News

'Top Secret America' lists Silicon Valley firms

Washington Post names 'large, unwieldy, secretive' enterprise built up after Sept. 11 attacks

More than 50 Silicon Valley-area companies have been named by the Washington Post as part of "Top Secret America," a network of government and private organizations working on highly classified programs in counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence.

HP of Palo Alto, Hitachi Ltd. of Santa Clara, Cisco Systems of San Jose, Google of Mountain View and Oracle of Redwood City are the highest-revenue local firms among the government contractors named in the Post series (see the full list of local companies below).

Other well-known local employers on the list are Agilent Technologies, Inc. of Santa Clara, Adobe of San Jose and SRI International of Menlo Park.

They were among 1,931 private companies named by the newspaper, with the highest concentration of firms located in the Washington, D.C. area.

The defense-intelligence structure built up since Sept. 11, 2001, "has become so large, so unwieldy, and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, or whether it is making the United States safer," the Post said.

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management, said the Washington Post series "rips the veil off a problem that intelligence committee members have been struggling with for years.

"The Intelligence Community has grown into a sprawling enterprise, full of redundancies, without internal or external oversight," Eshoo said in a statement.

"The taxpayers deserve a better accounting of where their money is going, and what all this secrecy is costing them. The bill for the nation's intelligence enterprise has grown exponentially and it's not clear that we're getting our money's worth in many cases."

The Post said its investigation uncovers "what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America created since 9/11 that is hidden from public view, lacking in thorough oversight and so unwieldy that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.

"It is also a system in which contractors are playing an ever more important role. The Post estimates that out of 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, 265,000 are contractors."

The newspaper series was prepared over two years by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Dana Priest and author, researcher and military expert William M. Arkin.

The paper said its investigation was based on "government documents and contracts, job descriptions, property records, corporate and social-networking websites, additional records and hundreds of interviews with intelligence, military and corporate officials and former officials.

"Most requested anonymity either because they are prohibited from speaking publicly or because, they said, they feared retaliation at work for describing their concerns."

The newspaper specified neither the role of each of the 1,931 companies nor the size and scope of their government contracts.

It did say the largest category of contracting firms was in the area of information technology, accounting for more than 800 companies.

"Private firms have become so thoroughly entwined with the government's most sensitive activities that without them important military and intelligence missions would have to cease or would be jeopardized," the paper said.

HIring contractors has turned out to be costly for the government, the newspaper said.

It cited a 2008 study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence which found that contractors made up 29 percent of the workforce in the intelligence agencies but cost the equivalent of 49 percent of their personnel budgets.

Among the tasks performed by private companies are inventing technologies that make it easier to find roadside-bomb makers; producing blueprints and equipment for the "unmanned aerial war fought by drones, which have killed the largest number of senior Al Qaeda leaders," and creating "the transnational digital highway that carries the drones' real-time data on terrorist hide-outs from overseas to command posts throughout the United States."

The article "calls into question whether the federal workforce includes too many people obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest -- and whether the government is still in control of its most sensitive activities."

In interviews last week, both U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and CIA Director Leon Panetta said they "agreed with such concerns," the Post said.

Gates told the Post he "'can't get a number on how many contractors work for the Office of the Secretary of Defense,' referring to the department's civilian leadership."

Eshoo said, "It's time for Congress to start asserting itself and conduct rigorous oversight over the community, rather than serving as a rubber stamp for their budget. We can protect our country and be efficient and transparent at the same time."

Silicon Valley-area firms identified by the Post as being part of "Top Secret America" include:

■ Hewlett Packard, Palo Alto

■ Hitachi, Ltd., Santa Clara

■ Cisco Systems, San Jose

■ Google, Mountain View

■ Oracle, Redwood City

■ URS Corp., San Francisco

■ Robert Half Technology, Menlo Park

■ Agilent Technologies, Inc., Santa Clara

■ Juniper Networks, Sunnyvale

■ Adobe, San Jose

■ Brocade Communications Systems, San Jose

■ Altera Corp., San Jose

■ Quantum, San Jose

■ Digital Realty Trust, San Francisco

■ SRI International, Menlo Park

■ NetApp Inc., Sunnyvale

■ Riverbed Technology, San Francisco

■ Applied Signal Technology, Sunnyvale

■ ArcSight, Cupertino

■ SGI, Fremont

■ Stellar Solutions, Palo Alto

■ Vista Research Inc., Sunnyvale

■ Opal Soft Inc., Sunnyvale

■ ISSI, Walnut Creek

■ Aspera, Emeryville

■ Mark Logic, San Carlos

■ Buxton Consulting, Pleasanton

■ Devine Consulting, Union City

■ Palantir Technologies, Palo Alto

■ Executive Direction, San Francisco

■ Indosys Corp., San Jose

■ Base Line Engineering, San Jose

■ Narus Inc., Sunnyvale

■ TechnologySearch, San Jose

■ Data Mining International, Los Gatos

■ piXlogic, Los Altos

■ IT Tech Inc., Fremont

■ Albin Engineering Services, Inc., Santa Clara

■ Apollo Information Systems, Los Gatos

■ ASICSoft Inc., San Jose

■ Attensity Corp., Palo Alto

■ Autonomy, San Francisco

■ Blackstone Technology Group, San Francisco

■ Brainstorm Consulting, Mountain View

■ Econosoft, San Jose

■ ESG Consulting, Santa Clara

■ Imperva, Redwood City

■ Inxight Software, Sunnyvale

■ OneTen Technologies, San Jose

■ Sysorex Federal, Inc., Mountain View

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Nothing-To-See-Here-Folks--Move-On
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 22, 2010 at 7:17 pm

This "study" proves nothing. These sorts of stories has shown up in the Washington Post from time-to-time. Everyone associated with the Federal Government can "sing like a bird" about waste in his/her division.

This story about the growth of the Intelligence services after 9/11 only used unclassified documents, so the types of projects, the dollar amount of various projects, he success/failure rates of these sorts of projects, and/or the value of each of these projects was out of the access of these two reporters. So, the real value of the whole process is totally unknown to these folks. Yet, they spent two years trying to make a story out of the companies trying to leverage its best and brightest to create new technologies to keep Americans safe.

There is no clear evidence of wrong doing, fraudulent/criminal activity of any of the companies cited in this story. Yet .. there is the constant undertone that something is wrong with the process.

What's astounding is the massive waste in the various "social programs" currently operated by other branches of government, as can be found in an article about a new law that was signed into effect today that will supposedly stop $50B in waste/fraud, but does not come close to stopping the assumed $110B in these programs--

Less money for dead people: Obama signs waste law:
Web Link

Wonder how much time the Washington Post will spend chasing down the names and offenses of those who are stealing from us, rather than trying to somehow discredit those trying to make the world a safer place.

This "story" belongs in the bottom of your bird cage.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 22, 2010 at 10:23 pm

"Wonder how much time the Washington Post will spend chasing down the names and offenses of those who are stealing from us, rather than trying to somehow discredit those trying to make the world a safer place."

If you don't know how your money is being spent "to make the world a safer place," how do you know it isn't plain being stolen?

But since you like the system, here's an offer you'll cannot turn down: To make the world an even safer place, put $100,000 in unmarked bills in a plain white envelope, leave it under the USPS collection box on Waverley near Hawthorne Friday evening at 7:00, and walk away. Trust me, I'll spend the money, but how I spend it must remain secret for national security reasons.

Deal?


Like this comment
Posted by Unknown
a resident of another community
on Jul 23, 2010 at 12:05 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff]


Like this comment
Posted by Sam
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 23, 2010 at 7:18 am

Nothing-To-See-Here-Folks--Move-On:

As a TS-cleared 28-year employee with the IC, I can say you haven't a clue to what you are talking about. The Post article nailed it.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul V.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 23, 2010 at 9:48 am

Wow, if U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, wishes to look for waste perhaps she should look for it among her peers. Seems to me Congress needs more oversight before they can sling mud at contractors.

FYI - Anna, DCMA and DCAA do a very good job of ensuring waste, fraud, and abuse are continually monitored throughout the contracts' progress. Wish we could say the same for the "intelligence sub-committee" which BTW is an OXYMORON. (Emphasis on moron)


Like this comment
Posted by Gene
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 23, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Maybe my mind is playing tricks with me, but didn't I see this story first in the Post. I think they printed it Thursday morning and the Weekly online posts it Thursday afternoon. I guess because of budget cuts you just copy stuff you see elsewhere rather than doing your own reporting.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Since no money can be appropriated without congressional approval, it would seem that Eshoo's criticisms should have been directed inwardly. If Pinetta believes that intelligence funds are being misused he needs to restore his past wages to the government and let a competent director take over.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm

"Since no money can be appropriated without congressional approval, it would seem that Eshoo's criticisms should have been directed inwardly. If Pinetta believes that intelligence funds are being misused he needs to restore his past wages to the government and let a competent director take over."

Walter, you really should try to familiarize yourself about how these "black" activities are funded. It is plainly apparent you know nothing of the process.
If Pinetta is your way of misspelling Panetta, then you are probably also unaware that Panetta's CIA is only 1 of 16 highly compartmented intelligence agencies. Compartmented means that by design they don't talk to one another, which means much duplication of effort (and funding) among them. Compromising a codebook 6 decades ago does not make one an expert on intel.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 23, 2010 at 4:25 pm

"FYI - Anna, DCMA and DCAA do a very good job of ensuring waste, fraud, and abuse are continually monitored throughout the contracts' progress."

True enough. If the contract calls for waste, fraud, and abuse, then DCMA and DCAA will make damn sure the money isn't spent for anything else. Else, no more contracts for the offenders.


Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 24, 2010 at 3:43 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I finally figured out the reason for the brouhaha. The private contractors are almost totally non-union, while government employees are a steady, unwilling source of funds for the democrat party.
Remember how that airport security bill was held up until the jobs were made government.


Like this comment
Posted by securityischeap
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 24, 2010 at 9:57 pm

If you asked tax-paying Americans how much of their income they would prefer
allocated to the wars in certain unnamed countries these past 7-9 years, most
would probably agree to some nominal contribution. Well, the per tax-payer
liability for these wars is shaping up to be in the thousands. (For you accountants
out there, these are present-value numbers; future-value numbers are considerably
greater.)

So, measured against the wars, the security budget is insignificant. That being said,
is the security budget "worth it"? This is sort of like asking is the high cost of healthcare
in the USA "worth it"? Well, for some.

I think one of the sad trends to emerge out of the gov't spending spree these last
few years is a shift of wealth to Washington. The most recently announced urban
median income numbers are out, and not surprisingly, cities in the Washington metro hub
rank near #1. Remember the American political creed we all learned in school: our
form of democratic governance is meant to serve the people. Evidently, it's also
serving our friendly congressional reps in the Washington area quite well, too.

What does this trend mean for Palo Alto, and the nation at large. In a word: less
risk-taking. When we reward large institutions like the gov't with a lot of our nation's
income, the end result is a transition of decision-making from individuals to
heirarchically organized groups that disincentivize individual initiative.

America will get over this mess as we have so many other hurdles in the past.
But we are likely to lose at least a half-generation of smart talent and progress
that could otherwise have been spent advancing the world's know-how and
technological progress.


Like this comment
Posted by Paul
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 26, 2010 at 9:26 am

Hey, everybody, they've traced some of this money. According to our own classified documents right there on WikiLeaks, it's going to the Taliban, via the Pakistani ISI (their CIA/DIA).


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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