Monday, July 19, 2010

Spies for Hire: Review

Spies for Hire
The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing
by Tim Shorrock [reposted from the Progressive Book Club]
A stunning exposé of a business the government wants to keep under wraps.

From CIA covert actions to NSA eavesdropping, from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo, from the Pentagon’s techno-driven war in Iraq to the coming global battles for information dominance and control of cyberspace, contractors are doing it all. Vital intelligence tasks traditionally have been performed by government officials accountable to Congress and the American people – but that is no longer the case.

Expanding dramatically in the wake of 9/11, when the CIA and other agencies were frantically looking to hire analysts and linguists, the Intelligence Community has been relying more and more on corporations to perform sensitive tasks heretofore considered to be exclusively the work of federal employees.

Drawing on interviews with key players in the Intelligence-Industrial Complex, contractors' annual reports and public filings with the government, and on-the-spot reporting from intelligence industry conferences and investor briefings, Spies for Hire provides the first behind-the-scenes look at this new way of spying. Investigative reporter Tim Shorrock shows how corporations such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, SAIC, CACI International, and IBM have become full partners with the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Pentagon in their most sensitive foreign and domestic operations. He explores how this partnership has led to wasteful spending and threatens to erode the privacy protections and congressional oversight so important to American democracy.

Shorrock exposes the kinds of spy work the private sector is doing, such as interrogating prisoners in Iraq, managing covert operations, and collaborating with the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans' overseas phone calls and e-mails. And he casts light on a "shadow Intelligence Community" made up of former top intelligence officials who are now employed by companies that do this spy work, such as former CIA directors George Tenet and James Woolsey. Shorrock also traces the rise of Michael McConnell from his days as head of the NSA to being a top executive at Booz Allen Hamilton to returning to government as the nation's chief spymaster.

The outsourcing of intelligence activities is now a $50 billion-a-year business that consumes up to 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget. Spies for Hire goes behind today’s headlines to lift the veil of secrecy around this new and frightening national surveillance state.

1 comment:

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall said...

Great post about a subject of big concern to me, ever since it came out during Irangate that the CIA was outsourcing its dirty work to private contractors (who aren't obliged to keep written records or respond to Freedom of Information Act requests). In Seattle in the late eighties, it was not uncommon for the police and FBI to give some of their drug informants a few hundred dollars a month to follow, spy on and harass union and community activists. In a way, I guess they were the first intelligence contractors. I write about my own close encounter with these people in my recent memoir THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE (I currently live in exile in New Zealand).