations for its hacking teams.