Privatizing Intelligence

Authored by: Hamilton Bean

Routledge Handbook of Private Security Studies

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415729352
eBook ISBN: 9781315850986
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter describes why and how private sector corporations assist governments in intelligence collection, analysis, and operations. It explains the actual and potential benefits and risks associated with private intelligence, maps the terrain of private intelligence scholarship, and points to pathways for future investigations that draw upon developments in private security studies (PSS) research. The dramatic expansion of intelligence contracting and outsourcing – ‘private intelligence’ – has accompanied the rapid growth of private security. However, the study of private intelligence has received far less scholarly attention. Despite its growing significance, only a handful of academic monographs concerning private intelligence have appeared over the last decade, and intelligence educators have mostly avoided the topic. Investigations of private intelligence mainly focus on US developments, and similar to the early study of private security, the literature includes a considerable amount of non-academic work by journalists, think tanks, and security professionals and is still mostly concerned with identifying, denouncing, or defending its practices. Academic explanation and understanding of the drivers, forms, and outcomes of private intelligence is lacking. Nevertheless, recent analyses within the fields of political science, history, philosophy, law and communication have highlighted three interrelated focal points for discussion:

the historical continuity or discontinuity of private intelligence structures and practices;

individual morality versus institutional integrity; and

the values of organizational efficiency and effectiveness on one hand, versus the values of transparency and accountability on the other.

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