Privatized Spying: The Emerging Intelligence Industry

Patrick R. Keefe

in The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780195375886
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Privatized Spying: The Emerging Intelligence Industry

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After the 9/11 attack, Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called for a symbiotic relationship between the intelligence community and the private sector. Across the United States, there was a sense that the country was under attack and that all the citizens including the private industry must do their part in helping secure the homeland and identify and stop emerging threats. Within this context, the private industry of spies came to the aid of the government in securing the nation. Recently retired CIA agents were returning to their same jobs with private-sector salaries. Dozens of new forms were springing in the Washington suburbs, specializing in language transition and analysis, in designing new surveillance technologies, and supplying ex-military and intelligence veterans to foreign soil. By the turn of 2008, the U.S. intelligence and the private sector had formed a symbiotic relationship that is difficult to disentangle. While many of the private contractors and members of the private industry entered the emerging intelligence sphere out of patriotism and national duty in the aftermath of the September 11 attack, many nevertheless became entangled by profit-driven opportunities. This other aspect of the privatized spying poses a misalignment between the priorities and incentives of the contractors and their clients. This article outlines the history and dynamics of the outsourcing of U.S. intelligence. It discusses the sometimes wasteful and expensive dysfunction of the contracting process, the nature of brain drain from the government to the private sector, and the prospects for greater oversight, understanding of the phenomenon, and reform.

Keywords: intelligence community; private sector; private industry; private contractors; privatized spying; outsourcing; contracting process; brain drain

Article.  6271 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; International Relations

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