By NEIL GORDON
POGO blog readers might remember our post several months ago about Aaron Barr, the IT consultant whose plans to sabotage and discredit Wikileaks were discovered after he was hacked by the pro-Wikileaks activist group Anonymous.
When POGO caught up with the story in October, it was reported that Barr had recently been hired as the director of cybersecurity at Sayres and Associates, an engineering services company with millions of dollars in contracts with the U.S. Navy and the Department of Homeland Security, among other federal agencies. POGO was concerned that Barr’s high-profile tangle with Anonymous could put his new employer at risk of another malicious cyber-attack, one which would result in the disclosure of national security and other sensitive information courtesy of Sayres’ federal clients.
The country can rest easy for now. Yesterday, we learned that Sayres and Associates let Barr go this week. The company released this statement:
Sayres and Associates have released Aaron Barr for undisclosed reasons. It was in the best interest of the company to part ways. The management team has decided that Sayres will focus all business efforts on our core capabilities of Engineer and Management Service.
“We were out of our comfort zone with Aaron and wanted to get to basics,” company founder and CEO John Sayres told POGO.
Barr confirmed his termination to POGO. He agreed that he and the company were not a perfect match. “Cyber was not a core business area,” he told POGO. He added, “They are good folks. I enjoyed my time there.” As for his future plans, Barr said he intends to “stay within companies that focus on cyber as a core business,” but he acknowledged that working in the government market can be “pretty tough.”
POGO was drawn to Aaron Barr’s story because it perfectly illustrates the government’s over-reliance on contractors. In intelligence and national security areas, this over-reliance can lead to abuses such as contractors potentially conducting illegal spying, sabotage, or other nefarious activities on behalf of the federal government or even on behalf of their non-government clients.
We were lucky that Barr’s particular project was exposed before it could come to fruition. Who knows how many other similar projects have progressed beyond the planning stage? In addition, are we comfortable with having so much sensitive government data in the hands of so many private companies?
Neil Gordon is a POGO Investigator.