At a time when nearly three-quarters of all U.S. intelligence gathering and analysis are being conducted by private corporations, we as a country have approached perilously close to what Franklin D. Roosevelt described as "the essence of fascism."
Recent disturbing public disclosures concerning the extent of intelligence gathering activities undertaken by U.S. governmental agencies hand-in-hand with corporate partners, both at home and abroad, make it clear that the time has come for us, as citizens and elected representatives, to take a cold, hard look at the behavior and practices that have developed from that partnership.
We therefore urge you, as Chair of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, to convene a new "Senate Select Committee to Study US Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities," along the lines of the Church Committee of 1975.
In particular, it troubles us:
* that over 70% of all US intelligence activities, particularly those activities having to do with domestic and foreign surveillance, are contracted out to private corporations like Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen Hamilton, Boeing/NARUS, Northup Grumman, SAIC, and AT&T, among others;
* that as a consequence of this incremental outsourcing over fifteen years, the highest levels of security clearance and access have been extended to tens of thousands of private contractors and subcontractors, and are usually mediated and overseen by other contractors;
* that so many of these intelligence and surveillance activities are so deeply shielded in secrecy, and include gag rules which apply to the very legislators who are charged with oversight of those activities, that it is impossible for informed citizens to even know when it may be necessary initiate a pubic discussion concerning them;
* that the door between the directorships of private intelligence contractors and those of United States intelligence agencies such as the NSA, the CIA and Department of Homeland Security is continually spinning, allowing the same small group of people to move freely between powerful positions of great public trust and directorial positions in highly lucrative corporate concerns; and in so doing are able to make use of their privileged government access to profit greatly, both on their own behalf and on behalf of the corporations they represent, before and/or after public service;
* that such private contractors, among others, have maintained and continue to maintain close contact with and support of Joint Operations Special Command (JSOC), the CIA and other paramilitary activities undertaken around the world in the name of United States;
* and that it is, in the final analysis, blowback from so many years of secret intelligence and paramilitary activities undertaken around the world in our name which is the ultimate driving force behind the metastasis of the corporate intelligence apparatus we now have.
Several years ago, as he was about to leave his position as Director of the National Security Agency, Michael Hayden coined the eerily accurate phrase “Digital Blackwater” to describe the situation we have outlined here, even as he slid effortlessly over to a directorship in the Chertoff Group (yet another private intelligence consultancy, founded by an ex-Director of Homeland Security.)
This arrangement is intolerable and it is rotting the Republic from the inside out. It needs to be cracked open and bleached clean. It cannot be left to whistle blowers and truth tellers, as important as they are to a growing understanding of U.S. intelligence activities and practices, to change the narrative.
As you well remember, the Church Committee was convened in the wake of the Watergate affair to investigate disturbing and credible reports of illegality in the intelligence gathering activities of the CIA, NSA and FBI. Covert action programs involving assassination attempts against foreign leaders as well as attempts to subvert foreign governments were reported for the first time by journalists and whistle blowers, as well as reports of efforts by intelligence agencies to collect information on the political activities of US citizens.
We urge you to convene a Select Senate Committee to investigate the state of affairs outlined above -- the Leahy Committee. To do so now, during this session, would be perhaps the greatest service you could render to the people of the United States at this deeply troubling time in the history of our Republic. The Leahy Select Senate Committee on US Intelligence Activities of 2013 could well become one of the most important acts of your long tenure in the U.S. Senate, a crucial part of your legacy as a champion of the Constitution.
“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself.
That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt