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September 08, 2005

Next Katrina: Privatized Army Base Security

Around the country, it turns out that the private security firm Wackenhut, using a cynical alliance with an Alaskan Native Corporation, has taken over security at army bases from regular military police and the results have not been pretty.

A new report, with testimony from the new private security guards themselves prepared by the Service Employees International Union, reveals a litany of security dangers that leave soldiers – and sensitive military installations – vulnerable to potential threats.

These include:

• Felons were granted access to base facilities before they had security clearances.
• Guards were forced to use rusted weapons and old ammunition.
• Broken gates, no searchlights and old radios with dead batteries.

There were complaints in 2003 when the government decided that they would hand security at our army bases over to private rent-a-cops, and even more when the contracts were handed out in no-bid deals.

Here's how the game worked. Officially, the Army awarded the base contracts to Alutiiq, a minority-owned firm in Alaska. But Atlutiiq then subcontracted most of the work to multinational security firm, Wackenhut, who have a consistent record of mismanagment of other facilities, including nuclear facilities where Wackenhut has a record of ignoring security concerns raised by both the public and its own guards.

As I say below, Katrina is the result of Bush systematically dismantling the government's civil service in favor of cronies and private contractors. All of these folks are loyal not to the American people but to the political needs of Bush or to their own economic self-interest. And the result is inevitably the endangerment of public safety.

This is the challenge to the Left. Not just demanding accountability for Katrina, but looking systematically at every vulnerable facility or area in the country, and highlighting the hacks and scoundrels Bush has put in charge of our security.

Because SEIU has labor disputes with Wackenhut, they've put the energy into exposing these other problems with the company, so it's a great place to start the investigation. Check out their Eye on Wackenhut site for more.

In the context of Katrina, Dana Milibank also has this story about how private security guards from Wackenhut blocking press access to an HHS building, despite a decision by HHS officials to give them access. As Milbank said, "Thus was the true hierarchy within the federal government revealed: DHS outranks the White House, and Wackenhut trumps them all."

Which of course is no joke. Of course, the private corporate donors to the GOP, who loot the public treasury through their privatization deals, outrank the White House. As with any feudal system, it's the folks with the money who run the system. Government officials, and that applies to Bush, are only their useful vassals.

And the losers are the public who have to live -- and die -- based on the competence of folks like Wackenhut who have been entrusted with the security of our most vulnerable facilities.

Posted by Nathan at September 8, 2005 09:26 AM