No matter how you feel about Edward Snowden's decision to dish on the government's spying habits, there's at least one issue all of us can agree to be outraged over: his salary. Before hightailing it Hong Kong, the 29-year-old said he had a plum $200,000-a-year job as a Honolulu-based government-contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton, helping the National Security Agency run its surveillance operation. (Booz Allen Hamilton said it was $122,000 a year, not $200,000.) This for a fairly low-level professional with a GED. Here, meanwhile, is how Snowden described his pre-leak lifestyle to The Guardian:
"[Y]ou can get up everyday, go to work, you can collect your large paycheck for relatively little work against the public interest, and go to sleep at night after watching your shows."
Low stress. High pay. As long as your conscience doesn't get in the way, it's apparently good to be a cog in our national-security apparatus.
There's a frustrating reason for that. Over the years, the government has outsourced huge chunks of its operations wholesale to private contractors like Booz Allen, particularly in the realm of intelligence gathering. And it's costing Washington untold billions every year.
Nobody knows for sure how many contractors the government pays because, well, the government doesn't keep track. But New York University Professor Paul Light has estimated that in 2005, they made up more than half the federal workforce, totaling some 7.6 million employees. Since then, the tally has no doubt grown.
Update: Booz Allen Hamilton has said Snowden earned $122,000 a year, not $200,000.