Monday, July 09, 2007

Privatizing National Security

By Cernig

Very much worth a read today is an article over at the Washington Post which looks at just how widespread Bush's privatization of the U.S. national security apparatus has become.
Red alert: Our national security is being outsourced.

The most intriguing secrets of the "war on terror" have nothing to do with al-Qaeda and its fellow travelers. They're about the mammoth private spying industry that all but runs U.S. intelligence operations today.

Surprised? No wonder. In April, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell was poised to publicize a year-long examination of outsourcing by U.S. intelligence agencies. But the report was inexplicably delayed -- and suddenly classified a national secret. What McConnell doesn't want you to know is that the private spy industry has succeeded where no foreign government has: It has penetrated the CIA and is running the show.

Over the past five years (some say almost a decade), there has been a revolution in the intelligence community toward wide-scale outsourcing. Private companies now perform key intelligence-agency functions, to the tune, I'm told, of more than $42 billion a year. Intelligence professionals tell me that more than 50 percent of the National Clandestine Service (NCS) -- the heart, brains and soul of the CIA -- has been outsourced to private firms such as Abraxas, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.

These firms recruit spies, create non-official cover identities and control the movements of CIA case officers. They also provide case officers and watch officers at crisis centers and regional desk officers who control clandestine operations worldwide. As the Los Angeles Times first reported last October, more than half the workforce in two key CIA stations in the fight against terrorism -- Baghdad and Islamabad, Pakistan -- is made up of industrial contractors, or "green badgers," in CIA parlance.
I've written about this myself from time to time. The dangers of this level of outsourcing are plentiful and should be obvious. Intelligence operatives who become jobless during a change of contractor could too easily become mercenaries for hire. Contractors involved in such outsourcing have been involved in some of the biggest corruption scandals of the last few years. Allowing privately-employed contractors access to massive intelligence databases is just asking for such databases to be misused. Revolving-door recruitment between government and such (invariably GOP-donating) contractors encourages split loyalties. Congress cannot effectively exercize oversight. And, finally, who believes that contractors employed by defense companies who are already complaining about not getting enough government money to build new weapons will be impartial when assessing threats?

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