News / USA

Pakistan Case Highlights US Reliance on Intelligence Contractors

Supporters of religious parties burn a U.S flag during a protest against U.S. citizen Raymond Davis near the U.S consulate in Lahore February 18, 2011.
Supporters of religious parties burn a U.S flag during a protest against U.S. citizen Raymond Davis near the U.S consulate in Lahore February 18, 2011.
TEXT SIZE - +

The case of an American arrested in Pakistan for shooting two men dead has sparked anger in Pakistan and soured relations between Washington and Islamabad.  It turns out that Raymond Davis, who said he opened fire to ward off an attempted robbery, was a security contractor for the CIA.  American agencies have become reliant on security contractors to fill personnel gaps.

Analysts say U.S. intelligence agencies, the State Department, and the military have become increasingly dependent on contractors in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, doing everything from guarding people and convoys to collecting and analyzing intelligence.

Scott Stewart, vice president for tactical intelligence at the private intelligence firm Stratfor, says using contractors gives the U.S. government flexibility during surges in trouble spots. "You look at the security budgets of organizations like the State Department, and you look at the CIA’s budget and the cycles that it runs in over time, there are booms and busts.  And when they run into that bust period of time, it’s very difficult to start cutting staff. And so it’s just easier to cut contractors.  It’s far less painful," he said.

But while providing flexibility, the increased use of security contractors is controversial and has irked some host governments. Some contractors have been accused of offensive behavior, including killing civilians. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has tried to get security contractors out of his country. Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate has demanded an accounting of all security contractors operating in Pakistan.  Some contractors also have been accused of stealing millions of dollars.

Shawn Engbrecht, who has a company training security contractors, says the problem is that U.S. agencies don’t have the same level of control over contractors as they do over their own employees.  He calls for private security contractors to be licensed.

"We can either all come to the table together and adjudicate and negotiate and compromise and figure out a universal game plan on how to build private security companies into this grand scheme of maneuver, represented by DOD [Department of Defense] and DOS [Department of State], or we’re going to continue to let it evolve in its own evolutionary manner where every little or different company goes its completely own way and we will, in the end, suffer chaos, waste, corruption, and inadvertent deaths," he said.

Exactly what tasks Raymond Davis performed as a security contractor in Pakistan remain murky.  Published reports agree that at a minimum, he was providing security for a team of CIA officers and contractors working out of a safe house in Lahore.  Whether he played a more active role in intelligence operations is not clear.  But Stewart says it is likely the CIA would for secrecy reasons want to use its own people to provide personal security instead of embassy officers.

"Quite frankly, there are also some operational concerns there as far as the CIA is concerned. So they want to handle things in-house, and so they will use, where they have the capability, people from their Office of Security to provide a security function.  And they will augment those OS [Office of Security officers] with contract employees," he said.

Shawn Engbrecht, who has himself worked as a private security contractor in Iraq, says that, as a general rule, using contractors gives the CIA some distance from operations that may come to light. "The more of that stuff that you can outsource, the more you have - and the CIA loves this - plausible deniability. 'Well, he’s just a civilian and kind of subcontracted out.  Yeah, he’s a member of the team, but he’s not really one of us.' So they are actually able to expand their reach without increasing their overall risk," he said.

The U.S. has repeatedly described Davis as a member of the "administrative and technical" staff of the embassy and is thus entitled to diplomatic immunity.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid