Wackenhut - Marcarthyite private security
January, 1977 Washington Post
The Wackenhut Corp., third-largest private detective firm in the country, said yesterday it still uses information on
individuals supplied by a right-wing political organization that hards back to the McCarthy era.
While protesting that use of such material in pre-employment checks for its business clients was "infrequent,"
Wackenhut's executive vice president John S. Ammarell told the Privacy Protection Study Commission it nevertheless
continues to keep files based on unverified data from the Church League of America. Part of that data consists of
hearings from the House Un-American Activities Committee that Wackenhut used until a few years ago and then gave to
the Church League in 1975.
Wackenhut, along with Pinkerton's, was supoenaed to testify on investigative practices relating to job applicants and
insurance claimants. The commission sought the testimony to help decide whether the privacy safeguards which now
apply to law enforcement officials should be extended to private detective firms.
The Church League, founded in 1937, calls itself "the largest private research organization and information center on
operations of the Communist Party and the New Left movement in the New Left movement in the entire USA." It is
headed by a former Air Force intelligence officer, Maj. Edgar C. Bundy, with headquarters in Wheaton, Ill.
The league indexes and disseminates to its subscribers the names of persons it finds "attacking or ridiculing a major
doctrine of the Christian faith or the American way of life." These include authors of books, speakers and even signers of
group advertisements in leading newspapers. The league's index of publications includes such titles as "Abusing the Girl
Scouts," "Sex and the Future Citizen," a denunciation of sex education and "America, We Beg You to Interfere," by
Commission member Edward I. Koch noted that the privacy Act of 1974 does not allow the federal government to
question individuals on their exercise of First Amendment freedoms, and asked why should private firms be allowed to do
so. Ammarell replied he hadn't read the First Amendment recently.
Koch retorted: "You should read it every week."
A Rand Corp. study for the Justice Department in 1971 reported Wackenhut kept files on 2.5 million individuals at its
Coral Gables. Fla., headquarters. Following passage of the Fair Credit Reporting Act. which allows subjects to know
what is in their files, the number of files was drastically reduced and now is between 225,000 and 250,000. Wasckenhut
conducts about 200 investigations a year.
A decade ago, at the request of the Florida governor, Wackenhut conducted a probe of organized crime in Florida.
Those files are still used today in the company's investigations of major thefts for insurance companies. The files also
contain reports of violations of state laws at the time by public officials. Ammerell assured the committee these files
Yesterday's hearing also provided some insights into Wackehnhut's operations. Most of its 200 investigators have had
prior experience eith the FBI, state or local law enforcement agencies. Wackenhut's employees are warned against
impersonating any of these officials while conducting so-called pretext interviews.
These interviews are a common technique in insurance investigations, Ammarell said. For example, Ammarell explained,
the lady of the house would be telephoned by an agent and asked what detergent she used. The caller would ask if he
could come to her house and take pictures of her using the product. In reality, the purpose of the photographs was to
show that the woamn, who had made a claim for a back injury, was able to do housework normally.
Both Wackenhut and Pinkerton assured the commission they undertake only legal and ethical investigations. Asked for an
example of a legal but unethical request. Pinkerton's executive vice president Eugene Fey replied that it would be correct
to investigate a prospective bookkeeper's gambling habits, but not the extracuricular activities of a secretary.
Both companies contended that existing laws provide enough protection for the individual and that the Privacy Act should
not be extended to the private sector. They also observed that subjects' right to learn the contents of their files tended to
dry up sources of information.
America's Private Gulag
by Ken Silverstein, January 1997
from the book - The Celling of America
edited by Daniel Burton-Rose with editors of Prison Legal News Dan Pens and Paul Wright
Common Courage Press, 1998 [via third world traveller]
What is the most profitable industry in America? Weapons, oil and computer technology all offer high rates of return, but there is probably no sector of the economy so abloom with money as the privately-run prison industry.
Consider the growth of the Corrections Corporation of America, the industry leader whose stock price has climbed from $8 a share in 1992 to about $30 today and whose revenue rose by 81 percent in 1995 alone. Investors in Wackenhut Corrections Corporation have enjoyed an average return of 18 percent during the past five years and the company is rated by Forbes as one of the top 200 small businesses in the country. At Esmor, another big private prison contractor, revenues have soared from $4.6 million in 1990 to more than $25 million in 1995.
Ten years ago there were just five privately-run prisons in the country, housing a population of 2.000. Today nearly a score of private firms run more than 100 prisons with about 62,000 beds. That's still less than five percent of the total market, but the industry is expanding fast, with the number of private prison beds expected to grow to 360,000 during the next decade.
The exhilaration among leaders and observers of the private prison sector was cheerfully summed up by a recent headline in USA Today: "Everybody's Doin' the Jailhouse Stock". An equally upbeat mood imbued a conference on private prisons held in December 1996 at the Four Seasons Resort in Dallas. The brochure for the conference, organized by the World Research Group, a New York-based investment firm, called the corporate takeover of correctional facilities the "newest trend in the area of privatizing previously government-run programs... While arrests and convictions are steadily on the rise, profits are to be made-profits from crime. Get in on the ground floor of this booming industry now!"
A hundred years ago private prisons were a familiar feature of American life, with disastrous consequences. Prisoners were farmed out as slave labor. They were routinely beaten and abused, fed slop and kept in horribly overcrowded cells. Conditions were so wretched that by the end of the nineteenth century private prisons were outlawed m most states.
During the past decade, private prisons have made a comeback. Already 28 states have passed legislation making it legal for private contractors to run correctional facilities and many more states are expected to follow suit.
The reasons for the rapid expansion include the post-1980s free market ideological fervor, large budget deficits for the federal and state governments and the discovery and creation of vast new reserves of "raw materials"-prisoners. The rate for most serious crimes has been dropping or stagnant for the past 15 years, but during the same period severe repeat offender provisions and a racist "get tough" policy on drugs have helped push the U.S. prison population up from 300,000 to around 1.5 million during the same period. This has produced a corresponding boom in prison construction and costs with the federal government's annual expenditures in the area now $17 billion. In California, passage of the infamous "three strikes" bill will result in the construction of an additional 20 prisons during the next few years.
The private prison business is most entrenched at the state level but is expanding into the federal prison system as well. Last year Attorney General Janet Reno announced that five of seven new federal prisons being built will be run by the private sector. Almost all of the prisons run by private firms are low or medium security but the companies are trying to break into the high security field as well. They have also begun taking charge of management at INS detention centers, boot camps for juvenile offenders and substance abuse programs.
Roughly half of the industry is controlled by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, which runs 46 penal institutions in 11 states. It took ten years for the company to reach 10,000 beds; it is now growing by that same number every year.
CCA's chief competitor is Wackenhut, which was founded in 1954 by George Wackenhut, a former FBI official. Over the years its board and staff have included such veterans of the U.S. national security state as Frank Carlucci, Bobby Ray Inman and William Casey, as well as Jorge Mas Canosa, leader of the fanatic Cuban American National Foundation. The company also provides security services to private corporations. It has provided strikebreakers at the Pittston mine strike in Kentucky, hired unlicensed investigators to ferret out whistleblowers at Alyeska, the company that controls the Alaskan oil pipeline, and beaten anti-nuclear demonstrators at facilities it guards for the Department of Energy.
Wackenhut has a third of the private prison market with 24 contracts, nine of which were signed during the past two years. In a major coup, the company was chosen to run a 2,200 capacity prison in Hobbs, New Mexico, which will become the largest private prison in the U.S. when it opens late this year.
Esmor, the No. 3 firm in the field, was founded only a few years ago and already operates ten corrections or detention facilities. The company's board includes William Barrett, a director of Frederick's of Hollywood, and company CEO James Slattery, whose previous experience was investing in and managing hotels.
U.S. companies also have been expanding abroad. The big three have facilities in Australia, England and Puerto Rico and are now looking at opportunities in Europe, Canada, Brazil, Mexico and China.
The companies that dominate the private prison business claim that they offer the taxpayers a bargain because they operate far more cheaply than do state firms. As one industry report put it, "CEOs of privatized companies... are leaner and more motivated than their public-sector counterparts."
But even if privatization does save money-and the evidence here is contradictory-there is, in the words of Jenni Gainsborough of the ACLU's National Prison Project, "a basic philosophical problem when you begin turning over administration of prisons to people who have an interest in keeping people locked up."
To be profitable, private prison firms must ensure that prisons are not only built but also filled. Industry experts say a 90 to 95 per cent capacity rate is needed to guarantee the hefty rates of return needed to lure investors. Prudential Securities issued a wildly bullish report on CCA a few years ago but cautioned, "It takes time to bring inmate population levels up to where they cover costs. Low occupancy is a drag on profits." Still, said the report, company earnings would be strong if CCA succeeded in "ramp[ing] up population levels in its new facilities at an acceptable rate".
A 1993 report from the State Department of Corrections in New Mexico found that CCA prisons issued more disciplinary reports- with harsher sanctions imposed, including the loss of time off for good behavior-than did those run by the state. A prisoner at a CCA prison said, "State-run facilities are overcrowded and there's no incentive to keep inmates as long as possible... CCA on the other hand reluctantly awards good time. They give it because they have to but they take it every opportunity they get... Parole packets are constantly getting lost or misfiled. Many of us are stuck here beyond our release dates."
Private prison companies have also begun to push, even if discreetly, for the type of get tough policies needed to ensure their continued growth. All the major firms in the field have hired big time lobbyists. When it was seeking a contract to run a halfway house in New York City, Esmor hired a onetime aide to state Rep. Edolphus Towns to lobby on its behalf. The aide succeeded in winning the contract and also the vote of his former boss, who had been an opponent of the project. In 1995, Wackenhut Chairman Tim Cole testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to urge support for amendments to the Violent Crime Control Act-which subsequently passed-that authorized the expenditure of $10 billion to construct and repair state prisons.
CCA has been especially adept at expansion via political payoffs. The first prison the company managed was the Silverdale Workhouse in Hamilton County, Tennessee. After Commissioner Bob Long voted to accept CCA's bid for the project, the company awarded Long's pest control firm a lucrative contract. When Long decided the time was right to quit public life, CCA hired him to lobby on its behalf. CCA head Massey has been a major financial supporter of Lamar Alexander, the former Tennessee governor and failed presidential candidate. In one of a number of sweetheart deals, Lamar's wife, Honey Alexander, made more than $130,000 on a $5,000 investment in CCA. Current Tennessee Governor Newt McWherter is another CCA stockholder and is quoted in the company's 1995 annual report as saying that "the federal government would be well served to privatize all of their corrections."
The prison industry has also made generous use of the junket as a public relations technique. Wackenhut recently flew a New York-based reporter from Switzerland-where the company is fishing for business-to Florida for a tour of one of its prisons. The reporter was driven around by limousine, had all her expenses covered and was otherwise treated royally.
In another ominous development, the revolving door between the public and private sector has led to the type of company boards that are typical of those found in the military-industrial complex. CCA co-founders were T. Don Hutto, a ex-corrections commissioner in Virginia, and Tom Beasley, a former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party. A top company official is Michael Quinlan, once director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The board of Wackenhut is graced by a former Marine Corps commander, two retired Air Force generals and a former under secretary of the Air Force, as well as by James Thompson, ex-governor of Illinois, Stuart Gerson, a former assistant U.S. attorney general and Richard Staley, who previously worked with the INS.
Because they are private firms that answer to shareholders, prison companies have been predictably vigorous in seeking ways to cut costs. In 1985, a private firm tried to site a prison on a toxic waste dump in Pennsylvania, which it had bought at the bargain rate of $1. Fortunately, that plan was rejected.
Many states pay private contractors a per diem rate, as low as $31 per prisoner in Texas. A federal investigation traced a 1994 riot at an Esmor immigration detention center to the company's having skimped on food, building repairs and guard salaries. At an Esmorrun halfway house in Manhattan, inspectors turned up leaky plumbing, exposed electrical wires, vermin and inadequate food.
To ratchet up profit margins, companies have cut corners on drug rehabilitation, counseling and literacy programs. In 1995, Wackenhut was investigated for diverting $700,000 intended for drug treatment programs at a Texas prison. In Florida the U.S. Corrections Corporation was found to be in violation of a provision in its state contract that requires prisoners to be placed in meaningful work or educational assignments. The company had assigned 235 prisoners as dorm orderlies when no more than 48 were needed and enrollment in education programs was well below what the contract called for. Such incidents led a prisoner at a CCA facility in Tennessee to conclude, "There is something inherently sinister about making money from the incarceration of prisoners, and in putting CCA's bottom-line [money] before society's bottom line [rehabilitation]."
The companies try to cut costs by offering less training and pay to staff. Almost all workers at state prisons get union-scale pay but salaries for private prison guards range from about $7 to $10 per hour. Of course the companies are anti-union. When workers attempted to organize at Tennessee's South Central prison, CCA sent officials down from Nashville to quash the effort.
Poor pay and work conditions have led to huge turnover rates at private prisons. A report by the Florida auditor's office found that turnover at the Gadsden Correctional Facility for Women, run by the U.S. Corrections Corporation, was 200 percent, ten times the rate at state prisons. Minutes from an administrative meeting at a CCA prison in Tennessee have the "chief" recorded as saying, "We all know that we have lots of new staff and are constantly in the training mode... Many employees [are] totally lost and have never worked in corrections."
Private companies also try to nickel and dime prisoners in the effort to boost revenue. A prisoner at a Florida prison run by CCA has sued the company for charging a $2.50 fee per phone call and 50 cents per minute thereafter. The lawsuit also charges that it can take a prisoner more than a month to see a doctor.
A number of prisoners complain about exorbitant prices. "Canteen prices are outrageous," wrote a prisoner at the Gadsden facility in Florida. "[We] pay more for a pack of cigarettes than in the free world." Neither do private firms provide prisoners with soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes or writing paper. One female prisoner at a CCA prison in New Mexico said: "The state gives five free postage paid envelopes per month to prisoners, nothing at CCA. State provides new coats, jeans, shirts, underwear and replaces them as needed. CCA rarely buys new clothing and inmates are often issued tattered and stained clothing. Same goes for linens. Also ration toilet paper and paper towels. If you run out, too bad-3 rolls every two weeks."
General conditions at private prisons appear in some respects to be somewhat better than those found at state institutions, a fact possibly linked to the negative business impact that a prison disturbance can cause private firms. For example, the share price of stock in Esmor plunged from $20 to $7 after a 1994 revolt at the company's detention center for immigrants in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Nevertheless a number of serious problems at prisons run by private interests still exist. Back in the mid-1980s, a visiting group of professional guards from England toured the CCA's 360-bed state prison in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and reported that prisoners were "cruelly treated" and "problem" prisoners had been gagged with sticky tape. The warden regaled his guests with graphic descriptions of strip shows performed by female prisoners for male guards.
Investigators at a CCA jail in New Mexico found that guards had inflicted injuries on prisoners ranging from cuts and scrapes to broken bones. Riots have erupted at various private facilities. In one of the worst, guards at CCA's West Tennessee Detention Center fired pepper gas canisters into two dormitories to quell a riot after prisoners shipped from North Carolina revolted over being sent far from their families.
In addition to the companies that directly manage America's prisons, many other firms are getting a piece of the private prison action. American Express has invested millions of dollars in private prison construction in Oklahoma and General Electric has helped finance construction in Tennessee. Goldman Sachs & Co., Merrill Lynch, Smith Barney, among other Wall Street firms, have made huge sums by underwriting prison construction with the sale of tax-exempt bonds, this now a thriving $2.3 billion industry.
Weapons manufacturers see both public and private prisons as a new outlet for "defense" technology, such as electronic bracelets and stun guns. Private transport companies have lucrative contracts to move prisoners within and across state lines; health care companies supply jails with doctors and nurses; food service firms provide prisoners with meals. High-tech firms are also moving into the field; the Que-Tel Corp hopes for vigorous sales of its new system whereby prisoners are bar-coded and guards carry scanners to monitor their movements. Phone companies such as AT&T chase after the enormously lucrative prison business.
About three-quarters of new admissions to American jails and prisons are now African-American and Hispanic men. This trend combined with an increasingly privatized and profitable prison system run largely by Whites, makes for what Jerome Miller, a former youth corrections officer in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts calls the emerging Gulag State.
Miller predicts that the Gulag State will be in place within 15 years. He expects three to five million people to be behind bars including an absolute majority of African-American men. It's comparable, he says, to the post-Civil War period, when authorities came to view the prison system as a cheaper, more efficient substitute for slavery. Of the state's current approach to crime and law enforcement, Miller says, "The race card has changed the whole playing field. Because the prison system doesn't affect a significant percentage of young White men we'll increasingly see prisoners treated as commodities. For now the situation is a bit more benign than it was back in the nineteenth century, but I'm not sure it will stay that way for long."
THE ERA OF DUAL LAW ENFORCEMENT IS HERE AS
GOVERNMENT AND CORPORATIONS HIRE RENT-A-COPS
TO GUARD BUSINESSES AND GATED COMMUNITIES AND
TO BREAK STRIKES. NOW, ABUSES BY THE PRIVATE
SECURITY INDUSTRY AND ITS EMPLOYEES
THEMSELVES THREATEN PUBLIC SECURITY.
Propelled by public panic over crime, the
private security industry is one of the
fastest growing enterprises in the U.S.,
spending more money and employing more guards
than public police forces around the country.
In 1990 alone, $52 billion was spent on
private security, compared to $30 billion on
police. More than 10,000 private security
companies employ some 1.5 million guards,
nearly triple the 554,000 state and local
And the industry which generates billions in
profits is growing rapidly. One
congressional advocate of increased regulation
says national labor statistics indicate that
more jobs will be created in the private
security field than any other categories over
the next decade. Industry executives
estimate that the number of private guards
will surge to 2 million by the year 2000.
Amidst heightened public fears in the wake of
the Oklahoma bombing, fresh threats by the
UNABOMBER, and recurring references by the
press and politicians to the menace of foreign
terrorists, the industry is poised for boom
times. With the 1996 presidential election
looming large, both major political parties
are sure to issue more strident calls for
stepped-up policing, both public and private.
DUAL LAW ENFORCEMENT
The era of dual law enforcement is already
here, with a vengeance. Private guards are
popping up everywhere, patrolling shopping
malls, workplaces, apartment buildings and
neighborhoods. The phenomenal growth of
massive private shopping malls, and the steady
shrinkage of public shopping streets, means
the public is more likely to encounter private
security than public police on a daily basis.
The business community already pays for
security in malls, stores, offices, banks, and
highly congested public places such as New
York City's Grand Central Station. And as
federal funding recedes, many municipalities
are looking to cut costs further by hiring
rent-a-cops to work ambulance services and
parking enforcement, as well as to watch over
crime scenes and transport prisoners who
increasingly face incarceration in
corporate-run prisons. California, always the
harbinger of disturbing new trends in American
culture, goes beyond putting private guards on
the street. Wealthy residents of Los Angeles
hire their guards complete with squad cars.
The City Council has 50 applications pending
to barricade public streets to facilitate the
work of these private security cruisers.
Privatization extends to the federal
government, which is increasingly handing over
security functions to corporations which
employ and underpay a non-unionized workforce.
In 1971, there were 5,000 federal police
providing security at government buildings.
Today there are 409, with private contract
guards making up the difference.
Government-busters in Congress support these
privatization moves, overriding objections
from the American Federation of Government
Employees. The union is pushing for federal
workers to have a say in all decisions that
affect the workplace, particularly when it
comes to a question as vital as providing
As rent-a-cops supplant functions once
performed by police, the private security
industry is creating a separate and unequal
system under which the rich protect their
privileges and guard their wealth from
perceived barbarians at the gate. Many of the
affluent now live in enclaves, gated
communities, where private security forces
control entrances, screen visitors and hired
help, and patrol the grounds. These
heavily-armed private guards are accountable
not to the public, but to the well-manicured
hand that feeds them. Meanwhile, it is left to
public police forces to maintain a coercive
order within deteriorating inner cities.
This private security business bonanza is
fueled by demagogic politicians and reinforced
with violent imagery and fear-mongering
rhetoric from talk radio, the tabloid press,
and sensationalist television shows such as
Hard Copy. It is taking place even as
government surveys indicate that crime levels
have been more or less constant over the past
20 years. In fact, the FBI reported at the end
of 1994 that overall crime for the year
decreased to 1986 levels, while violent crime
declined to the level of 1990. The facts,
however, do not make a dent in the public's
perception that crime is out of control.
As a result of the rhetoric and fear as well
as rational concerns about crime the private
security industry is profitably positioned at
the intersection of two of the right-wing's
most cherished crusades: privatization and law
and order. The industry enjoys a symbiotic
relationship with the gun lobby as
organizations such as the NRA help incite
public fear of crime, then hold out assault
weapons as the best solution to security
concerns. In turn, the expanded presence of
private guards in daily life reinforces the
notion that a gun is an essential piece in any
urban survival kit.
This rush to employ private guards reflects
the militarization of America. Private firms
are arming guards at a pace to match the rapid
expansion of non-sporting firearms in private
hands. America is an armed camp, with an
estimated 200 million guns in private hands.
The more than 100,000 gun-toting private
guards have more firepower than the combined
police forces of the nation's 30 largest urban
MERCENARIES FOR HIRE
All this firepower, trained on a public which
places its trust in uniformed guards, raises a
variety of concerns: The private security
industry is largely unregulated; its employees
are often poorly trained, underpaid, and
inadequately screened; and they serve only
those who hired them. While rent-a cops are
legally limited to observing, reporting and
attempting to deter crime a power which
falls short of the authorized use of force or
the right to make an arrest the distinction
is apt to be lost on most citizens accosted by
a uniformed private guard waving a gun and
The history of businesses hiring security
firms and using them like a private army is
long and rife with abuse. Pinkerton, the
nation's oldest and second largest security
company, earned its spurs in the late 19th
century when its guards served as a private
army for robber barons intent on wiping out
unions. Pinkerton provided the firepower when
Ford Frick issued the order to gun down
striking workers at Andrew Carnegie's
Homestead steel plant in 1892.
Private security companies today have kept
that union-busting tradition alive and well.
As corporations faced with labor disputes turn
more and more to so-called permanent
replacement workers, guard firms are utilized
to crush militant opposition from unions. A
rapidly expanding subset of the industry
specializes in strikebreaking.
At the forefront is the Special Response
Corporation (SRC), based in Towson, Maryland,
SRC's ads feature a uniformed agent wielding a
riot shield beneath a headline which
proclaims: A Private Army When You Need It
Most. SRC promises prospective employers that
we can provide the security and control
measures necessary for the continued operation
of the business in the event of a strike. SRC
vouches for the professionalism of its agents,
stating that they all have prior military or
law enforcement experience. In 1990, SRC
helped precipitate a melee when its guards
used martial arts sticks against striking
newspaper workers in New York City.
The company claims to have seen action in a
thousand labor disputes during the last decade
and to receive up to 500 inquiries a year
about its services. One grateful SRC client
thanked the company for providing surveillance
relating to Workmen's Compensation claims and
other general undercover surveillance work
during a strike.
SRC does not limit itself to labor strife. The
company dispatched guards to South Central Los
Angeles following the unrest that erupted when
police officers were acquitted in the brutal
beating of Rodney King. SRC agents helped
provide security for private businesses.
One of the most active strike-breaking firms
is Vance Security, founded by Charles Vance,
ex-son-in-law of ex-President Gerald Ford.
Vance's agents were deployed against striking
Greyhound drivers in the late 1980s and served
as shock troops for the Pittston Coal Group,
Inc. in its protracted and bitter battle with
the United Mine Workers.
Vance runs a rent-a-mercenary operation which
recruits through ads in Soldier of Fortune and
offers its agents training in the use of
firearms, Mace, and riot batons. An ad in the
1986 Gung-Ho Yearbook, a paramilitary
magazine, was aimed at those of you who have
military backgrounds who are interested in
$100-a-day, all-expenses-paid work. The
company offered a refresher course in the use
of firearms should things get completely out
The Asset Protection Team, a Vance
subsidiary, runs an ad which features a
jack-booted security agent equipped with a
riot shield, club and helmet. A brochure
guarantees guards will arrive with all the
personal equipment necessary to handle all
levels of violence.
These firms' stock in trade is the creation of
a threatening atmosphere for union supporters.
During a dispute between Caterpillar, Inc. and
the United Auto Workers in 1992, Vance
Security transformed the company's plant into
a war zone, placing barbed wire around the
grounds. Striking steel workers at an Alcoa
plant in Tennessee were subjected to constant
surveillance with video cameras, while
gun-toting agents were stationed on the tops
of buildings and ground-level security
brandished riot shields and tear gas
canisters. Vance guards followed union members
after they left picket lines.
Union organizers view these tactics as a form
of psychological warfare. According to John
Duray of the United Mine Workers, private
guards act as provocateurs, attempting to
incite a violent response from strikers. Duray
says that security firms create a violent
situation, then record it, and take the film
to court. Employers then seek a legal
injunction against the union.
The most current case of union-busting
security guards is unfolding in Detroit this
summer. Members of the Newspaper Guild and the
Teamsters are on strike at the city's two
daily newspapers, the Detroit News and Detroit
Free Press, owned by Knight-Ridder and media
giant Gannett, respectively. In mid-July,
agents from Vance Security attacked four
strikers, sending three of them to a hospital
emergency room. Local police confiscated four
armloads of wooden clubs from security guards
employed by the newspapers.
When it comes to repression, one of the most
versatile guard companies is Wackenhut,
founded by a retired FBI agent. The security
corporation operates 12 prisons, with plans
for expansions, and runs a detention center in
Queens, New York, under contract from the
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).
Detainees, who have not been charged with a
crime but are awaiting an INS hearing on
asylum claims, are confined in cinder block
cells and denied access to outside grounds.
Wackenhut has received a number of security
contracts from local governments, including
assignments to patrol downtown Miami's
shopping district, rest stops at Florida
highways, and commuter trains in Denver.
Wackenhut assisted in the installation of
video cameras trained on Denver light rail
riders and petitioned the city for permission
to take over ticket-writing functions from
All of this activity adds up to mega-profits
for Wackenhut. In 1994, its annual operating
income zoomed from 47 cents per share to 85
Armed Private security guard
outside Chicago Housing Authority.
GUARDING WHOSE SECURITY?
In addition to their role as mercenaries in
the class war, some guards have committed
misdeeds beyond those commissioned by their
employers. Asked why he robbed banks,
legendary stickup man Willie Sutton reportedly
replied because that's where the money is. In
that spirit, some aspiring thieves seek out
jobs as security guards in order to gain
access to ATM machines, bank vaults, and
victims. According to William Brill, who has
helped train and evaluate security guards for
more than 20 years, in many of my interviews
with convicted murderers and rapists, I have
found that many worked for security guard
companies at one point or another. One reason
for this was that the job was easy to get;
another was that it put them in touch with
The security industry appears to be a magnet
for the socially dispossessed. Security jobs
are readily available and do not require
specialized skills or extensive education. At
the same time, a guard's uniform and gun offer
a sense of power and authority lacking in most
service sector jobs. Experts who monitor the
industry point to a fascination with guns and
police work as common characteristics found
among security guards. Some individuals turned
to private security firms after failing to
pass tests to become police officers. Timothy McVeigh, the accused Oklahoma City bomber,
signed on as a security guard after flunking
the Green Berets' psychological tests.
Although no agency records crime statistics
for offenses committed by security guards,
anecdotal evidence is voluminous. Private
security guards in action offer a mix of the
macabre and the Keystone Cops:
Hoping to receive a commendation for reporting
it, Michael Huston, a guard for Burns
International Security Services, set fire to a
trash can full of papers at Hollywood's
Universal Studios in early 1992. The fire
flared out of control, causing more than $25
million in damage to Universal's sets.
A former Wells Fargo guard stood trial in May
for the 1984 murder of a 20-year-old student
at Drexel University, the campus he was hired
to protect. Police charged that the guard
strangled the young woman for her sneakers so
he could satisfy a shoe fetish. At the trial,
another ex-guard described her fellow
co-workers as alcoholics and drug addicts.
In New Jersey, a grand jury found that guards
employed by Burns assaulted or otherwise
abused spectators at the Meadowlands sports
arena on more than 20 occasions between 1987
and 1990. This same company provides security
at nearly one in three of the country's
nuclear power plants.
A Wells Fargo guard made the FBI's 10 Most
Wanted List for allegedly stealing $7 million
from a bank vault.
A Philadelphia ATM machine was robbed of
$40,000 after the thief told Wells Fargo
guards to ignore any alarms because he was
there to fix the machine.
In March, a Globe Security guard choked
ex-Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder at the
Raleigh-Durham airport, following an exchange
of harsh words when Wilder set off a metal
In 1994, Wells Fargo Armored Service
Corporation turned in 23 employees for theft,
while another 25 were dismissed for reasons
related to theft or negligence. The
company president, Hugh Sawyer, informed
Congress that our industry is subject to an
unusually high rate of internal theft because
our personnel are constantly exposed to our
cash in transit and in our vaults. Sawyer
acknowledged that low hourly pay rates only
increased the temptation faced by his
Peter Everett, an attorney representing
clients who have suffered abuses because of
negligent guards, contends that intense
competition within the industry leads firms to
make ever deeper cuts in their only real
expense: labor. According to Everett,
Economic incentives now exist to hire
inexperienced, minimum wage guards without
conducting the most basic background checks or
providing essential training. After all, the
faster you can put someone on a beat that you
are paying $5 an hour to and charge $10 for
their services, the faster you will pocket the
revenues. And when coupled with scarce
benefits the higher the worker turnover.
William Brill put the question to Congress: Is
it going to be an industry that includes
companies that field poorly paid and poorly
supervised guards, that includes companies
that have 500 percent turnover in a year, that
hire a guard one day and put him on duty the
next; that offer no training, no future for
their employees an industry that has been a
career stop for any number of criminals,
including mass murderers like James Huberty,
who gunned down 21 people at a McDonalds in
With a seemingly limitless pool not only of
guards, but also of potential business
clients, many companies simply shrug off
business lost to negligent or corrupt
services, and move on to the next assignment.
A steady demand for security, combined with
low overhead costs, has made the guard
business an attractive investment for
entrepreneurs both big and small. Firms move
in and out of the field so fast that even the
most knowledgeable experts can only guess that
the number of companies ranges between 10,000
WHO WATCHES THE WATCHMEN?
And while vast numbers of private guards may
lull some of the public into believing that
protection is in place, a look at the
industry's record reveals what a false sense
of security this is. In fact, the industry
operates in a marketplace virtually free of
regulation. A mere 17 states have established
standards for training unarmed guards and 18
states do not even require training for guards
equipped with weapons. In 1993, Rep. Matthew
Martinez (D-Calif.) introduced legislation
setting a threshold for guard training,
mandating 16 hours of schooling before
deployment. The bill received support from
some of the security industry's major players,
including top executives from Wackenhut and
Wells Fargo Armored Service.
Advocates of even stricter controls contend
that these security giants endorsed limited
regulation as a means of erecting barriers to
the competition. The training standards were
set low enough so that the largest companies
could easily meet the requirements, but
sufficiently high as to be cost-prohibitive
for locally-based mom and pop companies. In
pressing for expanded background checks,
security firms may also be motivated as much
by their own financial liability as concern
for public safety. Companies regularly pay out
millions to settle lawsuits and obtain
insurance against the negligence or misconduct
of their guards. For example, Wells Fargo was
forced to ante up $3.7 million in 1992 to
reimburse customers who were robbed in thefts
linked to its guards.
Among the most outspoken critics to emerge
from within the industry is Ira Lipman,
president of Guardsmark, the country's fifth
largest security firm. He draws a dismal
picture of the industry, asserting that there
are security officers in this nation who are
convicted murderers and rapists, who are
thrilled at the sight of fire, who think that
a uniform gives them authority, and that a gun
gives them power, who cannot control their
urges or contain their wants, who prey on
those they are hired to protect. The
industry's greatest weakness, he contends is
the lack of rigorous background checks.
[Security firms] do not even attempt to check
applicants' criminal records, military service
records, personal references, previous
employers or educational claims. They don't
test for literacy, they don't test for drug
use, and they don't evaluate psychological fitness.
Lipman's criticism fails to address several
important issues. First, while stricter
standards may weed out violence prone
individuals, they may do violence to the
Constitution. Potential screening measures
rouse civil liberties concerns about the
collaboration of private firms and government
law enforcement agencies. While private guard
companies can now search in-state arrest
records, corporate leaders, joined by a
growing number of congressmembers, are
demanding increased access to FBI data banks.
At least two bills facilitating such access
may be introduced in this session of Congress,
while one Republican lawmaker has already
attached a similar amendment to anti-terrorist
legislation rushed through Congress in the
aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Leading security companies, and their allies
in Congress, are also pressing for direct
access to the FBI's National Crime Information
Center listing criminal convictions throughout
the country. The American Bankers Association
already has access to this data bank.
Given the FBI's own history of illegal spying
and civil liberties abuses, the prospect of
the bureau sharing its data with security
corporations is a dangerous development.
Increased training, responsible monitoring and
higher wages for guards would help ensure a
greater level of accountability without
threatening civil liberties.
The expanding use of the security industry is
yet another sign that social conditions in the
U.S. increasingly mirror those in the Third
World. As in Guatemala and El Salvador, where
the rich employ paramilitaries to defend their
privileges and security, in the U.S. too,
justice is often measured by the size of your
bank account. The same is ever more true for
access to the most basic public services.
Inadequate funding and official neglect are
plunging public housing, education, and
transportation to levels approaching those in
the Third World. Meanwhile, affluent
communities continue to turn to the private
sector where the most basic social services
from trash collection to the supply of
drinking water, from education to mail
delivery are auctioned off to the highest
bidder in a real-life variant of the board
PROTEST AND THE POOR
Increased privatization is further widening
the gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Since 1979, the real income of the richest 20
percent of the U.S. has grown by nearly 20
percent, while the 60 percent at the bottom
have seen their share of the wealth decline.
This difference will be further
exacerbated by new tax breaks promoted by a
Republican Congress. Fifty percent of the
benefits would accrue to those with more than
$200,000 in annual income, while another 30
percent would go to those making more than
Privileges such as these must be jealously
guarded by force if necessary. In a society
marked by growing inequality, security both
private and public is likely to be
stepped-up to enforce social order and keep
the poorest sectors of the population under
The private security industry's rapid growth
challenges those seeking progressive solutions
to problems of crime and violence. Calling for
more authority for public police is not an
appealing remedy in communities where
police-inflicted beatings like that rained on
Rodney King are the rule rather than the
exception. Community organizations are
emerging that recognize the dangers of placing
too much trust in either public or private
police, while acknowledging the need for
action to combat crime, which strikes
disproportionately at low-income
neighborhoods. The Oakland-based Center for
Third World Organizing has helped to bring
some sponsors of locally focused initiatives
together to share strategies and resources.
The nationwide Campaign for Community Safety
and Police Accountability (CCSPA) addresses
the need to make security forces accountable
to the public while implementing programs
designed to reduce crime by meeting social
needs. The organization calls for programs
geared toward ending police brutality, giving
communities greater control over anti-crime
resources, and generating alternatives to
imprisonment. Such efforts pose a progressive
alternative to vigilante-style neighborhood
watch groups and the increased deployment of
armed guards from the public and private
These community efforts offer the best hope
for halting the rapid march toward the
militarization of America. Community
initiatives to rein in police forces need to
focus on the abusive potential of the private
security industry as well. In a democracy,
public police forces, with all their abuses,
have at least a theoretical potential for
accountability through citizen review boards
and other community pressures. Private
security firms, however, are inherently a law
unto themselves, only accountable to the
corporate bottom line.
Mushroom cloud over Denver?
A top Department of Energy official is caught on tape worrying that security is lax at Rocky Flats weapons facility.
By Mark Hertsgaard
What if Timothy McVeigh had attacked Oklahoma City with nuclear rather than conventional explosives? What if the World Trade Center bombers had packed their truck with plutonium rather than the chemical cocktail they used?
Now, transplant those nightmare scenarios to Denver, and put yourself in the mind of Ed McCallum. The year is 1997. McCallum is the Department of Energy's top professional with hands-on responsibility for protecting the nation's vast stores of nuclear weapons-grade materials from theft or sabotage. McCallum has been reviewing the security performance at Rocky Flats, the nuclear site 17 miles northwest of Denver, and he sees the catastrophe of the century waiting to happen, on his watch.
"The workers at that plant, and the citizens of Colorado, are at extremely high risk" of a terrorist assault that could unleash "a little mushroom-shaped cloud" over Denver, McCallum confided in a phone call to a colleague that May. Such a blast would not only kill Denver's million-plus inhabitants, it would claim tens of millions of additional lives as its radioactive plume blew across the Midwest and on to the East Coast.
Not long after that phone call, Mark Graf, a security expert at Rocky Flats, agreed at McCallum's urging to blow the whistle on security lapses at the site. Now, in an ongoing legal wrangle about his whistle-blowing with his employer, Wackenhut Services, the company in charge of security at Rocky Flats, Graf and his attorneys have released a tape recording of the phone call in which Ed McCallum voiced his fears about security at Rocky Flats. It provides a disturbing window on the DOE's own worries about Rocky Flats.
The phone call was between McCallum and Jeff Peters, the former director of Protective Force Operations at Rocky Flats. As the man formerly in charge of the entire uniformed protective force on site, Peters had extensive firsthand knowledge of security deficiencies at Rocky Flats; indeed, he had butted heads about them for years with his bosses at Wackenhut before finally blowing the whistle to federal authorities himself and resigning under duress in 1996.
McCallum telephoned Peters because he wanted Peters' help bringing the problems at Rocky Flats into the open before tragedy struck. McCallum, as the director of DOE's Office of Safeguards and Security, had recently rated security at Rocky Flats as "unsatisfactory" in his confidential 1996 annual report to the president. (The DOE's security rating system has but three categories: satisfactory, marginal and unsatisfactory.)
In their phone call, which Peters taped, McCallum said he wanted Peters and Graf to start talking to the news media about the problems at the site. McCallum had been trying to warn superiors in the Clinton administration about the impending danger at Rocky Flats but with little success. If the media got interested in the story, though, the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington would have to do something.
Peters shared McCallum's concerns, and the two men went on to discuss some specific problems at Rocky Flats. Recently conducted internal tests had shown that the facility was highly susceptible to terrorist attack. In the tests, the "bad guys" had succeeded 100 percent of the time in entering the complex and gaining access to the approximately 20 tons of nuclear weapons-grade materials stored inside. (It takes only a softball-sized chunk of plutonium to create an explosion equivalent to three or four Hiroshima blasts.)
Once inside of Rocky Flats, McCallum observed, terrorists would only need to slap some high explosives on the nuclear materials, light a fuse and voilà: "a little mushroom-shaped cloud" would soon be rising over Denver and heading across the United States. Of course, the terrorists could also steal the nuclear materials and detonate them elsewhere. The bad guys had succeeded 80 percent of the time with that scenario in the recent tests.
McCallum said he could not understand why people living near Rocky Flats had not "gone absolutely wacko" about the danger. Peters replied, "It's only because they don't know ... they're being fed a line of shit the whole time."
Indeed, the American people almost never hear such brutal candor from their public servants; government officials only talk this honestly among themselves (and rarely even then). McCallum plainly never intended his comments to reach the public's ears. In a brief conversation with Salon News, McCallum said, "I've been officially told by my agency [DOE] that I'm not allowed to comment." He did say, however, that he had not known that Peters was recording their May 1997 phone call, and that he considers the release of the tapes, and indeed the taping itself, illegal, though he does not disagree with the larger point Peters and Graf are making with the tapes. (Peters vigorously disputed that McCallum did not know about the taping, the legality of which was affirmed in advance, according to Peters, by both the FBI and the DOE's Office of General Counsel.)
In any case, the tapes became the smoking gun of a legal hearing just concluded in Denver that may determine whether the American public ever learns the full truth about Rocky Flats. The hearing, which has gone uncovered by the mainstream media, pits Mark Graf against his employer, Wackenhut Services.
In March 1998, Graf, by then a 16-year veteran of security work at Rocky Flats, sued Wackenhut for allegedly retaliating against him for speaking out about security flaws at the plant. Among other actions, Wackenhut suspended Graf from his position and ordered him to undergo psychological evaluation. Graf won his lawsuit when the Department of Labor ruled that Wackenhut's retaliation was illegal; the department ordered the company to reinstate Graf, purge all references to the incident from his record and pay him $10,000 in damages, plus attorney's fees.
At last week's hearing, Wackenhut sought to overturn that ruling by arguing that Graf did not come to Wackenhut's classification office for clearance before talking with the media. "Wackenhut feels the clear issue here is that there is a DOE rule requiring that people who work at DOE sites must first go through the classification office before talking to the news media in order to prevent the inadvertent disclosure of classified info," Dennis Brown, Wackenhut's attorney, told Salon News. "Wackenhut's position is that if you want to work at a DOE site, you've got to follow their rules, and furthermore, that Graf wasn't discriminated against, he was simply disciplined for refusing to follow this rule."
Graf was represented at the Denver hearing by the Government Accountability Project, a public interest law firm that specializes in defending corporate and government whistle-blowers. GAP attorney Tom Carpenter argued that Graf is a trained de-classifier whom Wackenhut had repeatedly relied upon for classification advice in numerous other instances, and that Graf therefore knew full well that the material he was sharing with the media did not violate classification restrictions. To require Graf to clear any outside statements with Wackenhut in advance, Carpenter contended, would effectively grant the company veto power over any whistle-blowing by any of its employees.
To punish Graf for speaking to the news media would be all the more unfair, argued Peters, when Graf was specifically urged to do so by DOE's McCallum. "I've sat on these tapes for years and tried to address these security issues through the system, so we didn't panic the public," Peters told Salon News. But without the release of the tapes, Wackenhut and DOE could get away with denying that Graf's concerns about Rocky Flats security had any validity.
"There have been various questions raised about the security posture at Rocky Flats," acknowledges Patrick Etchart, a spokesman for the Department of Energy at Rocky Flats. "There have been several reviews of this issue, and these reviews have consistently concluded that the plutonium and other special nuclear materials at Rocky Flats are not at risk." Asked whether the DOE disputed McCallum's 1997 statements about an "extremely high risk" of a "mushroom-shaped cloud" appearing over Denver, Etchart said, "I can only refer to the independent reviews I already mentioned ... We spend in excess of $60 million a year to make sure this material is safe, and none of the reviews have ever indicated the material was at immediate risk."
In particular, Etchart cites a review of Rocky Flats security initiated by former Denver-area Rep. David Skaggs in October 1998. The review, says Etchart, was conducted by four independent experts who were completely outside of DOE's control and it found that the site was "not at risk."
"The experts who visited Rocky Flats last year didn't give them a rosy report," counters GAP's Tom Carpenter. "It was a mixed review that found there were significant problems in some aspects of the facility and in other aspects not. But did those independent experts talk to key people like Mark Graf, Jeff Peters, David Ridenour and other whistle-blowers who had important information about security deficiencies at Rocky Flats? No."
Graf and Peters aren't the only whistle-blowers who've alleged security deficiencies exist at Rocky Flats. When David Ridenour came to Rocky Flats in February 1997 to serve as DOE's on-site director of security, he boasted 20 years of experience as an Air Force weapons officer and engineer. But after a mere three months, Ridenour resigned "in disgust," as he wrote in a letter to Secretary of Energy Federico Peña. Ridenour complained that Wackenhut Services was operating security with little or no government oversight, and he charged he had been told not to let security concerns interfere with the contractor's profits.
"Never before ... in my career have I ever been placed in a position where loyalty to my supervision and my requirement to protect the public health and safety were placed in direct opposition," wrote Ridenour, who added, "I feel that conflict today."
Ridenour's letter was Exhibit A in the evidence that Ed McCallum wanted Peters and Graf to leak to the news media in May 1997. By then, Graf and Peters had been working internally for years, trying to persuade Wackenhut to upgrade security at Rocky Flats. In 1996, Graf and Peters drafted an eight-page classified memo outlining numerous specific vulnerabilities at Rocky Flats that, if exploited, could result in catastrophic consequences. When Wackenhut management took no action about their memo, Graf and Peters notified the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board. An internal review was undertaken by DOE, but McCallum warned Peters that the agency "was going to take a dodge on it."
Meanwhile, security readiness at Rocky Flats continued to deteriorate, according to McCallum. In his 1996 annual report to the president, McCallum had warned that budget cuts had diminished security at Rocky Flats to "a hollow force," making the site the least secure of all 12 of the nuclear weapons sites overseen by DOE. In his May 1997 phone call to Peters, McCallum said he had told Washington, "'We've lost 42 percent of our protective forces and 50 percent of our SWAT capability ... at a time when we've increased our holdings [of nuclear weapons-grade materials] by 70 metric tons. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure this one out.'"
In response to McCallum's entreaties, Graf and Peters agreed to talk to reporters about Rocky Flats, with the understanding that they would not divulge classified information in the process. Stories duly began appearing in the Denver Post, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and other major papers and on "The CBS Evening News." The flurry of news coverage got Wackenhut's attention. According to Graf's lawyer, Tom Carpenter, Graf became "a victim of harassment and intimidation by Wackenhut. He has been subjected to psychological evaluation; placed on administrative leave for over eight months; and threatened that any additional disclosures would result in his termination."
Dennis Brown, Wackenhut's lawyer, concedes that Graf was sent for psychological evaluation and that the step may sound "Stalinistic" but says there were valid reasons. When Graf admitted he had not cleared his media appearances with the classification office despite knowing the DOE required him to do so, Brown explains, it made his boss "wonder whether he could trust Graf in the future ... [his boss was also] concerned about Graf's emotional state, because he felt Graf was demonstrating some disturbing behavior -- inability to sleep at night, anxiety and so forth -- and [the boss] wanted to make sure this guy was stable enough to hold the kind of security job he did."
Brown insists further that Graf is entirely wrong to suggest that Wackenhut did not take his security concerns seriously. "Graf's concerns have been reviewed no less than 10 or 20 times in the last couple years by various committees, and they have concluded Rocky Flats is not at risk," says Brown. "I don't doubt Graf's sincerity, or Ed McCallum's, but I believe these committees. Also, you've got to remember McCallum's remarks from the phone call of May 1997 are dated now. Since then, improvements have been made, to where the most recent report to the president lists Rocky Flats security as 'satisfactory.'"
In response, GAP lawyer Carpenter asks how the public can trust DOE's assurances that all is now well at the plant in light of DOE's reluctance to admit previous problems there and its ongoing efforts to silence employees or contractors like Graf. The DOE has provided financial support to Wackenhut for its legal appeal against Graf, and it refused to allow key witnesses like McCallum to testify at last week's hearing.
Jeff Peters, meanwhile, points out that, "the same problems we were discussing in 1997 -- of terrorists being able to get in and have extended access to the nuclear material -- still pertain. And now you have the guard force cut in half, to less than 250 guards, they still haven't upgraded their alarm system -- in fact, they've canceled the project -- and they have torn down the outer gates and fences around the facility to make access easier and quicker."
The loss of those barriers, Peters says, means a truck could force its way into Rocky Flats, get to within 75 yards of a building containing tons of nuclear weapons-grade material and then be detonated, "just like that van of Timothy McVeigh's was detonated in Oklahoma City. That kind of explosion would wipe out the building and the nuclear material inside would vent into the atmosphere. And that would make Chernobyl look like a picnic."
salon.com | April 12, 1999
3 accused in pipe bomb plot
By Compiled from Times staff and wire reports © St. Petersburg Times, published May 9, 1998
ORLANDO -- A Tampa bank guard is among three people linked Friday to a white supremacist bombmaker and a conspiracy to plant pipe bombs across Orlando as diversions for bank holdups, federal agents said Friday.
"Central Florida avoided a major disaster," said Patricia Galupo, chief of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms for Florida. "This thing would have gone down as planned if not for a bit of divine intervention."
Fourteen bombs were to be planted along two major routes in Florida's tourist capital: Interstate 4, the major access highway to Walt Disney World, and U.S. Highway 441, ATF investigators said.
"Several of the bombs had been fully assembled. Some have been prepared with timing devices, batteries, timers and clocks," said Edward Halley, ATF spokesman in Orlando.
Brian D. Pickett, a 38-year-old Temple Terrace resident and Wackenhut security guard, was charged with bank robbery and conspiracy. Deena Wanzie, 46, of Orlando, was charged with conspiracy and destruction of property.
Christopher Norris, 25, was charged with conspiracy and possessing and making unregistered pipe bombs. He turned himself in to authorities Friday.
The three are linked to Todd Vanbiber, 29, a white supremacist injured in an April 23, 1997, accidental blast as he was assembling a pipe bomb at a rental warehouse near Winter Park. Wanzie was identified as Vanbiber's girlfriend.
Galupo said authorities believe the group would have carried out the plot if not for the 8-inch-long bomb, capped at both ends, which blew up in Vanbiber's face, sending shrapnel into an eye.
Vanbiber was supposed to meet that night with Pickett, Norris and a man cooperating with investigators to finalize their plot, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court Thursday.
Vanbiber, who is serving 61/2 years in federal prison on a guilty plea to possession of explosives, initially claimed he was building bombs as a hobby. But a cellmate told investigators that Vanbiber also wanted to target blacks by planting bombs at a Fourth of July celebration in Orlando and at Independence Day parties involving federal employees.
A search of Vanbiber's storage unit turned up several weapons, ammunition, munitions manufacturing guides, Nazi memorabilia and correspondence stating membership fees were due for the National Alliance.
Vanbiber and Pickett were members of the National Alliance, described by civil rights groups as a racist, neo-Nazi organization, the criminal complaint said.
Its leader, William Pierce of Hillsboro, W.Va., wrote The Turner Diaries, which prosecutors have called a blueprint used by Timothy McVeigh in plotting the Oklahoma City federal building bombing.
Vanbiber, who is now cooperating with authorities, originally planned the robberies for April 19, 1997, the second anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, but changed his mind, a witness said in the criminal complaint.
"Timothy McVeigh built bombs; William Pierce in effect, built bombmakers," Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center's intelligence report, which tracks radical right-wing group, told the Associated Press. "These are very significant arrests with implications far beyond the immediate Orlando area," said Art Teitelbaum, southern area director of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. "The National Alliance is one of the most violence-prone extremist groups in the country."
Vanbiber and Pickett robbed the Barnett Bank branch at 12098 N Anderson Road in Tampa of $4,400 in January 1996, and robbed the New Milford Savings and Loan in Danbury, Conn., a month later, ATF agent William Crummett wrote in a court affidavit. Pickett also was linked to a $2,000 robbery at a SunTrust Bank branch at 7553 Waters Ave. in Tampa in December 1995. Vanbiber told investigators that he and Pickett stopped at National Alliance headquarters after the Connecticut holdup, "donated $1,000 to the cause and purchased $700 worth of books from William Pierce" during a two-hour meeting, the affidavit said.
When he was arrested Thursday, the ATF said, Pickett was guarding a NationsBank office at 9393 N. Florida Ave. in Tampa. Lettering next to the entrance describes the building as "Barnett Technologies Human Resources." Employees there declined comment Friday.
While working as a Wackenhut guard two years ago at Countryside Mall in Clearwater, an arrest report said, Pickett allowed Vanbiber to steal $20,000 worth of sunglasses and collectible baseball cards while the mall was closed.
A spokesman for Palm Beach Gardens-based Wackenhut Corp., Pat Cannan, said Friday that Pickett had worked for the company for about three years. "We have 50,000 employees worldwide," Cannan said. "Every once in a while, we have an incident like this."
Pickett lives at 7104 Lynwood Drive, a residential oak-lined street in Temple Terrace, about a block from the river, with his wife and two children, neighbors said. Pickett's wife, Loretta, declined comment Friday. A neighbor, Allison Rhodes, said Pickett and his family have lived across the street from her house for about 15 years. "He's a pretty good neighbor -- he's very security-minded," Rhodes said. "He's talked to my father about weapons."
Pickett was being held in the Seminole County Jail pending a detention hearing. Ms. Wanzie was released Friday on a $50,000 unsecured bond, meaning she doesn't have to put up the money unless she fails to appear at her next court appearance.
If convicted, Pickett and Norris each could receive up to 10 years in prison and be fined $10,000 for each count of manufacturing or possessing destructive devices.
Pickett, if convicted, also could get 20 years in prison and a $5,000 fine for each bank robbery and another 30-year sentence for possessing a destructive weapon during the commission of a bank robbery. Each count for. Wanzie carries a possible sentence of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
-- Times reporter Larry Dougherty and researcher John Martin contributed to this report, which contains information from the Associated Press.
Short history of Big Mountain/Black Mesa
ISSUE ONE: Relocation
In 1974 Congress, after being financially coerced by special interest lobbies, including lawyers hired by Peabody Coal Company (PCC), passed Public Law 93-531. This law authorized the partitioning of the Hopi-Dine Joint Use Area and the removal of 10,000 Dine (Navaho) people from their sacred and ceremonial lands where they have lived for thousands of years. The Dine who oppose relocation face livestock confiscation, water diversion, fencing of previously open land, the discontinuation of road and educational improvements, clearing of land and the threat of destruction to their ceremonial grounds.
The reason the US government has given for the relocation is a so-called Hopi-Dine land dispute. However, the real dispute is between traditional Indians who wish to protect their land and the tribal councils and outside forces that support intense mineral extraction.
The tribal council chairmen are employees of the US government and could hardly represent the interests of Native Americans. Clearly, there is a conflict of interests.
Traditional tribal leadership represents the people of the land and is distinct from and does not recognize these government paid tribal councils.
Furthermore, it is important to note that the designated land to where these people are to be relocated is the scene of the worst radioactive spill in North America. Miners have been poisoned and homes and schools built out of the radioactive waste. This is one more indication that the US government is still involved in INDIGENOUS GENOCIDE!
ISSUE TWO: Peabody Coal Company
In remote areas of northern Arizona, the traditional Dine attempt to continue their way of life on lands where their families have lived for thousands of years. Enter PCC --a British owned concern which operates the Black Mesa mining complex and has for years ignored all laws regarding environmental regulations.
The mine operates without the necessary permits for the slurry line, access road, and railroad, and without posting the reclamation bonds required for strip mining. A few hundred traditional Native Americans still live in the communities around the mine on disputed Hopi Partition Land. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), together with Wackenhut Security (the 'hired gun slingers of PCC'), and Hopi tribal police and BIA officials, continue to confiscate their livestock, wood and wood cutting tools.
The BLM and other government agencies refuse to allow the indigenous people to use or dig wells for water but allows PCC to ILLEGALLY PUMP ONE BILLION GALLONS OF PRECIOUS DRINKING WATER PER YEAR, WITHOUT A PERMIT, from the aquifer for the purpose of sending their coal through slurry pipes. This action has dried up springs and wells and has done serious and possibly irreparable damage to the semiarid desert.
PCC has been cited many times for violations which they usually ignore with the apparent blessing of the Office of Surface Mining (OSM). The Dine people are presently engaged in a battle with OSM over illegal mining practices, toxic contamination of the water, air and soil and depletion of the ground water sources upon which they depend for survival. PCC had been operating with a TEMPORARY permit for 13 years.
Continual dynamite blasting damages the homes of the Dine, but the BLM FORBIDS THEM TO REPAIR OR REBUILD. The current policy is an attempt to force the Dine to sign an agreement which will pass the problems on to their children and future generations.
ISSUE THREE: Bureau of Indian Affairs
The BIA was established to protect Indian people and Indian lands from exploitation.
However, the BLM supervises the BIA, and many times in the past, the BLM has instructed the BIA to withhold that protection.
Hence, since the BLM has licensing authority for lands, the BIA is unable to protect the concerns of the Indian people and a clear conflict of interest exists in which the Indian people lose.
WE URGE THAT RELOCATION ACT #93-531 BE RESCINDED AND THAT THE US GOVERNMENT CEASE THE FORCED RELOCATION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE FROM THEIR ANCESTRAL LANDS.
WE URGE AN IMMEDIATE CONGRESSIONAL INQUIRY INTO PEABODY COAL COMPANY'S MINING PRACTICES.
WE URGE THAT AUTHORITY FOR HANDLING INDIAN LANDS BE RESTORED TO THE JURISDICTION OF TRADITIONAL TRIBAL GOVERNMENTS.
by JEREMY SCAHILL [from the October 10, 2005 issue - The Nation]
The men from Blackwater USA arrived in New Orleans right after Katrina hit. The company known for its private security work guarding senior US diplomats in Iraq beat the federal government and most aid organizations to the scene in another devastated Gulf. About 150 heavily armed Blackwater troops dressed in full battle gear spread out into the chaos of New Orleans. Officially, the company boasted of its forces "join[ing] the hurricane relief effort." But its men on the ground told a different story.
Some patrolled the streets in SUVs with tinted windows and the Blackwater logo splashed on the back; others sped around the French Quarter in an unmarked car with no license plates. They congregated on the corner of St. James and Bourbon in front of a bar called 711, where Blackwater was establishing a makeshift headquarters. From the balcony above the bar, several Blackwater guys cleared out what had apparently been someone's apartment. They threw mattresses, clothes, shoes and other household items from the balcony to the street below. They draped an American flag from the balcony's railing. More than a dozen troops from the 82nd Airborne Division stood in formation on the street watching the action.
Armed men shuffled in and out of the building as a handful told stories of their past experiences in Iraq. "I worked the security detail of both Bremer and Negroponte," said one of the Blackwater guys, referring to the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer, and former US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte. Another complained, while talking on his cell phone, that he was getting only $350 a day plus his per diem. "When they told me New Orleans, I said, 'What country is that in?'" he said. He wore his company ID around his neck in a case with the phrase Operation Iraqi Freedom printed on it.
In an hourlong conversation I had with four Blackwater men, they characterized their work in New Orleans as "securing neighborhoods" and "confronting criminals." They all carried automatic assault weapons and had guns strapped to their legs. Their flak jackets were covered with pouches for extra ammunition.
When asked what authority they were operating under, one guy said, "We're on contract with the Department of Homeland Security." Then, pointing to one of his comrades, he said, "He was even deputized by the governor of the state of Louisiana. We can make arrests and use lethal force if we deem it necessary." The man then held up the gold Louisiana law enforcement badge he wore around his neck. Blackwater spokesperson Anne Duke also said the company has a letter from Louisiana officials authorizing its forces to carry loaded weapons.
"This vigilantism demonstrates the utter breakdown of the government," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "These private security forces have behaved brutally, with impunity, in Iraq. To have them now on the streets of New Orleans is frightening and possibly illegal."
Blackwater is not alone. As business leaders and government officials talk openly of changing the demographics of what was one of the most culturally vibrant of America's cities, mercenaries from companies like DynCorp, Intercon, American Security Group, Blackhawk, Wackenhut and an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International (ISI) are fanning out to guard private businesses and homes, as well as government projects and institutions. Within two weeks of the hurricane, the number of private security companies registered in Louisiana jumped from 185 to 235. Some, like Blackwater, are under federal contract. Others have been hired by the wealthy elite, like F. Patrick Quinn III, who brought in private security to guard his $3 million private estate and his luxury hotels, which are under consideration for a lucrative federal contract to house FEMA workers.
A possibly deadly incident involving Quinn's hired guns underscores the dangers of private forces policing American streets. On his second night in New Orleans, Quinn's security chief, Michael Montgomery, who said he worked for an Alabama company called Bodyguard and Tactical Security (BATS), was with a heavily armed security detail en route to pick up one of Quinn's associates and escort him through the chaotic city. Montgomery told me they came under fire from "black gangbangers" on an overpass near the poor Ninth Ward neighborhood. "At the time, I was on the phone with my business partner," he recalls. "I dropped the phone and returned fire."
Montgomery says he and his men were armed with AR-15s and Glocks and that they unleashed a barrage of bullets in the general direction of the alleged shooters on the overpass. "After that, all I heard was moaning and screaming, and the shooting stopped. That was it. Enough said."
Then, Montgomery says, "the Army showed up, yelling at us and thinking we were the enemy. We explained to them that we were security. I told them what had happened and they didn't even care. They just left." Five minutes later, Montgomery says, Louisiana state troopers arrived on the scene, inquired about the incident and then asked him for directions on "how they could get out of the city." Montgomery says that no one ever asked him for any details of the incident and no report was ever made. "One thing about security," Montgomery says, "is that we all coordinate with each other--one family." That co-ordination doesn't include the offices of the Secretaries of State in Louisiana and Alabama, which have no record of a BATS company.
A few miles away from the French Quarter, another wealthy New Orleans businessman, James Reiss, who serves in Mayor Ray Nagin's administration as chairman of the city's Regional Transit Authority, brought in some heavy guns to guard the elite gated community of Audubon Place: Israeli mercenaries dressed in black and armed with M-16s. Two Israelis patrolling the gates outside Audubon told me they had served as professional soldiers in the Israeli military, and one boasted of having participated in the invasion of Lebanon. "We have been fighting the Palestinians all day, every day, our whole lives," one of them tells me. "Here in New Orleans, we are not guarding from terrorists." Then, tapping on his machine gun, he says, "Most Americans, when they see these things, that's enough to scare them."
The men work for ISI, which describes its employees as "veterans of the Israeli special task forces from the following Israeli government bodies: Israel Defense Force (IDF), Israel National Police Counter Terrorism units, Instructors of Israel National Police Counter Terrorism units, General Security Service (GSS or 'Shin Beit'), Other restricted intelligence agencies." The company was formed in 1993. Its website profile says: "Our up-to-date services meet the challenging needs for Homeland Security preparedness and overseas combat procedures and readiness. ISI is currently an approved vendor by the US Government to supply Homeland Security services."
Unlike ISI or BATS, Blackwater is operating under a federal contract to provide 164 armed guards for FEMA reconstruction projects in Louisiana. That contract was announced just days after Homeland Security Department spokesperson Russ Knocke told the Washington Post he knew of no federal plans to hire Blackwater or other private security firms. "We believe we've got the right mix of personnel in law enforcement for the federal government to meet the demands of public safety," he said. Before the contract was announced, the Blackwater men told me, they were already on contract with DHS and that they were sleeping in camps organized by the federal agency.
One might ask, given the enormous presence in New Orleans of National Guard, US Army, US Border Patrol, local police from around the country and practically every other government agency with badges, why private security companies are needed, particularly to guard federal projects. "It strikes me...that that may not be the best use of money," said Illinois Senator Barack Obama.
Blackwater's success in procuring federal contracts could well be explained by major-league contributions and family connections to the GOP. According to election records, Blackwater's CEO and co-founder, billionaire Erik Prince, has given tens of thousands to Republicans, including more than $80,000 to the Republican National Committee the month before Bush's victory in 2000. This past June, he gave $2,100 to Senator Rick Santorum's re-election campaign. He has also given to House majority leader Tom DeLay and a slew of other Republican candidates, including Bush/Cheney in 2004. As a young man, Prince interned with President George H.W. Bush, though he complained at the time that he "saw a lot of things I didn't agree with--homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act, those kind of bills. I think the Administration has been indifferent to a lot of conservative concerns."
Prince, a staunch right-wing Christian, comes from a powerful Michigan Republican family, and his father, Edgar, was a close friend of former Republican presidential candidate and antichoice leader Gary Bauer. In 1988 the elder Prince helped Bauer start the Family Research Council. Erik Prince's sister, Betsy, once chaired the Michigan Republican Party and is married to Dick DeVos, whose father, billionaire Richard DeVos, is co-founder of the major Republican benefactor Amway. Dick DeVos is also a big-time contributor to the Republican Party and will likely be the GOP candidate for Michigan governor in 2006. Another Blackwater founder, president Gary Jackson, is also a major contributor to Republican campaigns.
After the killing of four Blackwater mercenaries in Falluja in March 2004, Erik Prince hired the Alexander Strategy Group, a PR firm with close ties to GOPers like DeLay. By mid-November the company was reporting 600 percent growth. In February 2005 the company hired Ambassador Cofer Black, former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department and former director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, as vice chairman. Just as the hurricane was hitting, Blackwater's parent company, the Prince Group, named Joseph Schmitz, who had just resigned as the Pentagon's Inspector General, as the group's chief operating officer and general counsel.
While juicing up the firm's political connections, Prince has been advocating greater use of private security in international operations, arguing at a symposium at the National Defense Industrial Association earlier this year that firms like his are more efficient than the military. In May Blackwater's Jackson testified before Congress in an effort to gain lucrative Homeland Security contracts to train 2,000 new Border Patrol agents, saying Blackwater understands "the value to the government of one-stop shopping." With President Bush using the Katrina disaster to try to repeal Posse Comitatus (the ban on using US troops in domestic law enforcement) and Blackwater and other security firms clearly initiating a push to install their paramilitaries on US soil, the war is coming home in yet another ominous way. As one Blackwater mercenary said, "This is a trend. You're going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations."
- the nation.com
By Kelly Patricia O Meara
Middle-aged men having sex with 12- to 15-year-olds was too much for Ben Johnston, a hulking 6-foot-5-inch Texan, and more than a year ago he blew the whistle on his employer, DynCorp, a U.S. contracting company doing business in Bosnia.
According to the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) lawsuit filed in Texas on behalf of the former DynCorp aircraft mechanic, "in the latter part of 1999 Johnston learned that employees and supervisors from DynCorp were engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in] other immoral acts. Johnston witnessed coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased."
Rather than acknowledge and reward Johnston's effort to get this behavior stopped, DynCorp fired him, forcing him into protective custody by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) until the investigators could get him safely out of Kosovo and returned to the United States. That departure from the war-torn country was a far cry from what Johnston imagined a year earlier when he arrived in Bosnia to begin a three-year U.S. Air Force contract with DynCorp as an aircraft-maintenance technician for Apache and Blackhawk helicopters.
For more than 50 years DynCorp, based in Reston, Va., has been a worldwide force providing maintenance support to the U.S. military through contract field teams (CFTs). As one of the federal government's top 25 contractors, DynCorp has received nearly $1 billion since 1995 for these services and has deployed 181 personnel to Bosnia during the last six years. Although DynCorp long has been respected for such work, according to Johnston and internal DynCorp communications it appears that extracurricular sexcapades on the part of its employees were tolerated by some as part of its business in Bosnia.
But DynCorp was nervous. For instance, an internal e-mail from DynCorp employee Darrin Mills, who apparently was sent to Bosnia to look into reported problems, said, "I met with Col. Braun [a base supervisor] yesterday. He is very concerned about the CID investigation; however, he views it mostly as a DynCorp problem. What he wanted to talk about most was how I am going to fix the maintenance problems here and how the investigation is going to impact our ability to fix his airplanes." The Mills e-mail continued: "The first thing he told me is that 'they are tired of having smoke blown up their ass.' They don't want anymore empty promises."
An e-mail from Dyncorp's Bosnia site supervisor, John Hirtz (later fired for alleged sexual indiscretions), explains DynCorp's position in Bosnia. "The bottom line is that DynCorp has taken what used to be a real positive program that has very high visibility with every Army unit in the world and turned it into a bag of worms. Poor quality was the major issue."
Johnston was on the ground and saw firsthand what the military was complaining about. "My main problem," he explains, "was [sexual misbehavior] with the kids, but I wasn't too happy with them ripping off the government, either. DynCorp is just as immoral and elite as possible, and any rule they can break they do. There was this one guy who would hide parts so we would have to wait for parts and, when the military would question why it was taking so long, he'd pull out the part and say 'Hey, you need to install this.' They'd have us replace windows in helicopters that weren't bad just to get paid. They had one kid, James Harlin, over there who was right out of high school and he didn't even know the names and purposes of the basic tools. Soldiers that are paid $18,000 a year know more than this kid, but this is the way they [DynCorp] grease their pockets. What they say in Bosnia is that DynCorp just needs a warm body - that's the DynCorp slogan. Even if you don't do an eight-hour day, they'll sign you in for it because that's how they bill the government. It's a total fraud."
Remember, Johnston was fired by this company. He laughs bitterly recalling the work habits of a DynCorp employee in Bosnia who "weighed 400 pounds and would stick cheeseburgers in his pockets and eat them while he worked. The problem was he would literally fall asleep every five minutes. One time he fell asleep with a torch in his hand and burned a hole through the plastic on an aircraft." This same man, according to Johnston, "owned a girl who couldn't have been more than 14 years old. It's a sick sight anyway to see any grown man [having sex] with a child, but to see some 45-year-old man who weighs 400 pounds with a little girl, it just makes you sick." It is precisely these allegations that Johnston believes got him fired.
Johnston reports that he had been in Bosnia only a few days when he became aware of misbehavior in which many of his DynCorp colleagues were involved. He tells INSIGHT, "I noticed there were problems as soon as I got there, and I tried to be covert because I knew it was a rougher crowd than I'd ever dealt with. It's not like I don't drink or anything, but DynCorp employees would come to work drunk. A DynCorp van would pick us up every morning and you could smell the alcohol on them. There were big-time drinking issues. I always told these guys what I thought of what they were doing, and I guess they just thought I was a self-righteous fool or something, but I didn't care what they thought."
The mix of drunkenness and working on multimillion-dollar aircraft upon which the lives of U.S. military personnel depended was a serious enough issue, but Johnston drew the line when it came to buying young girls and women as sex slaves. "I heard talk about the prostitution right away, but it took some time before I understood that they were buying these girls. I'd tell them that it was wrong and that it was no different than slavery - that you can't buy women. But they'd buy the women's passports and they [then] owned them and would sell them to each other."
"At first," explains Johnston, "I just told the guys it was wrong. Then I went to my supervisors, including John Hirtz, although at the time I didn't realize how deep into it he was. Later I learned that he had videotaped himself having sex with two girls and CID has that video as evidence. Hirtz is the guy who would take new employees to the brothels and set them up so he got his women free. The Serbian mafia would give Hirtz the women free and, when one of the guys was leaving the country, Hirtz would go to the mafia and make sure that the guys didn't owe them any money."
"None of the girls," continues Johnston, "were from Bosnia. They were from Russia, Romania and other places, and they were imported in by DynCorp and the Serbian mafia. These guys would say 'I gotta go to Serbia this weekend to pick up three girls.' They talk about it and brag about how much they pay for them - usually between $600 and $800. In fact, there was this one guy who had to be 60 years old who had a girl who couldn't have been 14. DynCorp leadership was 100 percent in bed with the mafia over there. I didn't get any results from talking to DynCorp officials, so I went to Army CID and I drove around with them, pointing out everyone's houses who owned women and weapons."
That's when Johnston's life took a dramatic turn.
On June 2, 2000, members of the 48th Military Police Detachment conducted a sting on the DynCorp hangar at Comanche Base Camp, one of two U.S. bases in Bosnia, and all DynCorp personnel were detained for questioning. CID spent several weeks working the investigation and the results appear to support Johnston's allegations. For example, according to DynCorp employee Kevin Werner's sworn statement to CID, "during my last six months I have come to know a man we call 'Debeli,' which is Bosnian for fat boy. He is the operator of a nightclub by the name of Harley's that offers prostitution. Women are sold hourly, nightly or permanently."
Werner admitted to having purchased a woman to get her out of prostitution and named other DynCorp employees who also had paid to own women. He further admitted to having purchased weapons (against the law in Bosnia) and it was Werner who turned over to CID the videotape made by Hirtz. Werner apparently intended to use the video as leverage in the event that Hirtz decided to fire him. Werner tells CID, "I told him [Hirtz] I had a copy and that all I wanted was to be treated fairly. If I was going to be fired or laid off, I wanted it to be because of my work performance and not because he was not happy with me."
According to Hirtz's own sworn statement to CID, there appears to be little doubt that he did indeed rape one of the girls with whom he is shown having sexual intercourse in his homemade video.
CID: Did you have sexual intercourse with the second woman on the tape?
CID: Did you have intercourse with the second woman after she said "no" to you?
Hirtz: I don't recall her saying that. I don't think it was her saying "no."
CID: Who do you think said "no"?
Hirtz: I don't know.
CID: According to what you witnessed on the videotape played for you in which you were having sexual intercourse with the second woman, did you have sexual intercourse with the second woman after she said "no" to you?
CID: Did you know you were being videotaped?
Hirtz: Yes. I set it up.
CID: Did you know it is wrong to force yourself upon someone without their consent?
The CID agents did not ask any of the men involved what the ages of the "women" were who had been purchased or used for prostitution. According to CID, which sought guidance from the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate in Bosnia, "under the Dayton Peace Accord, the contractors were protected from Bosnian law which did not apply to them. They knew of no [U.S.] federal laws that would apply to these individuals at this time."
However, CID took another look and, according to the investigation report, under Paragraph 5 of the NATO Agreement Between the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia regarding the status of NATO and its personnel, contractors "were not immune from local prosecution if the acts were committed outside the scope of their official duties."
Incredibly, the CID case was closed in June 2000 and turned over to the Bosnian authorities. DynCorp says it conducted its own investigation, and Hirtz and Werner were fired by DynCorp and returned to the United States but were not prosecuted. Experts in slave trafficking aren't buying the CID's interpretation of the law.
Widney Brown, an advocate for Human Rights Watch, tells INSIGHT "our government has an obligation to tell these companies that this behavior is wrong and they will be held accountable. They should be sending a clear message that it won't be tolerated. One would hope that these people wouldn't need to be told that they can't buy women, but you have to start off by laying the ground rules. Rape is a crime in any jurisdiction and there should not be impunity for anyone. Firing someone is not sufficient punishment. This is a very distressing story - especially when you think that these people and organizations are going into these countries to try and make it better, to restore a rule of law and some civility."
Christine Dolan, founder of the International Humanitarian Campaign Against the Exploitation of Children, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, tells Insight: "What is surprising to me is that Dyncorp has kept this contract. The U.S. says it wants to eradicate trafficking of people, has established an office in the State Department for this purpose, and yet neither State nor the government-contracting authorities have stepped in and done an investigation of this matter."
Dolan says, "It's not just Americans who are participating in these illegal acts. But what makes this more egregious for the U.S. is that our purpose in those regions is to restore some sense of civility. Now you've got employees of U.S. contractors in bed with the local mafia and buying kids for sex! That these guys have some kind of immunity from prosecution is morally outrageous. How can men be allowed to get away with rape simply because of location? Rape is a crime no matter where it occurs and it's important to remember that even prostitution is against the law in Bosnia. The message we're sending to kids is that it's okay for America's representatives to rape children. We talk about the future of the children, helping to build economies, democracy, the rule of law, and at the same time we fail to prosecute cases like this. That is immoral and hypocritical, and if DynCorp is involved in this in any way it should forfeit its contract and pay restitution in the form of training about trafficking."
Charlene Wheeless, a spokeswoman for DynCorp, vehemently denies any culpability on the part of the company, According to Wheeless, "The notion that a company such as DynCorp would turn a blind eye to illegal behavior by our employees is incomprehensible. DynCorp adheres to a core set of values that has served as the backbone of our corporation for the last 55 years, helping us become one of the largest and most respected professional-services and outsourcing companies in the world. We can't stress strongly enough that, as an employee-owned corporation, we take ethics very seriously. DynCorp stands by its decision to terminate [whistle-blower] Ben Johnston, who was terminated for cause."
What was the "cause" for which Johnston was fired? He received his only reprimand from DynCorp one day prior to the sting on the DynCorp hangar when Johnston was working with CID. A week later he received a letter of discharge for bringing "discredit to the company and the U.S. Army while working in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina." The discharge notice did not say how Johnston "brought discredit to the company."
It soon developed conveniently, according to Johnston's attorneys, that he was implicated by a DynCorp employee for illegal activity in Bosnia. Harlin, the young high-school graduate Johnston complained had no experience in aircraft maintenance and didn't even know the purposes of the basic tools, provided a sworn statement to CID about Johnston. Asked if anyone ever had offered to sell him a weapon, Harlin fingered Johnston and DynCorp employee Tom Oliver, who also had disapproved of the behavior of DynCorp employees.
Harlin even alleged that Johnston was "hanging out with Kevin Werner." Although Werner had no problem revealing the names and illegal activities of other DynCorp employees, Werner did not mention Johnston's name in his sworn statement.
Kevin Glasheen, Johnston's attorney, says flatly of this: "It's DynCorp's effort to undermine Ben's credibility. But I think once the jury hears this case, that accusation is only going to make them more angry at DynCorp. In order to make our claim, we have to show that DynCorp was retaliating against Ben, and that fits under racketeering. There is a lot of evidence that shows this was what they were doing and that it went all the way up the management chain."
According to Glasheen, "DynCorp says that whatever these guys were doing isn't corporate activity and they're not responsible for it. But this problem permeated their business and management and they made business decisions to further the scheme and to cover it up. We have to show that there was a causal connection between Ben's whistle-blowing about the sex trade and his being fired. We can do that. We're here to prove a retaliation case, not convict DynCorp of participating in the sex-slave trade.
"What you have here is a Lord of the Flies mentality. Basically you've got a bunch of strong men who are raping and manipulating young girls who have been kidnapped from their homes. Who's the bad guy? Is it the guy who buys the girl to give her freedom, the one who kidnaps her and sells her or the one who liberates her and ends up having sex with her? And what does it mean when the U.S. steps up and says, 'We don't have any jurisdiction'? That's absurd."
The outraged attorney pauses for breath. "This is more than one twisted mind. There was a real corporate culture with a deep commitment to a cover-up. And it's outrageous that DynCorp still is being paid by the government on this contract. The worst thing I've seen is a DynCorp e-mail after this first came up where they're saying how they have turned this thing into a marketing success, that they have convinced the government that they could handle something like this."
Johnston is not the only DynCorp employee to blow the whistle and sue the billion-dollar government contractor. Kathryn Bolkovac, a U.N. International Police Force monitor hired by the U.S. company on another U.N.-related contract, has filed a lawsuit in Great Britain against DynCorp for wrongful termination. DynCorp had a $15 million contract to hire and train police officers for duty in Bosnia at the time she reported such officers were paying for prostitutes and participating in sex-trafficking. Many of these were forced to resign under suspicion of illegal activity, but none have been prosecuted, as they also enjoy immunity from prosecution in Bosnia.
DynCorp has admitted it fired five employees for similar illegal activities prior to Johnston's charges.
But Johnston worries about what this company's culture does to the reputation of the United States. "The Bosnians think we're all trash. It's a shame. When I was there as a soldier they loved us, but DynCorp employees have changed how they think about us. I tried to tell them that this is not how all Americans act, but it's hard to convince them when you see what they're seeing. The fact is, DynCorp is the worst diplomat you could possibly have over there."
Johnston's attorney looks to the outcome. "How this all ends," says Glasheen, "will say a lot about what we stand for and what we won't stand for."
Kelly Patricia O'Meara is an investigative reporter for Insight.
U.S. stalls on human trafficking
Pentagon has yet to ban contractors from using forced labor
By Cam Simpson Washington Bureau Published December 27, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Three years ago, President Bush declared that he had "zero tolerance" for trafficking in humans by the government's overseas contractors, and two years ago Congress mandated a similar policy.
But notwithstanding the president's statement and the congressional edict, the Defense Department has yet to adopt a policy to bar human trafficking.
A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions and a final policy still appears to be months away, according to those involved and Defense Department records.
The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they're in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry's biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.
Lining up on the opposite side of the defense industry are some human-trafficking experts who say significant aspects of the Pentagon's proposed policy might actually do more harm than good unless they're changed. These experts have told the Pentagon that the policy would merely formalize practices that have allowed contractors working overseas to escape punishment for involvement in trafficking, the records show.
The long-awaited debate inside the Pentagon on how to implement presidential and congressional directives on human trafficking is unfolding just as countertrafficking advocates in Congress are running into resistance. A bill reauthorizing the nation's efforts against trafficking for the next two years was overwhelmingly passed by the House this month, but only after a provision creating a trafficking watchdog at the Pentagon was stripped from the measure at the insistence of defense-friendly lawmakers, according to congressional records and officials. The Senate passed the bill last week.
Delay seen as weakness
The Pentagon's delay in tackling the issue, the perceived weakness of its proposed policy and the recent setbacks in Congress have some criticizing the Pentagon for not taking the issue seriously enough.
"Ultimately, what we really hope to see is resources and leadership on this issue from the Pentagon," said Sarah Mendelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a national security think tank in Washington. She also had called for creation of an internal Pentagon watchdog after investigating the military's links to sex trafficking in the Balkans.
Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), author of the original legislation targeting human trafficking, said there seems to be an institutional lethargy on the issue at the Pentagon below the most senior levels. He said he was concerned that the Pentagon's overseas-contractor proposal might not be tough enough and that the delays in developing it could mean more people "were being exploited while they were sharpening their pencils."
But he pledged to maintain aggressive oversight of the plan.
`We're addressing the issue'
Glenn Flood, a Pentagon spokesman, said he did not know why it has taken so long to develop a proposal but said, "From our point of view, we're addressing the issue."
An official more directly involved with the effort to draft a formal policy barring contractors from involvement in trafficking said it might not be ready until April, at least in part because of concerns raised by the defense contractors.
Bush declared zero tolerance for involvement in human trafficking by federal employees and contractors in a National Security Presidential Directive he signed in December 2002 after media reports detailing the alleged involvement of DynCorp employees in buying women and girls as sex slaves in Bosnia during the U.S. military's deployment there in the late 1990s.
Ultimately, the company fired eight employees for their alleged involvement in sex trafficking and illegal arms deals.
In 2003, Smith followed Bush's decree with legislation ordering federal agencies to include anti-trafficking provisions in all contracts. The bill covered trafficking for forced prostitution and forced labor and applied to overseas contractors and their subcontractors.
But it wasn't until last summer that the Pentagon issued a proposed policy to enforce the 2003 law and Bush's December 2002 directive.
The proposal drew a strong response from five defense-contractor-lobbying groups within the umbrella Council of Defense and Space Industries Associations: the Contract Services Association, the Professional Services Council, the National Defense Industrial Association, the American Shipbuilding Association and the Electronic Industries Alliance.
The response's first target was a provision requiring contractors to police their overseas subcontractors for human trafficking.
In a two-part series published in October, the Tribune detailed how Middle Eastern firms working under American subcontracts in Iraq, and a chain of human brokers beneath them, engaged in the kind of abuses condemned elsewhere by the U.S. government as human trafficking. KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, relies on more than 200 subcontractors to carry out a multibillion-dollar U.S. Army contract for privatization of military support operations in the war zone.
Case of 12 Nepali men
The Tribune retraced the journey of 12 Nepali men recruited from poor villages in one of the most remote and impoverished corners of the world and documented a trail of deceit, fraud and negligence stretching into Iraq. The men were kidnapped from an unprotected caravan and executed en route to jobs at an American military base in 2004.
At the time, Halliburton said it was not responsible for the recruitment or hiring practices of its subcontractors, and the U.S. Army, which oversees the privatization contract, said questions about alleged misconduct "by subcontractor firms should be addressed to those firms, as these are not Army issues."
Once implemented, the new policy could dramatically change responsibilities for KBR and the Army.
Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president and counsel for the Professional Services Council who drafted the contractors' eight-page critique of the Pentagon proposal, said it was not realistic to expect foreign companies operating overseas to accept or act on U.S. foreign policy objectives.
"This is a clash between mission execution [of the contract] and policy execution," Chvotkin said. "So we're looking for a little flexibility." He said that rather than a "requirement that says you have to flow this through to everybody," the group wants the policy to simply require firms to notify the Pentagon when their subcontractors refuse to accept contract clauses barring support for human trafficking. Still, Chvotkin said, "We don't want to do anything that conveys the idea that we are sanctioning or tolerating trafficking."
In a joint memo of their own, Mendelson and another Washington-based expert, Martina Vandenberg, a lawyer who investigated sex trafficking for Human Rights Watch, told the Pentagon its draft policy "institutionalizes ineffective procedures currently used by the Department of Defense contractor community in handling allegations of human trafficking."
Without tough provisions requiring referrals to prosecutors, they said, contractors could still get their employees on planes back to the U.S. before investigations commenced, as they allege happened in several documented cases in the Balkans. They said some local contract managers even had "special arrangements" with police in the Balkans that allowed them to quickly get employees returned to the U.S. if they were found to be engaged in illegal activities.
To fill a need for cheap labor in Iraq, the U.S. military and its contractors have tapped an illicit human pipeline that exploits and endangers workers.
The U.S. and its main contractor in Iraq, KBR, leave every aspect of the hiring and deployment of foreign laborers to Middle Eastern subcontractors.
Some subcontractors and brokers employ the same tools of fraud and coercion condemned by the U.S. when practiced in other countries.
Several nations, including Nepal, have banned or restricted citizens from work in Iraq, but KBR allows people from these nations to work under its contract anyway.
To read the investigative series "Pipeline to Peril," go to chicagotribune.com/nepal
Tender Mercenaries: DynCorp and Me
by Jeremy Scahill Published on Tuesday, November 1, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Note: In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, journalist Jeremy Scahill investigated the role of private security companies like Blackwater USA, infamous for their work in Iraq, that deployed on the streets of New Orleans. His reports were broadcast on the national radio and TV show Democracy Now! and on hundreds of sites across the internet. In response to Scahill's recent cover story in The Nation magazine "Blackwater Down," the President and CEO of DynCorp, one of the largest private security companies in the world, wrote a letter to the editor of The Nation. Dyncorp CEO Stephen J. Cannon's letter is reprinted below, followed by Scahill's response.
Falls Church, Va. -- In "Blackwater Down" [Oct. 10] Jeremy Scahill wrote that "mercenaries from companies like DynCorp, Intercon, American Security Group, Blackhawk, Wackenhut and an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International (ISI) are fanning out to guard private businesses and homes, as well as government projects and institutions."
For the record, employees of DynCorp International did not "fan out" in New Orleans or any other area affected by Hurricane Katrina. DynCorp International (DI) did not send anyone to the area to provide security services until we had made specific arrangements with clients and knew exactly what our responsibilities would be.
In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, Tenet Health Organization Group engaged DI to help protect its facilities, patients and employees. In the course of our work with Tenet, we have evacuated scores of employees and dozens of animals who had taken refuge in at least two of its hospitals, escorted company officials while they assessed damages, and even transported Tenet officials to a local bank to arrange payroll for their employees.
The people who are performing this security work are all fully certified police officers--either retired or on leave from their jobs--who were deputized by and work under the supervision of the St. Bernard Parish Sheriff's Department. They are not mercenaries, as Scahill disparagingly described them.
Security is only one of many service areas in which DynCorp International works. In the area affected by Katrina and Rita, DI helicopters are providing transportation, DI aviation technicians at several military bases are servicing aircraft that have been deployed for the relief effort, Marine Spill Response Corporation ships with DI crews are repairing oil platforms and cleaning spills, and DI logistics experts are installing temporary housing and office facilities for local officials and relief in St. Bernard Parish.
To hear Stephen Cannon tell it, DynCorp has been reincarnated as the Red Cross. He objects to the term "mercenary." The primary quality of a mercenary is that his main motivation is money. That is why DynCorp forces, paid much more than regular US military forces, are in Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Africa, the Balkans--it is profitable. DynCorp itself is a mercenary, making a killing for its services. In the past two years alone, the company's revenues have doubled to more than $1.9 billion. Not bad for not being mercenaries.
As a journalist, I'm afraid I have to judge DynCorp not on the spin of its CEO but on its record. Here are just a few of the reasons for serious concern about DynCorp forces operating on US soil:
- DynCorp employees in Bosnia, where the company plays a major policing role, have engaged in organized sex-slave trading with girls as young as 12, and DynCorp's Bosnia site supervisor was filmed raping a woman. A subsequent lawsuit, filed by a company whistleblower, alleged that "employees and supervisors from DynCorp were engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in] other immoral acts." The whisteblower, with whom DynCorp eventually settled, "witnessed coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased." The company's initial response was to fire the whistleblowers. The employees involved in the sex ring were transferred out of the country. Some were eventually fired, although none were ever criminally prosecuted. One of the whistleblowers told Congress, "DynCorp is the worst diplomat our country could ever want overseas.''
- In Afghanistan, where DynCorp guards President Hamid Karzai, the company has a reputation for brutality and recklessness, including serious complaints from internationals of intimidation. It has even been rebuked by the State Department for its "aggressive behavior" in interactions with European diplomats, NATO forces and journalists. A BBC correspondent also witnessed one of the guards slapping an Afghan government minister.
- In Haiti earlier this year DynCorp bodyguards on the detail of interim president Boniface Alexandre beat at least two journalists trying to cover a presidential event. DynCorp has had a checkered past in Haiti, where it "trained" the national police force after the original coup against President Aristide, bringing several feared Tonton Macoutes leaders back into prominence.
- The company is facing a major lawsuit filed by 10,000 Ecuadoreans forced to live (and die) with the impact of DynCorp's toxic crop spraying, which it does in several Latin American countries, including Colombia, as part of Plan Colombia. Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, charges that "DynCorp's employees have a history of behaving like cowboys." A leading Colombian newsweekly called them "lawless Rambos."
As DynCorp swallows up more lucrative government contracts by the week, some in Congress are raising questions. "Is it [the] policy of the US government to reward companies that traffic in women and little girls?" Representative Cynthia McKinney asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in March.
Using private military contractors like DynCorp in places like Afghanistan and Iraq allows the government greater secrecy and less transparency and accountability. The real question is: Why are these particular firms needed in the United States for what should be relief and reconstruction operations? The answer is that they are not, but their road to the lucrative contracts is paved with political connections and the offer to their employers of plausible deniability. Unfortunately, if recent history is any indicator, the damage from this cronyism could extend well beyond the taxpayers' pockets to the safety and security of the people of New Orleans and other cities unfortunate enough to encounter these private security forces.
Take the words of Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, deputy commander of the Third Infantry Division in charge of security in Baghdad. In September he said this of DynCorp and other security firms in Iraq: "These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There's no authority over them, so you can't come down on them hard when they escalate force.... They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place."
"The civilian becomes the enemy"...
Death raises concern at police tactics
By Matthew Davis BBC News, Washington
The recent killing of an unarmed Virginia doctor has raised concerns about what some say is an explosion in the use of military-style police Swat teams in the United States.
Armed with assault rifles, stun grenades - even armoured personnel carriers - units once used only in highly volatile situations are increasingly being deployed on more routine police missions.
Dr Salvatore Culosi Jr had come out of his townhouse to meet an undercover policeman when he was shot through the chest by a Special Weapons and Tactics force. It was about 2135 on a chilly January evening. The 37-year-old optometrist was unarmed, he had no history of violence and displayed no threatening behaviour. But he had been under investigation for illegal gambling and in line with a local police policy on "organised crime" raids, the heavily armed team was there to serve a search warrant. As officers approached with their weapons drawn, tragedy struck. A handgun was accidentally discharged, fatally wounding Dr Culosi.
Two months on, investigations into the incident are still continuing, a delay which Dr Culosi's family says is compounding the "horror and burden of it all".
Salvatore Culosi Sr, the dead man's father, told the BBC: "I never knew him to carry so much as a pocket knife so it bewilders me how a detective could spend three months investigating my son and not know he is a pussy cat. "If anything comes out of this it must be that another family does not experience this pain and anguish for absolutely no reason. "Policy needs to change so these kinds of accidents never occur again."
Peter Kraska, an expert on police militarisation from Eastern Kentucky University, says that in the 1980s there were about 3,000 Swat team deployments annually across the US, but says now there are at least 40,000 per year. "I have no problem with using these paramilitary style squads to go after known violent, armed criminals, but it is an extreme tactic to use against other sorts of suspects," he said.
Mr Kraska believes there has been an explosion of units in smaller towns and cities, where training and operational standards may not be as high as large cities - a growth he attributes to "the hysteria" of the country's war on drugs. "I get several calls a month from people asking about local incidents - wrong address raids, excessive use of force, wrongful shootings - this stuff is happening all the time," he adds.
Every wrongful death of a civilian, or criminal killing of a police officer, fuels the complex and emotive argument over the way the United States is policed. Those who reject criticism of the use of Swat teams argue that the presence of the units actually prevents violence through the credible threat of overwhelming force.
John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, told the BBC: "What we find is that when Swat teams go out, shootings go down.
"We don't see it as escalating anything. We see it as reducing violence."
The NTOA rejects Mr Kraska's figures and says the actual number of deployments is far lower, but says there is a need for national training standards. An NTOA study of 759 Swat team deployments across the US, found half were for warrant service and a third for incidents where suspects had barricaded themselves in a building - 50 were for hostage situations.
When criminology professor David Klinger looked at 12 years of data on Swat teams in 1998, he also found the most common reason for calling out teams was serving warrants, but that the units used deadly force during warrant service only 0.4% of the time.
Last year the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) commissioned music video director JC Barros to make them a 10-minute film - To Protect and Serve - that would "get young men and women excited" about a career with the force. More action film than recruitment video, it follows two LAPD officers who - in one day - capture a robbery suspect, are first on the scene when a gun-toting man takes a woman hostage, mediate a fight, and help to find a young kidnap victim. Along the way they are supported by colleagues from bike patrol, K-9 dog teams, air support and, of course, the Swat team.
But Mr Kraska sees such initiatives as reflecting a changing culture of police work. "These elite units are highly culturally appealing to certain sections of the police community. They like it, they enjoy it," he says. "The chance to strap on a vest, grab a semi-automatic weapon and go out on a mission is for some people an exciting reason to join - even if policing as a profession can - and should - be boring for much of the time. "The problem is that when you talk about the war on this and the war on that, and police officers see themselves as soldiers, then the civilian becomes the enemy."
Blackwater USA says it can supply forces for conflicts
Blackwater USA runs a 6,000-acre operation in Moyock, N.C. Its Web site states: "We are not simply a 'private security company.' We are a professional military, law enforcement, security, peacekeeping and stability operations firm who provides turnkey solutions."
By BILL SIZEMORE, The Virginian-Pilot - March 30, 2006
Stepping into a potential political minefield, Blackwater USA is offering itself up as an army for hire to police the world's trouble spots.
Cofer Black, vice chairman of the Moyock, N.C.-based private military company, told an international conference in Amman, Jordan, this week that Blackwater stands ready to help keep or restore the peace anywhere it is needed.Such a role would be a quantum leap for Blackwater and raises a host of policy questions. Until now, the eight-year-old company has confined itself to training military and police personnel and providing security guards for government and private clients. Under Black's proposal, it would take on an overt combat role.
"We're low-cost and fast," Black was quoted as saying. "The issue is, who's going to let us play on their team?"
Unlike national and multinational armies, which tend to get bogged down by political and logistical limitations, Black said, Blackwater could have a small, nimble, brigade-size force ready to move into a troubled region on short notice.
Black's remarks were reported by Defense News, a military publisher that sponsored the conference where he spoke, the Special Operations Forces Exhibition.
Chris Taylor, a vice president at Blackwater's Moyock headquarters, confirmed the account. "A year ago or so, we realized that we could have a significant positive impact with a small, professional force in stability operations and peacekeeping operations," Taylor said.
Blackwater is no stranger to volatile situations. As a security subcontractor escorting a convoy in Iraq in 2004, the company attracted worldwide attention when four of its workers were killed, mutilated and hung from a bridge in Fallujah. Blackwater, most of whose workers are former members of elite military units such as the Navy SEALs, now provides security for the U.S. ambassador to Iraq under a contract with the State Department. The reconstruction of Iraq has been hampered by insurgent activity, Taylor said, and Blackwater has the expertise to quell insurgent attacks if invited by the Iraqi government.
"We clearly couldn't go into the whole country of Iraq," Taylor said. "But we might be able to go into a region or a city."
Another place where Blackwater could help restore order, Taylor said, is the Darfur region of Sudan, where millions have been killed or displaced by civil strife. The company could send troops under the control of the United Nations, NATO or the African Union, he said.
Taylor and Black said the company would undertake such a mission only with the approval of the U.S. government.
Peter Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who has written a book on private military companies, said the concept of private armies engaging in counter-insurgency missions raises myriad questions about staffing standards, rules of engagement and accountability.
"No matter how you slice it, it's a private entity making decisions of a political nature," he said. "It gets dicey."
join these dots...
| Mercenaries thrive where law and order have degenerated
By Gordon Opiyo
With the shocking allegations of Government protection of suspected mercenaries, the big question is: What dealings does the State have with such characters?
The Armenian Government has denied any link with either Artur Sargsyan or Artur Margaryan. The two had earlier claimed that they are related to the Armenian leader.
But the biggest worry is that the region the two come from is known in international circles for producing specialised private military consultants, better known as mercenaries.
During the Eritrea-Ethiopia war in the late 1990s there were allegations that a former Russian Army colonel, who had been hired as a mercenary, was ejected from an Ethiopian SU-27 fighter jet. Russia disputed the claim.
During the Balkan war, Slobodan Milosevic is alleged to have used mercenaries from former Soviet Union republics kontraktniki (contract soldiers) to perform several atrocities. The kontraktniki issue came up during the hearing at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague before the sudden death of Milosevic, two week ago.
The tribunal heard that in May 1995, a group of kontraktniki arrived in the Gacko-Avtovac region in Serbia, at the invitation of the command of the Herzegovina Corps, which intended to organise an international brigade. The members of this 'brigade' (which actually numbered around 150 troops) wore one-piece, overall type black Russian uniforms with black berets or flight caps. Most of their members were officers above the rank of captain from the special units of the Russian Ministry of Defence, who had deserted the Russian military.
The kontraktniki also featured during the war in Afghanistan, and a number of them were involved in the transportation of cocaine.
In Africa, the use of specialised mercenaries is common in areas that have a breakdown in law and order, yet has massive resources.
It is of great interest that the Artur brothers claimed to have great interest in diamond business in the Congo - a rich country alien to law and order.
Jeremy Harding, an editor with the London Review of Books, investigated the role of mercenaries in the diamond and gold business in Africa over a decade ago and came up with shocking revelations. He discovered that many multinational corporations in gold and diamond producing areas invested in private armies. The biggest private army defending corporations in Africa was called Executive Outcomes. Many of their recruits were former members of the 32nd Battalion of the South African Army, the so-called Buffalo Battalion.
Executive Outcomes transformed itself into a big corporation doing business with many African countries. They had a CEO Nick van der Burgh who always defended their actions. Burgh always insisted that EO, as they are known, only worked with legitimate governments to provide specialised security and intelligence services. EO was involved in protecting a number of diamond mines in Sierra Leone and Congo. In August 1998 EO's intelligence officer Rico Visser told South African journalists that the Congolese President Laurent Kabila had hired them to defend the strategic Inga Dam, south west of Kinshasa, the capital city of Congo. Electricity from the dam not only powers Kinshasa but is also key to the mining region of Shaba (Katanga) in the south of the country.
Mercenaries have been doing booming business in war-torn southern Sudan. There were claims three years ago that hundreds of professional soldiers for hire were working for Arakis, a Canadian oil company. Arakis had signed a billion dollar agreement to exploit the Al-Muglad Rift Basin on the seam line between Sudan's Arab north and the black African south. Due to the security concerns, the company was forced to hire professional soldiers to protect its investment.
The instability of post-war Iraq has also turned private military services into a booming cottage industry. Private military companies have found a lucrative market in post-war Afghanistan.
Now with the saga surrounding the alleged Armenian mercenaries getting more complex - with one of them literally scoffing at Kenyan authorities - it is difficult to get the exact connection of their presence and whether they are mercenaries or business people as they claim.
Kenya has one of the most disciplined and respected military force in Africa. Before the raid on the Standard Group premises, the police force was known for its discipline. The defiance that the CID boss has shown the Police Commissioner has tainted the image of the force.
LDP leaders, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka have claimed that mercenaries were brought in to assassinate key political leaders. The Government spokesman, Alfred Mutua has denied the claims saying that the matter is still being investigated. But Internal Security minister John Michuki still has a lot of explaining to do, given that the hand of the Government is evident in the protection and confidence of the Artur brothers. If the minister could order an illegal raid on the Standard Group in the name of state security, why is it so difficult for him to explain the defiant presence of dubious foreigners openly breaking the law he is supposed to safeguard?
When the security companies kill people they just drive away and nothing is done.
A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal. The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents apparently took place on "route Irish", a road that links the airport to Baghdad.
watch video here
The road has acquired the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous in the world because of the number of suicide attacks and ambushes carried out by insurgents against coalition troops. In one four-month period earlier this year it was the scene of 150 attacks. In one of the videoed attacks, a Mercedes is fired on at a distance of several hundred yards before it crashes in to a civilian taxi. In the last clip, a white civilian car is raked with machine gun fire as it approaches an unidentified security company vehicle. Bullets can be seen hitting the vehicle before it comes to a slow stop. There are no clues as to the shooter but either a Scottish or Irish accent can be heard in at least one of the clips above Elvis Presley's Mystery Train, the music which accompanies the video.
Last night a spokesman for defence firm Aegis Defence Services – set up in 2002 by Lt Col Tim Spicer, a former Scots Guards officer – confirmed that the company was carrying out an internal investigation to see if any of their employees were involved. The Foreign Office has also confirmed that it is investigating the contents of the video in conjunction with Aegis, one of the biggest security companies operating in Iraq. The company was recently awarded a £220 million security contract in Iraq by the United States government. Aegis conducts a number of security duties and helped with the collection of ballot papers in the country's recent referendum
Lt Col Spicer, 53, rose to public prominence in 1998 when his private military company Sandlines International was accused of breaking United Nations sanctions by selling arms to Sierra Leone.
The video first appeared on the website www.aegisIraq.co.uk. The website states: "This site does not belong to Aegis Defence Ltd, it belongs to the men on the ground who are the heart and soul of the company." The clips have been removed. The website also contains a message from Lt Col Spicer, which reads: "I am concerned about media interest in this site and I remind everyone of their contractual obligation not to speak to or assist the media without clearing it with the project management or Aegis London.
"Refrain from posting anything which is detrimental to the company since this could result in the loss or curtailment of our contract with resultant loss for everybody."
Security companies awarded contracts by the US administration in Iraq adopt the same rules for opening fire as the American military. US military vehicles carry a sign warning drivers to keep their distance from the vehicle. The warning which appears in both Arabic and English reads "Danger. Keep back. Authorised to use lethal force." A similar warning is also displayed on the rear of vehicles belonging to Aegis.
Capt Adnan Tawfiq of the Iraqi Interior Ministry which deals with compensation issues, has told the Sunday Telegraph that he has received numerous claims from families who allege that their relatives have been shot by private security contractors travelling in road convoys. He said: "When the security companies kill people they just drive away and nothing is done. Sometimes we ring the companies concerned and they deny everything. The families don't get any money or compensation. I would say we have had about 50-60 incidents of this kind."
A spokesman for Aegis Defence Services, said: "There is nothing to indicate that these film clips are in any way connected to Aegis."
Last night a spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "Aegis have assured us that there is nothing on the video to suggest that it has anything to do with their company. This is now a matter for the American authorities because Aegis is under contract to the United States." -Telegraph via guerrillanews.com
join these dots...
| Blackwater may provide mercenary forces
Mar 31, 2006, 4:33 GMT MOYOCK, NC, United States (UPI) --
Blackwater USA, one of the world`s major security companies, plans to expand its Moyock, N.C.-based business to provide armies for hire.
Cofer Black, the company`s vice chairman, said at an international conference in Jordan that Blackwater can help restore order anywhere in the world, The Defense News reported. 'We`re low-cost and fast,' Black reportedly said. 'The issue is, who`s going to let us play on their team?'
Blackwater -- which employs former members of elite U.S. units like the Navy SEALS -- has played a major role as an independent contractor in Iraq. Four of its employees were killed by a mob in Fallujah in one of the most notorious early incidents of violence there.
The Virginian-Pilot reports that providing combat forces would be a major shift for the company. Blackwater Vice President Chris Taylor told the newspaper the troubled Darfur region of Sudan might be one place where its forces could be useful, operating under the direction of an international agency like the United Nations, NATO or the African Union. - monstersandcritics.com
'Death squads exist'
Not in Iraq's police force but in private security agencies, declares Iraq's interior minister Bayan Jabr Solagh
Baghdad: Iraq's interior minister on Wednesday acknowledged the existence of so-called death squads within certain security forces but denied any link with his own ministry.
Bayan Jabr Solagh, in an interview with the BBC, pointed the finger at special security forces that provide protection for ministries and key installations, as well as the myriad private security companies in Iraq. Asked if there were unofficial death squads operating within these security forces, he replied: "Sometimes, yes, I can tell you... with these security companies it is not right... you do not know what they are doing.
"We have to make clear that there are some forces out of order, not under our control and not under the control of the ministry of defence," he said. "These forces are the FPS to protect the ministries," he said, referring to special security forces known as Force Protection for Site (FPS) which protect ministry buildings, power stations or oil pipelines. "And their numbers are huge... there are 150,000," he said. "Their uniform is like the police, their car is like the police, their weapons are like the police."
A recent upsurge of sectarian violence in Iraq that has left hundreds of dead is often blamed by Sunnis on militias wearing uniforms belonging to the security forces.
"Terrorists or someone who supports the terrorists... are using the clothes of the police or the military," Solagh said in comments published on the BBC website. "Now you can go to the shop and buy it."
Guardian Saturday Interview [propaganda]
Colonel Tim Spicer is effectively in charge of the second largest military force in Iraq -
some 20,000 private soldiers.
Just don't call him a mercenary
Saturday May 20, 2006
Colonel Tim Spicer is the future of warfare. Immaculately dressed, effortlessly charming, a keen Eric Clapton fan with tickets for most of Slowhand's gigs over the summer, he is also effectively in charge of the second largest military force in Iraq: the estimated 20,000 private security personnel who outnumber the British army by almost three to one. Spicer's company Aegis has a contract with the Pentagon worth almost $300m to oversee the 16 private security companies providing personnel, security, military training and reconstruction. As Bush's poll ratings fall, it looks as if these private soldiers will only increase.
Estimates of their numbers vary and Spicer isn't convinced by the figure of 20,000. "I'd say there's no more than 8,000 if you define it as expat Brits or Americans," he says. "If you include Iraqi security companies and third country nationals like Gurkhas, Fijians and others, you could be getting up to 20,000. The oil protection force used to be run by a private security company and it had upwards of 10,000 people in it, but that's now been nationalised under the ministry of oil."
No matter how many there are, the strategic advantage for the Pentagon in working so closely with the likes of Aegis is clear. Iraq's increasing unpopularity in America is mainly fuelled by rising troop casualties - now approaching 2,500 - while private security deaths go unrecorded. The American broadcaster PBS estimated that 18 "private warriors" were killed in two weeks last June, but there are no official figures.
"The impact of casualties is much more significant if they're sovereign forces as opposed to contractors," Spicer says. "However, it is the sovereign forces that do the fighting. Aegis's casualty figures are incredibly light - we've lost three in two years; two to suicide bombs and one to a road accident. I couldn't tell you about the other companies."
As Bush and Blair face pressure to set deadlines for troop withdrawal and the violence continues, there's every chance these private companies could take up the security slack. Their numbers have mushroomed since 9/11. In the 1990s there were probably a handful at most, today there are 25 in the UK, about 30 in the US and a few in France and Germany. And they are becoming ambitious.
In April, a US private security company called Blackwater declared itself ready and able to resolve the situation in Darfur. "We're low cost and fast," said its vice chairman. "The question is, who's going to let us play on their team?" Aegis's Iraq contract makes it the largest British player in the "security bubble". Should the troops withdraw, they'd effectively be in charge of the western presence in Iraq.
"I don't think any of the coalition nations are going to cut and run," says Spicer. "But if they did go, that would not mean the end of the insurgency. I don't subscribe to the view that there is a civil war going on, but if the coalition left it could very easily disintegrate into one. The Iraqi security forces are not ready to take control. And therefore there would be a very significant increased role for private security - protecting critical infrastructure like oil, power station and water supplies, otherwise the insurgents will blow them up."
We're walking through the galleries of the Imperial War Museum and come to rest in front of the sleek, black motorbike Lawrence of Arabia was riding when he died. Spicer is fascinated by Lawrence as the man who organised the first modern Middle Eastern insurgency against an imperial power. Despite leaving his public school early to sprawl on the grass at the Isle of Wight festival and manage American rock bands, it was his interest in history that finally drew him back into the family tradition of army service.
The museum is one of his favourite places. Initially he and his son came to see the planes and tanks in the bright main hall but, as the boy got older, he took him to the fake first world war trenches to get a sense of what life is like under fire. I wonder aloud why a soldier with Falklands experience would return to combat in the private sector after leaving the army in 1995.
"I did go and work in the City," he smiles, "but if you've trained to do certain things for 20 years and you're halfway competent and ... and you enjoy it, because that is the difference between the conscript and the volunteer, you probably miss it, if the truth be known. Why leave the army and join a private security company? Certainly there's an element of financial reward. But most people who work for me feel they are doing a valuable job. It's not just a bunch of hard men in it for the money."
That, however, is an accusation thrown at him in the past. He vigorously defended two of his soldiers convicted of murder in Northern Ireland and, after his stint in the City, set up Sandline - a private security company implicated in scandals in both Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea.
"I've always said that in Papua New Guinea and Sierra Leone there was nothing wrong with what Sandline was doing because we were there at the request of the democratically elected governments," he argues. "But it attracted a lot of attention and played into the hands of people who felt that this was not a good way of doing things. The idea was well before its time. There was a huge amount of suspicion, mistrust and poor connotation attached to the security business at that time."
In a world where everything is contracted out, however, big security contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq mean the private security sector is bidding for respectability. Certainly the City sees the potential. Spicer is fending off calls from investors almost every day. Earlier this year, the British Association of Private Security Companies was set up, a lobbying body keen to promote self-regulation. The word mercenary is frowned upon. Although Spicer was happy to use it in its literal sense five years ago, it now makes him uncomfortable. "It's a pejorative term," he shrugs. "Mercenaries are bad."
Which is why he set up Aegis in September 2002. "I wanted to make sure that Aegis was a completely different animal." The company now has 1,200 employees. Three divisions provide intelligence, security operations and technical support. Many of the ground staff are ex-military, but the board has a number of merchant bankers and there's a sprinkling of journalists, police, former UN staffers and aid workers. There are offices in London, Washington, Kabul, Saudi Arabia and Nepal, but the company's largest presence is in Iraq.
It's not been a good week out there, but Spicer is an optimist. "It's not going to happen tomorrow, but if this government is formed and is balanced and the militias that support political parties can be kept in check - which is touch and go - then you'll see significant progress." Even so, there's an insurgency and a great deal of chaos. Would he join the calls from US generals for the head of Donald Rumsfeld? He speaks carefully: "There was a feeling that once the Ba'ath party had been removed there would be a natural desire to break away from 30 years of oppression and develop the country. There was a lack of realisation that there would be dissenters. Maybe someone should have thought 'how are we going to deal with this?' But I don't believe there was no plan for reconstruction - it may have been better organised, but it is taking place."
As for the idea that governments would try to avoid troop deaths by employing Aegis in Darfur, "The industry will resist," he believes. "It's not appropriate." Looking past Lawrence's bike and into the future, he says: "Maybe in 10 years' time it could develop into that ... but there will always be national sovereign forces working for national governments. It's just that the private sector will be there to assist and support them."
Career in brief
1974 Joined army, 21 SAS
1976 Sandhurst, Scots Guards
1982 Falklands. Becomes major in 1985
1986-87 Company commander in Northern Ireland
1990 Joint planning group Desert Storm
1991 Military assistant to Gen Peter de la Billière
1991-93 Special Forces
1994 MA for Gen Sir Michael Rose in Sarajevo
1996 Leaves army. Sets up Sandline
2002 Chief executive, Aegis
follows: some comments on this somewhat suspicous puffpiece in the Guardian
May 20, 2006 03:39 AM
He vigorously defended two of his soldiers convicted of murder in Northern Ireland Peter McBride's family will be meeting the US consul in Belfast this morning (20 May). Aegis's contract with the US Government will be one of the issues on the agenda, especially in the light of scenes like these.
May 20, 2006 06:26 AM
Tim Spicer is unfortunately not the nice guy next door, as you described him. Let's have a look at him, his friends and his business partners and his activities during the last decade. Let's start with his Sierra Leone adventure in 1998 .
Spicer, CEO until 2000 of the British mercenary company Sandline, owned by British businessman and director of the oil company Heritage Oil, Tony Buckingham needed money to buy weapons and pay his mercenaries. He came into contact with Rakesh Saxena, in prison now in Canada, awaiting extradition to Thailand.
Saxena allegedly defrauded together with it's then CEO Krirkkiat Jalichandra, sentenced in Thailand to 30 years in prison last year, the Bangkok Bank of Commerce to the tune of 2,2 billion US Dollars and thus triggered the Asian Banking Crisis in 1997. Saxena left Thailand just in time before being arrested and fled to Canada with allegedly 88 million US Dollars "pocket money". Tony Buckingham's mercenary company Sandline, of which Spicer was the chief executive until 2000, offered their service, in exchange for diamond mining rights, to Sierra Leone's ousted President Kabbah with old South African apartheid soldiers of the infamous 34.Buffalo Battalion, and Koevoet, well known killer units, their motto: shoot to kill, and their battleground in the 70's and 80's days were the newly independent state of Angola with the refugee camps of SWAPO and the illegally occupied Namibia.
The unit, named Executive Outcomes, was founded and headed by Eeben Barlow, former member of the Buffalo Battalion and then of the Civil Cooperation Buraeu (CCB) the latter an South African apartheid death squad, which can take credit for countless extrajudicial killings inside and outside South Africa including hundreds of SWAPO freedom fighters allegedly killed with poison delivered by a Dr. Wouter Basson and the bodies thrown out of a plane over the Atlantic Ocean.
Saxena offered 10 million US Dollars to Spicer , he had mining interests in Sierra Leone as well, and with Saxena's money Spicer bought tons of weapons in Bulgaria and elsewhere. This was the start, of what was later called the "Arms to Africa Affair". Active in this scheme there were also ex SAS man Simon Mann and ex South African apartheid reconnaissance commando-man Nick du Toit, both in prison now, one in Zimbabwe, the other one in Equatorial Guinea after the failed coup attempt in 2004, in which allegedly also Mark Thatcher was involved.
This military intervention in Sierra Leone in 1998 was in flagrant violation of an UN arms embargo. Already before their Sierra Leone job , Spicer, Mann and Buckingham had gone global in 1997, this time to the other end of the globe, Papua New Guinea for a lump sum of 36 million US Dollars to be paid by one of the poorest states on earth.
The Government there fought unsuccessfully against a rebel group on the Island of Bougainville to get hold of a copper mine, owned by the British company Rio Tinto. The fight erupted because of the environmental disaster, caused by the mine, that threatened to destroy the livelihood of the people there. Buckingham, Spicer and Simon Mann offered "help", the mercenary way via Sandline and Sandline subcontracting the dreck of the Ex Out mercenaries. Also with them Lafras Luitingh, another former member of the Apartheid-CCB, who allegedly can take credit for having been involved in the murder of ANC activist Dr. David Webster on 1st May 1989 in Johannesburg and SWAPO Advocate Anton Lubowski in Windhoek on 12 October 1989.
This time round, however, things did not work out, the army under General Singorok rebelled, the Prime Minister Sir Julius Chan had to resign and Spicer was arrested and later left the country only with the help of the discrete diplomatic pressure by the British government. Still they made their fortune, as a lot of money had been prepaid .
Meanwhile Spicer's boss until 2000 and owner of the British mercenary company Sandline, which was closed down just six weeks after the failed coup in oil rich Equatorial Guinea, the godfather and mining baron Tony Buckingham was also active in many African countries, apart from Sierra Leone and Angola, namely Congo Brazzaville, DR Congo, Uganda, Kenya Namibia to name a few.
In Kenya he appointed Sanjivan Ruprah, a well known arms dealer, head of his mining company Branch Energy. Sanjivan Ruprah became also a close confidant of Charles Taylor in Liberia and of Victor Bout, with whom he worked closely together. Sanjivan Ruprah helped arming the child soldiers in Sierra Leone on behalf of Charles Taylor, those, who committed horrific mayhem amongst the civilian population, including mass killings, hacking of limbs, rape, torture.
Victor Bout, called "Africa's Merchant of Death" is a Russian, who runs a fleet of 50 russian made transport planes. He delivered weapons to the Taleban and Al Qaeda before 2001 and organized chartered flights to Afghanistan, , certainly not for tourists. Bout was fuelling virtually each and every armed conflict in Africa for the last 15 years with his weapons transport and Diamonds as payment, especially in Liberia, Sierra Leone Angola, DR Congo.
After the invasion of Iraq he was hired by American companies. Money talks and a plane is a plane. He was also busy transporting goods to Afghanistan after 2002, who cares. And Tony Buckingham is busy in Iraq as well. In 1995 he paid a courtesy call to Iraq, walking in the Hotel lobby of the Al Rasheed Hotel over a distorted picture of former US president Bush and exploring with Saddam Hussein's Oil minister possible oil ventures. Now he is back, go with the flow, having good contacts with the Iraqui Oil Ministry and getting a prospecting license in Kurdistan for his company Heritage Oil. Dr. Alexander von Paleske Head, Department of Oncology Princess Marina Hospital Gaborone/Botswana Ex-Barrister-at-Law, High Court Frankfurt (M)
May 20, 2006 03:27 PM
20,000 is a very low estimate. Other sources mention figures 3 to 6 times that amount. http://webserve.govst.edu/pa/Political/Not-So-Great%20Expectations/civilian.htm
May 20, 2006 08:29 PM
The Splicer doesn't like the word "mercenary." In another decade or two when these so called private security operations are engaged against each other would he mind ever so much if we called them militias?
(I bet there are some excellent recruits being molded in Iraq right now for this function - has recruitment started already?).
When the next Mark Thatcher comes up with a plan to free up the market in some precious commodity and engages a private security concern to "lean on" a government, would it bother Mr. Spicer terribly if we called this an act of terrorism?
Good luck to you Splicer... It's the double standard of our freedom loving governments that allows you to prosper.
Your bullyboy operations are encouraged abroad but would be labeled terrorism at home.
We take it as given that the freedom and hypocrisy loving governments don't give a damn how people are treated abroad, and they are so adept at forward planning that they can never envision "private security" being a problem at home.
International relations between governments have been compared to the relations between mafia families (with some justification).
Splicer and his like are bringing on the day when the same comparison can be made for domestic politics.
May 21, 2006 02:09 AM
As a proud former US Marine with service in Kosovo and Sierra Leone (1st Force Reconnaissance Co.) (15th MEU). I have to say that the British SBS and Royal Marine forces we worked with in both conflicts, are top notch....
sadly Col. Spicer is the exact opposite.
Spicer is a notorious racist who defended the murder of two innocent Catholic civillians, while at the same time turning a blind eye to the cowardly terrorisim of the UDA/UVF. Spicer fled Northern Ireland to avoid IRA assassination, and then proceeded to operate recklessly in Sierra Leone.
I worked for Dynacorp, and Private Contractors such as them, Black Water and Triple Canopy are first class. Aegis has alot of good professionals working for it, but thier leader is a disgrace.
May 21, 2006 05:12 AM
Nice mention of us Hamworthy chaps... albeit it for me over twenty five years long gone :(
What I would like to know is this: What is happening about the Aegis murders of civilians recorded by those atrocious "trophy" videos?
I am also mindful in one where a major motorway is seen that a US Army Humvee is keeping pace with the Aegis vehicle and doesn't react when the guns start firing.
I hope that Spicer sees this when I state here and now that those sort of gung ho idiots give professional and conscientious soldiers a bad name and creates resentment and tension all round which the soldiers usually have to clean up, it is also dangerous territory for policing the streets to be handed over to unaccountable mobs like Aegis and Blackwater, who enjoy a position of lawlessness that even the US army must be envious of at this point.
I dispute the terms he used saying that its not all "hard men" in here when mercenary forces are always made of of such men, wild geese who cannot operate in civvy street so get paid to kill people instead, many enjoying it as well, I think there should be a national inquiry into what Aegis gets up to and a criminal enquiry into the trophy video atrocity.
It takes a real man, a real soldier to hold his fire, to win through without the last resort of killing, this isn't Waterloo or the trenches but on the streets policing and peacekeeping and any soldier private or military serving who purposefully targets innocent women and children are criminals and deserve nothing less than the same demise themselves.
I may come from a different era but once upon a time the British soldier was considered to be tough but fair, brutality quickly weeded out, atrocity dealt with and we have lost that now, it may be that Aegis and Blackwater are picking fights that others have to clean up.
Rights report rips U.S. use of anti-terror contractors
The Associated Press Tucson, Arizona | Published: 05.24.2006 - azstarnet.com
LONDON - The United States is riding roughshod over human rights by outsourcing key anti-terror work in Iraq to private contractors, who operate beyond Iraqi law and outside the military chain of command, Amnesty International said Tuesday.
It called for tighter rules on the use of contractors in a statement released with its 2006 annual report detailing human rights violations in 150 countries around the world.
The rights watchdog said contracting for military detention, security and intelligence operations had fueled violations.
"We're concerned about the use of private contractors in Iraq because it creates a legal black hole of responsibility and accountability," Amnesty Secretary-General Irene Khan told AP Television News.
"These contractors are protected from being prosecuted under Iraqi law, but they're not part of the U.S. military command," Khan said.
"So when they commit crimes, or when they abuse human rights, they're accountable to no one."
Few aspects of the multi- billion-dollar U.S. contracting effort in Iraq have been disclosed.
A report by the U.S. Government Accounting Office last year said monitoring of civilian contractors in Iraq was so poor there was no way to determine how many contractors were working on U.S.-related security and reconstruction projects or how many have been killed.
Amnesty's annual report contended the counterterrorism campaign by the United States and other powerful nations had undermined human rights aro