How was a twenty-something employee of a federal contractor able to access the sensitive, top-secret information about the NSA’s surveillance programs? By being one of some 500,000 private contractors, and 900,000 federal employees, who have top secret security clearance according to the Washington Post:
The tone of the Post article seems to point fingers at the privatization of intelligence operations, but whether we’re talking about private contractors or federal employees this is a lot of people who could potentially be monitoring our phone activity and reading our emails.
People who could be turned by foreign agents or bribed or otherwise be led to use this powerful access for less than savory purposes.
The apologists for this program keep telling us that it’s constitutional, but how in the world do enormous federal databases filled with our electronic communications and telephone calling patterns accessible by more than a million federal employees and private contractors pass the “unreasonable search and seizure” standard in the 4th amendment?
The implications are enormous. For instance, are your emails with your lawyer still privileged when more than a million federal employees and contractors can read them?
How can the government control a program such as this? Most of the (much warranted, I’d suggest) paranoia about the NSA’s surveillance has circled around government plots to use this information for various nefarious purposes. But what about plain old government incompetence? What happens if some rogue set of hackers, or some rogue state in the international community, hacks the NSA? What happens if some disgruntled federal employee goes off the reservation?
We’re told by the apologists that programs like this are necessary for the war on terror. But what if the ramifications for these programs for American citizens in terms of lost privacy are worse than terrorism?