Outsourcing intelligence

THE WAYS in which the Bush war has degraded the structures and culture of Iraq are obvious. Less so are its insidious effects on the United States, but President Bush is similarly destroying something essential to our own democracy. A signal of that was sounded last week when The Washington Post reported that the Defense Intelligence Agency is transferring “core intelligence tasks of analysis and collection” to private contractors — up to a billion dollars worth. This raises the prospect that hired guns, instead of sworn officials, will be conducting covert operations, spying missions, interrogations, “renditions,” surveillance — the whole dangerous complex of shadow activity that began as the government’s most sensitive responsibility.

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