The era of the private intelligence agencies
28 Feb 2009
Private intelligence services are non-state actors involved in the sector of Intelligence and are primarily collecting and analyzing information by outsourcing public funding and by providing assistance to large multinationals.
In recent years, and after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in the U.S, individuals have gained wide access to government services as subcontractors and partners and now operate a very important part of the funds available for the «War against terrorism». In quite a few cases the same companies and agencies are recruiting mercenaries and generally provide a trend towards the formation ultra-companies that undertake public roles globally in the crucial field of security and information.
Currently a large number of companies offer intelligence services and some of them have acquired considerable influence. The most important amongst these are:
ASI Group, Control Risk Group, Global Strategies Group, Global Source, iJET, International Regional Security Agency, Jane’s Information Group, NC4, Olive Group, Secure Solutions International SIASS – Specialist Intelligence and Security Services, Kroll, Stratfor Tangiers International, The Steele Foundation , TranSecur, World-Check, SITE, Hacklyut, and others.
Most these organizations are based in the U.S., Britain and Australia and are staffed by knowledgeable employees of the intelligence apparatus who retire seeking work in the private sector which in general provides high fees. Due to the strong turnover growth in recent years, there has been large-scale recruitment of individuals that possess enviable skills as well as other collaborators from all walks of life and professions.
According to Brian Ruttenbur a security analyst for the U.S. Homeland Security, in 2008 the turnover of services in the private sector may have exceeded 50 billion U.S. Dollars, which means that this industry has a considerable impact in the American market.
It is estimated that 70% of the budget for U.S. intelligence agencies is provided via subcontracts to private corporations.
It should be noted that in recent years the private institutions are outsourcing key areas such as recruitment and training of the personnel. Generally it can be assumed that the dividing lines between the state and the business world have blurred to a great extent over the past few years. Clearly the 9/11 attacks have revolutionized the manner by which intelligence operations are being conducted since.
In the U.S. 35% of the operations of DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) and 95% of the NRO (National Reconnaissance Office) are undertaken by private employees who handle highly confidential projects and gain a full picture of the structure of the American state, but also of the whole world because of the American primal position within the global political system.
Over the last 5 years, 2,435 former senior U.S. military personnel have been recruited in 52 different private security and intelligence companies and 422 of those occupied roles identical to those when in active duty. There is clearly a trend towards the empowerment of the private sector which gains great insights of the way the state operates,as well as, a treasure trove of information in critical security sectors.
An issue of outmost concern for the U.S. authorities is the resignation of state officials with precious skills that join companies and undertake tasks having salaries 50 to 100% higher than those offered by the Army or the state agencies.
Because the above phenomena, important ethical issues surface and divisions between public officials and private individuals arise. According to many news reports, the American Administration over the past two years has gone into a nation-wide program of recruiting new staff especially for the CIA and FBI that will bear fruits within the next few years and might reduce the deficits being assessed currently.
It is certain that the search for talent in the intelligence sector will result in recruit campaigns where the state and the private sector will ferociously fight for the attainment of human skills and experience. The dilemma ultimately is the one that always stands out between the state and businesses: security & stability vs. flexibility & high earnings.
In the information or intelligence game this is a key factor in the evolving landscape. There used to be a time when the old boys club (CIA) ruled the roost and that was what the adventurer and “true believer” aspired to.
Then came the days of being blamed for shortcomings and ultimately the all too PC attitude of the 90’s that eventually got such luminaries as Bob Baer out of the spy game “officially” Now it is also a matter of money and access. It seems these days to be on the outside and having your own non state apparatus is a better approach to intelligence. Less red tape too.
I remember reading William Gibson’s works for the first time and being taken with the idea that all the Pharma’s, Yakuza, and even television networks had their own INTEL divisions or hired out to private spooks. It seemed like a foreign idea at first, but I eventualy thought this would come to pass. Seems it has post 9/11.
This has even filtered down to the non state actor level where we have the spheres of “competitive intelligence” or “Business Intelligence”, which are really just euphemisms for Corporate Espionage. Even if you are using “open source” intel, you are still running an intelligence apparatus to create dossiers on companies and their staffs.
As we move into the 21st century, I foresee more of these private outfits cropping up as we move forward. Not only the “Blackwater” types, but also the one stop shops encompassing all aspects of the spook world.
“You want business intel on a competitor? Sure! We can also tap their lines, backdoor their computers, and recruit their staff away from them to you if you like!”
Now with the global economic war that is brewing, it may be a good time to get into the private world of spooks…
The world is all shades of gray my friends and its good to be a chameleon with the right hues…