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The Spy Who Came In From The Boardroom

There's so much to get really outraged about right now, that sometimes the quiet story sneaks under the radar and you only realize its importance

There's so much to get really outraged about right now, that sometimes the quiet story sneaks under the radar and you only realize its importance after the fact. I'm afraid that the nomination of Mike McConnell to Director of National Intelligence may be one of those stories.

Salon (watch short ad for a site pass):

The Bush administration's choice last week of J. Michael McConnell to be director of national intelligence is a major blunder -- and not just because the man who will be overseeing 16 different spy agencies, including the CIA, took the job after a "personal approach" from an old friend named Dick Cheney.

The problem is with McConnell's résumé. At present, U.S. intelligence is more dependent on private contractors than it has ever been. About half of the rapidly expanding annual intelligence budget, or more than $20 billion, now goes to outside firms. The work those private contractors perform has been slammed repeatedly for mismanagement, privacy violations and bias -- and yet the would-be head of the nation's intelligence effort is a top executive at one of the worst offenders. McConnell, a retired vice admiral and former director of the National Security Agency, is the current director of defense programs at Booz Allen Hamilton.

With revenues of $3.7 billion in 2005, Booz Allen is one of the nation's biggest defense and intelligence contractors. Under McConnell's watch, Booz Allen has been deeply involved in some of the most controversial counterterrorism programs the Bush administration has run, including the infamous Total Information Awareness data-mining scheme. As a key contractor and advisor to the NSA, Booz Allen is almost certainly participating in the agency's warrantless surveillance of the telephone calls and e-mails of American citizens. Read on...

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