Friday, May 16, 2008

50 Billion to Private Industry to Spy and Secure

Investigative journalist Tim Shorrock wrote a book, Spies for Hire, which details the 50 billion dollar private industry to do the things that our government used to do, such as spy for the US, secure the US, train the military. It's appalling. He was interviewed yesterday on NPR's Fresh Air and the link includes the introduction from his book. I've excerpted a few money clips below.

This horrifying state of affairs is a direct result of 30 years of bad-mouthing government and Bill Clinton's selling out to that premise. Private services cost more (the employees make 3x what a soldier makes) and private companies are less accountable (Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, which is address here because private contractors are directly responsible for what happened there, and the particular one has been rewarded with more business).

And all this reporting is aside from Blackwater and Halliburton. And perhaps bigger.

Here's Shorrock's riveting opening:

On May 9, 2006, John Humphrey, a former CIA officer making his way up the management ladder of one of the nation's largest intelligence contractors, made a stunning disclosure to Intelcon, a national intelligence conference and exhibition at a hotel in Bethesda, Maryland. Outsourcing, Humphrey declared, was out of control. Contractors deployed in Iraq and other hotspots overseas were making decisions and handling documents that, in earlier times, had been the sole responsibility of U.S. military and intelligence officers. This had caused a "paradigm shift" in the relationship between government and the private sector, and left companies like his in an untenable position.

Five years ago, "you'd never have a contractor supporting an operation on the field where they're making a recommendation to an officer," said Humphrey. Nor would you find a contractor "making little contributions here and there" in the reports intelligence officers sent back to Washington. "This concerns me a lot, the way these lines are blurring," he went on. "We shouldn't be involved in some of these intelligence operations, or the planning, or the interrogations and what have you." Unless government started taking more responsibility in the field, he warned, the "blowback" for the contracting industry could be profound.

He notes that the conference where Humphrey spoke was overflowing with people who were getting fat on the hog of terror and fear.

His warning brought to mind a front page article from The New York Times, from last September: In Turnaround, Industries Seek U.S. Regulations
After years of favoring the hands-off doctrine of the Bush administration, some of the nation’s biggest industries are pushing for something they have long resisted: new federal regulations.

For toys and cars, antifreeze and fireworks, popcorn and produce and cigarettes and light bulbs, among other products, industry groups or major manufacturers are calling for federal health, safety and environmental mandates. Some of those industries are abandoning years of efforts to block such measures, often in alliance with the Bush administration, which pledged to ease what it views as costly, unnecessary rules.
Some of that was motivated by a desire to have rules favorable to industry in place before Democrats took over in 2009. But it was a remarkable sign that industry values the liability cover of regulation.

Back to spies, Shorrock supports Barack Obama's claim that the Clinton administration, was a continuation of bad Republican policies. Shorrock outlines the ways that is true in key aspects of our national security. I've long believed, did then, that Clinton bought the Republican bill of goods when it came to the role of government. Bill was the one who declared "The era of big government is over." Now we all are reaping what he sowed.

To wit:
Next, we'll turn to the history of outsourcing in intelligence, focusing primarily on how contracting advanced during the administration of Bill Clinton and the reign of former CIA director George J. Tenet over national intelligence.
Shocking fact (and why this is important):
In 2006, the year Humphrey delivered his comments, the cost of America's spying and surveillance activities outsourced to contractors reached $42 billion, or about 70 percent of the estimated $60 billion the government spends every year on foreign and domestic intelligence.
Listen to the interview.

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