Book 'Spies for Hire' exposes the underbelly of intelligence

SAIC has received millions of dollars (that arguably could be used instead to improve public schools or feed the hungry) that paid for failed systems. Shorrock relates the saga of Project Trailblazer, "designed to capture communications traveling on cellphones, fiber optics and across the Internet." Maybe conversations among terrorists would emerge, thus improving the security of the United States. Instead, Shorrock reports, Trailblazer busted its budget, did not work well, leaving perhaps 99% of the communications available to the NSA unanalyzed.

In addition to revealing details never before in print, Shorrock sheds new light on fiascoes already known to the public, such as the nasty interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib prison, in the process demonstrating the complicit role of private corporations performing highly profitable contracted duties once handled by government employees. Shorrock makes the case well that only members of Congress, ostensibly accountable to the citizens who elected them, can halt the inefficiencies and sometimes downright financial corruption emanating from the private contractor-intelligence agency nexus.

Spies for Hire is a sterling example of why investigative journalists are valuable during an era of deep, broad and unconscionable government secrecy.

Steve Weinberg is a freelance investigative reporter in Columbia, Mo.

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