Not long ago, as I was preparing an article on government contracting, I was given a tour of Northern Virginia by a friend who spent over a decade as an intelligence operative and another five years working as an intelligence contractor. We drove through Arlington, Herndon, Fairfax, Tysons Corner and McLean, and up to Dulles Airport. Our route took us from the entrance to the CIA through “contractor alley” and past the huge, gleaming office buildings that house the dozens of corporations that make up what Lt. Gen. James Clapper, the incoming director of the Office of National Intelligence, likes to call “the intelligence enterprise.”
This industrial neighborhood is home to around 60 percent of the Intelligence Community. These are the private sector warriors who staff the offices and installations of the CIA, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the rest of the so-called “Intelligence Community.” As I first reported in Salon in 2007 and later in my book, SPIES FOR HIRE, 70 percent of our intelligence budget goes to these companies. Officially, according to a 2008 ODNI study of human capital within the IC, nearly 40,000 private contractors are working for intelligence agencies, bringing the total number of IC employees to more than 135,000.
So here, as an introduction to the upcoming Washington Post series on intelligence contractors that has the agencies quaking in their boots, is a guide to the “real” IC (I’m sure the Post isn’t going to credit my work, so here’s my chance – with a little help from fellow muckrakers like emptywheel – to scoop the paper for once: screw ‘em).