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Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 6, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, May 6, 2008
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Even James Bond is temping these days. According to investigative journalist Shorrock, the CIA and other intelligence agencies now have more contractors working for them than they do spies of their own. Often former staff hired back at double or triple their former government salaries, these private contractors do everything from fighting in Afghanistan to interrogating prisoners, aiming spy satellites and supervising secret agents. Shorrock gives a comprehensive—at times eye-glazing—rundown of the players in the industry, and his book is valuable for its detailed panorama of 21st-century intelligence work. He uncovers serious abuses—contractor CACI International figured prominently in the Abu Ghraib outrages—and nagging concerns about corrupt ties between intelligence officials and private corporations, industry lobbying for a national surveillance state, the withering of the intelligence agencies' in-house capacities and the displacement of an ethos of public service by a profit motive. However, the bulk of the outsourcing Shorrock unearths is rather pedestrian, involving the management of mundane IT systems and various administrative services, and this exposé insinuates more skullduggery than it demonstrates. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Tim Shorrock is walking, and mapping, a startling fault line of these crazy days: the way government is outsourcing its most basic functions at a time of peril. Replacing public service with private transactions -- often shadowy and unaccountable -- is what helped bring down Rome. Without fierce scrutiny, and the kind of sharp-eyed disclosures this book provides, it can bring down America. A must read." -- Ron Suskind, author of The One Percent Doctrine

"Spies for Hire is an excellent roadmap to the daunting new terrain of U.S. intelligence, in which the explosive growth of intelligence contracting threatens to overwhelm any possibility of independent oversight. In this groundbreaking work, Tim Shorrock explores who has benefitted, who has paid, and why it matters to us all." -- Steven Aftergood, Project on Government Secrecy, Federation of American Scientists

"Tim Shorrock is a digger, and he has penetrated a secret and fascinating world to write a telling and readable book." -- Evan Thomas, editor at large of Newsweek, author of Sea of Thunder

"Tim Shorrock's well-researched and convincing book reveals how the intelligence community now subcontracts out most of its work -- 70 percent -- to private-sector companies that inevitably have their own agendas, which may or may not accord with the national interest. By laying out very specifically how all this works, Shorrock has provided a very important service to the country." -- Burton Hersh, author of The Old Boys: The American Elite and the Origins of the CIA

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1 edition (May 6, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743282248
  • ASIN: B002IT5P06
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,995,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Edit of 4 Jun 08 to strongly recommend Retired Reader's review as a companion to my own observations.

I sat down with this book today and found it absorbing. It is perhaps the best overview for anyone of names and numbers associated with the $60 billion (or more, perhaps as much as $75 billion) a year we waste on the 4% we can steal, and next to nothing on Open Source Intelligence (OSINT). The book loses one star for failing to integrate over 300 relevant books (see the annotated bibliographies to my first two books), and for failing to apply any visualization at all. This book is a mass of facts and figures, names and places. With or without visualization, it is a seminal reference point and recommended for all university and public libraries.

The book focuses mostly on technical waste--the inputs--and does not cover outputs nor constituencies. The reality is as General Zinni has put it so well: the IC produces 4% of what is needed, at a cost so horrendously wasteful as to warrant severe outrage among all taxpayers.

Having read the book, I can state that the author's agenda, if he has one, is to expose the risk to our civil liberties of creating a national surveillance state in which the bulk of the expertise is outside the government and subject to corruption and cronyism as well as lack of oversight.

Here are three tid-bits that strongly support the author's general intent, and some links.

1) Secret intelligence scam #1 is that there is no penalty for failure. Lockheed can build a satellite system that does not work (for NASA as well as the secret world--two different failures--or get the metrics wrong so priceless outer space research does not deploy a parachute--}and get another contract.
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Format: Hardcover
Rather than reinvent the wheel, I'm going to quote liberally from an excellent full-length review of this book from blogger Meteor Blades at Daily Kos:

"Spies for Hire is one of those books so brimful of detail, including mergers and acquisitions by intelligence companies, that one wishes for coded links and two or three charts illustrating the career trajectories and corporate genealogy of a couple dozen of the key players."

Another reviewer told an unsourced anecdote about an intelligence contractor who was downsized into driving a limo. Well, consider the story of neocon visionary Stephen Cambone. A charter member of PNAC, Cambone was appointed as the undersecretary of defense for intelligence at the Pentagon, a position of immense power and influence, which was forged from the conflict between Rumsfeld and the CIA.

"Among his other duties was overseeing "Copper Green," the interrogations, much of them by private contractors, of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Cambone was so widely despised and feared at the Pentagon that an Army general had jokingly said that "if he had one round left in his revolver, he would take out Steve Cambone," according to the Washington Post's Thomas Ricks."

When Rumsfeld was forced out of his job, his loyal retainer, Cambone was shown the exit a few months later, in January of 2007. However, Cambone did not end up driving a limousine:

"In January 2008, the Pentagon's Counter-Intelligence Field Agency granted a $30 million contract to the Missions Solutions Group of QinetiQ North America...Just two months before that contract was awarded, QinetiQ hired a new vice president for strategy. His name is Stephen Cambone."

So, why is this book a must-read?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first learned about Spies for Hire from various people I follow on Twitter, who were amazed Dana Priest and William Arkin didn't cite it in their Top Secret America series. I decided to see (or rather, read) for myself, and can now say having read both the book and the Priest/Arkin articles that yes, Shorrock was all over this story years ago, and in far greater depth than the Post piece, which functioned largely as an update of what Shorrock had already reported in this book and elsewhere. I don't have a problem with the Post updating Shorrock's reporting, but it's pretty lame of them to pretend they weren't in his debt. Anyway, if you care about the corporatism that's slowly strangling our democracy, there's no better book I know of than this one. The conclusion was especially powerful. Highly recommended.
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Author Shorrock does the nation a great service in providing a basis for discussion of the out-sourcing of intelligence and IT support functions to private industry by federal agencies. For this I would have given him five stars, but it is evident his theme is that such out-sourcing is generally a subversion of the proper function of government and its control by representatives of the people. To this end, he seems to select those incidents that favor his viewpoint, rather than presenting the situation in an impartial manner for the reader to draw his own conclusions. By this I do not mean that the author should not present his own analysis and conclusions -- only that the facts should not be presented with perjorative adjectives and snide comments concerning personal and corporate motives. As an ex-intelligence officer, I certainly would have moved into a private corporation where my skills could have been used to help fulfill the security mission of the Federal Government had personal circumstances not intervened, and I like to think my motives would have been more aligned with satisfaction in accomplishing the mission than for personal profit.

At any rate, this is an important work, and my views of Shorrock's book are almost isomorphic with those contained in the reviews by Steele and "Retired Reader."

With respect to the issue of private corporations being restricted to not breaking the law (either international, US, or any any other country's), one must realise that the gathering of covert HUMINT essentially ALWAYS involves breaking someone's laws. If a contractor is expressly forbidden to do this or is to be held accountable for such trangressions, then contractors cannot perform positive intelligence gathering functions.
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