Since 9/11, the US has witnessed a boom in private firms dedicated to addressing the threat of terrorism. The drive to privatize America’s national security apparatus accelerated in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. Since 2007, Tom Shorrock reports, approximately seventy percent of the national intelligence budget is spent on private contractors. Contractors, Shorrock reports, have become “essential to the spying and surveillance operations of the NSA.”
So long as Americans are convinced that the threat of terrorist attacks is extreme, agencies like the Chertoff Group, a private consulting firm that focuses on security and counter-terrorism, thrive. For example, in 2010, the Huffington Post reported that the Chertoff Group made $118 million on sales of full-body scanners produced by Rapiscan, one of the Chertoff Group’s clients, to the Transportation Security Administration.
The Chertoff Group is not alone in profiting from the war on terror. Alex Kane identifies four other private companies—Booz Allen Hamilton, Science Applications International Corporation, the Center for Counterintelligence and Security Studies and Security Solutions International—that, in Kane’s analysis, “profit off the government-induced fear of terrorism.” While noting a 2010 Washington Post report that documented over 1,900 private firms dedicated to fighting terrorism, Kane’s AlterNet report cites an estimate of “at least $6 billion a year” in profits for private intelligence contractors.
“What it all adds up to,” Kane summarizes, “is a massive industry profiting off government-induced fear of terrorism, even though Americans are more likely to be killed by a car crash or their own furniture than a terror attack.”
Alex Kane, “5 Companies That Make Money by Keeping Americans Terrified of Terror Attacks,” AlterNet, August 16, 2013, http://zwww.alternet.org/civil-liberties/5-companies-make-money-keeping-americans-terrified-terror-attacks.
Tom Shorrock, “Meet the Contractors Analyzing Your Private Data,” Salon, June 10, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/06/10/digital_blackwater_meet_the_contractors_who_analyze_your_personal_data/.
Student Researcher: Sam Montgomery (Sonoma State University)
Community Evaluator: Travis Babbins (Sonoma State University graduate student)