AMERICA is ruled by an "intelligence-industrial complex" whose allegiance is not to the taxpaying public but to a cabal of private-sector contractors that have disgraced our national image and potentially compromised our national security for the sake of making profits.
That is the central thesis of "Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing" by Tim Shorrock (Simon & Schuster, $27). Mr. Shorrock is an investigative journalist who has contributed to The Nation, Harper's Magazine, Mother Jones, Salon and various newspapers. His writing here is closer in style to a corporate annual report than to a magazine feature, and he makes extensive use of secondary sources like other books. But his book is worth plowing through because of its disturbing overview of the intelligence community, also known as "the I.C."
Mr. Shorrock says our government is outsourcing 70 percent of its intelligence budget, or more than $42 billion a year, to a "secret army" of corporate vendors. Because of accelerated privatization efforts after 9/11, these companies are participating in covert operations and intelligence-gathering activities that were considered "inherently governmental" functions reserved for agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency, he says.
The roster of outside intelligence contractors includes behemoths like AT&T and Verizon Communications and lesser-known companies like the military contractor CACI International. Remember, the telecommunications companies are said to have willingly aided the National Security Agency's warrantless eavesdropping program and a program capable of monitoring the Internet communications of virtually every American, Mr. Shorrock tells us.
CACI's contract interrogators have been accused of introducing some of the most brutal practices at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, including the use of attack dogs. (The company has denied the accusations.) But the Pentagon has given CACI a three-year, $156 million contract to provide information technology support and training to instructors at the Army's intelligence school at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.