Worth Thinking About: On Subcontracting Security and Intelligence to Private Organizations and the Health of the Republic

Henry Farrell over at Crooked Timber picks up on Cosma Shalizi’s recent post on privatized military, security and intelligence services and raises some issues worth considering, quoting Cosma:

If the last sixty years of the military-industrial complex is anything to go by, the rapidly-growing espionage-industrial complex of spooks and contractors will be very hard indeed to uproot. Wasting money on jets and battle-ships for never-going-to-happen wars is one thing, and might even be excused as Keynesianism-that-dare-not-speak-its-name, but making money out of classifying peaceful political opponents of the current administration as enemies of the state seems, not put too fine a point on it, like a danger to the republic.

Henry continues:

Getting the government to contract out chunks of its security apparatus to private actors may sound fine and dandy in principle, but it may not be a good idea for civil liberties or for restraining the state from getting involved in unpopular wars. It can make the state more powerful in democratic countries, not less. Lines of responsibility get blurry, allowing the state (bluntly put) to get away with a lot of shit that it couldn’t get away with if it had to do so directly.