In July the Washington Post began its ‘Top Secret America’ series, examining the rapid growth
of the USA’s heavily privatised intelligence establishment. Investigative journalism at its best, the series and its
findings should prompt those of us in Europe who care about such matters to start making the same kind of inquiries
about our own security-corporate nexus.
The most alarming findings (summarised here) include:
* 1,931 intelligence contracting firms doing work classified as “top secret”
for 1,271 government organisations at over 10,000 sites around the USA; 533 of these firms were founded after the ’9/11′
* Contractors make up nearly 30 percent of the workforce of America’s intelligence
agencies. At the Department of Homeland Security the ratio of contractors to permanent staff is 50-50. The Washington Post
estimates that of 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, 265,000 are contractors.
* 18 government organisations contract 37 private companies to conduct psychological operations;
* 16 government organisations use 50 companies for “special military operations”
(e.g., SWAT teams and unconventional warfare);
* 14 government organisations contract 50 companies for top-secret conventional military
* 32 government organisations employ 36 different companies for counter-drug operations.
* The National Security Agency intercepts 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of
communications every day and divides some percentage of these between 70 different databases.
* At least 263 intelligence organisations have been created or reorganized in response to 9/11.
Why does any of this matter? As the authors of Top Secret America point out: “What started as a temporary fix in
response to the terrorist attacks has turned into a dependency that calls into question whether the federal workforce includes
too many people obligated to shareholders rather than the public interest — and whether the government is still in control
of its most sensitive activities”.