Intelligence / Agencies / Private Sector

Hougan, Jim. Spooks: The Haunting of America -- The Private Use of Secret Agents. New York: Bantam Books, 1979. 481 pages.

A ground-breaking investigative survey of parapolitical America, "Spooks" was one of the first books to report on the privatization of the intelligence function: the application of intelligence practices to commercial activities, and the emergence of CIAs-for-hire in the private sector. Within this general framework, Hougan unearths great chunks of America's "secret history." The war between Jimmy Hoffa and the Kennedy family is seen to have had a public and a private side, with the latter fought by countermeasures genius Bernard Spindel against "an archipelago" of public and private intelligence agencies working for Bobby and Jack.

Calling Howard Hughes "an American Dracula," Hougan offers a blow-by- blow account of the bedside battle fought by Intertel and former CIA agent Robert Maheu for control over the drug-addicted billionaire's body and empire. Other sections of the book describe Robert Vesco's assault on Investors Overseas Services; Richard Nixon's "French connection" to industrialist Paul Louis Weiller; the efforts of paramilitary wizard Mitch WerBell and CIA superspook Lucien Conein to introduce a "final solution" to the War on Drugs; and the World War II background of Japanese and German agents who played key roles in the Lockheed bribery scandal. Packed with anecdotes, footnotes, and proper names, "Spooks" is a classic.


O'Toole, George. The Private Sector: Private Spies, Rent-a-Cops, and the Police-Industrial Complex. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978. 250 pages.

A former chief of the CIA's Problems Analysis Branch, George O'Toole began writing magazine articles in the 1970s and in 1975 wrote "The Assassination Tapes" (Penthouse Press), which used a psychological stress evaluator to analyze audio tapes of JFK witnesses, including Oswald, to try and determine who was lying.

This book looks at the threat to civil liberties from private-sector intelligence and investigative firms such as Burns, Pinkerton, and Wackenhut, which are often hired by big corporations for activities ranging from employee screening and strike-breaking to anti-terrorist security and competitor counterintelligence. The gray area between public and private is represented by the Law Enforcement Intelligence Unit and the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. Private record-keeping systems, politicians and their private plumber units, lock-picking and security systems, and the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration's funding for private merchandising of police hardware are also covered. O'Toole believes that the public criminal justice system has ceased to work, and with the strain on tax revenues, this trend will continue. Those with assets will always be willing to spend part of what they have in order to protect the rest, so the private sector is moving in to fill the vacuum.


Shorrock, Tim. Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008. 439 pages.

From interception of emails, keyword triggering within telephone communications, satellite and microwave data analysis, software development, agency networking and data sharing, covert operations, contracting for renditions, and interrogation of prisoners, it's all getting privatized through outsourcing. It's a gravy train for U.S. corporations, and it's lucrative for federal employees who quit and go corporate. Some 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget has been outsourced since the late 1990s.

In-Q-Tel was formed by the CIA in 1999 with $300 million in federal funds for about 90 companies. Spy-in-the-sky Keyhole, Inc., partially funded by In-Q-Tel, was acquired by Google in 2004. Today Google shares satellites with other contractors and takes pictures of your house. Their software is the standard for geospatial intelligence, and they provide search software to federal agencies. That's just one tiny example. Former NSA and CIA directors, such as Kenneth Minihan, Bobby Ray Inman, Mike McConnell, James Woolsey, John Deutch, and George Tenet, have been on the boards of intelligence contractors. Those are just the top guys -- if you reach down into the bureaucracy, the list gets much longer. The war on terrorism increased federal spending on national security programs, and made such close collaboration seem urgent and necessary.


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