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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Watch Detention Watch Network, and Join the Network

The member conference of the Detention Watch Network is coming up (Sept. 24-25), and many of its members believe it is time to organize to demand that the Obama administration establish enforceable minimum standards for immigrant detention. In this video, you can see why DWN is one of the most dynamic and effective instances of ongoing social issues networking. DWN is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to educate the public and policy makers about the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for humane reform so that all who come to our shores receive fair and humane treatment. DWN says:
"We believe that by working together we can effect greater change in the immigration detention system. Our members and supporters include organizations providing services to those in immigration detention and their families, and organizations and individuals advocating on behalf of those in immigration detention. We are lawyers, activists, social workers, national advocates, students, community organizers, faith communities, former detainees, and affected families from around the country."
You can join this inspirng network by going to: http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/joinus And if you would like a tour of ICE immigrant detention centers and the community organizations working for detained immigrants, go to DWN’s helpful detention map: http://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/dwnmap

Speculative Prisons in Texas

(The Prison State of Texas, Part II)
ICE, USMS, and BOP all have contracts and agreements with county governments – most of them impoverished – that then subcontract the prison business to private prison companies in return for a small percentage of the per diem payments. Many of the immigrant prisons are financed by revenue bonds with lease-purchase contracts. They are revenue bonds rather than general obligation bonds because rather than being secured by the “full faith and credit” of the issuer, they are sold to investors based on assurances that the bonds will be paid through revenues generated by the projects the bonds finance, namely prisons. Revenue bonds aren’t issued by governments but by public corporations established by governments – in the Texas case, public facility corporations – that typically exist solely for the purpose of issuing revenue bonds. But rather than having these public facility corporations own the prisons, the corporation, which exists only on paper, leases the prison back to the local government. As it pays the lease, the government is also buying the prison from the corporation, and will own it when the bonds mature – usually in 15-20 years. The government entity usually enters into an agreement with a federal government agency or corrections institute from another state. Under this agreement or contract, the local government agrees to take responsibility for the care of inmates provided by the federal agency, and then the local government immediately turns around and signs a subcontract with the private operator to assume its prison responsibilities. When the bond comes to term, the local government will own the prison and the bond investors will have earned high, tax-exempt interest for 15-20 years. During this time, the commissioners’ court will, by way of contract with the private operator, receive a small fee – usually $1-3 per inmate per day – from the private operator. One problem is that after 20 years of occupancy, the prison building depreciates so it may be of little or no value when the county assumes ownership. Another problem is that there is a federal agency like ICE or USMS doesn’t provide any guarantee that it will provide any number of inmates over any period. The agency simply signs an intergovernmental agreement, which states that the county is authorized to receive federal prisoners. Because there is no guarantee that prisoners will be placed once the prison is open, most immigrant prisons are what are known in the prison trade as “speculative prisons.” Texas Counties and Prison Debt Data from the Texas Bond Review Board shows that 18 Texas counties are financing prisons through revenue bonds based on lease-purchase agreements. At a time when the state of Texas had finally started to stabilize its prison population, local governments were incurring more prison debt. The amount of prison debt outstanding rose from $573.7 million in FY 2007 to $622 million in FY 2008, “a substantial $48.4 million increase.” That 8 percent increase came following a 41 percent increase between fiscal years 2006 and 2007. Over the past ten years there has been a nearly six-fold increase in county prison debt in Texas.
Next: High Per Capita Debt Shows Long-Term Commitment to Prison Business

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Prison State of Texas

Texas is a national leader, having the nation’s highest percentage of residents who are uninsured, the highest percentage without a high school diploma, and the highest number of state-authorized executions.
It also leads the nation in the number of privately operated prisons and the number of prisons dedicated to immigrant detention. For decades it has been brandishing its “lock-‘em up” reputation, enthusiastically joining in the nationally declared wars on crime and drugs that were launched in the 1970s by the Nixon administration.
From 1978 to 2004, the inmate population rose 573 percent, while the state’s population increased only 67 percent. The cost of imprisonment as strategy to address crime and drug use has recently forced the state government to reconsider continuing to grow its penal system. In 2007 the state projected that if its prison population continued to grow at the same rate, the state would need 17,000 more prison beds at the cost of nearly $1 billion.
However, as a recent Washington Post article reported, the state government has wised up with new policies that promote alternatives to sentencing that encourage probation, parole, and treatment instead of prison. According to the Pew Center on the States, it costs an average of $79 a day to keep an inmate in prison but about $3.50 a day to monitor the same person on probation or parole.
Adam Gelb, director of the Pew Center’s Public Safety Performance Project, told the Post that more than half the states are trying to reduce the growth in their prison populations through alternative sentencing. "The economy is bringing a lot of states to the table," Gelb said, "and the research has pointed to a path for them to more public safety at less cost."
As a result, the prison population in Texas started dropping for the first time in 2007, gratifying state lawmakers concerned about rising correctional expenses in a state notoriously reluctant to raise taxes.
Prisons for Profit
But state prisons are just one part of Texas’ penal geography. The state has also seen an explosion of county prisons built to attract prison populations from other jurisdictions, largely other states and an array of federal agencies.
A 2004 study by the Urban Institute, "The New Landscape of Imprisonment: Mapping America's Prison Expansion,” found that Texas led all states in prison construction between 1979 and 2000. Texas opened 137 new prisons – a 706-percent increase.
"Texas is in a league of its own," explained the study’s coauthor Jeremy Travis. "Texas added the most prisons, saw the largest percentage increase in its network of prisons, entered the new century with the largest number of prisons, had the biggest growth in counties that are home to at least one prison, and had the most counties increasing their prison count by three or more facilities."
Instead of costing local taxpayers money, a still-expanding network of prisons and detention centers in Texas is earning new revenues for more than two dozen county and city governments. In conjunction with private prison firms, local governments in Texas have since the mid-1980s led the way in establishing prisons for profit.
It is still taxpayer money that paying the per diems of the inmates, but the costs of the new prisons doesn’t draw down local or state revenues. Rather the billion dollar business draws per-diem payments from other states attracted by the relatively low cost of imprisonment in Texas but mainly from the federal government.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS), and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) have all found Texas the most attractive state in the nation to place federal inmates. Most of the business that these three agencies do in the state involves immigrant prisoners and detainees.
Photo/Tom Barry: Border Patrol in Del Rio, Texas, waiting for immigrants to arrest and imprison under Operation Streamline
Next: Speculative Prisons in Texas

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Former Bush Security Chiefs Find Terrorism Obsession Can Be Profitable

Contracts with the Department of Homeland Security are spewing billions of dollars into private industry, largely to companies that also rely on Pentagon military contracts. In this new variation of the military-industrial complex a new revolving door is now in full swing. A new policy report from the Americas Program at the Center for International Policy in Washington, DC has released a new policy report on the homeland security businesses started by former DHS chiefs Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff.

Bigger and Badder Than Blackwater

Blackwater USA, the world’s largest private security firm (recently renamed Xe), is the subject of much public concern about the outsourcing of security to private companies because of the murders of 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians by its mercenaries. But there is a bigger story that is not being covered in the media or attracted public concern – let alone a new policy approach by the Democrats in Congress or the White House. That is the outsourcing of U.S. intelligence, which now constitutes an estimated 70% of the classified (but always increasing) intelligence budget. One of the companies that has benefited from this privatization of intelligence is CACI International, a major defense contractor, which is also a major homeland security and intelligence contractor. CACI recently was in the business press because of its latest revolving door success. It has brought former U.S. Navy Secretary and former DOD deputy defense secretary in the Bush administration into the folds of its board of directors. (See: Pentagon Official Returns) Homeland Security is CACI’s Business CACI, a major Pentagon contractor, now lists homeland security as a top focus. And it is being rewarded by a string of DHS contracts. CACI also lists intelligence as a core business activity. Specializing in information systems, CACI now relies on a new mix of defense, homeland security, and intelligence contracts related to cybersecurity and cyberwarfare. On July 29 CACI was awarded $94 million contract with the National Protection and Program Directorate of DHS. Under the contract, CACI provides “infrastructure protection,” work that, according to CACI, “expands CACI's presence in the DHS with wide-ranging mission support.” As a company with information systems and intelligence capacities, CACI is contracted to “enhance communications by managing, processing, and coordinating the flow of information across the DHS and with Protective Security Advisors (PSAs). The new project is an extension of CACI’s Automated Critical Asset Management System (ACAMS), an information-sharing project to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure. It is also related to CACI’s work since 2006 on DHS’ Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions (EAGLE) program, an IT planning and policy initiatives that spans most DHS agencies, including the Border Patrol. CACI says that its work on the EAGLE program makes its company motto, “Ever Vigilant,” “especially meaningful.” With respect to EAGLE and other homeland security operations, CACI asserts that its DHS contracts provide “the needed services and solutions that make us a national asset for national missions.” Over the past several years CACI has blossomed into a major homeland security company. According to CACI, its homeland security operations comprise: Business System Solutions; C4ISR Integration Services; Cyber Security, Information Assurance, Information Operations; Integrated Security, Intelligence Solutions; Program Management, SETA Support Services, and Data, Information, Knowledge Management Services. Intelligence for Sale CACI says that “effective information management drives the efficacy, interaction and ultimate success of intelligence collection and analysis.” This information management and IT capacity has make CACI a major “intelligence community” contractor. An estimated 70% of the government’s new work by the “intelligence community” (including 16 civilian and military agencies) is now contracted to companies like CACI, according to a classified study by the Director of National Intelligence. In his new book, Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, investigative journalist Tim Shorrock documents the surge in intelligence outsourcing during the Bush administration – and which continues into the Obama administration. Along with two other contractors, CACI was awarded on August 19 a five-year $900 million contract with the Army’s Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate (I2WD). The new contract will extend CACI’ 21-year history with intelligence support for the Information Warfare Directorate and allow it to continue pursuing its goal “modernize the Army’s intelligence and information-warfare capabilities.” As CACI notes, the new defense/intelligence contract will bolster the company’s business in the expanding frontier of intelligence and information, growing CACI’s “business in command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance programs.” Along with intelligence comes counterintelligence, and CACI boasts of its “industry-leading counterintelligence capabilities and innovative network surveillance and response technology.” Thus far in 2009 CACI has been awarded, or is designated prime contractor, federal contracts worth $3.5 billion with DOD, DHS, and the “intelligence community.” Many of CACI contracts are with unnamed “clients in the national security and intelligence communities.” Announcing $133 million in classified projects on August 3, CACI’s president of U.S. operations described CACI’s cross agency role in information systems and cybersecurity, stating: “CACI offers trusted and proven solutions to support critical missions in such areas as homeland security, defense and civilian intelligence, and law enforcement. Our uniquely qualified professionals enable us to provide a wide range of security and intelligence support services to help our clients counter threats both at home and abroad." In its new release of the intelligence contracts, CACI led the announcement with the statement: “Our intelligence business continues to expand.” Both the company’s description of combined defense, homeland security, and intelligence operations and its boast of expanding intelligence business could just as well be applied to scores of other companies in the emerging industrial complex serving the government’s national security agencies. As a New York Times (May 30) article on private-sector involvement in cyberwarfare observed: “Nearly all of the largest military companies — including Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon — have major cyber contracts with the military and intelligence agencies.” Back through the revolving door, England’s dual roles as former Pentagon official and former defense industry executive place him and his new private-sector firms in a key position to take full advantage of the new defense/homeland security/intelligence complex. There’s no question that the new complex is good for business.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Homeland is a Battleground Without Liability

One of the earliest indications that the Department of Homeland Security was going to be a font contracts and opportunities for the defense and security industries was Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002, otherwise known as the SAFETY Act. Passed immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks as part of the legislation creating DHS, the Safety Act basically provides a liability shield to manufacturers of anti-terrorism technology. According to DHS, the Safety Act is intended to “encourage the development and deployment of new and innovative anti-terrorism products and services.” This government liability protection also covers software and other intellectual property.
It fosters this development not through government contracts but through government guarantees—shielding technology providers from liability lawsuits in the event of product failure during a terrorist attack.
DHS has already put its liability-free stamp of approval -- the Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology designation -- on more than 300 counterterrorism technologies.
The Safety Act product is the American Anti-Ram (AAR) vehicle barricade. It is a product of American Defense Systems (ADSI), which sells advanced transparent and opaque armor, architectural hardening and security products for defense and homeland security.
The business-friendly measure to boost the security industry has received little notice or criticism outside the booming homeland security industry. However, one legal critique of the Safety Act likens it the system used by the Pentagon to obstruct liability suits against defense contractors. According to a legal analysis in FindLaw:
“The government contractor defense used to simply mean this: When a soldiers is killed based on a product defect -- say, a faulty gun -- he cannot sue the Pentagon's suppliers. Now it also means this: When a civilian is killed based on a defect in a Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology -- say, a gas mask -- he cannot sue the mask's manufacturer, even if it is a purely civilian company.
“The symbolic message is clear. America is a battlefield. We are all soldiers, even civilians. And civilian suppliers of antiterrorism technologies are like Pentagon suppliers, for they too prepare us for war -- the war on terror.
“We are no longer consumers buying products who can then file product liability suits. We are soldiers provisioning ourselves with supplies, and we do so at own risk; we cannot sue our suppliers, for this is war, and they must continue to produce our supplies at all costs….
“But there is a crucial problem with the way this logic plays itself out in the SAFETY Act. “If civilians are like soldiers, then the government is treating its "soldiers" shabbily, when it passes measures like the SAFETY Act. In the military, injured soldiers benefit from pensions and medical care (and are provided with protective technologies; they do not purchase them). Thus, what the government takes away with one hand -- the chance to sue -- it gives with the other.
“But civilians who are injured by defective products, under the SAFETY Act, have their rights to sue taken away, without getting anything in return. That's not right. By comparison, the September 11 Victims' Compensation Fund, though it limited the right to sue, gave the victims of that attack something in return: A compensation award.”

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bush DOD Official Returns to Business

Gordon England, the former deputy secretary of defense who replaced the controversial Paul Wolfowitz in 2005, has returned from whence he came. England came to the Bush administration from the defense industry, and at the end of the administration he passed back through the revolving door joining government and industry.
But the military-industrial complex is not what is used to be. Over the last eight years a new complex has emerged. It’s no longer simply a realm occupied by just Pentagon and defense contractors.
During the Bush administration the intelligence and security businesses have exploded with federal contracts, spurring the creation and evolution of corporations that depend on three income streams: defense, homeland security, and intelligence contracts.
Upon leaving government, England became president of E6 Partners, which is an international business company that has a “special emphasis in the defense and security sectors.” England’s two partners in this startup consulting firm also passed back through the revolving door to the private sector after leaving high positions at the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security, where they specialized in technology and procurement.
England recently made the news when he was appointed to the board of CACI International. CACI is a major homeland security, intelligence, and military contractor, which has been reaping in hundreds of millions of new contracts in the last year.
Not only does England bring his experience and contacts as deputy defense secretary to the private sector. He is also an attractive addition to the emerging defense/homeland security/intelligence complex because of his former position as secretary of Navy during the first George W. Bush administration.
England came to government from industry. His industry experience before being tapped by President Bush to be Navy secretary included being vice president at General Dynamic, president of Lockheed Ft. Worth, and space engineer at Honeywell.Following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) awarded Secretary of Navy England its Henry M. Jackson Service Award.
JINSA is a Washington, DC policy institute that represents the interests of Israel’s right-wing Likud party and the Israeli military, and it is closely associated with the U.S. neoconservative camp and U.S. military contractors.
Next: Intelligence Contracting Extends Far Beyond Blackwater

Friday, August 21, 2009

Chertoff Pumps Up Homeland Security Business

Not relying solely on its industry contracts, the Chertoff Group is also benefiting from a trail of media interviews and media events that bring the firm’s principals to the attention of prospective clients.
The September release of Michael Chertoff’s new book, Homeland Security: Assessing First Five Years, will also likely help promote the Chertoff Group within the homeland security industry. In his book, Chertoff makes the case the Bush administration effectively secured the country because there haven’t been any terrorist attacks on the homeland since Sept. 11 – an assessment that the Chertoff Group regularly uses to sell itself. But in the new book Chertoff occasionally ventures far outside his area of expertise and into neoconservative ideological territory. He predicts, for example, that the anti-Israeli Lebanese opposition group Hezbollah could surpass Al-Qaeda as the most serious terrorist threat to the United States. Chertoff alleges Hezbollah is better equipped, better trained and better politically positioned than Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda.
“Having operated for more than a quarter-century, (Hezbollah) has developed capabilities that Al-Qaeda can only dream of, including large quantities of missiles and highly sophisticated explosives,” writes Chertoff.
Alarmism about Hezbollah, whose principal grievance is with Israel, is a common denominator of neoconservative ideology. Although not closely identified with the neoconservatives, Chertoff is firmly rooted in right-wing thinking, particularly with respect to terrorism and the role of the judiciary. Chertoff is closely associated with the right-wing Federalist Society. Chertoff is also speaking publicly about the government’s cybersecurity programs and intelligence gathering systems. During an August 7 presentation at the Potomac Officers Club in Washington, Chertoff weighed in on the deployment of Einstein 3, the latest phase of a web-traffic monitoring system sponsored by DHS to detect and deter cyber attacks. The Obama administration has authorized the deployment of the latest phase of the program, which will screen government traffic on private networks and will be managed by the NSA. The first two phases of the Einstein monitoring program didn't measure up to government expectations. Nonetheless, the Obama administration is set to launch the latest version of the cybersecurity system -- amid widespread privacy concerns resulting in large part because of NSA’s unauthorized monitoring of private communications during the Bush administration. Explaining the third iteration of the system, Chertoff told the Washington Post:
Intrusion detection is like a cop with a radar gun on a highway who catches you speeding or drunk and phones ahead to somebody at the other end … Einstein 3 is a cop who actually arrests you and pulls you off the road when he sees you driving drunk.”
Cybersecurity is perhaps the most lucrative source of homeland security business, which may explain the Chertoff Group's interest in the Einstein project. Among the reported private partners awarded contracts for the Einstein system (which was allocated $600 million in 2007-2008) are AT&T, which is the lead partner with NSA, L3 Communications, General Dynamics, Sprint, Qwest, MCI, and Verizon. The homeland security business not only involves protecting communications and information systems from intrusions and attacks, it also entails extracting intelligence from monitored electronic communications. The Chertoff Group will likely serve these two sides of the intelligence/security business.
On August 20 Michael Chertoff and Michael Hayden are set to lead a discussion panel at the National Press Club on the privatization of intelligence. Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, says that “private contractors are operating in the most sensitive areas of intelligence.” According to Shorrock, “With the post-Sept. 11 hikes in intelligence spending, spying for hire has become an industry worth nearly $50 billion a year.” With the Chertoff Group's close ties to the CIA and NSA, this huge intelligence outsourcing budget will likely form an important part of the firm's revenue stream.
The homeland security industry is emerging as the country's fastest growing government-industry complex. It’s an industry where Chertoff and an array of ex-Bush administration officials are playing leading roles.
While the full extent of the influence and power of the new homeland security complex has yet to be determined, it is worrisome to consider that the complex’s leading architects are former government officials responsible for the USA Patriot Act, the border wall boondoggle, massive unauthorized domestic surveillance, and disastrous intelligence scandals of the Bush years.

Chertoff's Strategic Partnership with "PR Firm from Hell"

(Part of a BorderLines' seried on Border Security Industrial Complex)
Chertoff Group, founded by former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, has formed a “strategic partnership” with the controversial public-relations firm Burson-Marsteller to carry out the crisis-management part of its homeland security business.
“No one knows crisis communications better than the team at Burson-Marsteller,” states the Chertoff Group, and the partnership will “combine our extensive crisis management expertise with their broad crisis communications skills.”
No doubt that Burson-Marsteller has extensive experience in what the industry calls “crisis communications” – or spinning a business, government, or product failure so as to minimize damage to a company's bottom line or a government’s global reputation. Burson-Marsteller, now headed by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s pollster and strategist Mark Penn, has been called “the PR firm from Hell” by MSNBC’s Rachel Madow, because of the firm’s long track record in representing companies involved in major disasters. Says Madow (March 5, 2009) ,“When Evil needs public relations, Evil has Burson-Marsteller on speed-dial.”
According to the Guardian in London, “The world’s biggest PR company was employed by the Nigerian government to discredit reports of genocide during the Biafran war, the Argentinian junta after the disappearance of 35,000 civilians, and the Indonesian government after the massacres in East Timor. It also worked to improve the image of the late Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu and the Saudi royal family.”
A recent corporate client of this “communications crisis” firm is AIG, the investment firm bailed out by the U.S. government with $163 billion of taxpayer revenues.
In the past Burson-Marsteller has provided communications remedies after the Three Mile Island partial nuclear meltdown, for Union Carbide after the Bhopal gas leak that killed up to 15,000 people in India, and for British Petroleum after the sinking of the Torrey Canyon oil tanker. More recently, it has represented with tobacco firms, European biotech industries that produce genetically modified food, and, according to Madow, for the Blackwater security services firm after reports of murders of civilians by its government-paid mercenaries in Iraq.
Chertoff Group is also going directly to the heart of the industry with its M&A (mergers & acquisitions) division. “For deals in the security industry,” the Chertoff Group says it “offers unparalleled subject matter expertise and contacts to give you the competitive advantage.”
“We have overseen billions of dollars of technology development and acquisition for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the National Security Agency, and the CIA. We have keen insight into which new technologies are likely to transform the landscape, and our experience allows us to predict which ones may be headed for obsolescence.”
The firm sees a bounty of opportunities for consolidation in the new but “highly fragmented” homeland security industry. It promises clients to “help leverage economies of scale” and to “monitor and manage target companies during periods of transition,” reminding security companies that “it pays to know what we know before you decide on a merger or acquisition.”

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The New Business of Homeland Security

(Sixth in the BorderLines' series on the Border Security Industrial Complex.)
DHS’ private contracting provides one look at the new homeland security business. In large part, it’s an offshoot of the military contracting industry. DHS’s top ten contractors, for example, include Boeing (ranking first), General Dynamics, SAIC, L-3 Communications, and Lockheed-Martin.
Also prominent among DHS contractors are information systems and computer technology firms, such as IBM, Accenture, Unisys, Booz Allen Hamilton, and Siemens. Also figuring prominently among the top DHS contractors is Wackenhut, a more traditional security industry, which provides custodial services for the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Another leading element in the new homeland security industry is represented by intelligence contractors. According to an estimate by the Defense Intelligence Agency, as much as 70% of new intelligence operations by the federal government’s intelligence apparatus, including NSA, are contracted out to private businesses.
The booming homeland security industry also includes biotech, electronic surveillance, and cybersecurity firms – all of which are likely prospective clients of the Chertoff Group.
Fresh from DHS, Chertoff says that the Chertoff Group provides an especially well-informed perspective of the character and direction of the new homeland security industry.
HSToday, a new homeland security industry magazine, interviewed Chertoff shortly after he founded the new firm and observed that part of Chertoff's “new mission is to better define homeland security for the private sector and thereby increase investment opportunities.”
Chertoff concurred with the HSToday editor's description of the firm's mission and went on to expound on the emerging definition and dimensions of the homeland security industry. Chertoff noted that there exists much confusion about what homeland security really is.
Having emerged directly from government the Chertoff Group has, says Chertoff, “a clear vision of what homeland security is.” According to Chertoff, “It’s not the same as defense, it’s not the same as law enforcement, although it partakes of elements of those as well as things that are neither.”
Homeland security, Chertoff explained, is a blend of the military and the police/first responder sectors, observing that there is a great need in the private sector “to fill the gap and cover a system of homeland security in a way that is end to end that is not covered by the defense community or the law enforcement community.”
Chertoff asserted that there are “many great opportunities” for investment and “many great technologies” to apply to homeland security needs. Chertoff Group, he said, can fill the gap, define the opportunities, and pick the best technologies. Furthermore:
“As many of the principal architects of homeland security and the doctrine we [Chertoff Group] have a pretty good feel for how to look at problems end to end and then to anticipate problems where there may be technologies that fit into that problem solution…. So, working with investors, defense contractors and others who either want to organically grow into homeland security or want to make acquisitions, I think we’ve got a really unique value and perspective that we can add in terms of how things fit in terms of an overarching strategy.”
“What sets the Chertoff Group apart,” says Chertoff Group, “is the breadth of our industry knowledge, the depth of our experience and the extent of our close contacts with industry leaders worldwide.”
Chertoff Group Gets Down to Business
Chertoff Group describes itself as “a security and risk management advisory firm that counsels corporate and government clients addressing threats related to terrorism, fraud, cyber security, border protection and supply chain security.” In a nod to the key role of Bush administration figures in the new security company, Chertoff Group states that it “provides business leaders and local government officials with the same kind of high-level, strategic thinking and diligent execution that have kept the American homeland and its people safe since 9/11.”
Comprising “many of the principal architects” of homeland security, Chertoff Group is, according to its website, approaching the business from three angles: risk-management and security services, crisis management, and mergers & acquisitions (M&A).
The group’s risk-management and security services division aims to cover everything from global strategy, border protection, infrastructure protection, biometrics, global commerce, disaster preparedness, information assurance, intelligence, counterterrorism, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear security. The firm promises to “guide you to the best sources for trained personnel and security technology.”
One of the firm’s first contracts involves a cybersecurity client, according to a Wall Street Journal article. Chertoff Group has also secured a contract with BioNeutral Group, which hopes to commercialize a chemical-based technology that will neutralize toxins.
"We are excited to engage former Secretary Chertoff and his firm to assist us in our endeavors; presenting our proprietary technology to the various markets including health, defense and bio security," commented Stephen J. Browand, president and CEO of BioNeutral. "It is a privilege to have such an elite group represent our Company and we are confident that they will play a significant role in the successful strategic introduction of our life saving technology.”
Photo: National Security Agency headquarters

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chertoff Group Covers Homeland Security

(Fifth in a BorderLines' series on the Border Security Industrial Complex.)
Michael Chertoff, former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, has taken his portfolio over to the private sector. Homeland security is business – an estimated $200 billion in annual revenues – and the newly formed Chertoff Group wants a major stake in this booming industry.
As the latest homeland security consulting firm, Chertoff Group will be competing with two other security companies formed by top Republican Party figures: Ashcroft Group founded by former Attorney General John Ashcroft; and Guiliani Group, formed by former New York City mayor and presidential candidate Rudolf Guiliani. Although not specially focused on homeland security, Ridge Global, formed by the first DHS secretary Tom Ridge, also has a piece of the expanding global security industry.
The Chertoff Group has a leg up on its competitors. The revolving door between government and industry has brought a half-dozen former high government officials of the Bush administration into the Chertoff Group.
Not only does it count on the political and business connections of Chertoff, the new firm has a roster of five other former government officials that can translate government experience into lucrative industry contracts.
Chertoff boasts, “Among the six of us we pretty much have all of those things in DHS, in DoD, and the Department of Justice, law enforcement and finally, in the intelligence community. So we have pretty much every element of homeland security covered.”
The Faces of the New Homeland Security Complex
The Chertoff’s associates who will be covering all the elements of homeland security business include figures with long experience in intelligence, industry contracting, and international banking.
Chad Sweet, Chertoff’s chief-of-staff at DHS, cofounded the Chertoff Group and will direct the firm’s operations. Another principal in the Chertoff Group is Chad Sweet, who served as Secretary Chertoff’s chief-of-staff and is cofounder of this new security group. According to his company profile, Sweet worked at DHS “to restructure and optimize the flow of information between the CIA, FBI and other members of the national security community and DHS. Mr. Sweet also supported the Secretary during numerous operations to detect, disrupt and respond to terrorist plots both in the United States and oversea.” Before joining DHS Sweet was a vice-president at Morgan Stanley and then at Goldman Sachs, with a special focus on international investments. Sweet came to Wall Street after “having helped to fight the threat of Communism” at the CIA, where he was in the agency's Directorate of Operations.
In his new position, Sweet “utilizes his unique background in intelligence, homeland security and investment banking to provide M&A advice to companies wishing to expand within the defense, aerospace and security industries, and to help private capital groups evaluate investment opportunities within the sector."
Other principals at Chertoff Group are also former government heavies, including former CIA director (2005-2009) Michael Hayden, who also directed the National Security Agency (1999-2005); DHS deputy Paul Schneider (who prior to his position at DHS was head of acquisitions for NSA and the U.S. Navy); Ret. Admiral Jay Cohen, who was DHS director of science and technology and previously the Navy’s technology chief, and Charlie Allen, who was the intelligence chief at DHS and, according to Michael Chertoff, “pretty much head of everything you could be for the CIA and head of national collections.”
Photo: Michael Chertoff

Homeland Security's Revolving Door

(Third in the BorderLines' series on the Border Security Industrial Complex.)
Contracts with the Department of Homeland Security are spewing billions of dollars into private industry, largely to companies that also rely on Pentagon military contracts. In this new variation of the military-industrial complex a new revolving door is now in full swing.
Tom Ridge Leverages DHS Experience and Contacts The first DHS chief Tom Ridge recently got a new gig as senior adviser to the San Francisco-based Building Protection Systems Inc, where he will have the responsibility of advising the corporation on the marketing of its Building Sentry One product line. BPSI’s Sentry One products are among the thousands of newly manufactured systems and technologies developed in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, forming a major part of a new DHS/DOD industry complex underwritten by government contracts and grants. Tom Ridge, former Pennsylvania governor who was appointed by President Bush to direct the newly created DHS, has parlayed his government service into a lucrative career in business since he stepped down as DHS chief in 2005. Soon after leaving DHS he became president and CEO of Ridge Global, a global strategic consulting firm. Ridge also is president of Thomas Ridge LLC. In 2006 Ridge Global entered into a $480,000 contract with Albania to help the country “develop an overall homeland defense strategy. According an AP report, Ridge's "main priority" was "to help Albania meet its goal of joining NATO in 2008." It wasn’t until after the media outed Ridge’s relationship with Albania that the former DHS chief filed the required foreign lobbyist report with the Justice Department in 2008 – two years after the one-year contract with Albania had ended. He also joined the corporate boards of Vonage, Hershey, HomeDepot, and Exelon (the country’s largest nuclear plant operator, including Threee Mile Island). In April 2005 Ridge also joined the board of Savi Technology, described as the primary technology provider for wireless cargo-monitoring for DOD. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed-Martin. Homeland Safety Against Counterterrorism Liability BPSI, now advised by Ridge, recently announced that its Sentry One toxin detection technology has recently received the DHS stamp of approval. According to BPSI, Sentry One is the “first complete building protection system which has also received full SAFETY Act designation from the Department of Homeland Security for protecting buildings and public gathering places from an airborne chemical or radiological targeted terrorist attack or accidental release.” What does this Safety Act designation signify? Fundamentally, it means that Sentry One is protected by the Safety Act of 2002, which was rushed through Congress after the Sept. 11 events to spur industry investment in counterterrorism and security technology. It fosters this development not through government contracts but through government guarantees – guarantees against liability if the technology fails. The Safety Act also spurred the creation of a firm whose sole purpose is to provide liability advice to homeland security industries. That’s Safety Act Consultants, whose motto is: “We help organizations protect themselves from catastrophic liability following a terrorist event.” Safety Act Consultants explains the Safety Act this way:
“The SAFETY Act is a little known and often misunderstood Federal Law enacted in 2002 as a part of the Homeland Security Act. This law grants unprecedented statutory immunities, liability caps, affirmative defenses for things used to identify, protect against, stop, mitigate, respond to or recover from, a terrorist event. These can include products, technologies, services, facilities, designs, advice, actions, software, hardware or other methods, procedures or strategies used in helping prevent, respond to or recover from. a physical terrorism or e-terrorism act.”
BPSI’s Mike Welden, referring to the Safety Act approval, said: “This elevated designation is another example of the expert validation that BPSI’s systems keep earning. We are absolutely pleased that the DHS has issued BPSI technology full designation. It is a clear indication of the trust in our technology that lives will be saved during certain acts of terrorism and as a result our customers will truly benefit from the extended SAFETY Act liability protections.” said Mike Welden of BPSI. Revolving doors swing both ways.
In late July the White House announced that it was nominating Rafael Borras as the new undersecretary for management at DHS. Borras comes to DHS from URS Corp, which is a major DOD, DHS, NASA, and DOE contractor.
Among other things, “URS modernizes weapons systems, refurbishes military vehicles and aircraft, trains pilots and manages military and government facilities. We also plan, design and construct hangars and government buildings, provide logistics support for military operations and help decommission former bases for redevelopment.”
Photo: Former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

El Paso: Booming Military/Security Center

(Fourth in BorderLines' series of Border Industrial Security Complex)
At the recent Border Security Conference at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), the city’s Regional Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) had an exhibition table along with an array of companies specializing in security and defense. REDCO lists Military/Defense/Homeland Security as its top target industry. That’s understandable given the tremendous growth of military and homeland security contracts experienced in the last eight years. REDCO boasts that El Paso already hosts such major military/security industries as Raytheon, Boeing, and Lockheed-Martin, and it says that El Paso is now “Taking the lead in America’s Border Security” through new “homeland security research and development.” The new blend of military and homeland security industries was evident at UTEP’s conference, whose fiscal sponsors, with the exception of REDCO, all represented this emerging military/security industry: SAIC, Raytheon, ManTech, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and CSC. In addition to these sponsors, more than a dozen other industries exhibited their homeland security wares to conference attendees. Since 2000 government military and homeland security contracts have been raining down on El Paso. Military and border-security industries are sprouting up all over the sprawling city, contributing mightily to El Paso’s booming economy amid the national recession. In 2000 DOD awarded area-based industries 254 contracts – worth $304.7 million. Last year the city benefited from more than four times as many contracts – 1,156 contracts – amounting to $575.6 million. An especially good year for area military contracting was 2006, when DOD signed 1,237 contracts amounting to $863 million. Over the last eight years the number and dollar amount of DOD contracts have risen steadily, helping to put El Paso on the national map as a center for weapons and security development. In the military sector alone, El Paso industries have been awarded more than $4 billion in contracts. Going into 2009, more than 830 military contractors were doing business in the area. From 2000 to 2008 city military contractors were awarded 8,313 military contracts worth $4.6 billion. While $4.6 billion is not small change and places El Paso among the major military development centers in Texas – the nation’s second largest recipient of defense contracts (closely following Virginia) – it pales in comparison with the amount of military business in the Dallas, Ft. Worth, and Houston metropolitan areas. From 2000 to 008, Texas garnered $256 billion in military contracts, with the annual value of contracts rising from $5.7 billion in 2000 to $36.6 billion in 2008.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blockading the Border




Book Review Blockading the Border and Human Rights: The El Paso Operation That Remade Immigration Enforcement

To understand where we now stand with respect to border-control and immigration- enforcement policies, it is helpful to step back and see how we got here. That is what border scholar Timothy Dunn does in his important new book about the politics of border control in the El Paso area. 


 Not so long ago in El Paso, like in other border towns, you could easily see the daily flow of unauthorized immigrants into the United States. Until the mid-1990s most illegal border crossers took the easiest route over to the other side – right through the hearts of the twin border cities. 


Thousands of Mexicans crossed illegally every day, returning home to Mexico in the evening from jobs in the United States. Others who lived in the Mexican interior or came from other countries took buses north to the Mexican border towns, crossed into the adjoining U.S. towns, and then spread into the U.S. interior. Until the mid-1990s, when the Border Patrol mounted operations to stanch the immigrant flow through U.S. border towns, overwhelmed agents caught only a small percentage of the illegal border crossers


Once across the border, illegal immigrants easily melded into Mexican-American communities. Frustrated Border Patrol agents in El Paso oftentimes not knowing who was in the country legally, regularly harassed residents of El Segundo Barrio, a Mexican-American neighborhood in the downtown area abutting the border. 


In 1992, working in conjunction with the local Border Rights Coalition, students and staff of the neighborhood’s Bowie High School brought a civil rights suit against the Border Patrol citing routine harassment and abuses. By highlighting longtime community grievances against the Border Patrol, the lawsuit spurred the new Border Patrol Chief Silvestre Reyes to start meeting regularly with community activists and addressing their complaints. 


In 1993 Reyes mounted Operation Blockade, which intensively deployed Border Patrol agents along the border within the city limits, successfully halting most urban border crossers and deflecting most illegal crossborder traffic to more sparsely inhabited areas on the edge of the city. 


As Dunn documents, El Pasoans, tired and frustrated by immigrant streams through their neighborhoods and by Border Patrol harassment of citizens and legal immigrants, overwhelmingly supported Operation Blockade – which was later renamed Operation Hold the Line. Community organizing against widespread civil rights violations by Border Patrol agents proved a major factor in persuading the Border Patrol in the El Paso district to adopt a new strategy – one that was described officially as “prevention through deterrence.” 


 Operation Blockade/Hold the Line, although initially resisted by the national Border Patrol office Washington, later became the prototype of more intensive border control operations in urban areas because of its success in diverting immigration flows to outlying areas. As recounted by Dunn, the Border Patrol’s 1994 strategy statement –which first used the term “prevention through deterrence” – noted that the agency’s “national strategy builds on El Paso’s success.” 


Operation Blockade’s model, as described by Dunn, took of the form of the “massing of enforcement resources at traditionally high-volume, mainly urban unauthorized crossing areas” inspired the launching of Operation Gatekeeper in San Diego, Operation Rio Grande in the lower Rio Grande Valley, and Operation Safeguard in Arizona. 


 Operation Blockade Accomplishments 


Other than spurring other copycat border blockades elsewhere along the border, what were the enduring results of Operation Blockade? One was the predictable diversion of immigration flows to what the Border Patrol described as “hostile terrain” in its 1994 strategy statement. 


Dunn superbly chronicles this cause-and-effect relationship, using the El Paso example of increased immigrant traffic along the western edge of the city and farther west into the desert of southern New Mexico. 


 The Border Patrol quickly responded by constructing a new border fence on the western edge of the city, which was roundly opposed in El Paso, largely because so obviously tarnished the city’s long-cherished image as a binational metropolis (with Ciudad Juarez). Opposition to the fence also tapped rising concerns that the new “prevention through deterrence” strategy was severely impacting the livelihood and rights of undocumented Mexicans. 


Although a palpable concern even during the civil rights organizing against the Border Patrol around the Bowie High School case, the issue of the rights and welfare of unauthorized border crossers was downplayed in the interests of making a strong civil rights argument against Border Patrol practices. This was the citizenship-nationalist framework for community organizing. 


 While accepting its tactical merits, Dunn argues for a human-rights framework for addressing border control issues. As he points out, Operation Blockade only partially succeeded in deterring immigration flows. The “hostile terrain” that characterizes most of the border environment away from the increasingly fortified urban border did not deter hundreds of thousands of illegal border crossers. Determined to seek a better life and increasingly relying on border smugglers, immigrants have since the mid-1990s increasingly risked dangerous desert and mountain crossings. 


Complaints about abusive Border Patrol treatment of both legal borderland residents and illegal border crossers continue. But it has been the deaths of thousands of border crossers diverted into “hostile terrain” that has elevated the human rights issue along the border. 

While drowning deaths has long been a concern in the El Paso sector, Operation Blockade and heightening enforcement in the easily traversed border areas have resulted in steeply mounting number of immigrant deaths from exposure. From 1994 to 2007 there were 4,600 deaths reported, mostly from exposure. 


Border Enforcement Works 


Besides the diversion of immigrant flows, another long-term result of Operation Blockade has been an increased conviction, especially within government and among anti-immigrant sectors, that increased border enforcement works. Prior to Operation Blockade, border enforcement was widely regarded as a holding action with no real goal of stopping immigrant flows. 


However, the success in El Paso and in other urban areas in ending immigrant flows put in motion a serious of practices and policies that are now driven by a belief that “operational control” of the border is a real possibility. It is now commonly accepted that with sufficient numbers of Border Patrol agents and with enough border control infrastructure (mainly defenses and electronic surveillance), the Border Control can realistically hope to control the southern border – deterring or detaining most illegal border crosssers


Dunn doesn’t delve deeply into the possibilities of effective border control operations along the entire border. Rather he warns against “border enforcement fetishism” and predicts that border security will be an unrealizable goal without a holistic human-rights framework for immigration policy. 


In the book’s conclusion, the author warns that if drastically increased border enforcement really starts working, “it might fail in larger, more important ways that we can hardly anticipate.” Among the consequences of increasingly effective enforcement, according to Dunn, are labor shortages in the United States, noting the country’s aging population. 


 He also warns that border enforcement may soon threaten the stability of Mexico and by extension U.S. national security. A dramatic reduction in Mexican immigration “would adversely affect the Mexican economy and also quite possibly Mexican political and social stability.” 


For Dunn, a human-rights framework for understanding and resolving the immigration problem leads to his support for an “open borders” position, albeit accompanied by an array of recommended policies that would regulate the push and pull factors driving immigration. 


Finally, he warns that growing border enforcement fetishism may lead to increased military involvement in policing at the border, which would have grave implications both for immigrants and citizens. The book’s last words commend “an active civil society on both sides of the border” as the best “remedy” against aggressive enforcement practices. 


How to Frame Policy Agenda: Citizen/National v. Human Rights/International 


Blockading the Border and Human Rights is an excellent starting place to examine the limits and possibilities of the sometimes competing frameworks of citizen rights and international human rights with respect to immigration policy. Dunn makes a strong case for the international human rights perspective. But what are the prospects of winning widespread public support for the type of traditionally progressive framework that Dunn advocates? 


According to Dunn:
“A broad human rights approach, ironically, offers the best prospect for enhanced national security at the border and beyond, as well as improved well-being more broadly. This entails reducing undocumented immigration through increased legal immigration opportunities to meet U.S. labor needs (and legalization of undocumented immigrants already here), really addressing key economic problems in migrant-sending countries, focusing on the lower and middle classes, and increasing worker protections and organizing in the United States.”
The deep economic recession and the accompanying massive job loss (which have occurred since Dunn’s book went to the publisher) make a human rights/open borders approach to border control and immigration policy much harder to sell to the U.S. public and policy community. 


One is left wondering, then, whether a progressive tweaking of the citizenship-national sovereignty might be a more pragmatic and hopeful option. It’s an open question, though, whether it’s possible to successfully frame progressive policy solutions -- including legalization, labor protections, full employment, more liberal political asylum and refugee policies, and less restrictive immigration visas – as being citizen-centered, focused on U.S. national interests, and at the same time respectful of civil and human rights.

With his meticulous research, abundant personal interviews, and thoughtful concluding remarks, Timothy Dunn provides the historical background we so badly need to help us in the search for border solutions not blockades.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Border Security and the Academy

Even before the March 2003 opening of the Department of Homeland Security plans were underway to involve universities in the new effort for homeland security. Congress, as part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, authorized the new department to “designate a university-based system for several university-based centers for homeland security.” Today, there is a network of universities that receives DHS funding to collaborate with the government to, as the act stipulated, “enhance the Nation’s homeland security.” It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement, with universities benefiting from large grants from a rapidly expanding part of the federal government and with the government benefiting from the sponsored research of hundreds of university scholars. But there has yet been no overall evaluation of how this DHS-academy cooperative venture – now six years old – has contributed to improving homeland security. Since the creation of DHS there have been rising questions and concerns about departmental operations, including issues of waste, over-reliance on private contractors, and widespread abuses and excesses in immigration enforcement and border control. Given the failures and controversies surrounding the department’s Secure Border Initiative – including the border fence and high-tech surveillance systems (“virtual fence”) – there is good cause to question the involvement of universities in the support and development of DHS border security infrastructure and strategies. The huge sums of DHS funds flowing to private contractors such as Boeing also raise questions about the degree to which research and education about border issues is shaped by monetary incentives. Within a historical context, the new relationships among government, industry, and the academy that have emerged after Sept. 11 as part of the Bush administration’s “global war against terrorism” are not dissimilar to the complex of government-business-military-university relationship that emerged as part of the cold war, what President Dwight Eisenhower termed the “military-industrial complex.” Centers of Excellence The new DHS-academy condominium includes “centers of excellence.” Today, there are 13 DHS university-based centers of excellence. Through DHS’s Science & Technology Directorate and the department’s Office of University Programs, DHS aims “to leverage the independent thinking and ground-breaking capabilities of the Nation's colleges and universities” with its centers of excellence. The newest DHS university research is the Center of Excellence in Command, Control and Interoperability (C2I), which is led by Purdue University and Rutgers University. According to DHS, this center will “create the scientific basis and enduring technologies needed to analyze massive amounts of information from multiple sources to more reliably detect threats to the security of the nation and its infrastructures, and to the health and welfare of its populace.” The August 10 visit of DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano to El Paso to meet with the and to speak at the 2009 Border Security Conference will likely highlight the role of one of these centers of excellence, namely the National Center for Border Security and Immigration. The leading university partners in NCBSI are the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) and the University of Arizona. According to UTEP’s border security center, it aims to “stimulate, coordinate, leverage, and utilize the unique intellectual capital in the academic community to address current and future homeland security challenges, and educate and inspire the next generation homeland security workforce.” What is more, the DHS-sponsored and financed center will “foster a homeland security culture within the academic community through research and educational programs.” DHS says that NCBSI is “developing technologies, tools, and advanced methods to balance immigration and commerce with effective border security, as well as assess threats and vulnerabilities, improve surveillance and screening, analyze immigration trends, and enhance policy and law enforcement efforts.” NCBSI was launched at the 2008 Border Security Conference at UTEP, a conference officially sponsored by Cong. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) and UTEP and financially sponsored by major military and security contractors, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics. Last year DHS provided UTEP a six-year $6 million grant to open the border security center. Also in 2008 UTEP landed a $1 million start-up grant from the Department of Defense to open its Center for Defense Systems Research. Although a DOD-financed center, CDSR also has a border security focus. Among the center’s partners are Customs and Border Protection, Electronic Warfare Solutions, and the major military contractor SAIC. Both NCBSI and CDSR were until recently headed by founding director Ret. Brig. Gen. Jose Riojas, who was named by the Obama administration for a position in Veteran Affairs. Both centers fall under UTEP’s Office for Strategic Initiatives. Before joining UTEP as vice-president for strategic initiatives, Riojas was commander of Joint Task Force North, headquartered at Ft. Bliss in El Paso. Also located at UTEP is another government-funded center of excellence – focusing on intelligence. It’s the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence, which is one of a network of university centers funded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Backed by a multimillion dollar grant from the Director of National Intelligence, this center of academic excellence aims to “build a workforce prepared for 21st Century challenges.” Next: DHS Feeds Booming Security/Defense Industry

Is There A Border Security Industrial Complex?

The Homeland Security Act of 2002 set in motion a security-focused approach to border and immigration issues. As part of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the post-Sept. 11 homeland security also gave birth to what some scholars and border observers are calling the “Border Security Industrial Complex.” The term, now used by border scholar Timothy Dunn and others, may at first seem overheated, a facile take-off on the concern that President Dwight Eisenhower expressed about the “military-industrial complex.” How, after all, does the expansion of the Border Patrol and border control infrastructure relate to the pervasive links between DOD and major military contractors like General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Boeing? And how is the Pentagon remotely comparable to the much smaller and less powerful DHS? Does this complex exercise a similar degree of influence in public life? As it turns out, the Border Security Industrial Complex, while not a term that slips off the tongue, has much in common with its older brother and is equally deserving of attention, concern and perhaps alarm. Eisenhower, upon concluding his presidency in 1961, warned: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.” While the term was original, the concept of a newly powerful complex of industrialists, politicians, and military leaders gaining control over foreign policy and economic priorities came from the radical sociologist C. Wright Mills, author of the influential 1956 book Power Elite. Along the southwestern U.S. border, the post-9/11 commitment to increased border security has spurred a major flow of federal dollars for newly fortified ports-of-entry, a tripling of Border Patrol agents, construction of border fences, deployment of high-tech surveillance infrastructure, and support of local law enforcement. Most of the funding influx comes from DHS, but Department of Justice and Pentagon programs have also contributed to the border security boom over the past eight years. In the borderlands, you cannot miss the border security build-up – which some observers note has served as a multibillion dollar economic stimulus to the poor region and others deprecate as militarization or a police state. Whatever one’s perspective, there is certainly a new border security complex that is changing life in the borderlands. But why the term “border security industrial complex”? That’s due to increasing concern that this complex is provides little real security, is skewed by corporate interests, and is exercising undue and unwarranted influence – much like the military-industrial complex. In the spirit of not taking anything for granted and not letting the weight of dollars “endanger our liberties and democratic process,” as Eisenhower so wisely cautioned, the possible rise of a border security industrial complex deserves examination. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano will be delivering an address at the 2009 Border Security Conference on August 11 at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). The conference will bring together politicians, high government officials, industry executives, and the academy – the same type of configuration that constituted the military-industrial complex. The conference’s financial sponsors are all high-tech defense and security industries, including Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and SAIC. Aside from organizing the annual border security conference, UTEP is also deeply involved in border security issues through its National Center for Border Security and Immigration and its Center for Defense Systems Analysis, the former funded by DHS and the latter by DOD. Next: Homeland Security and the Academy

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Snakehead -- Immigrant Smugglers and the American Dream

Book Review The Snakehead: An Epic Tale of the Chinatown Underworld and the American Dream By Patrick Radden Keefe Doubleday, 2009 For those accustomed to viewing the immigration issue through the prism of Latin American immigration flows, The Snakehead offers another perspective. Unlike traditional Latin American illegal immigration to the United States, Chinese illegal immigration has historically been arranged by smuggling operations. When the smuggling ship Golden Venture was caught on a shoal outside New York City in 1993, few immigration activists and advocates paid attention to the tragedy of the some 300 Chinese immigrants aboard who struggled ashore and then were immediately channeled into the government’s detention and deportation system. It’s an engaging story, skillfully and beautifully told by Radden Keefe. By no means does the author pose as an authority in immigration policy, but he does offer some helfpful observations in the book’s epilogue. He notes that most of the world’s international migrants “tend to venture from the preindustrial to the industrial, from the third world to the first.” Without explicitly pointing to the new trends in Latin American immigration to the United States, Radden Keefe observes that immigration and border control results in something of a paradox for immigration authorities: “[I]ntensified enforcement along the border has the perverse effect of bolstering the human smuggling trade, because when it becomes difficult for individuals to smuggle themselves into a country they are obliged to turn to the experts.” The author points to the need for international enforcement mechanisms against human smuggling, such as UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, with its 2004 Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea, and Air. Mexico is a signatory to the protocol, but has done little to halt the proliferation of organized human smuggling operations on its northern border. In Snakehead, Radden Keefe also stresses the need for a just and efficient political asylum system in the United States. Current regulations force petitioners for political asylum to endure lengthy periods in immigrant detention centers until their cases are decided. With more cases being decided negatively, asylum seekers are now routinely deported after months or even years in immigrant prisons. And as the pointedly observes, “[W]ithout some effort to oblige asylum officers and immigration judges to harmonize the bases upon which they will grant asylum, it appears that the fate of individuals seeking refuge in this country will continue to be determined not by any coherent policy or sense of justice but ultimately by the luck of the draw.” Unfortunately, this call for a fair asylum policy is not one that receives much attention in the debate for immigration reform. If you are looking for a book that is a enlightening and engaging trip into a unknown world – an underworld – The Snakehead is a good choice this summer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Border Security, Homeland Security, & Now "Community Security"

The immigration system was badly broken before it became the purview of the Department of Homeland Security. But now that immigration is the province of Homeland Security the challenge of getting immigration right has become much greater. No longer simply a matter of determining a regulatory system, the immigration crisis was considered a matter of national security. Within this new security context, the crackdown on immigration gained momentum and has proved more difficult to oppose. Over the past eight years the deepening crackdown on immigrants has evolved within this new security framework. One of the latest DHS initiatives, Secure Communities, builds on the overblown association of immigrants and security threats. Created in the wake of Sept. 11 to better protect the country against attacks by foreign terrorists, DHS now believes it is also responsible for community security. It’s the latest case of mission creep at DHS. DHS, through its immigration and border control agencies, has in the last eight years mounted an array of initiatives—including Operation Community Shield, the 287(g) program, National Fugitive Operations, and Secure Communities, which promise to increase public safety by joining with local police to target immigrants. The Secure Communities program highlights four fundamental trends in immigration enforcement: 1. Increasing merger of criminal and immigration law enforcement. 2. Rapid expansion of federal/local partnerships in immigration enforcement. 3. Spearheading the use of identification technology across the spectrum of law enforcement agencies. 4. Evolving justifications and mission goals for a crackdown on immigrants, both on the border and in the country's interior—including protecting national security, upholding "rule of law," enforcing immigration law and controlling the border as preconditions for comprehensive reform, and, most recently, securing communities. These four trends embodied in the Secure Communities program raise concerns about the new directions of immigration enforcement, including the following: * Categorization of increasing numbers of immigrants, legal and illegal, as "criminal aliens" to increase immigrant removals, when most do not represent a threat to public safety. * Clogging the already overburdened criminal justice system with immigrant prosecutions. * Loss of community trust in local law enforcement and resulting threat to public safety as police become instruments of immigration enforcement. * Undermining individual privacy and rights, as government extends data-mining and identity checks without any clear focus either on real national security or public safety threats. * The deepening and expansion of the immigration enforcement apparatus without any accompanying commitment to immigration policy reform. * Rapid expansion of the Department of Homeland Security without a clear focus on protecting the country against truly dangerous people. The TransBorder Project of the Americas Program at the Center for International Policy details the problems and dangers of Secure Communities in a new policy report titled “Community Security” Mission Creep, and sets for policy recommendations for a more responsible immigration enforcement policy. This is the third policy report on related themes of immigration enforcement. Also see: Immigrant Crackdown Joins Failed Wars on Crime and Drugs, and Restoring Integrity to the Immigration System.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Responsibility and False Hope from Obama Administration

Responsibility. That’s been a central message of the Obama candidacy and presidency. After the Bush years of government irresponsibility, special-interest policies, and ideologically driven wars and federal programs, Americans were ready for Obama’s promised “new era of responsibility.” But responsibility is a loaded term in the country’s political lexicon, and most often it’s associated with more with charges that social problems stem from individual irresponsibility than with an evaluation of the government’s responsibility to institute and enforce laws that improve social well-being. Unfortunately, and perhaps predictably, the Obama administration has too often stressed the ideologically conservative message of responsibility – that is, individual responsibility, as distinct from social/governmental responsibility. This is especially true with respect to immigration. Rather than state clearly that the immigration crisis – namely an unsustainable system of immigration flows – is primarily the responsibility of the U.S. government and society, the Obama administration has deepened its commitment to enforcement policies that places the responsibility for the plight of the country’s 11 million (and declining) unauthorized immigrants primarily on the immigrants themselves. They broke the law by accepting work and working hard as business employees and household service workers. For the past few decades, the government has tolerated an immigration policy that is patently broken. Immigrants flowed into the country at increasing rates to fill jobs and to create small businesses, thereby helping the economy grow, as immigrants always have. But rather than reciprocating by offering legal status for these new workers and society members, government and business maintained an immigration enforcement system that kept these immigrants in the shadow of the law. Nor has government acted responsibility by proactively created a new immigration policy. Decade after decade, Congress and the White House have neglected their responsibility to back an immigration reform that would take immigration flows out of the shadows by creating systems that would be more responsible to the labor market, that would be more protective of workers, and that would acknowledge and legally integrate immigrants who are clearly constructive members of U.S. society. Responsibility is more about ethics than about law. By insisting that the government has the responsibility to enforce the law by detaining and deporting illegal immigrants, the Obama administration, like its predecessor administration, is justifying the immigrant crackdown in the name of the “rule of law.” If the administration were truly honest and responsible, Obama and DHS Secretary Napolitano would tell citizens and noncitizens alike that a broken law and failed system should not be used to disrupt society, divide communities, and break families. It is irresponsible. What’s more, it is not economically sustainable. In the past eight years the federal government has tripled the immigration enforcement and border control budget, spending tens of billions on creating an immigrant gulag of prisons, creating a police state in the northern and southern borderlands, and unleashing more than an hundred teams of immigration raiders. Not a responsible use of federal dollars, especially at a time when so many people are desperately in the need of work and government assistance. The Bush administration mounted the immigrant crackdown in response to the demands of the anti-immigrant zealots of the Republican Party and on trumped-up national security grounds. In contrast, the Obama administration in continuing the crackdown (with only slight fixes) while ignoring the reform demands from the Democratic Party’s grassroots progressive base and dressing the enforcement-first regime in ethics-free “rule of law” rhetoric. Get used to it. The immigrant crackdown has been institutionalized. President Obama and other Democratic Party leaders may in their heart of hearts believe that immigration reform that takes unauthorized immigrations out of the shadows would be best for the country and even best for the party. But they don’t now have – and show no signs of gaining – the political will and conviction to call an end to “enforcement first” practices and push through the kind of responsible, ethical reform law that is so badly needed. A steady attrition of the immigrant population is the result. It was part of the strategic plan of the immigration restrictionists, and has in effect become the law of the land. Immigrants without the requisite papers will for the foreseeable future need to seek temporary refuge in the diminishing shadows. Ideologues and conservatives are no longer running the immigration system. Lawyers and liberals are in charge, preaching systematic enforcement while offering false hope.