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.

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 Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid