Pressure Builds to Improve Oversight of Intel Contractors

05.08.08 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives would require U.S. intelligence agencies to report to Congress on the total number and cost of contractors that they employ and to provide detailed information on the services that contractors perform. Some controversial intelligence contractor activities would be prohibited outright, including arrest, interrogation and detention.

“Contracting in the intelligence community has more than doubled in scope in the last decade, and it’s clear that effective management and oversight is lacking,” said Rep. David Price (D-NC), who co-sponsored the new legislation (H.R. 5973) with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-CA).

“We’ve got to get a handle on it,” Rep. Price said. “That means demanding more complete information, establishing more effective management practices and, in some cases, drawing a red line to prevent the privatization of especially sensitive activities.”

The two Members of Congress hope to include the provisions of their bill in the 2009 intelligence authorization act, which is being marked up in the House Intelligence Committee today. See the “Transparency and Accountability in Intelligence Contracting Act of 2008.”

The fact cited by Rep. Price that intelligence contracting “has more than doubled in scope in the last decade” was first reported by journalist Tim Shorrock writing in Salon and elsewhere.

Mr. Shorrock has recently authored a book on intelligence contracting which describes as much about the sensitive subject as intrepid reporting can uncover. See “Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing,” Simon & Schuster, 2008.