14. Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention Centers in the US
Top 25 of 2007 Apr 29, 2010
New America Media, January 31, 2006
Title: “Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps”
Author: Peter Dale Scott
New America Media, February 21, 2006
Title: “10-Year US Strategic Plan for Detention Camps Revives Proposals from Oliver North”
Author: Peter Dale Scott
Consortiium, February 21, 2006
Title: “Bush’s Mysterious ‘New Programs’”
Author: Nat Parry
Title: “Detention Camp Jitters”
Author: Maureen Farrell
Community Evaluator: Dr. Gary Evans
Student Researchers: Sean Hurley and Caitlyn Peele
Halliburton’s subsidiary KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown and Root) announced on January 24, 2006 that it had been awarded a $385 million contingency contract by the Department of Homeland Security to build detention camps in the United States.
According to a press release posted on the Halliburton website, “The contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs. The contingency support contract provides for planning and, if required, initiation of specific engineering, construction and logistics support tasks to establish, operate and maintain one or more expansion facilities.”
What little coverage the announcement received focused on concerns about Halliburton’s reputation for overcharging U.S. taxpayers for substandard services.
Less attention was focused on the phrase “rapid development of new programs” or what type of programs might require a major expansion of detention centers, capable of holding 5,000 people each. Jamie Zuieback, spokeswoman for ICE, declined to elaborate on what these “new programs” might be.
Only a few independent journalists, such as Peter Dale Scott, Maureen Farrell, and Nat Parry have explored what the Bush administration might actually have in mind.
Scott speculates that the “detention centers could be used to detain American citizens if the Bush administration were to declare martial law.” He recalled that during the Reagan administration, National Security Council aide Oliver North organized the Rex-84 “readiness exercise,” which contemplated the Federal Emergency Management Agency rounding up and detaining 400,000 “refugees” in the event of “uncontrolled population movements” over the Mexican border into the U.S.
North’s exercise, which reportedly contemplated possible suspension of the Constitution, led to a line of questioning during the Iran-Contra Hearings concerning the idea that plans for expanded internment and detention facilities would not be confined to “refugees” alone.
It is relevant, says Scott, that in 2002 Attorney General John Ashcroft announced his desire to see camps for U.S. citizens deemed to be “enemy combatants.” On February 17, 2006, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke of the harm being done to the country’s security, not just by the enemy, but also by what he called “news informers” who needed to be combated in “a contest of wills.”
Since September 11 the Bush administration has implemented a number of interrelated programs that were planned in the 1980s under President Reagan. Continuity of Government (COG) proposals—a classified plan for keeping a secret “government-within-the-government” running during and after a nuclear disaster—included vastly expanded detention capabilities, warrantless eavesdropping, and preparations for greater use of martial law.
Scott points out that, while Oliver North represented a minority element in the Reagan administration, which soon distanced itself from both the man and his proposals, the minority associated with COG planning, which included Cheney and Rumsfeld, appear to be in control of the U.S. government today.
Farrell speculates that, because another terror attack is all but certain, it seems far more likely that the detention centers would be used for post-September 11-type detentions of rounded-up immigrants rather than for a sudden deluge of immigrants flooding across the border.
Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg ventures, “Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next September 11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters. They’ve already done this on a smaller scale, with the ‘special registration’ detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantánamo.”
Parry notes that The Washington Post reported on February 15, 2006 that the National Counterterrorism Center’s (NCTC) central repository holds the names of 325,000 terrorist suspects, a fourfold increase since fall of 2003.
Asked whether the names in the repository were collected through the NSA’s domestic surveillance program, an NCTC official told the Post, “Our database includes names of known and suspected international terrorists provided by all intelligence community organizations, including NSA.”
As the administration scoops up more and more names, members of Congress have questioned the elasticity of Bush’s definitions for words like terrorist “affiliates,” used to justify wiretapping Americans allegedly in contact with such people or entities.
A Defense Department document, entitled the “Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support,” has set out a military strategy against terrorism that envisions an “active, layered defense” both inside and outside U.S. territory. In the document, the Pentagon pledges to “transform U.S. military forces to execute homeland defense missions in the . . . U.S. homeland.” The strategy calls for increased military reconnaissance and surveillance to “defeat potential challengers before they threaten the United States.” The plan “maximizes threat awareness and seizes the initiative from those who would harm us.”
But there are concerns, warns Parry, over how the Pentagon judges “threats” and who falls under the category of “those who would harm us.” A Pentagon official said the Counterintelligence Field Activity’s TALON program has amassed files on antiwar protesters.
In the view of some civil libertarians, a form of martial law already exists in the U.S. and has been in place since shortly after the September 11 attacks when Bush issued Military Order Number One, which empowered him to detain any noncitizen as an international terrorist or enemy combatant. Today that order extends to U.S. citizens as well.
Farrell ends her article with the conclusion that while much speculation has been generated by KBR’s contract to build huge detention centers within the U.S., “The truth is, we won’t know the real purpose of these centers unless ‘contingency plans are needed.’ And by then, it will be too late.”
UPDATE BY PETER DALE SCOTT
The contract of the Halliburton subsidiary KBR to build immigrant detention facilities is part of a longer-term Homeland Security plan titled ENDGAME, which sets as its goal the removal of “all removable aliens” and “potential terrorists.” In the 1980s Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld discussed similar emergency detention powers as part of a super-secret program of planning for what was euphemistically called “Continuity of Government” (COG) in the event of a nuclear disaster. At the time, Cheney was a Wyoming congressman, while Rumsfeld, who had been defense secretary under President Ford, was a businessman and CEO of the drug company G.D. Searle.
These men planned for suspension of the Constitution, not just after nuclear attack, but for any “national security emergency,” which they defined in Executive Order 12656 of 1988 as: “Any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States.” Clearly September 11 would meet this definition, and did, for COG was instituted on that day. As the Washington Post later explained, the order “dispatched a shadow government of about 100 senior civilian managers to live and work secretly outside Washington, activating for the first time long-standing plans.”
What these managers in this shadow government worked on has never been reported. But it is significant that the group that prepared ENDGAME was, as the Homeland Security document puts it, “chartered in September 2001.” For ENDGAME’s goal of a capacious detention capability is remarkably similar to Oliver North’s controversial Rex-84 “readiness exercise” for COG in 1984. This called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary “refugees,” in the context of “uncontrolled population movements” over the Mexican border into the United States.
UPDATE BY MAUREEN FARRELL
When the story about Kellogg, Brown and Root’s contract for emergency detention centers broke, immigration was not the hot button issue it is today. Given this, the language in Halliburton’s press release, stating that the centers would be built in the event of an “emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S.,” raised eyebrows, especially among those familiar with Rex-84 and other Reagan-era initiatives. FEMA’s former plans ‘for the detention of at least 21 million American Negroes in assembly centers or relocation camps’ added to the distrust, and the second stated reason for the KBR contract, “to support the rapid development of new programs,” sent imaginations reeling.
While few in the mainstream media made the connection between KBR’s contract and previous programs, Fox News eventually addressed this issue, pooh-poohing concerns as the province of “conspiracy theories” and “unfounded” fears. My article attempted to sift through the speculation, focusing on verifiable information found in declassified and leaked documents which proved that, in addition to drawing up contingency plans for martial law, the government has conducted military readiness exercises designed to round up and detain both illegal aliens and U.S. citizens.
How concerned should Americans be? Recent reports are conflicting and confusing:
In May, 2006, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began “Operation Return to Sender,” which involved catching illegal immigrants and deporting them. In June, however, President Bush vowed that there would soon be “new infrastructures” including detention centers designed to put an end to such “catch and release” practices.
Though Bush said he was “working with Congress to increase the number of detention facilities along our borders,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he first learned about the KBR contract through newspaper reports.
Fox News recently quoted Pepperdine University professor Doug Kmiec, who deemed detention camp concerns “more paranoia than reality” and added that KBR’s contract is most likely “something related to (Hurricane) Katrina” or “a bird flu outbreak that could spur a mass quarantine of Americans.” The president’s stated desire for the U.S. military to take a more active role during natural disasters and to enforce quarantines in the event of a bird flu outbreak, however, have been roundly denounced.
Concern over an all-powerful federal government is not paranoia, but active citizenship. As Thomas Jefferson explained, “even under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” From John Adams’s Alien and Sedition Acts to FDR’s internment of Japanese Americans, the land of the free has held many contradictions and ironies. Interestingly enough, Halliburton was at the center of another historical controversy, when Lyndon Johnson’s ties to a little-known company named Kellogg, Brown and Root caused a congressional commotion—particularly after the Halliburton subsidiary won enough wartime contracts to become one of the first protested symbols of the military-industrial complex. Back then they were known as the “Vietnam builders.” The question, of course, is what they’ll be known as next.
“ Reagan Aides and the Secret Government,” Miami Herald, July 5, 1987, http://fpiarticle.blogspot.com/2005/12/front-page-miami-herald-july-5-1987.html
“Foundations are in place for martial law in the US,” July 27, 2002, Sydney Morning Herald, smh.com.au/articles/2002/07/27/ 1027497418339.html
“Halliburton Deals Recall Vietnam-Era Controversy: Cheney’s Ties to Company Reminiscent of LBJ’s Relationships,” NPR, Dec. 24, 2003, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1569483
“Critics Fear Emergency Centers Could Be Used for Immigration Round-Ups,” Fox News, June 7, 2006,http://www.foxnews.com/ story/0,2933,198456,00.html
“U.S. officials nab 2,100 illegal immigrants in 3 weeks,” USA Today, June 14, 2006,http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-06-14-immigration-arrests_x.htm