Intelligence gathering missions in Africa have been outsourced to private contractors as the U.S. military is using the contractors to fly spy missions over Uganda, Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, The Washington Post
The contractors are using Pilatus PC-12s, turboprops aircraft equipped with high-tech sensors and cameras that can film man-size targets from 10 miles away. Among other things, the contractors have been searching for Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony, the Post reported.
As a result of the agreement, there is no oversight of the missions and the U.S. government has deniability should something go awry. The U.S. Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent, declined to discuss specific missions or its reasons for outsourcing, the Post reported.
Previously, the military hired private contractors to conduct airborne surveillance in Latin America in the 1990s and early 2000s, the Post reported. In 2003 an American was killed and three others were taken hostage by Colombian insurgents after their plane crashed. The contractors were working for Northrop Grumman and were imprisoned for five years before being rescued in a raid by Colombian police, according to the Post.
“When things go bad, you can have two scenarios,” the Brookings Institution’s Peter Singer told the Post. “Either the contractors are left holding the bag, complaining about abandonment, or else some kind of abuse happens and they’re not held accountable because of a mix of unclear legal accountability and a lack of political will to do something about it.”
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