5 companies now control 80% of America's contracted spying

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/10/11/5-companies-now-control-80-of.html


5 companies now control 80% of America’s contracted spying

So we’re getting a group rate and the product is now more superior? Right?

[note sarcasm]


During the Elizabethan period, to save money, the English government subcontracted naval anti-pirate activity to private contractors. Guess who soon became pirates themselves, on an even bigger scale?

Amusingly, and in echoes of the relationship with China, a number of these official pirates (from the West Country) established bases in what is now Algeria and Tunisia, paying taxes in exchange for unrestricted piracy in the Mediterranean. Eventually the locals realised that all they needed was the crews and ships, they could cut out the middlemen. Soon, Algerian pirates had bases in the Bristol Channel and elsewhere, and were kidnapping English people for slaves.(N A M Rodger, The Safeguard of the Sea, has details.)

Perhaps the time has come for the US to subcontract spying on Russia and China to the Russian and Chinese security services. It could work out a lot cheaper, eliminate duplication of effort, and probably be just as effective.


Didn’t we see the same story a few months ago? I’ll ask the same question again: is 80% bad? What percentage would be good? Numbers mean nothing without context. What percentage of American cars are made by the top five companies? Or airplanes? Actually, I’ll wager banking is less concentrated than those industries.

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The context is that they are spying on us, whereas when it comes to cars or airplanes the product is sold - i.e. the public, directly or indirectly, has to want it.
A small number of companies handling large amounts of spying implies that those companies have accumulated a large amount of information about a large number of people. Are you comfortable with private corporations potentially having lots of information about you that, without official approval, would have been illegally obtained?
If the government was employing large numbers of individual private detectives who did not pool information, the opportunity for abuse would be much smaller because the danger from an individual bad actor would be so limited.
Concentration of power is always dangerous or, as Lord Acton put it, all power tends to corrupt; absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.

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Good point.

This is a repeat @doctorow got it a month ago.
I will state again that there are a lot of requirement headaches like need to be a citizen, security clearances etc that a lot of contracting agencies just do not want to touch.
Even my former employer actually separated into 2 companies just a few years ago because the differences of government contracts vs. commercial contracts are that much of a deal.


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