‘Outsourcing Intelligence’

Now there is a truly glorious contradiction in terms. In this era when the Bush Administration sees privatization possibilities in every corner of government, and government effectiveness and accountability is at its lowest point since the Hoover Administration, I suppose it makes perfect sense that it would hire L-3 Communications, a New York-based publicly traded corporation, and its San Diego-based subsidiary Titan Corporation, to gather intelligence and conduct prisoner interrogations in Iraq.

You read that right: a civilian company is gathering a lot of our battlefield intelligence in the Iraq war. (Click here to see a complete breakdown of L-3’s Washington lobbying efforts, courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics.)

Despite its low profile and virtual absence from most Iraq war news, “L3/Titan is now probably the second-largest employer in Iraq (after Kellogg, Brown & Root, a former Halliburton subsidiary) with almost 7,000 translators and more than 300 intelligence specialists,” Pratap Chattergee, author of the superb 2004 book Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation, writes in this CorpWatch.org report posted a few days ago. Chattergee goes on to detail how L-3’s employees “have been barely competent,” “indicted for criminal acts” and have “the highest rate of casualties for any civilian contractor in the country.”
Of course, the situation involving private military contractors in Iraq is exceedingly complex. Corporations KBR are raking in the dough, while apparently making life difficult, if not outright unbearable, for their actual employees. In fact, KBR has allegedly been exploiting so many migrant workers in Iraq–holding many in nearly prison-like conditions–that 1,000 of them reportedly began staging protests earlier this month. The United Nations has even gotten into the act, and is now calling for better working conditions.
Seriously, is there anything in Iraq that Bush hasn’t screwed up? Anything at all?

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