Tracking Drone Strikes and Private Spies

Tracking Drone Strikes and Private Spies

Tracking Drone Strikes and Private Spies

Two online databases provide a window into the world of private spooks and the undeclared US airwar in Pakistan.


Two major components of the Obama administration’s foreign policy that have proven central, particularly in the case of US operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, are the widespread use of private contractors and the use of weaponized drones. I wanted to draw peoples’ attention to a couple of online resources that may prove useful. One deals with the private spook business and the other with the drones.

Investigative journalist Tim Shorrock, who wrote the phenomenal book "Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing," the first expose of the $45 billion intelligence-industrial complex, created an online database that profiles ten key intelligence contractors. Among them: SAIC, Booz Allen Hamilton, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin.

"I started it to provide activists, researchers and journalists a way to learn quickly about the companies that dominate the spying industry and understand exactly what they do for the CIA, the NSA, the Pentagon and other agencies," says Shorrock. "The database also provides updates on recent contracts and former spooks as they move through the revolving door from agency to industry and back again – among them John Brennan, President Obama’s chief intelligence adviser, and Mike McConnell, who was Director of National Intelligence during the Bush administration and is now back in his old position as a senior executive with Booz Allen Hamilton."

The Spies for Hire database, which is a joint project with CorpWatch, can be accessed here. I also highly recommend Shorrock’s book, which details how US intel became privatized and digs deep into the ties between intelligence contractors and spying programs such as NSA warrantless surveillance.

Meanwhile, the New America Foundation has used Google Maps satellite technology to create a database showing US drone strikes in Pakistan. You can access it here. Users can see a map of the areas bombed under both the Bush and Obama administrations and each strike, to the extent that information is available, is described in the margin. The "research on these pages, which we have created in a good faith effort to be as transparent as possible with our sources and analysis and will be updated regularly, draws only on accounts from reliable media organizations with deep reporting capabilities in Pakistan," write Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann, who coordinate the "drones database." The number of civilian deaths caused by US drones is an area of great debate. Some sources put the number of civilian deaths much higher than those reflected by New America’s drones database.

Both of these resources, if regularly updated, will prove very useful.

Tim Shorrock and AfPak Channel are both on Twitter.

Ad Policy