For Booz Allen Hamilton, protecting government secrets is also a matter of protecting billions of dollars in business.
So when Edward Snowden, who had worked at the strategy and consulting firm less than three months, leaked the details of massive government surveillance programs, it presented not just a security debate for the country but a public relations problem for the company.
Booz Allen, which sells technical expertise and data analysis to the government, depends on government contracts—taxpayer money, in other words—for almost all of its more than $5.8 billion in annual revenue, and it boasts to shareholders about its deep ties to the federal government.
"You can count on us," the company said in its most recent annual report.
On Monday, Wall Street was not so sure. After Snowden revealed himself as the source of articles in two newspapers over the weekend, investors sent Booz Allen stock down as much as 5 percent, wiping out tens of millions of dollars in market value.
The company said Tuesday that it had fired Snowden for violating its code of ethics and company policy. It declined further comment to NBC News.
Booz Allen is particularly intertwined with the National Security Agency and the rest of the intelligence complex.
More than three-quarters of its 25,000 employees have government security clearance, and about half have clearance of "Top Secret or higher," the company says. Secrecy is so important to Booz Allen that it warns investors that they may not always be able to tell how it makes its money.
In light of the leak, "Money and man-hours are going to be flying out the windows," said Scott Sobel, president of Media & Communications Strategies, a Washington crisis-management company. Booz Allen has not been a client.
The company's existing contracts may not be damaged, but Sobel said that Booz Allen is certain to shoulder extensive legal fees, federal investigations and news media scrutiny in the months to come.
He suggested that Booz Allen look for former cabinet-level security advisers and former leaders of the CIA and NSA to perform an investigation and make recommendations about how to stop leaks in the future.
Hiring high-level former government officials has not been a problem for Booz Allen. Its vice chairman is John McConnell, the former director of national intelligence, who was paid $2.3 million by the company last year, according to a company regulatory filing.