Does Every Company Need Its Own CIA?

My current Foreign Policy column takes a look at the privatization of intelligence you’ve never heard of — the development of in-house political risk units inside many of America’s leading companies. These outfits have bland names like the Office of Global Safety and Security. But they look and act a lot like the CIA, are staffed with former FBI, CIA, and military folks, and are monitoring events around the world, 24/7, to assess risks to their parent company operations, people, and brand. I think this is the wave of the future. Find out why.

Author: Amy Zegart

Amy Zegart is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution. She is also a faculty affiliate at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and a professor of political economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (by courtesy). Her research examines national security agencies, American foreign policy, and anything scary. Academic publications include two award-winning books: Spying Blind, which examines intelligence adaptation failures before 9/11, and Flawed by Design, which chronicles the evolution of America’s national security architecture. She is currently working on a book about intelligence in the post-9/11 world. Zegart writes an intelligence column at, and her pieces have also appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times. Previously, she taught at UCLA and worked at McKinsey & Company. A former Fulbright Scholar, she received an A.B. in East Asian Studies from Harvard and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford. A native Kentuckian, she loves to watch good college football and bad reality TV.

2 thoughts on “Does Every Company Need Its Own CIA?”

  1. I’m not sure I buy this explanation. The “name” people you cite are players, not analysts. Sure, it sounds good. But in the current crony-capitalist system it makes much more parsimonious sense that large companies would do well by having well-connected once and future members of the security state on their payrolls. They get inside information on US policy and the goodwill that comes with providing sinecures for those whose faction might be currently out of power.

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