By Doug Thompson
Three-fourths of the U.S. intelligence budget now goes to private contractors. That’s about $45 billion out of an estimated $60 billion.
This is a big deal. I’m not talking about the price.
These contractors are not just producing equipment like spy planes and so forth. They have taken over core functions of intelligence gathering and analysis. I read about this on “Spy Talk,” the blog at http://jeffstein.info/ that grew out of Jeff Stein’s column the Congressional Quarterly.
Intelligence for profit; Think about that. Every one of those contractors could lose business if they tell the client something he doesn’t want to hear. Each one of them could lose a lucrative contract if they fess up to a mistake. Furthermore, in an age where intelligence gathering has gotten out of control, think of the temptations to use the secrecy and the power they’ve been given to collect information that will be very profitable — whether the information has a legitimate intelligence use or not.
I’m not under any illusions that people don’t sell out their country for money all the time and that money isn’t a weapon we use. Any proper intelligence operation uses greed. Any man who will condemn his country to a longer-lasting war just because he doesn’t want to pay a traitor a few gold coins is little better than a traitor himself, as Sun Tzu, the respected military writer from ancient China has said.
But do you really want people whose chief motivation is to make a buck to be regular members of the utmost secret intelligence conferences?
This is an accountability nightmare. Billions of dollars in a budget that receives precious little scrutiny anyway; Who knows what sweetheart deals the administration’s made with private contractors? How would we ever find out? It’s hardly an exaggeration to call Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the willfully blind, deaf and dumb former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. If his committee turned the blind eye to torture, what was their attitude toward profiteering?
Intelligence was blazingly — pun intended — inadequate before the 9/11 attacks. Improving it was the single clearest need after those attacks. Torture, traffic analysis of phone calls, a complete lack of accountability, and the Iraq fiasco: I’ve come to the dreadful conclusion that things have only gotten much, much worse.
There have been no successful terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11, defenders of this type of travesty like to say. Gosh, think that’s because there’s plenty of U.S. troops to kill in the Middle East now? Why don’t we just move civilians over there? Then we wouldn’t have to train them.
We were supposed to make intelligence gathering and analysis rational after 9/11. Most of all, we were supposed to do away with the poisonous inter-agency feuding. So what do we have now? Poisonous inter-agency feuding and competition for private contracts;
How do you let bids for this kind of government contract anyway? This isn’t exactly like looking for the best deal for a new fleet of government vehicles.
You can’t bid this type of work. You can only make deals with people you trust — making all this a closed and very expensive community.
Government “of the people, by the people and for the people”? Yeah, right.
On a less depressing note, there’s a movie out that I’m going to probably have to go to Kansas City to see. It opens there June 20.
It’s called “Mongol,” and I knew I was going to go see this thing as soon as I saw a video clip and heard Steppe throat singing in the soundtrack.
It is the first in what is hoped to be a trilogy on the life of Genghis Khan.
According to L.A. Times critic Ken Turan, the film is bloody but has merit from the “epic imagery and the unexpectedly humanistic attitudes, at least as far as this film is concerned, of its protagonist.”
The relationship between the young boy and his betrothed, Borte, is the lynchpin of this movie, Turan writes. As far as the historical record knows, that’s true. The two fell in love at first sight at the age of nine, remaining faithful to each other over a decade of separation and slavery.