Tuesday, June 11, 2013

  • Digital Blackwater: How the NSA Gives Private Contractors Control of the Surveillance State

    Logos

    As the Justice Department prepares to file charges against Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden for leaking classified documents about the National Security Agency, the role of private intelligence firms has entered the national spotlight. Despite being on the job as a contract worker inside the NSA’s Hawaii office for less than three months, Snowden claimed he had power to spy on almost anyone in the country. “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge, to even the president, if I had a personal email," Snowden told The Guardian newspaper. Over the past decade, the U.S. intelligence community has relied increasingly on the technical expertise of private firms such as Booz Allen, SAIC, the Boeing subsidiary Narus and Northrop Grumman. About 70 percent of the national intelligence budget is now spent on the private sector. Former NSA Director Michael V. Hayden has described these firms as a quote "digital Blackwater." We speak to Tim Shorrock, author of the book "Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Outsourced Intelligence."

  • Striking Workers, Bangladeshi Activist Challenge Wal-Mart on Labor Conditions at Stores & Factories

    Kalpona_akter

    As celebrities including Tom Cruise and Hugh Jackman celebrated Wal-Mart at its annual meeting last week, workers and activists converged to demand sweeping changes at the company’s U.S. stores and global factories. Around 100 striking workers with the group OUR Walmart arrived in a caravan from across the country to protest what they allege to be retaliation against those seeking to change company practices on wages, safety and unions. Kalpona Akter, a workers’ rights activist from Bangladesh, urged Wal-Mart to stop rejecting new safety standards after the Dhaka building collapse that killed over 1,100 workers in April. Wal-Mart is one of only a few major retailers that have refused to sign onto an industry-wide agreement that establishes legally binding protections for garment workers. On the heels of bringing her demands to Wal-Mart shareholders, Akter joins us to discuss the campaign for improved safety standards in factories used by Wal-Mart and other major retailers. A former garment worker from the age of 12, she is now executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity. We’re also joined by Scott Nova, executive director of the Worker Rights Consortium, which investigates working conditions in factories around the world, and by Josh Eidelson, a journalist covering labor issues for The Nation who reported from the Wal-Mart shareholders’ meeting last week.

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