CIA Front Companies
CIA Front Companies: How much of the economy is owned by “The Company”?
by James Corbett
4 November, 2011
The office of the Director of National Intelligence announced last month that America’s civilian intelligence agencies appropriated a combined 54.6 billion dollars for classified operations this year.
The admission came in the form of a blithe news release, which noted only the total figure and explicitly refused to provide any details of how the figure was divided up between America’s 16 non-uniformed intelligence agencies or what the money was appropriated for.
“Any and all subsidiary information concerning the NIP budget, whether the information concerns particular intelligence agencies or particular intelligence programs, will not be disclosed,” DNI James Clapper wrote in the release, citing the fact that such a disclosure would jeopardize national security.
What has often been called into question is the functioning of the oversights that are supposed to exist to insure that such monies are not misappropriated or used for illegal or immoral activities. What is not called into question nearly as often is how we can trust these figures at all to come to a true understanding of the amount of money at the disposal of these covert agencies.
The amount of funds that the CIA has to use for its so-called “black operations,” or covert actions, for example, is not a question for idle speculation. As we saw in the Iran-Contra scandal, the CIA can hide behind its own officially-sanctioned secrecy to commit illegal actions in order to fund other, illegal operations.
So what, then, is the size of the CIA’s budget, and where is this money parked?
The question is even more difficult to answer than it first appears. Not only is there the issue of the funds that they receive in secret from the Congress, and not only is there the ever-present question of how black operations use illegal methods to finance further illegal covert operations, there is also the question of the CIA literally setting up businesses, front companies, and shells, that function, from the outside, like any other business. Behind the scenes, however, these businesses are merely a place for the CIA to nest its covert operatives, and, potentially, to make and funnel money for their own purposes.
Worryingly, given the documented history of CIA involvement in such illegal activities, the agency has also been active in setting up front companies in the nuclear technology industry, ostensibly to monitor and disrupt nuclear smuggling network. But given the monumental “failure” of such admitted CIA fronts as Brewster Jennings in the case of the A.Q. Khan network, what faith can the public have that the companies, too, are not being used to in fact foster the proliferation of the weapons they are ostensibly seeking to control?
Egregious as all of these activities undoubtedly are, and as contrary as they may be to the very founding principles of a supposedly democratic republic, they have been well documented and exposed in the past.
Much less examined, however, is the CIA’s connections to the murky world of money laundering and the shady financial institutions that have undergirded its operations and made the funding of the types of illegal activities it routinely engages in feasible.
Perhaps most worryingly of all, the agency has had to admit in recent years that they have invested hundreds of millions of dollars setting up at least a dozen companies since the 9/11 attacks to monitor terrorist groups and weapons proliferation networks. The disclosure comes because the agency supposedly had to shut down all but two of the companies because they proved to be incapable of stopping or disrupting the terrorist networks at all.
In the light of all of this information, hard questions need to be asked:
What percentage of the economy is in fact run by the intelligence agencies? What industries are they involved in? Under what circumstances, if any, can they ever be compelled to disclose their true nature, and what hope does the public have to secure accountability from intelligence agencies if those very agencies are able to use shell businesses, front companies, and even dummy banks to generate revenue and launder illegally acquired funds?
These questions are not idle speculation, they in fact expose the black heart of the murky world of the intelligence operations, “national security” classifications, and need-to-know information that are the very basis of the intelligence community. However, these questions are almost impossible to answer in the current political environment.
Numerous lists of varying names have been compiled over the years purporting to name suspected CIA front companies, but by the very nature of the laws that allow the CIA to set up these companies and conduct their operations under the cover of “national security,” most of these lists remain just that: allegations.
And ultimately, perhaps that is the point. To ask if this or that particular company is or is not a CIA front company, or may be being used by intelligence officials as a cover for its own purposes, is to risk losing sight of the fundamental question:
Should secretive, unaccountable organizations like the CIA, or any other agency supposedly under the purview of the government which is supposedly by and for the people, be allowed to operate freely, and secretly, in the public sector?
How can a public that has no way of participating in the oversight of these agencies trust that powers like this will always and only be used for “good” and that these powers cannot and will not be used by criminals in positions of power?
And, given the documented history of CIA abuses of power, lies, and outright illegal participation in drug running, arms trafficking, money laundering and torture, why should they?