Feeling Safer?

Privatize the CIA? Brilliant.

At the National Counterterrorism Center — the agency created two years ago to prevent another attack like Sept. 11 — more than half of the employees are not U.S. government analysts or terrorism experts. Instead, they are outside contractors.

At CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., senior officials say it is routine for career officers to look around the table during meetings on secret operations and be surrounded by so-called green-badgers — nonagency employees who carry special-colored IDs.

Some of the work being outsourced is extremely sensitive. Abraxas Corp., a private company in McLean, Va., founded by a group of CIA veterans, devises “covers,” or false identities, for an elite group of overseas case officers, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials familiar with the arrangement.

Contractors also are turning up in increasing numbers in clandestine facilities around the world. At the CIA station in Islamabad, Pakistan, as many as three-quarters of those on hand since the Sept. 11 attacks have been contractors. In Baghdad, site of the agency’s largest overseas presence, contractors have at times outnumbered full-time CIA employees, according to officials who have held senior positions in the station.

[snip]

Former intelligence officials said most U.S. spy agencies did not have even approximate counts of the numbers of contractors they were employing — although several officials said the number at the CIA had nearly doubled in the last five years and now surpassed the full-time workforce of about 17,500. Often, the contract employees had previous ties to the agencies.