850,000 US spies given clearance WP reveals that growth of agents has gone beyond all bounds since 9/11 incident
Ansar Abbasi, The News
Do the Pakistani security agencies have any precise idea of the presence of US spies and CIA contractors operating inside Pakistan? Well, the Washington Post has revealed that after 9/11 the growth of these agents has gone beyond all bounds and even Robert Gates did not know their exact number!
A total of 854,000 people were given top-secret clearance and these include 265,000 contractors like Raymond Davis. “Contractors kill enemy fighters. They spy on foreign governments and eavesdrop on terrorist networks. They help craft war plans … they are among the most trusted advisers to the four-star generals leading the nation’s war,” reveals the leading US newspaper in its “Top Secret America” report.
Although the report does not reveal the total number of CIA agents and contractors inside Pakistan it does endorse the media reports of the unprecedented growth of CIA network in Pakistan in the post-9/11 era when the Americans were given free hand to do whatever suited them, even if it was against the interest of Pakistan.
The report uncovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America created since 9/11 that is hidden from public view, lacking in thorough oversight and so unwieldy that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.
“It is also a system in which contractors are playing an ever more important role,” it said and added: “The Post estimates that out of 854,000 people with top-secret clearances, 265,000 are contractors.
There is no better example of the government’s dependency on them than at the CIA, the one place in government that exists to do things overseas that no other U.S. agency is allowed to do.”
Private contractors working for the CIA have recruited spies in Iraq, paid bribes for information in Afghanistan and protected CIA directors visiting world capitals, the report said, adding “ At the agency’s training facility in Virginia, they are helping mould a new generation of American spies.”
So great is the US government’s appetite for private contractors with top-secret clearances that there are now more than 300 companies, often nicknamed “body shops,” that specialise in finding candidates, often for a fee that approaches $50,000 a person, according to those in the business.
Such is the shabby business of these contractors that the Post claims that even the US government doesn’t know how many are on the federal payroll. The Post quoted Robert Gates as saying that he wants to reduce the number of defence contractors by about 13 percent to pre-9/11 levels, but he’s having a hard time even getting a basic head count.
“This is a terrible confession,” he said. “I can’t get a number on how many contractors work for the Office of the Secretary of Defence,” referring to the department’s civilian leadership.
The Post’s estimate of 265,000 contractors doing top-secret work was vetted by several high-ranking intelligence officials who approved of The Post’s methodology. The newspaper’s Top Secret America database includes 1,931 companies that perform work at the top-secret level.
More than a quarter of them – 533 – came into being after 2001, and others that already existed have expanded greatly. Most are thriving even as the rest of the United States struggles with bankruptcies, unemployment and foreclosures.
The report admits that the CIA contractors’ misdeeds in Iraq and Afghanistan have hurt U.S. credibility in those countries as well as in the Middle East. Abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, some of it done by contractors, helped ignite a call for vengeance against the United States that continues today. Security guards working for Blackwater added fuel to the five-year violent chaos in Iraq and became the symbol of an America run amok.
The report, however, did not mention what Raymond Davis and his likes have done or are doing inside Pakistan.