Bill O’Reilly, host of the Fox News Channel program The O’Reilly Factor, has offered his own solution to fighting terrorism: A multi-national mercenary army, based on a NATO coalition and trained by the United States.
“We would select them, special forces would train them–25,000-man force to be deployed to fight on the ground against worldwide terrorism. Not just ISIS,” O’Reilly said on “CBS This Morning” on September 24.
Searching for allies to back his proposal, O’Reilly invited Tom Nichols, a professor at the US Naval War College, onto his show.
Nichols’ response: “This is a terrible idea…not just as a practical matter but a moral matter. It’s a morally corrosive idea to try to outsource our national security. This is something Americans are going to have to deal for themselves.”
Actually, O’Reilly’s idea is in fact being tried out, albeit unofficially.
Sixty to 70% of America’s Intelligence budget doesn’t go to the CIA or the National Security Agency (NSA) or the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
Instead, it goes to private contractors who supply secrets or “soldiers of fortune.”
The outsourcing of government intelligence work to private contractors took off after 9/11.
This was especially true after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003–and found its Intelligence and armed services stretched to their furtherest limits.
The DIA estimates that, from the mid-1990s to 2005, the number of private contracts awarded by Intelligence agencies rose by 38%.
During that same period, government spending on “spies/guns for hire” doubled, from about $18 billion in 1995 to about $42 billion in 2005.
Many tasks and services once performed only by government employees are being “outsourced” to civilian contractors:
- Analyzing Intelligence collected by drones and satellites;
- Writing reports;
- Creating and maintaining software programs to manipulate data for tracking terrorist suspects;
- Staffing overseas CIA stations;
- Serving as bodyguards to government officials stationed overseas;
- Providing disguises used by agents working undercover.
More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:
“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.
“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”
Americans–generally disdainful of history–have blatantly ignored both the examples of history and the counsel of Machiavelli. To their own peril.
Mark Mazzetti, author of the bestselling The Way of the Knife, chronicles how the CIA has been transformed from a primarily fact-finding agency into a terrorist-killing one.
Along with this transformation has come a dangerous dependency on private contractors to supply information that government agents used to dig up for themselves.
The U.S. Navy SEALS raid that killed Osama bin Laden has been the subject of books, documentaries and even an Oscar-nominated movie: “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Almost unknown by comparison is a program the CIA developed with Blackwater, a private security company, to locate and assassinate Islamic terrorists.
“We were building a unilateral, unattributable capability,” Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater, said in an interview. “If it went bad, we weren’t expecting the [CIA] chief of station, the ambassador or anyone to bail us out.”
But the program never got past the planning stage. Senior CIA officials feared the agency would not be able to permanently hide its own role in the effort.
“The more you outsource an operation,” said a CIA official, “the more deniable it becomes. But you’re also giving up control of the operation. And if that guy screws up, it’s still your fault.”
Increased reliance on “outsourcing” has created a “brain-drain” within the Intelligence community. Jobs with private security companies usually pay 50% more than government jobs.
Many employees at the CIA, NSA and other Intelligence agencies leave government service–and then return to it as private contractors earning far higher salaries.
Many within the Intelligence community fear that too much Intelligence work has been outsourced and the government has effectively lost control of its own information channels.
And, as always with the hiring of mercenaries, there is an even more basic fear: How fully can they be trusted?
“There’s an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie,” said Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA. “Do they lie with the flag? Or do they lie with the bottom line?”
Yet another concern: How much can Intelligence agencies count on private contractors to effectively screen the people they hire?
Edward Snowden was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting/security firm. It was through this company that Snowden gained access to a treasury of NSA secrets.
From September 11, 2001 to 2013, the government has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence.
A 2010 investigative series by the Washington Post found that “1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the country.”
Jesus never served as a spy or soldier. But he clearly understood a truth too many officials within the American Intelligence community have forgotten:
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”