by Chalmers Johnson
Tomdispatch.com

July 28, 2008

Chalmers Johnson has produced a superb new article on what privatization has meant to the U.S. Intelligence Community.

Focusing on Tim Shorrock’s new book, Spies for Hire, Johnson traces the history of “the wholesale transfer of military and intelligence functions to private, often anonymous operatives” from Ronald Reagan’s day to the present, reminding us of just how crucial the Clinton administration was to this development. He also lays out just what can happen when the intelligence budget soars and startling amounts of it are placed in private, for-profit hands. Not only, he claims, has the privatization of intelligence made it easier for enemies to penetrate American intelligence and greased the slippery slope to the loss of professionalism within the community of intelligence analysts, but, perhaps most serious of all, it has ensured the loss of the most valuable asset any intelligence organization possesses — its institutional memory.

Johnson concludes: “The current situation represents the worst of all possible worlds. Successive administrations and Congresses have made no effort to alter the CIA’s role as the president’s private army, even as we have increased its incompetence by turning over many of its functions to the private sector. We have thereby heightened the risks of war by accident, or by presidential whim, as well as of surprise attack because our government is no longer capable of accurately assessing what is going on in the world and because its intelligence agencies are so open to pressure, penetration, and manipulation of every kind.”

Most Americans have a rough idea what the term “military-industrial complex” means when they come across it in a newspaper or hear a politician mention it. President Dwight D. Eisenhower introduced the idea to the public in his farewell address of January 17, 1961. “Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime,” he said, “or indeed by the fighting men of World War II and Korea We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Link to the rest of the article The Vast and Dangerous Transfer of American Spying to Mercenary Companies