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Well, you don’t hire ex-military intelligence people to be greeters do you?Â
Wal-Mart hires ex-military intelligence officers
Â By Marcus Kabel
BENTONVILLE, Ark. â€“ Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been recruiting former military and government intelligence officers for a branch of its global security office aimed at identifying threats to the world’s largest retailer, including from “suspect individuals and groups”.
Wal-Mart’s interest in intelligence operatives comes at a time when the retailer is defending itself against allegations by a fired security employee that it ran surveillance operations against targets including critics, dissident shareholders, employees and suppliers. Wal-Mart has denied any wrongdoing.
Wal-Mart posted ads in March on its own website and sites for security professionals, including the bulletin of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, for “global threat analysts” with a background in government or military intelligence work.
The jobs were listed with the Analytical Research Center, part of Wal-Mart’s Global Security division, which is headed by a former CIA and FBI senior officer, Kenneth Senser. The analytical unit was created over the past year and half, according to published comments by its head, Army Special Operations veteran David Harrison.
The job description includes collecting information from “professional contacts” and public data to anticipate and assess threats stemming from “world events, regional/national security climates, and suspect individuals and groups.”
“Familiarity with a broad spectrum of information resources and data-mining techniques” is listed among the skills sought, along with a foreign language, preferably Chinese or Spanish.
A Wal-Mart spokesman declined to comment on the Analytical Research Center for this story or to make any security executives available for interviews.
Many corporations hire law enforcement officers for their security departments.
But Steven Aftergood, who runs the government secrecy project for the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists, said Wal-Mart’s efforts appear to go beyond what most companies are doing, raising questions about corporate intelligence work outside of the oversight process in place for government spying.
“It’s a troubling new departure in corporate security. We’re not just talking about security, we’re talking about intelligence operations,” Aftergood said.
Harrison told a meeting of security professionals last year that Wal-Mart was learning to defend itself by using the vast information it routinely collects about its employees, shoppers and suppliers.
The only public comment to date on the work of the Analystical Research Center, the speech was reported on by the trade magazine Government Security News. Wal-Mart did not dispute the report when contacted by The Associated Press this week.
Harrison told the meeting that Wal-Mart tracks customers including those who use its pharmacies, buy propane tanks and anyone making “bulk purchases” of prepaid cell phones, which some law enforcement officials have tied in the past to terrorist or criminal activities.
Harrison did not elaborate on how that information could be better used, except to say the data could be shared with law enforcement.
Wal-Mart’s union-backed critics said culling customer data for intelligence was disturbing.
“The idea that Wal-Mart is creating its own personal CIA should make every American â€“ Wal-Mart customer or not â€“ nervous about whether Wal-Mart is invading their privacy or could do so in the future,” said Chris Kofinis, spokesman for WakeUpWalMart.com.