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    Repiglican Roast

    A spirited discussion of public policy and current issues

    Location: The mouth of being

    I'm furious about my squandered nation.

    Wednesday, July 02, 2008

    Private Intel, the new gold rush. National insecurity. We say whatever for profit.

    n February 2007, Erik Prince, founder of the infamous private military company, Blackwater Worldwide, started what seems to be the next most lucrative market for such companies: intelligence gathering and analysis.

    The new venture exists as a nexus of three companies that were quietly assembled by Prince the year before: the Black Group, LLC, the Terrorism Research Center, Inc (TRC), and Technical Defense, Inc. These companies form Total Intelligence Solutions, LLC, a company run out of an office in Arlington, Virginia, offering "evolved intelligence gathering and analysis" for "Fortune 1000 companies."

    Robert Richer, former CIA deputy director of operations (who is said to have been "forced out" due to insubordination) is now the CEO of Total Intelligence Solutions. J Cofer Black, who served 28 years with the CIA - three of those as the director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center (CTC) - serves as both chairman of Total Intelligence Solutions and vice chairman of Blackwater.

    According to Washington Post Managing Editor Bob Woodward in his book Bush at War (Simon and Schuster, 2003), Black predicted and alerted the Bush administration of a potential attack just weeks prior to 9/11 and later persuaded Russian authorities to comply with the impending US invasion of Afghanistan. Black would later merge his company, The Black Group - a large, international network of high-profile government, military and corporate contacts - under Prince Holdings.


    Outsourcing responsibility

    According to the associate director of national intelligence, the budget set aside for private intelligence contractors has more than doubled since 9/11.

    "There is a very wide range of companies involved in what you might call information assessment or intelligence work. Some of them are involved in classic information gathering and analysis from open sources; others are involved in support services to governmental intelligence operatives like CACI. But there are also some firms that have developed, particularly in the last few years, what has classically been considered counterintelligence and psychological operations," James Cockayne, a security expert for the International Peace Institution (IPI), told ISN Security Watch.

    In what can be seen as a post-9/11 gold rush, a slew of private intelligence companies have since attempted to market themselves as offering services that can crudely be categorized in two forms: investment information and risk assessment; and operational, security and combat-related intelligence operations.

    While many companies offer only one of these, Blackwater's Total Intelligence not only offers both, but also maintains the ability to back up those services with heavy-duty machinery and strong corporate and government connections.

    Critics of the phenomenon are concerned that previous abuses by private intelligence firms are an indication of what happens when states opt to outsource operations to the private sector.

    The same concerns developed in 2004 when private companies CACI International and Titan Corporation (now L-3 Communications) were implicated in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse case. More recently, the CIA director issued statements confirming that along with government operatives, contractors had probably participated in waterboarding techniques on detainees in CIA black sites and other interrogation centers. Before engaging the private sector, Black developed a lead role in some of the rather controversial CIA programs dealing with extraordinary rendition and interrogation techniques.


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