The Dangers of Privatized Intelligence

In a scathing piece about Russiagate, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern recently recalled a statement made in 1981 by then-CIA Director William Casey during the first meeting of President Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet. Casey told this gathering, “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.” [1]

It’s a shocking statement that might be useful to keep in mind as events further unfold over the next few months. Casey, of course, would have had no way of knowing in 1981 just how far his “disinformation program” would extend.

The Rise of Russiagate

Ray McGovern once again effectively demolishes (as he has several times over the past three years) the flimsy props holding up Russiagate, especially the “Intelligence Community Assessment” (ICA) prepared in January 2017 by “handpicked analysts” from the FBI, CIA and NSA (not 17 intelligence agencies, as first claimed by National Intelligence Director James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan).

McGovern writes: “As for the ‘Intelligence Community Assessment,’ the banner headline atop The New York Times on Jan. 7, 2017 set the tone for the next couple of years: ‘Putin Led Scheme to Aid Trump, Report Says.’ During my career as a CIA analyst, as deputy national intelligence officer chairing National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs), and working on the Intelligence Production Review Board, I had not seen so shabby a piece of faux analysis as the ICA. The writers themselves seemed to be holding their noses. They saw fit to embed in the ICA itself this derriere-covering note: ‘High confidence in a judgment does not imply that the assessment is a fact or a certainty; such judgments might be wrong’.” [2]

But that “derriere-covering note” didn’t stop the mainstream media from inflating Russiagate over the next three years into a self-sustaining industry that survived the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller (which found no Trump-Russia collusion), and will likely survive the recent release of Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowtiz’s report on the FBI 2016 spying.

The Horowitz Report

As Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone puts it (Dec. 10, 2019), the Horowtiz report shows “years of breathless headlines were wrong” about Russiagate, with the report unveiling “a story about bad journalism piled on bad journalism, balanced on a third layer of wrong reporting….Holy God, what a clown show the Trump-Russia investigation was.” [3]

Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept (December 12. 2019) is even more thorough in his analysis of the IG Report, which shows “the FBI’s gross abuse of its power,” its “serial deceit” by which it “manipulated documents, concealed crucial exonerating evidence, and touted what it knew were unreliable if not outright false claims.” As a result, “years of major claims and narratives from the U.S. media were utter frauds.” [4]

He also underlines “the highly dangerous trend of news outlets not merely repeating the mistake of the Iraq War by blindly relying on the claims of security state agents but, far worse, now employing them in their newsrooms to shape the news…It’s virtually impossible to turn on MSNBC or CNN without being bombarded with former Generals, CIA operatives, FBI agents and NSA officials who now work for those networks as commentator and, increasingly, as reporters.” [5]

Greenwald calls the U.S. security state agencies “out-of-control, virtually unlimited police state factions that lie, abuse their spying and law enforcement powers, and subvert democracy and civil and political freedoms as a matter of course.”

But a major factor in this situation is being ignored.

U.S. Intelligence “Outsourcing”

Arguably, what we are witnessing is the result of almost 20 years of privatization of U.S. intelligence agencies, which started in the late 1990s and escalated under U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney, who utilized the 9/11 events to further outsource intelligence to the private sector under the War on Terror.

A 2011 report called “The Future of U.S. Intelligence Outsourcing,” published by the Brown Journal of World Affairs, noted that by 2006 there were some 265,000 U.S. private sector employees engaged in contracted intelligence work, compared to about 100,000 government employees in the intelligence community – outnumbering them by almost 3 to 1 (and that was 13 years ago). [6]

Even more worrisome, “The main intelligence contractors and suppliers of contract personnel are primarily large companies heavily entrenched in the defense and national security business, such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Boeing, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and Booze Allen Hamilton, among others.” [7]

The author of this report, Armin Krishnan, further noted (without irony) that privatized intelligence “has a tendency to greatly overestimate threats to national security in order to sustain demand for national security-related products and services…It is completely unrealistic to expect private companies to put the public interest before their private business.” [8]

These private contractors can literally help to decide who the “enemy” is. The author notes, “Contractors are heavily involved in creating the most authoritative intelligence products, such as the President’s Daily Brief, and thus can influence U.S. foreign policy at the highest level.” [9]

Obviously, there is a crucial need for updated information, but in the meantime whenever the mainstream media (and even the alternative press) heaps praise on the “career civil servants in the intelligence community,” it’s important to recall that even the CIA has been more than 50 percent privatized, with war-machine titans like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon literally calling the shots.


[1] Ray McGovern, “The Pitfalls of a Pit Bull Russophobe,” Consortium News, November 22, 2019.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Matt Taibbi, “Horowitz Report Reveals the Steele Dossier Was Always a Joke,” Rolling Stone, December 10, 2019.

[4] Glenn Greenwald “The Inspector General’s Report on 2016 FBI Spying Reveals a Scandal of Historical Magnitude: Not Only for the FBI but Also the U.S. Media,” The Intercept, December 12, 2019.

[5] Ibid.

[6]Armin Krishnan, “The Future of U.S. Intelligence Outsourcing,” Brown Journal of World Affairs, Fall/Winter 2011: Volume XVIII, Issue 1.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

More articles by:

Joyce Nelson’s sixth book, Beyond Banksters: Resisting the New Feudalism, can be ordered at: http://watershedsentinel.ca/banksters. She can be reached through www.joycenelson.ca.

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