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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Spies for Hire

Press Release

A groundbreaking expose of the US intelligence community's real "Men in Black": Private-sector spooks (2008)

"Tim Shorrock is walking, and mapping, a startling fault line of these crazy days: the way government is outsourcing its most basic functions at a time of peril. Replacing public service with private transactions - often shadowy and unaccountable - is what helped bring down Rome. Without fierce scrutiny, and the kind of sharp-eyed disclosures this book provides, it can bring down America. A must read."

- Ron Suskind, author of The One Percent Doctrine (2006)

"Tim Shorrock is a digger, and he has penetrated a secret and fascinating world to write a telling and readable book".

- Evan Thomas, editor at large of Newsweek, author of Sea of Thunder (2006)

"Shorrock excavates new dirt by focusing on the business of intelligence ... Shorrock's prose is lucid, his passionate brief for open government inspiring. A sterling example of why investigative journalists are valuable during an era of deep, broad and unconscionable government secrecy."
- Kirkus Reviews

"Shorrock gives a comprehensive ... rundown of the players in the industry, and his book is valuable for its detailed panorama of 21st-century intelligence work. He uncovers serious abuses ... and nagging concerns about corrupt ties between intelligence officials and private corporations, industry lobbying for a national surveillance state, the withering of the intelligence agencies' in-house capacities and the displacement of an ethos of public service by a profit motive."

- Publishers Weekly

Since 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, newspaper headlines and the blogosphere have been afire with revelations about the US government's enormous use of private sector contractors to carry out the tasks of war: Halliburton's lucrative Iraqi reconstruction contracts, CACI International's civilian interrogators at Abu Ghraib, and the shooting of noncombatants in Baghdad by the shadowy security firm Blackwater, to name just a few. But the size and scope of the private sector's influence on US intelligence agencies - and the government's unsettling efforts to hide the truth from the public - have never been known until now. In SPIES FOR HIRE: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing (Simon & Schuster; May 06 2008; $27.00), investigative journalist Tim Shorrock presents the first-ever comprehensive profile of the astonishingly lucrative intelligence contracting industry - where profit often trumps patriotism.

SPIES FOR HIRE exposes how, from the tracking of al-Qaeda to the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping on US citizens, private contractors have infiltrated every corner of intelligence gathering in America. Drawing on insider documents and exclusive interviews with sources including former agency operatives and CEO's of private intelligence firms, Shorrock lifts the highly secretive veil off the mysterious world of intelligence contracting, demonstrating the shocking truth that over seventy percent of the massive US intelligence budget is now spent on contractors, with minimal congressional oversight. Bankrolled with tax money, these private firms are exerting enormous influence on governmental policies that affect all Americans.

In a compulsively readable tour de force of investigative reporting, SPIES FOR HIRE explains how Abu Ghraib and Blackwater are merely the tip of the iceberg. Shorrock's meticulous research reveals the following and much more:

* Intelligence contracting has become a $45 billion industry, eating up more than seventy percent of the $60 billion the US government spends annually on intelligence. Corporations like Booz Allen Hamilton, SAIC, and CACI International have become full partners with the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the Pentagon in their most sensitive operations.

* The business of intelligence has grown so large and so fast that even its champions aren't afraid to borrow a weighted term from President Dwight Eisenhower to describe it. "Call it the Intelligence-Industrial Complex", the director of the largest industry association in the spying business tells Shorrock (page 12).

* The companies that make up the new Intelligence-Industrial Complex range in size from defense behemoths like Lockheed Martin to tiny "Beltway Bandits" like SpecTal, and include both household names (IBM) and the obscure (Scitor). These firms do everything from providing disguises to CIA officers operating undercover to analyzing signals intelligence picked up by the National Security Agency.

* Official information about the scope of intelligence outsourcing, critical as it would be to the public's understanding of national security, has been deliberately suppressed by the US government. In 2006, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence ordered a study of contracting within the sixteen agencies that make up the Intelligence Community. When time came to release the study in 2007, however, the ODNI refused to make it public. Shorrock's book provides the only available documentation on the size and scope of our privatized intelligence system.

* Most Americans are now aware that telecom giants such as AT&T and Verizon are helping the NSA monitor phone and internet traffic. Shorrock shows that private sector involvement in government surveillance goes far beyond the telecommunications industry to include many of the nation's top IT companies and defense contractors. At least fifty percent and as much as 75 percent of the people at NSA headquarters and its ground stations around the world are contractors working for the private sector, Shorrock estimates.

* Shorrock shows how, under contract to the NSA, companies such as SAIC and CACI International provide critical assistance to the NSA's interpretation and analysis of signals captured by its global surveillance system. This vast complex of companies intertwined with the agencies, Shorrock argues, has created a powerful National Surveillance State made up in part by private interests whose contracts are classified and beyond the reach of congressional oversight committees.

* Not only were private contractors involved in the extreme interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, they have taken over the training of military interrogators at the US Army's Intelligence Center in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. And in hotspots around the world, private contractors are taking the place of government operatives. In Pakistan, for example, three-quarters of the officers posted at the Islamabad CIA station since 9/11 have been private contractors. In the Baghdad CIA station, contractors have sometimes outnumbered government employees and have taken supervisory positions overseeing what CIA agents do every day.

* Former high-ranking national security officials such as Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and CIA directors George Tenet and R James Woolsey have brought their knowledge and expertise to consulting positions with the intelligence industry. This migration from the public to the private sector has created a shadow force of contractors, many of whom are doing for their companies the same tasks they did as government servants - only at double or triple the pay. A former CIA officer tells Shorrock: "Everyone I know in the CIA is leaving and going into contracting whether they're retired or not" (page 14).

* SPIES FOR HIRE shows how the revolving door between public and private often spins two or three times. Take the example of Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, who was the first contractor in US history to take the leading role in the US Intelligence Community. Prior to his appointment as DNI, McConnell managed military intelligence for Booz Allen Hamilton, one of the nation's top intelligence contractors; a dozen years earlier, Booz Allen hired McConnell directly from a stint at the National Security Agency, where he was the director for three years.

* As DNI, McConnell has turned to a private business association that he himself once chaired as a Booz Allen executive - the Intelligence and National Security Alliance - to work with the government to build public support for US intelligence policies. Shorrock shows how INSA, which is backed by the largest CIA and NSA contractors, has become a vehicle for industry-government debate where the public is excluded - making the task of congressional oversight almost impossible. "It's not like a debate when someone loses", intelligence expert Steven Aftergood tells Shorrock. "There is no debate. And the more work that migrates to the private sector, the less effective congressional oversight is going to be" (page 21).

* Shorrock takes the reader into the heart of the industry by visiting conferences and symposia where high-ranking government and private sector officials discuss their common strategies and corporations display their latest wares in intelligence collection and surveillance technologies. As counterterrorism wars rage in Iraq and Afghanistan, the talk among the executives gathered for these conferences, Shorrock writes, "is of money and profits, 'market drivers', being 'in sync with our customers', and providing 'soup-to-nuts support' to the US military" (page 263). "We are a national security pure-play", exclaims one excited CEO (page 261).

* Behind the wall of secrecy that shrouds intelligence contracts, the opportunities for corruption are extensive. The corruption is illustrated by the notorious case of Congressman Duke Cunningham, who accepted $2.4 million in bribes from intelligence contractor MZM in exchange for valuable - and secretive - budget earmarks for MZM.

President Eisenhower famously warned Americans about the rise of a "military-industrial complex", but in the information-saturated 21st century, the Intelligence-Industrial Complex exposed by Tim Shorrock in SPIES FOR HIRE is a more salient threat to our freedoms. From huge defense contractors to small, focused companies that provide specialized technology for mining and analyzing data, the disturbingly unregulated role of the private sector in gathering intelligence and acting upon it demands the level of scrutiny Tim Shorrock brings. In the bestselling tradition of Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine (2006), SPIES FOR HIRE is a must-read for all Americans concerned with who pulls the strings (and triggers) of American foreign policy and national security.

More advance praise for SPIES FOR HIRE

"An insightful investigation into the world's most secretive industry, where the modern James Bond bills by the hour. Eye-opening."

- R J Hillhouse, author of Outsourced (2007) and intelligence blogger of

"Spies for Hire is an excellent roadmap to the daunting new terrain of US intelligence, in which the explosive growth of intelligence contracting threatens to overwhelm any possibility of independent oversight. In this groundbreaking work, Tim Shorrock explores who has benefited, who has paid, and why it matters to us all."

- Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy, Federation of American Scientists

"Tim Shorrock's well researched and convincing book reveals how the intelligence community now subcontracts out most of its work - seventy percent - to private-sector companies that inevitably have their own agendas, which may or may not accord with the national interest. By laying out very specifically how all this works, Shorrock has provided a very important service to the country."

- Burton Hersh, author of The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA (1992)


Tim Shorrock is an investigative journalist who has devoted a quarter-century of research to the intersection of national security and business, specifically researching intelligence contracting for the past four years. His work has appeared in many publications in the United States and abroad, including The Nation, Salon, Mother Jones, Harper's, Inter Press Service, The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Progressive, The Journal of Commerce, Foreign Policy in Focus and Asia Times. He also appears frequently on the radio as a commentator on US-Korean relations and US intelligence and foreign policy, and has been interviewed on Pacifica's "Democracy Now", Air America and CBS Radio. Shorrock grew up in Japan and South Korea and now lives in Tahoma, California, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Lake Tahoe.

SPIES FOR HIRE: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing
Published by Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: May 06 2008
Price: $27.00
ISBN-10: 0-7432-8224-8
ISBN-13: 978-07432-8224-6

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Bill Totten


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