Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps

by Peter Dale Scott
February 6, 2006
Pacific News Service

*Editor's Note: A little-known $385 million contract for Halliburton
subsidiary KBR to build detention facilities for "an emergency influx of
immigrants" is another step down the Bush administration's road toward
martial law, the writer says.*

A Halliburton subsidiary has just received a $385 million contract from the
Department of Homeland Security to provide "temporary detention and
processing capabilities."

The contract -- announced Jan. 24 by the engineering and construction firm
KBR -- calls for preparing for "an emergency influx of immigrants, or to
support the rapid development of new programs" in the event of other
emergencies, such as "a natural disaster." The release offered no details
about where Halliburton was to build these facilities, or when.

To date, some newspapers have worried that open-ended provisions in the
contract could lead to cost overruns, such as have occurred with KBR in
Iraq. A Homeland Security spokesperson has responded that this is a
"contingency contract" and that conceivably no centers might be built. But
almost no paper so far has discussed the possibility that detention centers
could be used to detain American citizens if the Bush administration were to
declare martial law.

For those who follow covert government operations abroad and at home, the
contract evoked ominous memories of Oliver North's controversial Rex-84
"readiness exercise" 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. North's activities raised civil
liberties concerns in both Congress and the Justice Department. The concerns
persist.

"Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for
Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters," says Daniel Ellsberg, a
former military analyst who in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers, the U.S.
military's account of its activities in Vietnam. "They've already done this
on a smaller scale, with the 'special registration' detentions of immigrant
men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo."

Plans for detention facilities or camps have a long history, going back to
fears in the 1970s of a national uprising by black militants. As Alonzo
Chardy reported in the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987, an executive order for
continuity of government (COG) had been drafted in 1982 by FEMA head Louis
Giuffrida. The order called for "suspension of the Constitution" and
"declaration of martial law." The martial law portions of the plan were
outlined in a memo by Giuffrida's deputy, John Brinkerhoff.

In 1985, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 188,
one of a series of directives that authorized continued planning for COG by
a private parallel government.

Two books, James Mann's "Rise of the Vulcans" and James Bamford's "A Pretext
for War," have revealed that in the 1980s this parallel structure, operating
outside normal government channels, included the then-head of G. D. Searle
and Co., Donald Rumsfeld, and then-Congressman from Wyoming Dick Cheney.

After 9/11, new martial law plans began to surface similar to those of FEMA
in the 1980s. In January 2002 the Pentagon submitted a proposal for
deploying troops on American streets. One month later John Brinkerhoff, the
author of the 1982 FEMA memo, published an article arguing for the legality
of using U.S. troops for purposes of domestic security.

Then in April 2002, Defense Dept. officials implemented a plan for domestic
U.S. military operations by creating a new U.S. Northern Command
(CINC-NORTHCOM) for the continental United States. Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld called this "the most sweeping set of changes since the unified
command system was set up in 1946."

The NORTHCOM commander, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced, is
responsible for "homeland defense and also serves as head of the North
American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).... He will command U.S. forces
that operate within the United States in support of civil authorities. The
command will provide civil support not only in response to attacks, but for
natural disasters."

John Brinkerhoff later commented on PBS that, "The United States itself is
now for the first time since the War of 1812 a theater of war. That means
that we should apply, in my view, the same kind of command structure in the
United States that we apply in other theaters of war."

Then in response to Hurricane Katrina in Sept. 2005, according to the
Washington Post, White House senior adviser Karl Rove told the governor of
Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, that she should explore legal options
to impose martial law "or as close as we can get." The White House tried
vigorously, but ultimately failed, to compel Gov. Blanco to yield control of
the state National Guard.

Also in September, NORTHCOM conducted its highly classified Granite Shadow
exercise in Washington. As William Arkin reported in the Washington Post,
"Granite Shadow is yet another new Top Secret and compartmented operation
related to the military's extra-legal powers regarding weapons of mass
destruction. It allows for emergency military operations in the United
States without civilian supervision or control."

It is clear that the Bush administration is thinking seriously about martial
law.

Many critics have alleged that FEMA's spectacular failure to respond to
Katrina followed from a deliberate White House policy: of paring back FEMA,
and instead strengthening the military for responses to disasters.

A multimillion program for detention facilities will greatly increase
NORTHCOM's ability to respond to any domestic disorders.

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