It’s a new age of the privateer.

A gathering of today’s buccaneers and freelance adventurers will be taking place next week on the Florida coast. This week, a (self-declared) important section of the ‘intelligence community’ will be meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida for its second “International Intelligence Summit,” where they will be discussing how best to fight their Global War on Terror. Among them will be a motley crew of Iranian exiles, Israeli intelligence officials, repentent Islamists, neocon warriors and scions of the British secret service.

It’s certainly a crowd of buccaneers which repays further investigation.

More and more operations traditionally carried out by arms of the U.S. government are now being outsourced to private companies. From peacekeeping to intelligence gathering, security details to country studies – there has been a trend since the mid 1990s to shift work away from public employees to better paid, less heavily scrutinized private contractors. Officials routinely slip from highly paid positions at government contractors, to positions within government itself. The lines are becoming ever more blurred.

But outside of that process, private military and intelligence companies are thriving in the shadow of the Global War on Terror. In fact, they are not just thriving in its shadow, they have been constantly lobbying to make that war bigger, more bloody, more high-tech and most crucially of all, more expensive. It is hard to separate neocon officials from neocon private military contractors, or from radical think-tanks which provide them with an intellectual veneer.

Much of the intelligence that led us all to war with Iraq came from a tiny nucleus of emigres, think tank hacks and well placed officials. They in turn can be traced back to public relations agents that they hold in common. Benador Associates, for example, handles the public schedules of Michael Ledeen (the U.S.’ number one Iran hawk), Richard Perle (the U.S.’ number one Iraq hawk), Kenneth Timmerman (Mr “it’ll be a cakewalk”), Charles Krauthammer, Iraqi emigre Kanan Makiya, Israeli neocon Natan Sharansky and ex CIA chief turned uber-hawk James Woolsey.


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