The NSA controversy has been mind boggling to me. Despite widespread bipartisan outrage over the extent of our government’s data collection, barely any action has been taken to regulate the system. Something about this situation just doesn’t fit.
In my experience, when Representatives remain steadfast even as their constituents cry out, a special interest somewhere is pulling some strings. At first, it seemed like the NSA spying programs might be the exception. Then came a new revelation in the form of Lee Fang’s article on Republic Report. Behind every greatly unpopular government program, there is a great lobbyist:
Two congressional committees with oversight of the National Security Agency (NSA) — the House Homeland Security Committee and the House Intelligence Committee — are managed by former lobbyists for major NSA contractors.”
Alex Manning is the Staff Director for the Homeland Security Committee and a proud former senior lobbyist for IBM. Darren Dick used to cash in checks from the EMC Corporation but is now the Staff Director for the House Intelligence Committee.
Here’s the good news: we know that Manning and Dick are hard workers; both of their former employers have scored millions in government contracts as the NSA expanded their data collection and surveillance over the years. The not-so-good news is that these two men have long-standing relationships with companies that stand to lose millions if the NSA were to reign in its intelligence gathering. Now they hold senior positions in the committees that have the power to determine NSA policy and there’s little question that when push comes to shove, their voice is going to be heard much louder than yours or mine.
Corporations who operate off of government contracts are smart; they know that getting their people into the right places can ensure that the cash keeps flowing. The Congressmen who have been leading the attack on Edward Snowden and defending spy programs with tooth and nail have been cozying up with people who have been literally cashing in off of those same programs. This sort of turning a blind eye to blaring conflicts of interest has become far too typical in Washington DC.
The NSA programs might violate the privacy of Americans. On the other hand, they may be crucial for our protection. Either way, people like Manning and Dick should make us ask a serious question: how much of this surveillance is about protection and how much of it is about scoring fat contracts for corporations?
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