Pentagon wants spies sneaking through offices around the globe

Pentagon building in Washington, DC (AFP Photo)
The Pentagon is pushing for more power when it comes to international spying. The US military is now making a case to open up an undercover operation aimed at the overseas civilian sector.

The US Department of Defense has asked Congress to approve a change in intelligence outlines which would permit America’s undercover units to send spies into the offices of foreign military contractors. It would involve infiltrating factories and businesses building warheads for competing nations, essentially establishing the businessman as America’s next mold for a spy rather than the more-recognized James Bond-type. Critics say that doing so might be big for America’s intel gathering operations, but it could also signal the start of a slippery slope with potentially catastrophic consequences.

The Inside Defense website first reported the story on Friday, publishing an article acknowledging that the Pentagon pushed a package of legislative proposals to the US Congress a week earlier. Those requests largely expand the Defense Department’s existing authority in spy operations, the website reports, including such calls to let the DoD increase its authority with intelligence gathering so the Pentagon can “conduct revenue-generating commercial activities to protect such operations and would provide an important safeguard for US military forces conducting hazardous operations abroad.”

“The conflict with al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and other developments, have required the regular conduct of small-scale clandestine military operations to prepare the battlefield for military operations against terrorists and their sponsors,” insists the DoD as they introduce that proposal.

The Defense Department wants to get extra spies infiltrating overseas, but the missions they would be engaged in would be different from just standard covert quests. Instead the DoD wants to be able to use clandestine operations, which means that the Department would not only be allowed to keep the country’s sponsorship of the program a secret, but they could be permitted to ignore the existence of the mission entirely.

Putting spies into business operations that shake hands with foreign militaries might be a good idea in terms of infiltrating domestic drone shops and other classified campaigns, but it could be more dangerous than the DoD might realize, some fear. In a write-up by Wired, the website acknowledges that sending spies into the civilian sector would not just open up a new foreign front for US operations, but would expose innocent workers to the dangerous world of international warfare.

“Once civilian commercial activities become a front for US military spying, then foreign governments will likely view normal businessmen as targets for their own counterspying, or even detention,” speculates Spencer Ackerman, a correspondent with Wired’s Danger Room.

It could also, of course, give foreign operatives a reason to do the same back in the US.