Money And Power: The Real Reason For The NSA Spying On Everyone

from the money-money-money dept

More than four years ago, we wrote about all the buzz that you were hearing about “cyberwar” was little more than an attempt to drum up FUD to get the government to throw billions of dollars at private contractors. We noted that Booz Allen Hamilton (yes, the last employer of one Ed Snowden) had hired former NSA director and also Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell as its Vice Chairman. He was the leading voice out there screaming about the threat of “cyberwar” getting on TV and having lots of opinion pieces in big name publications — all of which mentioned his former government jobs, but almost none of which mentioned that his current employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, stood to make billions selling “solutions” to the government. And, indeed, Booz Allen has been raking in the cash on “cybersecurity.”

This is worth keeping in mind as you read this fascinating interview with NSA whistleblower, Bill Binney, in which he lays this out plain and simple. The real reason for all this NSA surveillance is about money and power. “Stop terrorism” is secondary. After pointing out that all of this data collection has been basically useless in stopping terrorism (as confirmed by multiple independent accounts of the NSA’s activities), the interviewer asks Binney why the NSA keeps doing it:

So why do they keep doing it?

Money. It takes a lot of money, you have to build up Bluffdale [the location of the NSA’s data storage center, in Utah] to store all the data. If you collect all the data, you’ve got to store it, you have to hire more people to analyze it, you have to hire more contractors, managers to manage the flow. You have to start a big data initiative. It’s an empire. Look at what they’ve built! Have you ever looked around all the buildings they’ve built up because of 9/11?

So that’s what it’s all about, expanding the budget for the intelligence community?

If you have a problem, you need money to solve it. But if you solve that problem, you no longer have the justification to get money. That’s the way they view it – keep the problem going, so the money keeps flowing. Once you build up this big empire, you have to sustain it. … Look at the influence and power the intelligence community has over the government. They [the government] are giving them everything they want, they’re trying to cover up all their tracks and their crimes. Look at the influence and power they’re gaining.

As Clay Shirky famously noted years ago, “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” That appears to absolutely be the case here. It’s why there’s so much FUD. The NSA and the rest of the intelligence community has built up the threat to be this huge issue that requires huge dollars as well. And once they have the huge dollars and the giant staff, they have to keep that up. So they have to create a continuing problem for which they are the solution — and since it’s all (mostly) done in secret, you get this nefarious circle (as opposed to virtuous), in which more FUD is spread, more money flows in and everyone has to justify themselves to keep it all going.

Whistleblowers like Binney and Snowden actually disrupt that circle and put a threat to the money flows.

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Comments on “Money And Power: The Real Reason For The NSA Spying On Everyone”

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Ninja (profile) says:

You know a good manager/boss when in his/her absence he’s just not needed, things run smoothly regardless. If I ever have an employee that makes his own position useless as in, he makes things so efficient that he is not needed anymore I will want him/her in other parts of my company. On the other hand if he/she centralizes everything and is indispensable if things are to be kept running then there is a problem.

Over a decade after 9/11 the only terroristic plots that were stopped were set in motion by law enforcement and intel agencies themselves. The real ones were not prevented (ie: Boston) so it’s about time people start being replaced. Same with the cyberFUD, despite all the money thrown in major attacks leave just the pieces to be dealt with afterwards. This money could be better used actually benefiting the citizens.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

BentFranklin said:

“This much power, once created, never goes unused. And now this unprecedented amount of power is hidden behind an unprecedented amount of secrecy and given to spies, the most unscrupulous people in the world. What could possibly go wrong? Keep that in mind when you hear them saying “We’re the good guys. Trust us.”

But remember: they really do, sincerely, believe that they ARE the good guys.

But Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler thought they were the good guys, too.

bob says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, they do believe they are the good guys and I would bet that the vast majority of people in the agencies follow the law and do look out for the safety and well being of the American people. You just get the few bad apples, and the rot goes to the top, to abuse the system and cause widespread problems for the rest of the world.

Check out from Defcon 21. It talks about how the message presented by both sides, government vs hackers, has been misconstrued. You just have to look at the issue from both sides.

Paul Merrell (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: The majority follow the law?

@ “I would bet that the vast majority of people in the agencies follow the law …”

That is an incredibly naive thing to say. Consider for example, that: [i] the U.S. war against Iraq beyond question was the most heinous of war crimes, a war of aggression; and the Uniform Code of Military Justice forbids everyone in the U.S. armed services from obeying unlawful orders. So how many officers refused to obey their orders to invade Iraq and bomb it back into the Stone Age? None that I ever heard of, not a single one.

Most people in government don’t give a damn about the law; they just want to slide from one paycheck to the next until they retire (as enjoyably as possible the entire journey) and get as many pay raises along the way as they can. And only a tiny fraction are willing to blow the whistle when the agency’s compliance with the law derails. Almost invariably, those few brave whistle-blowers suffer massive retaliation.

There are literally thousands of lawyers in the U.S. — not working for government — who specialize in suing the government using other statutes and the Administrative Procedures Act. Do you really imagine that the vast majority of people working in government spend so much as a solitary thought in their typical working day about “follow[ing] the law?”

If they did, all those administrative lawyers would have to switch the focus of their legal practices to legal issues not involving the government!

Anonymous Coward says:

Also, police militarization

Just substitute “police department” for “intelligence community” and add “local” in front of “government” and that quote would apply equally well.

If crime is declining, they’ll invent new crimes to enforce. If enemies start disappearing, they’ll invent new enemies to spy on. It’s all the same shit sandwich, no matter how you slice it.

Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Weeee, . .

One of the perpetual cycles of history is people thinking they’re not like those “other guys” who do / did bad things. I recall a passage in Band of Brothers (book) where the US paratroopers noted that of all the people around Europe they met during the war, the Germans seemed to be the most like Americans in how they organized their homes and daily lives.

So sure! Let’s give all this power to some trusted fellow American, and have ourselves another spin on the merry-go-round.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s the intelligence communities’ …(wait for it)… Circle of Life

From the day we arrived on the planet, and took a blinking step onto the Internet,
There is more to see, than can ever be spied on, more to hack than can ever be done.
It's the circle of life, and it moves us all
sustained by terrorists, both real and false

OldMugwump (profile) says:

The new Soviet Union

Ever since the end of the Cold War, the military-industrial complex (Eisenhower’s term) has been looking for a new enemy to replace the Soviet Union.

For a while, they were trying to push China into that position, but the Chinese didn’t play along (it’s difficult to sincerely see your biggest customer as your enemy, even if you try).

9/11 was the answer to their prayers.

Anonymous Coward says:

How far would they go?

I often wonder about this. Time and time again they have shown to be untrustworthy, so if everything is about the money and they think they are the good guys in this; how much would they really do? Would they let an attack “slip” through thinking “a hundred people dead today will save a thousand later as long as we get enough money”? Would they construct their own? Would they blackmail politicians for their own gains?
I used to consider this fiction, but today I don’t feel sure about anything. They have the power, the means, the motivation(money)and they don’t seem to have any problems lying and inflicting harm and pain(torture).
I think this is a slight possibility, but all in all I think that I am more scared of this than any terrorist.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:


The spying is about money and power all right, but only peripherally about the NSA’s money and power.

The real reason for the spying is that government, corporations, and plutocrats regard all of us as potential terrorists; an immediate danger to their power and control. As a result, they are willing to give unlimited money and power to NSA and others to keep an eye on us, which leads to the secondary money and power dreams of the NSA.

This should be apparent to anyone: It is clear despite denials and dissembling, that the NSA is far more interested in watching citizens, than it is foreigners. Most people either enthusiastically agree NSA has a right, or at least accept the need for NSA, to observer foreigners. So think about it: Why else does NSA expend so much effort to get around the laws protecting citizens from snooping?

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: oh boy

I really cannot believe they’re actually paying you to write this tripe. Obviously they are desperate for actual intelligence in the “intelligence community”, if you’re the best they can find to counter-act the realizations that are accumulating in the public’s forum.

There is absolutely no way you could be living on earth and truly believe the things you post here, save possibly a head injury. Since it is obvious you write as a contrary point to everything that is being shown to be true, I have to assume you are being paid to do so.

However, I sincerely hope that you post in this manner, because you secretly rebel against the machine and have decided the best way to spread the truth is to lie in a fashion that is obvious to all but your employers.

Again, I thank you for your public service – showing everyone just how dishonest the opposing arguments made by “official authority” really are.

Tweak (profile) says:

Let’s not forget that this power is turned both externally and internally. Outside of the US, this power is used to further enrich US government/business by granting every advantage to the American side. Within the US, this power is used to monitor and control those who seek to fight the machine – be they protestors, civic leaders or those who seek office with a functioning moral compass.

Seek an increase in your global corporation’s net profits and the ability to undermine the development of similar businesses in other countries? Sure, we can help you with that. Seek to change the status quo and bring righteousness to public office? No, no, see we can’t have any of that. Oh, here we’ve stumbled across a long lost tryst of yours. Wow, those are some great pictures! Would be a shame if they became public, though. And here it seems that we’ve manufactured some financial malfeasance on your part because we can alter your bank records. Too bad you wanted to do so much for the people. So sad.

A. Nnoyed (profile) says:

Same happens when a charity loses it's disease.

They couldn’t let go. In the mid Fifties a charity lost it’s disease, Polio. When Polio was conquered the March of Dimes, The Mothers March On Polio, did not disband even though they had no disease to fight. They simply changed their purpose, birth defects The Mothers March On Polio, became the Mothers March On Birth Defects. After all there will always be birth defects.

harrybolt says:

government spying reason revealed!!!

This is the End of Times. All the crap going on in the world lately is a sign. So is the catastrophic events going on around the world lately. O – B has really screwed up the USA and other countries around the world. Everything is going to HELL. And the main reason he has not been impeached is because he has so much adverse information on all our other politician’s, obtained by spying using the N-S-A and I-R-S,. that he could use to black mail em. So their hands are tied. He is going to screw up the USA so bad we will never be able to recover. This spying of all our citizens is also a plan to control us all!!! END OF TIMES is here. Evil and corruption has infiltrated into our government! Everyone is being spied on 24/7!!! Repent now and follow Jesus. The end time is at hand, it is time you REPENT and be given eternal life in paradise. After your repentance and follow Jesus, you will want no more! Salvation is your only hope now. God save and be with you.

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