A massive industry profits off the government-induced fear of terrorism.
Israeli dual citizen Michael Chertoff
Michael Hayden, the former director of the National Security Agency, has invaded America’s televisionsets in recent weeks to warn about Edward Snowden’s leaks and the continuing terrorist threat to America.
But what often goes unmentioned, as the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald pointed out, is that Hayden has a financial stake in keeping Americans scared and on a permanent war footing against Islamist militants. And the private firm he works for, called the Chertoff Group, is not the only one making money by scaring Americans.
Post-9/11 America has witnessed a boom in private firms dedicated to the hyped-up threat of terrorism. The drive to privatize America's national security apparatus accelerated in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, and it’s gotten to the point where 70 percent of the national intelligence budget is now spent on private contractors, as author Tim Shorrock reported. The private intelligence contractors have profited to the tune of at least $6 billion a year. In 2010, the Washington Post revealed that there are 1,931 private firms across the country dedicated to fighting terrorism.
What it all adds up to is a massive industry profiting off government-induced fear of terrorism, even though Americans are more likely to be killed by a car crash or their own furniture than a terror attack.
Here are five private companies cashing in on keeping you afraid.
1. The Chertoff Group
On August 11, former NSA head Michael Hayden, the man at the center of the Bush administration's 2005 surveillance scandal, was defending his former agency on CBS News in the wake of the latest NSA spying scandal. Commenting on President Obama's half-hearted promises to reform some NSA practices, Hayden told host Bob Schieffer that “the President is trying to take some steps to make the American people more comfortable about what it is we're doing. That's going to be hard because, frankly, Bob, some steps to make Americans more comfortable will actually make Americans less safe.”
Former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff had a similar message when he appeared on ABC News August 4. Speaking about the purported threat from an Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen that led to the closure of 19 U.S. embassies, Chertoff said that “the collection of this warning information [about Al Qaeda] came from the kinds of programs we've been discussing about, the ability to capture communications overseas.”
CBS and ABC did not see fit to inform viewers that both Hayden and Chertoff are employees of the Chertoff Group, a private firm created in 2009 that companies hire to consult on best practices for security and combatting terrorism. Some of the companies the firm advises go on to win government contracts. Chertoff is the founder and chairman of the group, while Hayden serves as a principal. So they profit off a war on terror they say is crucial to keeping Americans safe.
Though it's unclear how much in total exactly the firm makes, there are some known numbers. After the failed attempt in 2010 to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day with a bomb hidden in underwear, Chertoff pushed for better airport security procedures. One of the suggestions Chertoff made was for the Transportation Security Agency to use full-body scanners like the ones Rapiscan, one of the Chertoff Group's clients, made. And sure enough, after the Christmas Day plot, the TSA ordered 300 Rapiscan machines. The Huffington Post reported that Rapiscan made $118 million from the government between 2009-2010.
2. Booz Allen Hamilton
This private intelligence contractor has become a household name in the wake of the NSA scandal. Edward Snowden, the man responsible for leaking secret documents that exposed the breadth of NSA surveillance, was working for Booz Allen when he downloaded the documents he handed off to media outlets. As the New York Times reported in June, the company parlays its technology expertise for intelligence uses into massive government contracts. Thousands of employees of the company provide services to the NSA, like analyzing the massive amounts of data the government agency collects every day. The company is also the shining symbol of the government-private security complex's revolving door: its vice president is the former director of national intelligence, while the current director of national intelligence is a former employee of Booz Allen.
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