WASHINGTON – Starting today, journalists, activists, and corporate researchers will be able to use the Internet site SpiesForHire.org to track the nation’s most important intelligence contractors.
Increasingly, secret drone attacks in Pakistan, CIA prisons in Guantanamo, and domestic surveillance of American citizens, have drawn public scrutiny to U.S. intelligence. These and other policies have triggered calls for criminal investigations and congressional commissions to investigate possible abuses in the post-9/11 “war on terror.”
But there's a big piece missing from the national debate about spying: the role of private intelligence contractors. After journalist Tim Shorrock’s 2008 investigation, U.S. officials confirmed that 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget goes directly to private companies working under contract to the CIA, the NSA, and other agencies. With the U.S. intelligence budget estimated at $60 billion a year, the outsourced business of intelligence is a $45 billion annual industry.
To help the public and media understand this new phenomenon, CorpWatch is joining today with Shorrock, the first journalist to blow the whistle on the privatization of U.S. intelligence, to create a groundbreaking database focusing on the dozens of corporations that provide classified intelligence services to the United States government.
These contractors, database users will find, do it all:
• At the CIA, they conduct interrogations at Guantanamo, run stations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hotspots, and help transport suspected terrorists— including some later found innocent—to countries known to practice torture.
• At the NSA, they work alongside agency employees at listening posts in Maryland, Georgia, Hawaii, the UK, and elsewhere to monitor telephone calls and emails between U.S. citizens and targeted foreigners.
• From bases in Nevada and Virginia, they control the military and CIA Predators that launch missiles at suspected terrorist bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
• Contractors also run covert operations, write intelligence reports that are passed up the line of command all the way to the president, and advise agencies on how to spend taxpayer dollars.
SpiesForHire.org is a component of CorpWatch’s existing Crocodyl database on global corporations. Based on Shorrock’s research for his book and for CorpWatch, Salon, Mother Jones, and other publications, the site will feature essential information ab0ut each major contractor, such as its key executives for intelligence operations, its major intelligence clients, and an analysis of its role in the U.S. intelligence system.
The database is an ongoing project. Starting from a base of a dozen companies and intelligence agencies, it will eventually include all the major private sector players in the business of U.S. government spying. Each profile will be regularly updated. Unlike Crocodyl, which registered users can augment, SpiesForHire.org will be edited exclusively by Shorrock and the CorpWatch staff, who will also vet and fact check any volunteer or whistleblower contributions.
Since 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, the U.S. government’s use of private sector contractors for tasks of war has made headlines: Halliburton’s lucrative Iraqi reconstruction contracts, CACI International’s civilian interrogators at Abu Ghraib, and Blackwater’s (now Xe) shooting of noncombatants in Baghdad—to name a few. Less well known is U.S. contractor involvement in Latin America, for example in executing the U.S. war on drugs in countries like Colombia.
This site will, for the first time, expose the size and scope of the private sector’s influence on U.S. intelligence agencies—and the government’s unsettling efforts to hide the facts.
A global community of non-profit, independent investigative research, journalism and advocacy around issues of multinational corporate accountability and transparency, the CorpWatch community of sites provides tools and resources for critical vigilance and advocacy through a global effort of NGOs, journalists, activists, whistleblowers and academics. Through its family of websites and social media, we seek to expose multinational corporations that that profit from war, fraud, environmental, human rights and other abuses, and to provide critical information to foster a more informed public and an effective democracy.
CorpWatch.org provides non-profit investigative research and journalism to expose corporate malfeasance and to advocate for multinational corporate accountability and transparency.
Crocodyl.org is an evolving compendium of critical research, posted to the public domain as an aid to anyone working to hold corporations increasingly accountable. Crocodyl enables disparate groups and individuals to pool our knowledge about specific corporations in order to reduce the high cost of corporate research.
Tim Shorrock is an investigative journalist who has spent a quarter-century researching the intersection of national security and business. SPIES FOR HIRE, his groundbreaking book on the privatization of U.S. intelligence, was published to great acclaim in 2008 by Simon & Schuster, and released in paperback in May 2009. Shorrock’s 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 appears frequently as a commentator on U.S 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 Washington, D.C., where he researches government contracts for an AFL-CIO union representing federal employees.