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US intelligence reliant on ‘contractors’

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The Australian
July 21, 2010

WASHINGTON: US intelligence agencies are dangerously dependent on contractors, with 30 per cent of the spy workforce potentially bound to shareholders more than the nation.

Despite a ban on private hands performing “inherently government functions”, 265,000 of the 854,000 people with top-secret clearance in the US are contractors, working in all the most sensitive areas, the Washington Post revealed yesterday. The claims came on the same day that President Barack Obama’s nominee to run US intelligence efforts, James Clapper, headed to Capitol Hill for a confirmation hearing.

Contractors can earn up to twice as much as permanent staff, triggering a talent exodus and leaving behind a young, inexperienced intelligence network.

CIA contractors have worked to recruit spies in Iraq, paid bribes for information in Afghanistan, guarded CIA chiefs, detained suspected extremists, interrogated detainees once held at secret prisons and trained young spies, the Post said.

“For too long, we’ve depended on contractors to do the operational work that ought to be done” by CIA employees, agency director Leon Panetta was quoted as saying. But replacing them “doesn’t happen overnight. When you’ve been dependent on contractors for so long, you have to build that expertise over time”.

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This article was posted: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 4:10 am





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