News Analysis/Commentary, Peter Dale Scott,
New America Media, Jan 31, 2006
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.
BERKELEY, Calif.--A Halliburton subsidiary has just received
a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to provide
"temporary detention and processing capabilities."
kbrThe 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
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
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.
Scott is author of "Drugs, Oil, and War: The United
States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina" (Rowman & Littlefield,
2003). He is completing a book on "The Road to 9/11." Visit his Web
Copyright © 2004 Pacific News Service
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