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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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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: #711,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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The book is poorly written but I read it just before Snowden's revelations. It accurately describes a tendency I saw early in my career in the intelligence world - the outsourcing of intelligence analysis to competent technicians. As in the real business world, advancement comes through supervision and policy making. Thus, NSA hires lackeys [albeit very competent ones] to do their grit work for them. This was going on in the 60s early in my 30 plus year career in intelligence. The book reveals in boring detail just how widely prevalent this has become.

Now the finger pointing is beginning, and blame is sought for ever giving the likes of Snowden a clearance. People like me with a memory remember when NSA gave one half of the Martin and Mitchell traitor duo a clearance although they knew one of this traitorous twosomes bizarre traits was having sex with a chicken and slamming a drawer on the chicken's head at the moment of climax. If you don't believe me, this incident is set forth in David Kahn's seminal history of code breaking, "The Codebreakers". Kahn eventually was hired by NSA, possibly so he would not embarrass them in future literary revelations.

As for the current brouhaha, the Facebook generation has no concept of privacy and this whole revelation will soon be as old as yesterday's headline. Nothing will come of it, and if people had to choose between more terrorist attacks, which NSA is doing a pretty good job of preventing in the CONUS, or another giant terrorist attack, they will pick safety before privacy. It's a new world and the people under 40 today have ideas and morays as alien to me as an extraterrestrial from another galaxy.
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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
Timothy Shorrock, I am sure, went into this project with the best of intentions. He did some very good research. The facts he uncovered are, at best, worrisome. But he managed to simultaneously let his opinions run rampant here and there, and fail to present a solid set of fixes for the problem.

The opinion side--well, it's an artifact of the Bush years (2008 publication date), so I score that as a misdemeanor. I don't think he fully recognized the degree of bias that he had, and he did try to keep it in check; that effort failed him here and there, particularly when he discussed ideology and its potential effects in an outsourced intelligence community. I'd like to see an updated edition of this book; I do think Mr. Shorrock would give a more balanced presentation of these issues in light of the Obama administrations continuance and expansion of the outsourcing policies described in this book.

The lack of solid proposals for fixing the problems he outlines: THAT is a more serious matter. Absent a clear, realistic, and achievable plan of action for solving a problem, it will continue on into perpetuity no matter how impassioned or forceful one's presentation of the problem. Muckraking is fun, but the classics of the muckraking era combined exposure of problems with proposals on how to solve them.

"Green badge" personnel have become commonplace in national security (and much of the rest of government) because of ceilings on government personnel, a general loss of relevant skills within the government during the post-Cold War era due to personnel attrition (outsourcing has simply accelerated this process), hiring freezes, the need to be able to ramp up and shut down operations quickly, and the need to be able to disown serious problems in a hurry.
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