Dubious campaign contributions going from industries to strategically placed politicians is nothing new. In fact, it's become a well-documented, if not disconcerting, reality of American politics. The natural gas industry invests heavily in political races that affect their bottom line and tobacco companies do the same in regions where tobacco farming is a major industry.
So, it should come as no surprise that some of Congress's most staunch defenders of the National Security Agency's agenda of mass surveillance are people taking large campaign donations from security and tech contracting companies.
The NSA relies on around 2,000 companies to analyze and store data, create hardware and software, and god knows what else. In June 2013, Salon estimated that about 70 percent of the NSA's entire budget was going to the private sector. This means that national intelligence could be funneling up to $6 billion to private companies who rely on those dollars to keep their enormous profits.
So who are these fierce defenders of email reading and guardians of metadata collection? And, more importantly, who is using their campaign donations to get them elected?
@mguariglia The two Chairs of the Intelligence Committees, which tells you all you need to know about Congressional "oversight"
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 3, 2014
Mike Rogers: Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee
Mike Rogers, the Republican Representative from MIchigan's 8th district, has been one of the most firm defenders of NSA surveillance. In the video above you hear Mike Rogers at a House Intelligence Committee hearing on NSA surveillance say his now infamous line, "You can't have your privacy violated if you don't know about it."
According to Opensecrets.org, of Rogers' 10 largest campaign donors, 5 are defense companies known for having major contracts with the government:
Honeywell International donated $15,000 to Rogers in the 2013-2014 cycle. Honeywell is a huge conglomerate that has its fingers in just about everything, but more than a few in defense tech systems and aviation. Honeywell is also one of the few private companies providing drones to Miami's police force.
ManTech International Corporation donated a total of $12,200 to Rogers in the 2013-2014 cycle. ManTech specializes in massive data analysis, including Signal Intelligence (SIGNIT) "processing and dissemination." In 2010, ManTech named a new vice president for NSA activities, H. Christopher Goodrich, an insider who was a former manager of NSA projects with another corporation on this list, Northrop Grumman.
Northrop Grumman donated a total of $10,000 to Rogers in 2013-2014 cycle. Enter the guys who store your data. Northrop Grumman won a $220 million contract with the NSA for information management and storage system development. Oh, and they also make drones.
Boeing donated a total of $12,000 to Rogers in the 2013-2014 cycle. Boeing, known mostly for making planes, was paid $21.45 billion by the federal government in 2011. Recently, Boeing has increased their interest in drones, including the "Phantom Eye."
Dianne Feinstein: Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee
Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chair of the Senate Committee on Intelligence has a more diverse corporate campaign contributor list according to Opensecrets.org, with many more weapons and power corporations than Mike Rogers list. This makes perfect sense through because Feinstein also serves on the Senate Appropriations subcommittees for both Defense and Energy. However, because she is another avid apologist of NSA surveillance, it makes sense that a few NSA contractors would be on the list, and they are.
Above you can hear both Feinstein and Rogers defend metadata collection from back in June. You can also read her most recent press release on Judge Leon's preliminary ruling that NSA programs are unconstitutional here. Written on December 17, 2013, she still maintains that the collection of metadata is not invasive.
General Dynamics donated a total of $67,000 to Feinstein during the 2013-2014 cycle. CNBC reported that in 2011, the U.S. government had paid $19.47 billion to the munitions and military contractor, with a majority of the money coming from the U.S. Navy. However, a General Dynamics press release from April 2013 announced that the NSA had just certified their new "ProtecD@r" network encryptor to, "secure information classified at the Top Secret level."
Northrop Grumman donated a total of $50,800 to Feinstein in the 2013-2014 cycle.
BAE Systems donated a total of $41,000 to Feinstein during the 2013-2014 cycle. According to their website, BAE works, "with government agencies and leading enterprise clients to collect, manage and use information to protect and enhance critical assets, provide intelligence and strengthen resilience in today’s complex operating environment." According to a BAE press release, in March 2013 the company received a multi-year $127 million contract to "manage big data."
Honeywell International donated a total of $33,000 to Feinstein during the 2013-2014 cycle.
Ask yourself: who would be paying for these two candidate to win elections if they suddenly spoke out against massive invasive NSA data collection and storage? Compare these senatorial and congressional race contributions to, for example, the ACLU's $14,490 contributed to Barack Obama's campaign in the 2012 presidential election.