Book Discussion “Outsourcing War and Peace”: Intelligence Contracting and the Ballad of Dewey Clarridge

Book Discussion “Outsourcing War and Peace”: Intelligence Contracting and the Ballad of Dewey Clarridge

This is the third day in our discussion of Professor Dickinson’s book Outsourcing War and Peace: Preserving Public Values in a World of Privatized Foreign Affairs. Links to the related posts can be found below.

Following-up on my earlier post on the difficulty of changing contracting practices by executive agencies, I thought I’d highlight a few quotes from a January 2011 NY Times article about Dewey Clarridge. Clarridge has had a long and storied career in and out of the CIA. He  (proudly) claims responsibility for having the idea to mine Nicaraguan harbors back in the ‘80’s (great quote appended at the end of this post).  He’s spent quality time with the Contras, was a CIA station chief, had plans to use special ops to oust Saddam Hussein in the 1990’s, and so on. Read his account in his autobiography.

Anyway, Clarridge popped back up into the public consciousness when the New York Times ran the story of an outsourced intelligence op in Afghanistan run by… you guessed it.

Read the whole article, it goes into much greater detail about Clarridge and intelligence outsourcing but here are a few choice quotes for our discussion. First, keep in mind that Pentagon contractors are not supposed to actually act as spies. That being said:

To get around a Pentagon ban on hiring contractors as spies, the report said, [the DOD official’s] team simply rebranded [Clarridge’s company’s] activities as “atmospheric information” rather than “intelligence.”

[The DOD official,] Mr. Furlong, now the subject of a criminal investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general, was accused in the internal Pentagon report of carrying out “unauthorized” intelligence gathering, and misleading senior military officers about it. He has said that he became a scapegoat for top commanders in Afghanistan who had blessed his activities.

So why go to all the trouble of outsourcing actual intelligence operations in the first place?

The private spying operation, which The New York Times disclosed last year, was tapped by a military desperate for information about its enemies and frustrated with the quality of intelligence from the C.I.A…

As for what happened when the operation was discovered:

On May 15 [2010], according to a classified Pentagon report on the private spying operation, [Clarridge] sent an encrypted e-mail to military officers in Kabul announcing that his network was being shut down because the Pentagon had just terminated his contract. He wrote that he had to “prepare approximately 200 local personnel to cease work.”

In fact, he had no intention of closing his operation. The very next day, he set up a password-protected Web site,, that would allow officers to continue viewing his dispatches.

I can’t quite decide if this is an example of effective monitoring or not. They found the illegal op and the shady contract but Clarridge does not seem much deterred by this.

In any case, a colorful example of the problems of outsourcing intel operations.

Oh, and as for mining the Nicaraguan harbor? Here’s Clarridge’s recollection:

So I was sitting at home one night, frankly having a glass of gin, and I said you know the mines has gotta be the solution. I knew we had ’em, we’d made ’em outta sewer pipe and we had the good fusing system on them and we were ready. And you know they wouldn’t really hurt anybody because they just weren’t that big a mine, alright? Yeah, with luck, bad luck we might hurt somebody, but pretty hard you know?

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Benjamin Davis
Benjamin Davis

Cowboy. But our cowboy, right?