Shadow War, the American People and the Private Intelligence Industry

Inside an unassuming office building nestled within a middle to upper-class neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a group of individuals assembles. Gathered around a cluster of computers and large screens tuned into various news outlets, they diligently monitor unfolding events. Others within this space are deeply engrossed in extracting information from the digital realm, all while maintaining communication with human sources on the ground. This place could easily be likened to a war room, but it operates beyond the purview of the U.S. government or local law enforcement agencies. Instead, it belongs to a shadowy organization that has proliferated in recent years. These enigmatic agencies do not serve the interests of any governmental body, despite possessing the resources and capabilities that mirror those of official institutions.

Their primary motivations are twofold: to amass wealth and exert control over information. These clandestine entities, known by various names such as private spies for hire, private intelligence agencies, companies, or firms, have established themselves as formidable players in the realm of information warfare. While their nomenclature may differ, their shared objective remains consistent: to tilt the scales in favor of the highest bidder.

Private intelligence agencies, once relegated to the fringes of the national security landscape, have experienced a notable surge in prominence in recent times. Staffed predominantly by former intelligence professionals, these organizations offer a broad spectrum of services, ranging from comprehensive background checks to intricate political intelligence gathering operations. Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group, situated in an upscale district of Milwaukee, epitomizes the rapid growth of this industry.

Shortly before the forthcoming election, I encountered an individual, whom I shall refer to as “R” for their safety, who disclosed that they were employed by a company named Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group. The name intrigued me, as I had heard whispers about this company for years but had never encountered anyone who worked for them.

According to R, Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group had been in existence for nearly three decades, with one of its founders purportedly being a former Army Special Forces operative or something akin to that. As we conversed, my curiosity grew, and I began to pose numerous questions about the company. However, what struck me most was the revelation that followed.

R divulged that Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group specialized in providing information on a variety of subjects, including something known as Opposition Research. While it’s customary for investigative firms to offer information on elected officials, what distinguished this conversation was R’s assertion that they delved into the lives of non-elected individuals and their families. Although he remained uncertain about the purposes to which this information was put, he conveyed the unsettling extent of data they could amass on individuals.

Intrigued, I inquired about what set Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group apart from other private investigative agencies. R responded by recounting an incident where he witnessed the director of the company running a license plate. Initially, I assumed this was a standard investigative procedure. However, R clarified that their capabilities went far beyond typical private investigation services. They possessed the means to track a person’s movements across the country using their license plate as a starting point. I was incredulous, as I had previously believed such capabilities to be confined to the realm of fiction, perhaps seen on TV shows like NCIS.

One of the most disconcerting aspects of private intelligence agencies is their potential to acquire and manipulate information, thereby influencing public opinion. Functioning as information brokers, they possess the capacity to cherry-pick facts, manipulate narratives, and selectively release data to serve the interests of their clients. This ability to shape perceptions has profound implications for American democracy.

While Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group may not stand alone in wielding such power, its location in an upscale area of Milwaukee underscores the growing reach and influence of such entities. These companies possess the ability to tap into both local and national sentiments, molding opinions and beliefs while operating discreetly behind the scenes.

When I broached the topic of potentially meeting the company’s founder, R adamantly discouraged the notion. He asserted that Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group adhered to a set of rules unlike any he had encountered before. R believed that dealing with the company, particularly its retiring founder, could pose risks not only to his well-being but also to mine.

This piqued my interest further, motivating me to gather additional information about the company. The following day, I conducted an online search for Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group, presuming it would have a web presence. Indeed, I found their website, but the available information only heightened my intrigue. According to R, the company had been involved in providing specialized intelligence services, including surveillance and behavioral profiling, to a diverse range of clients. Despite my attempts to procure additional information by contacting them directly and visiting their office, my efforts were met with silence and a stern reception from a security officer at their premises.

As I contemplated R’s reasons for caution, a clearer picture began to emerge. Why was a former Green Beret at the helm of a private intelligence agency? I grappled with this question but ultimately chose not to delve deeper, considering the potential risks involved. The ability to access comprehensive information about individuals, both online and offline, remains a formidable tool in the arsenal of private intelligence agencies like Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group. These organizations can conduct extensive surveillance operations, monitoring social media, tracking online behavior, and gathering personal information from various sources.

This capacity for surveillance inevitably raises concerns regarding privacy and civil liberties. Although these companies assert that they operate within legal boundaries, the distinction between responsible intelligence gathering and invasive surveillance can be tenuous. The collection of data on individuals can be exploited for various purposes, including corporate espionage, political manipulation, or personal vendettas.

Reflecting on R’s cautious demeanor and his reluctance to cross paths with certain individuals within Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group, I began to understand his concerns. The enigmatic aura surrounding the company and the wealth of information at their disposal fostered an atmosphere of unease. What motivated a former Green Beret to helm such an organization? It was a question I preferred to leave unanswered, as delving deeper might prove detrimental to my own well-being.

Milwaukee, much like my hometown of Chicago, is no stranger to danger. However, the apprehensions stirred by Vanguard Intelligence & Security Group and similar entities transcended the perils of urban life. These organizations operate within a realm where the boundaries between secrecy, information, and power blur. In an era when information reigns supreme, they wield significant influence behind the scenes, crafting narratives, molding perceptions, and silently steering the course of events.