Some call it a national security threat. But Santa Fe’s most famous former spy has only raves for The Washington Post’s report on “
“I’m delighted that The Post has done this series,”
Valerie Plame Wilson
, the one-time covert agent, now a part-time community relations director at the Santa Fe Institute, tells SFR. “We’re in an era when we’ve classified practically everything—and then it loses its currency, doesn’t it?”
“Top Secret America” grew out of The Post’s two-year investigation into the growth of the private intelligence industry since 9.11. Last week, the paper also launched an online database revealing the names of nearly 2,000 companies “engaged in top-secret work for the government.”
The database includes 91 companies in New Mexico, including 11 headquartered in the state.
The latter number seems low, considering that New Mexico hosts two national laboratories, three Air Force bases, an Army missile range and, if you believe what you read online, an underground “joint government-alien biogenetic laboratory” conducting bizarre breeding experiments.
The series’ co-author, William Arkin, offers several explanations for the surprisingly low figure. For starters, The Post didn’t examine the Energy Department’s nuclear sites, Arkin tells SFR. Secondly, Arkin, who grew up in Pojoaque, says New Mexico’s “more traditional military culture” may not have caught up with the nationwide outsourcing trend.
“We set the standards for ourselves that we sure as hell didn’t want to be wrong about anything, but we knew we were going to miss stuff,” Arkin says.
At the request of an unnamed “government body,” The Post removed some data from its site, and withheld other information about the location of secret sites. As a result, the database has some glaring omissions.
author Tim Shorrock, an occasional New Mexican who has criticized The Post series, mentioned one on
—the intelligence “fusion center” operated by the Department of Homeland Security at the National Guard building on Bataan Boulevard.
SFR attempted to fill in some gaps left by The Post, starting with some phone calls to those
The Post says it does:
Air and satellite operations, disaster preparedness, intelligence analysis, nuclear ops and more for seven government clients.
ARA sought work from IARPA, the
Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity
, a relatively new agency that reports to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
The company says:
“Part of our work is for government clients, and some of the work is classified,” ARA Chief Development Officer Frank Maestas tells SFR. “We’re very proud of the work that we do in defense of the nation.”
Management consulting and security for one client.
ITP advertises that it has 12 employees with Q security clearances, the Energy Department equivalent of top secret.
ITP principal Kirk Bolles did not return a message.
Weapons tech, satellite, nuclear ops and technical intelligence for five clients.
Kestrel boasts a long résumé in the areas of missile defense and directed energy.
President Eugene Butler did not return a message.
Weapons technology and nuclear ops for one client.
The company website lists many clients, including the national laboratories, the US Army’s directed energy office—which tests ray guns—and DARPA, the
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
, home to some of the military’s most fantastical projects.
Ktech President Steven Downie did not return SFR’s call.
Satellite ops, weapons tech, nuclear ops, security and more for four clients.
The company has handled nuclear weapons components under contracts with the Energy Department.
Tom O’Brien, LATA’s vice president for federal programs, did not return SFR’s call.
: Staffing for one client.
Orion’s parent company, Orion International Technologies, works on directed energy, space and counter-proliferation technologies for the Pentagon, Energy Department and
Sandia National Laboratory
“Orion has not done any top secret work in a very long time,” company founder Miguel Rios Jr. tells SFR through a secretary.
“They definitely do top secret work,” Arkin says, citing contracts at the Joint Information Operations Warfare Center in San Antonio, Texas, and
, the Pentagon command for missile defense and nuclear strategy.
Staffing for one government client.
A Rainmaker ad says the company “specializes in filling cleared IT positions for DoD and Intelligence Community contractors.”
Company says: “We’re not a top secret company,” President Robert Valade tells SFR. “I’m a headhunter. I have a bunch of clients, some of whom do that kind of work.”
“He is a headhunter, but he’s specifically recruiting people for top secret jobs,” Arkin says.
Cyber operations and weapons tech for one client.
“Ha ha ha, what? No!” President Greg Pflum tells SFR. “We’re a contract manufacturer and we do some stuff for the labs”—but “nothing” that requires a security clearance.
: Arkin calls Raven an “obscure” company that makes “some kind of highly classified optical” components, mostly for the US Navy.
Staffing for three clients.
“We do a lot of government contracting, and some of it does require clearances,” President V Brian D’Andrea tells SFR.
Air and satellite ops, counter-IED ops, weapons tech and technical intel for one client.
TMC specializes in signal jammers, including a device designed to keep roadside bombs from exploding.
Chief executive Troy Scoughton did not return SFR’s message.
Management consulting, air border control, training and more for four government clients.
The company processes government security clearances and runs a “secure mail room,” among other things.
President Betty Chao “can’t comment” on whether Westech does classified work, but says “we definitely do not” work in the intelligence arena.