Tag Archives: Jeremy Scahill

Border Residents Fight Back Against Surreal Border Fence Boondoggle

Two fine articles in Truthout this morning.

Cusack’s War, Inc.

Border Communities Sue

and one cool Youtube story (TYT) on the border fence

Border Fence story

In the first article, Jeremy Scahill writes abut John Cusack’s latest film War inc., a MASH-like social satire on the corporatization of the Iraq war.  The second article is about Peter Schey seeking a preliminary injunction at the border for border towns suing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Bush Administration over construction of the border fence, which is being built in an illegal, arrogant and stupid way. 

The border spectacle connects both articles because Cusack’s War, Inc., could easily have a sequel called, The Border, Inc. Same patterns, different locale.

The Texas lawsuit argues that Bush is making unconstitutional use of eminent domain by building the fence on the property of dozens of border residents, some of whom have had the land in their families for more than 250 years since receiving a land grant from the spanish viceroy.  DHS is forcing people off their land without consultation, providing just compensation or fair process.

Not only is Michael Chertoff and Bushco cavalierly disregarding the constitution, they are doing so to advance the interests of Boeing, its subsdiary– Power Contracting, and Republican donors Sundt Construction, and Kiewit Brothers.  Sundt is known for having built the secretive Los Alamos, and Kiewit built the secretive NSA facility at Fort Gordon.  Since the Army Corps of Engineer contracts with these companies could be revoked upon the inauguration of a new president, the administration is in a  mad rush to finish doling out contracts and sinking financial,  administrative infrastructure costs before the end of the year, personal and public property be damned. 

Consider this. Bushco is not even eviscerating the constitution for its own misguided principles: unitary executive or other wacko, unconstitutional neocon stuff, but rather, it is using its unitary powers thesis to advance the cause of its corporate cronies, buds, donors, and friends.  Payola and Payback on the most grotesque scale.

And once again, livelihoods and human lives are disregarded along the way.



Blackwater leaves Potrero Plans in Dust, but Blackwaterization to Continue

The San Diego Union Tribune reports today that Blackwater has decided to pull its plans to set up a base camp in Potrero, near San Diego. News that Blackwater may not set up shop on this former chicken camp, does not mean Blackwater is not coming to the border. All it means is that Blackwater didn’t expect all the negative publicity and local resistance that awaited it in Potrero. Next time beware a much more clandestine operation.

Nothing has changed about Blackwater’s plan to expand its private security forces in the US. And nothing has changed about its plans to bring its private “war on terror” home to the U.S., and intertwine it with immigration control, five years after Paul Wolfowitz first positioned the “home-front” as the first defense against terrorism.

It still makes sense that the private war that followed the troops to Iraq is now establishing a paramilitary infrastructure on domestic turf. Author Jeremy Scahill notes that Blackwater is “looking for a lucrative domestic opportunity,” and San Diego Congressman Bob Filner’s recent comment to the Salon article that Blackwater is positioning itself to move into the border security business, remains on point. Keep in mind Jeremy Scahill found that Blackwater made an application in early 2005 “to serve as a force to deal with immigration and border security.”

Blackwater remains symbolic of a much larger immigration industrial complex, privatizing decades of border militarization and low intensity conflict that as author Tim Dunn has documented, has been waged against border crossers and residents since the 1970s. I would also contend that Blackwater remains part of a post-9/11 neo-liberal regime that is designed to re-territorialize and privatize the war on terror on the domestic front. The immigration industrial complex, with Blackwater quickly taking the lead, figures prominently in what Naomi Klein refers to as neo-liberal shock therapy, which is undemocratic to its core.

Testing Obama on Boeing’s Border Folly

How quick will it take the next administration to undo the doctrinaire free market ideology of Bush & Co.?
Under a McCain administration, it is likely to take 100 years, at least.

Under Obama? A good question. During last week’s debate in Austin, his responses (along with Clinton’s) to the immigration questions seemed unsettlingly sympathetic to using technology as a palliative for border control woes.

The problem is that border control technologies– such as the virtual fence–are a product of military contractors who are privatizing the border just as they have privatized war in iraq.

Further, a post by Jeremy Scahill in the Nation suggests Obama is not opposed to continuing the sort of private security force that Blackwater is angling to provide at the border, perhaps headquartered near San Diego.

And, today’s headline in the Washington Post about delaying the border’s “virtual fence,” provides an opportunity for Obama to think more about border contol issues.

The virtual fence folly is a prime example of free market ideology run amuck.

Today’s Washington Post reports that the “virtual fence” will be delayed 3 years because it “did not work as planned.” WaPo reports that DHS cites technical problems for its decision to remove control over Project 28 from Boeing, which requires the project to be redesigned.

Keeping in mind the corruption and fraud that has seeped into many privatized DHS projects lately, things must really be bad down there with Project 28, just south of Tucson, for DHS to reassert its control over Boeing.

For some background, consider a Wall Street Journal report last August:

Boeing Co. has changed the management of an electronic-surveillance project along the U.S.-Mexican border after falling more than two months behind schedule, marking the complications involved in setting up a new generation of border security.

The project, part of a larger Department of Homeland Security program called SBInet, is a critical link in the plan to use technology to monitor the borders for illegal immigrants, drug smugglers and possible terrorists. Towers set up along a stretch of the border near Nogales, Ariz., are supposed to use motion sensors, cameras and radar to keep track of wide areas. According to the government, Boeing has had trouble getting the different components to work together without glitches.

The government’s plans for monitoring as much as 6,000 miles of the Canadian and Mexican borders hinge on towers such as these working properly. If they prove ineffective, officials could be forced to spend billions of dollars for more traditional security measures, such as fences and more officers. The Homeland Security Department currently estimates that the virtual fence will cost about $8 billion through 2013, although the agency’s inspector general wrote last November that the cost could balloon to $30 billion.

This is the second delay for a relatively new project (the first was announced last June), launched after Boeing was awarded the government contract, September 2006. To et the contract, Boeing was supposed to have answered questions about the very real problems it has faced since the day after the ontract was awarded.

Project 28 (the pilot project), now delayed 3 years, was initially supposed to have been completed by mid June ’07. A spring ’07 GAO report on the virtual fence predicted the delays, reporting both expected and unexpected problems with implementing the virtual fence. According to the GAO, “virtual fence” cameras can’t tell the difference between immigrants and the rain, and couldn’t detect anything more than 5 kms away, which violates the Boeing contract.

Problems for border security and the taxpayer, nonetheless amount to a boondoggle for Boeing, particularly given Boeing’s “indefinite delivery” contract. Tax revenues fuel an over-bloated DHS budget, which then outsources its government responsibilities for homeland security, to such military contractors as Boeing. Delays and (temporary) loss of control over Project 28 don’t interfere with the Boeing award.

No such thing as failure in this privatized system. Consider the following investigation by Joseph Richey of the Nation Institute,

Since Boeing won the contract last year, the estimated cost of securing the southwest border has gone from $2.5 billion to an estimated $8 billion just a few months later. When Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter asked SBInet Director Giddens for the real costs at a February 2007 hearing of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee, Giddens replied: “I wish I could answer that with greater clarity.”

At the same Congressional hearings, Boeing vice president and SBInet program manager, Jerry McElwee, took heat from Congressman William Lacy Clay who demanded information about the ballooning costs and the extension of the contract period. “You bid on these contracts and then you come back and say, ‘Oh we need more time. It costs more than twice as much.’ Are you gaming the taxpayers here? Or gaming DHS?” the Missouri Democrat asked.

DHS’s own inspector general, Richard Skinner, says that the Boeing contract is in the “high-risk” category for waste and abuse because of its scope, its dollar value, and “the vulnerabilities stemming from the lack of acquisition management capacity.”

Indeed, nothing could be better for business at Boeing than a 3 year delay. More government revenues and profits, rather than more oversight and accountability. And as Richey, shows, Congress, sadly, was aware of and did nothing about the fleecing, which goes to show how privatization ideologies are shared by Democrats as well as Republicans.

So, the question for Obama, assuming he becomes the nominee, regarding his commitment to deprivatize America, is whether he would terminate the Boeing contract, and other similar ones that now frame immigration control policy. Further, as president, would he overhaul the hollowed out DHS that seems to favor tis way of conducting business?

“Yes We Can” presumes the unprivatizing of America, which ought to start at our borders with the virtual fence.

Washington Post, “Virtual Fence’ Along Border To Be Delayed”