The Dogs of Peace

The new, downsized, post-Cold War secret agent finds work making deals between multinational corporations, rural guerrillas and the Russian mafia.


deep into the guerrilla-held jungles of the Philippines last spring went a
lone American agent on a sensitive intelligence mission.

Harry B. “Skip” Brandon, a former senior FBI intelligence official, had
hunted down Middle Eastern terrorists and CIA turncoat Aldrich Ames, but his
mission to Mindanao, the armed redoubt of Islamic separatists and Marxist
guerrilla groups, was not undertaken on behalf of God and country.

His client: A North American mining concern. His mission: Make a deal with rebel guerillas allowing his company to do business in their territory.

Brandon is one of hundreds of ex-FBI, CIA, and military intelligence
agents who are cashing in on their experience as government “spooks”
for new careers in the burgeoning field of “risk analysis,” or gathering
intelligence for multinational corporations.

“I like to call it risk avoidance,” says Brandon, handing me his new
business card in a noisy micro-brewery in Washington, D.C., a few blocks from
the White House. His partner, Gene Smith, is a dark-haired woman who has been a U.S. prosecutor and a foreign service officer. Between them,
they’ve racked up tens of thousands of frequent-flier miles in the past
year, carrying out corporate information-gathering and deal-making missions
from Islamabad to Madrid.

Oil, mining, timber companies, and banks — any business that needs solid
information before making multimillion dollar investments in volatile
areas abroad — are his clients. And when companies are trying to do business in
the Mafia-controlled sectors of the former Soviet Union, the narco-terrorized regions of Latin America, or the guerrilla-held regions of Liberia, the Philippines, and Somalia, they need people like Brandon to make the contacts.

“American companies aren’t really good at going abroad,” Brandon says.
“There’s a lot of, ‘I met that good ol’ boy and he spoke good English.’
That’s what I call the school of, ‘If they speak good English they’re all
right.’ It’s kind of sad, actually.”

This is not new. Private intelligence services were all the rage during the heyday of the British Empire, when large companies literally followed the fleet to foreign shores. What is new is the sheer number of companies going abroad, says David Lattin, who left Navy intelligence to join Control Risks, a London-based company. “Before, it was just the big companies — Gulf, Exxon, and so on.” Now all sorts of Western companies are venturing overseas, especially North American mining companies seeking to avoid stringent environmental and other limitations at home. “It’s been a huge learning curve for them,” Lattin says. “Many have gotten burnt.”

Intelligence hands point to Indonesia as an example of what can go wrong.
Freeport-McMoran, a Louisiana-based mining company, had inflamed local
tensions with a vast excavation in Irian Jaya. The company came under attack
by local villagers. When the Indonesian Army rode to the rescue, the company
unwittingly turned itself into a rallying point for the Free Papua Movement.

You Might Also Like

Bribes — or “revolutionary war taxes,” as guerrillas prefer to call them —
are often the only way out of such dangerous situations. They are also, of course, a way in. Companies pay warlords for peace in Liberia and Somalia. The
Russian mafia insists on its cut from foreign companies doing business in
the oil-soaked regions of the former Soviet Union — or else. “Often the only solution is to develop a bigger and better fly swatter,” says Lattin, such as “hiring your favorite former KGB general’s security company to handle it.”

“Basically, it’s a protection racket,” says Clete Ramsey, one of a half
dozen former military intelligence agents in the Washington office of
Pinkerton, Inc., the security company recruited by Abraham Lincoln to run
federal espionage during the Civil War. “Any place you have a separatist
movement, a foreign corporation is a major source of funding.”

Skip Brandon’s client — whom he would not identify here — managed to avoid the slippery slope of cash bribes in Mindanao. The guerrillas settled for access to “schools, hospitals, that their dependents be able to use the facilities, stuff like that. They asked about their soldiers, and I said no, because the government wouldn’t permit it,” Brandon said.

All they really wanted was respect, he discovered during a negotiating
session with a rebel chieftain in a jungle clearing ringed with
machine guns — all trained on Brandon.

“I asked the commander, ‘Why did you come to talk with me?’ “And he said, ‘Because we’ve never had a white man come to talk with us. I was just curious. I wanted to meet the white man who would come talk to


Quote of the day

David Boutros-Ghali

“Friends come to me and say, ‘Don’t be passive.’…You are in America; they like fighters. You look like a lame duck. You have to act. But how can I fight Goliath? Come on! Who am I to fight a superpower? I cannot.”

— U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, commenting on the U.S. veto of a second term for him (in today’s New York Times.)

Jeff Stein is the coauthor, with Khidhir Hamza, of "Saddam's Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon." He writes frequently for Salon on national security issues from Washington.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>