Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembering security contractors on Veteran's Day

The Spy Who Billed Me
One of the more unusual developments in national security in the 21st Century is our government's decision to indirectly enlist private citizens in combat through contracting out services formerly performed by the military and other civil servants. The $1 billion plus private military industry has recruited thousands into corporate service, service that was also in support of the US war efforts.

I've spoken with scores of these men and with one notable exception, they were all doing it, at least in part, to serve their country. Many have told me they've worked for Blackwater, Triple Canopy and others because they wanted to do something because of 9/11, something to protect their country and families as part of the larger war on terror. And several have claimed that the flexibility of private industry offered them the only way they could do this because of age, family and financial obligations. I take the individuals at their word.

Like Hillhouse, I too have met many security contractors, many are active in local tech organizations. The ones I know work stateside building the advanced software that analyzes the oceans of data that comes flooding in from the field. They also build the communications and security systems that allows this data to travel securely from the field to Washington.

There is something more than a tad hypocritical about a country that creates a vast infrastructure of security contractors, sends them into harm's way, and then starts to moralize about mercenaries. In a democracy we have a collective responsibility for the actions of our government. It is necessary to educate oneself. The best place to start is to read Outsourced, the international thriller that illuminates the Iraq war and the world of security contractors.

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