Glenn Greenwald has an excellent post up today on how corporatism works. In this case, he looks at Mike McConnell, Bush 41 and Clinton’s former National Security Director, and Bush 43′s Director of National Security – and his revolving door position as Executive Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton, the nations largest independent intelligence contractor. Below are some excerpts that concentrate on conclusions, rather than the specifics of McConnell’s particular operations (which the piece itself is not short of details):
But that’s the least of what makes McConnell such a perfect symbol for the legalized corruption that dominates Washington. Tellingly, his overarching project while at Booz Allen and in public office was exactly the same: the outsourcing of America’s intelligence and surveillance functions (including domestic surveillance) to private corporations, where those activities are even more shielded than normal from all accountability and oversight and where they generate massive profit at the public expense.
It’s vital to understand how this really works: it isn’t that people like Mike McConnell move from public office to the private sector and back again. That implies more separation than really exists. At this point, it’s more accurate to view the U.S. Government and these huge industry interests as one gigantic, amalgamated, inseparable entity — with a public division and a private one. When someone like McConnell goes from a top private sector position to a top government post in the same field, it’s more like an intra-corporate re-assignment than it is changing employers. When McConnell serves as DNI, he’s simply in one division of this entity and when he’s at Booz Allen, he’s in another, but it’s all serving the same entity (it’s exactly how insurance giant Wellpoint dispatched one of its Vice Presidents to Max Baucus’ office so that she could write the health care plan that the Congress eventually enacted). In every way that matters, the separation between government and corporations is nonexistent, especially (though not only) when it comes to the National Security and Surveillance State. Indeed, so extreme is this overlap that even McConnell, when he was nominated to be Bush’s DNI, told The New York Times that his ten years of working “outside the government,” for Booz Allen, would not impede his ability to run the nation’s intelligence functions. That’s because his Booz Allen work was indistinguishable from working for the Government, and therefore — as he put it — being at Booz Allen “has allowed me to stay focused on national security and intelligence communities as a strategist and as a consultant. Therefore, in many respects, I never left.”
Aside from the general dangers of vesting government power in private corporations — this type of corporatism (control of government by corporations) was the hallmark of many of the worst tyrannies of the last century — all of this is big business beyond what can be described. The attacks of 9/11 exploded the already-huge and secret intelligence budget. Shorrock estimates that “about 50 percent of this spending goes directly to private companies” and “spending on intelligence since 2002 is much higher than the total of $33 billion the Bush administration paid to Bechtel, Halliburton and other large corporations for reconstruction projects in Iraq.”
So here we have a perfect merger of (a) exploiting public office for personal profit, (b) endless increases in the Surveillance State achieved through rank fear-mongering, (c) the rapid elimination of any line between the public and private sectors, and (d) individuals deceitfully posing as “objective commentators” who are, in fact, manipulating our political debates on behalf of undisclosed interests.
And, as usual, it is our nation’s largest media outlets (in this case The Washington Post) which provide the venue for these policies to be advocated and glorified, all the while not only failing to expose — but actively obscuring — the bulging conflicts of interests that drive them. While “news” outlets distract Americans with the petty partisan dramas of the day, these factions — whose power is totally impervious to changes in party control — continue to expand their stranglehold on how the Government functions in ways that fundamentally alter our core privacy and liberties, and radically expand the role private corporations and government power play in our lives.