Amazon Suing CIA-Follow the Money- $600 Million

4 — Amazon is suing the government over a $150 million contract for a massive intelligence community computer cloud that the CIA first awarded to the Web giant but later yanked after an auditor said the intelligence agency gave Amazon an unfair advantage. We are talking about a $600 million contract over 10 years. Amazon filed its suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on July 24. The complaint is sealed because Amazon said it contained proprietary information.

“We believe strongly that the CIA got it right the first time,” an Amazon Web Services spokeswoman said in an email. “Providing true cloud computing services to the intelligence community requires a transformative approach with superior technology.”

Amazon Web Services is Amazon’s cloud computing division.

On Friday, June 14, a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report elaborated on previous reports that Amazon had won a $600 million contract to build a “private cloud” for the CIA. (The GAO report was generated when IBM, which had been competing for the contract, protested that it had lost unfairly.)

“More than half a billion dollars will buy you a lot of cloud computing,” and now, according to postings on Amazon’s own jobs site, the company is staffing up to meet the demand the new contract will require. Specifically, Amazon is looking for engineers who already  have a “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information” clearance, or are willing to go through the elaborate screening process required to get it. TS/SCI is the highest security clearance offered by the U.S. government, and getting it requires having your background thoroughly vetted, according to

That is why the intelligence community needs more Snowden-like qualified system managers.

It is difficult to asses the monetary value of the “Naked Citizen” in the digital age. But there is a huge  dollar value to the data analytic. Surveillance is big data and big data is big business. The surveillance economy puts information transactions at its core, and when the bottom is dropping out of the market for real goods and services, capitalism will adapt. The latest systemic adaptation is to embrace new ways of collecting data on customers and then turning the collected data into something that someone else is willing to buy. Monetizing you is the bottom line of the ROI of the Big Data living in cloud.

The problems of a surveillance state become more obvious when you understand information as a resource that governments exploit. As there are “20 different ways that people’s information is regularly recorded. That number does not include special situations such as border crossings or surveillance that occurs only when someone is suspected of a crime.” This stated in the WSJ.

The politicians in Congress also see financial value in their vote.

“The numbers tell the story — in votes and dollars,” writes David Kravets from Wired. “On Wednesday, the House voted 217 to 205 not to rein in the NSA’s phone-spying dragnet. It turns out that those 217 ‘no’ voters received twice as much campaign financing from the defense and intelligence industry as the 205 ‘yes’ voters.”

These are the politicians who you voted in. They trust you as a Naked Citizen who will accept their judgement.

The Silicon Valley CEO community is complicit, as Michael Hirsh puts it in the recent National Journal:

But the sounds of silence from the tech and telecom sectors are drowning out a larger truth, one that some of Snowden’s documents might well supply in much greater detail. For nearly 20 years, many of these companies—indeed most of America’s biggest corporate sectors, from energy to finance to telecom to computers—have been doing the intelligence community’s bidding, as America’s spy and homeland-security agencies have bored their way into the nation’s privately run digital and electronic infrastructure. Sometimes this has happened after initial resistance, and occasionally under penalty of law, but more often with willing and even eager cooperation. Indeed, the private tech sector effectively built the NSA’s surveillance system, and got rich doing it.”

The value of big data has been compared to the oil boom or panning for gold during the gold rush in terms of potential profitability. The numbers are staggering: 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by the end of this decade; so much available data to be mined that it doesn’t yet have a number to describe it. So many connections are available to be tapped, correlated, combed, combined and sold that any attempt to visualise the connections would look like a spaghetti junction map of the universe with every planet, star and comet connected to every other object. The value of this market is currently estimated at over $39 billion annually and growing at around 9% per year, according to analysts IDC.

See this chart to get the scale of this global potential.

Big data analytics (a polite way of talking about surveillance) is now central to the global economy. As more commercial data is collected, nervous and security-conscious governments will find more ways of mining it. For political purposes, too. Today everything is big. Government, business , military , population, and debt. And so is our connected-ness, through the Internet and electronics. It all requires money to maintain it, more all the time. The financial system is a fragile deck of cards about to fall. The Government corporate complex spends enormous amounts of money spying on everyone but will have let the perpetrators of the collapse carry on without being held to account.

Based in Australia, David Michaelis is a world-renowned international journalist and founder of Link Tv. At, he covers the global beat, focusing on politics and other international topics of note for our readers in a variety of forums. Email him at