Military Insiders and War Profiteers Will Be Reviewing Private Prisons for Homeland Security

Jerri-Lynn here. The Department of Justice received considerable plaudits in August when it announced a decision not to renew contracts with private prison companies. At the time, a Marshall Project analysis made it clear that significance of that decision was overstated, as it only affected about 15% of inmates held in private prisons. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) holds roughly 50% more prisoners in private facilities than does the DoJ, and the combined figure for states is about three times the DHS figure.

The DoJ’s decision followed a report by its Inspector General to examine how the DoJ’s Bureau of Prisons monitors the facilities. Warning: the report’s analysis of the appalling conditions in prisons operated by private companies does not make for easy reading.

The DoS’s decision has led some states, and now the DHS, to respond. The DHS on Monday announced the launch of a review of its use of for-profit immigrant detention enters. Despite its polemical tone, this AlterNet piece is well-supported and provides considerable raw material for assessing just one example of the conflicts of interest that have became the norm in the making of American public policy– and calls into question just how objective this review will be.

I particularly applaud the author’s decision to include in her piece the full membership of the Advisory Council that will decide whether the DHS should follow the DoJ and various states and phase-out its reliance on private operators. Members of the defense, security, and police establishments are well-represented on this body, but there is not a single individual or organization included that advocates for the people who might find themselves in these detention facilities. I would not have believed how one-sided the membership was without seeing for myself the list of the council’s membership.

By Sarah Lazare, who is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare. Cross posted from Alternet.

The DHS declared on Monday that it will review its widespread use of for-profit immigrant detention centers, in what amounts to an implied acknowledgment that human rights abuses plague its prisons, some of which house mothers with their children.

If the announcement translates into meaningful action, it could help chip away at the political power of a private prison industry that has aggressively lobbied for harsh immigration policies, including the congressional immigrant detention quota, which today directs Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold an average of 34,000 people in detention on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the announcement left many wondering whether the federal agency will also revisit mass detentions and deportations of refugees, immigrants and migrants, which have soared to record levels under the administration of President Barack Obama.

However, a critical aspect of the DHS announcement has gone overlooked. The federal agency’s plan is contingent on a review process initiated by the so-called “Homeland Security Advisory Council.” Here is what DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said that process will look like:

On Friday, I directed our Homeland Security Advisory Council, chaired by Judge William Webster, to evaluate whether the immigration detention operations conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement should move in the same direction. Specifically, I have asked that Judge Webster establish a Subcommittee of the Council to review our current policy and practices concerning the use of private immigration detention and evaluate whether this practice should be eliminated. I asked that the Subcommittee consider all factors concerning ICE’s detention policy and practice, including fiscal considerations.

The Advisory Council that will steer this process is a roll call of war profiteers, torture defenders, human rights abusers and private sector heavyweights. Meanwhile, as Bob Libal, the executive director of the advocacy organization Grassroots Leadership, noted in an interview with AlterNet, “There is a severe lack of any immigrant or immigrant advocacy representation on the committee. I don’t think there is anyone who has been impacted by detention, let alone private detention.”

Webster, the only person to have served as the director of both the FBI and the CIA, played a critical role during the late 1980s in covering up the Iran Contra scandal. He later founded the mercenary company Diligence, which provided security for corporations that profited off of the U.S. occupation of Iraq post-2003, before retiring as a partner of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP.

The vice chair of the council is NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton, a nationally influential architect of draconian “broken windows” policing who recently warned of unspecified terror threats to wrangle large purchases of military-style gear for his department. Bratton’s career includes extensive ties with corporate surveillance firms that have sparked accusations of conflicts of interest. Bratton recently announced that, in September, he will step down in September from his position at the helm of the NYPD and will be taking a lucrative private security with the Teneo Holdings firm.

Retired Marine General John Kelly is also included on the council. As chief of U.S. Southern Command, he vigorously defended U.S. torture of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, including advocating force feeding of prisoners on hunger strike as recently as 2014. Before that position, he served in high-ranking posts overseeing the occupation of Iraq. Kelly is not the only council member to serve as a general who enforced U.S. occupation. Retired Marine general John Allen, also included on the council, oversaw the occupation of Afghanistan and, more recently, the nebulous U.S. war against ISIS.

The council also includes many who have built their careers and fortunes off of profits from U.S. wars and conflicts. Thad Allen is the current executive vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, a mercenary and private intelligence contracting company that, notably, has won lucrative contracts from DHS. Norman Augustine is the retired chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp, the largest weapons company in the world.

The council even includes Chuck Canterbury, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police who has emerged as a prominent advocate of a change in federal law to make attacks on police hate crimes. Michael Nutter, the former mayor of Philadelphia who oversaw the gutting and privatization of the city’s public school system, is also included among the council’s members.

It is too soon to determine what the subcommittee, to be appointed by the advisory council, will find during its review process, and human rights campaigners like Libal are still holding out hope that the body will strike a blow against the power of the private prison industry. But at the very least, Johnson’s announcement sheds light on the revolving door between the DHS and powerful players in the mercenary sector, law enforcement and military.

According to Johnson, “a subcommittee of the HSAC will undertake this review, and the full HSAC will provide to me and the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement its written report of its evaluation no later than November 30, 2016.”

The statement indicates that, once the review takes place, key decision-making power will rest with Johnson, who has overseen an escalation in raids and deportations this summer targeting refugees fleeing Central America, including teenagers on their way to school and children as young as four.

The full membership of the Advisory Council is as follows:

William Webster (Chair)- Retired Partner, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, LLP
Commissioner William Bratton (Vice Chair) – Police Commissioner, City of New York
Art Acevedo – Chief of Police, Austin Police Department, Texas
Steve Adegbite – Chief Information Security Officer, E*TRADE Financial Corp.
John R. Allen – General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
Thad W. Allen- Executive Vice President, Booz|Allen|Hamilton
Norman Augustine- Retired Chairman and CEO, Lockheed Martin Corp.
Ron Barber- Consultant for Government Relations, Policy Analysis, Legislative Advocacy and Customer Relations, Public and Private entities
Chuck Canterbury- National President, The Fraternal Order of Police
Richard Danzig- Senior Advisor, John Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
Elaine C. Duke- Principal, Elaine Duke & Associates, LLC
Marshall Fitz- Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress
Paul Goldenberg- President and CEO, Cardinal Point Strategies, LLC
Lee H. Hamilton- Director, Center on Congress, Indiana University
Jane Harman, President and CEO, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Elizabeth Holtzman- Co-chair, Herrick’s Government Relations Group,
Jim Jones, Chairman- ManattJones Global Strategies
Juliette Kayyem- Founder of Juliette Kayyem Solutions, LLC
Gary Kelly- President and CEO, Southwest Airlines
John Kelly- General, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret.)
Carie A. Lemack- Cofounder and CEO of DreamUp
Wilson Livingood- President and Partner, Livingood Advisors, LLC
Jane Holl Lute- Special Coordinator on Improving United Nations Response to sexual exploitation and abuse
John Magaw- Consultant, Domestic and International
Christian Marrone- CoS to the CEO, VP of Government Relations, CSRA Inc.
David Martin- Professor of International Law- University of Virginia School of Law
Jeffrey Miller- Senior Vice President, MSA Security
Jeff Moss- Founder of Black Hat and DEF CON Conferences
Dr. Ned Norris Jr.- Former Chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation
Michael Nutter- Former Mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mathew Olsen- President of Consulting and Co-Founder, IronNet Cybersecurity
Farah Pandith- Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Annise Danette Parker- Former Mayor, City of Houston, Texas
John S. Pistole- President, Anderson University
Robert Rose- Senior Advisor to the CEO, Securonix
Harold A. Schaitberger- General President, International Association of Firefighters
Ali H. Soufan- Chairman and CEO, The Soufan Group LLC
Paul Stockton- Managing Director, Sonecon LLC
Karen Tandy- Administrator (Ret.), Drug Enforcement Administration
Lydia W. Thomas- Retired President and CEO, Noblis, Inc.

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  1. cocomaan

    Bizarre. The list of people in particular.

    I looked up Jane Holl Lute because of her enormous title.

    She was Deputy Sec of Homeland Security for four years under Obama. She’s had a number of other appointments having to do with cyber security, relocation of Iraqi refugees, and other posts.

    I have to say, I see no accomplishments in her record that have anything to do with sexual abuse, which is rampant in our prison system. The report itself up top is pretty scant on details of sexual assaults. Check out the reporting system for staff sexual assaults of inmate:

    Contract prisons and BOP institutions are required to report all allegations of staff sexual misconduct to the OIA. The OIA then notifies the OIG Investigations Division about the allegations, and the OIG decides which it should investigate and which should be referred back to the OIA for investigation or delegation to institutional staff to investigate.

    I’m sure these numbers are super accurate and that Jane will be able to accurately assess everything from her seat in the UN.

  2. ColdWarVet

    The new American dream: a solitary prison cell of one’s very own, where one can be tortured, humiliated, and otherwise mistreated in the sanctity and privacy of one’s very own… “home.” Who said the dream is dead?

  3. Jim Haygood

    “What are their names, and on what streets do they live?” — David Crosby

    Doug Casey, a child of Washington-insider elite privilege, provides a low-orbital view of the whole reeking dungheap:

    Nobody knows how big the Pentagon’s, or China’s, or Russia’s, or whoever’s, budgets really are. That’s just the “official” number, which doesn’t include quasi-military spending outside of the Department of Defense. Here, I’m thinking of Homeland Security, “black ops” slush funds, the Department of Energy where a lot of nuclear spending goes, NASA, CIA, and dozens of other ratholes that disguise the real budget. U.S. military spending could easily be over the $1 trillion mark. It’s clear the Pentagon itself doesn’t know.

    In fact, nobody seems to know how much money is being spent or where it goes. I remember Rumsfeld once remarking, years ago, that they couldn’t find $2 trillion—but there was never a scandal, or even an attempt to find it. The news cycle just went on to the Kardashians or whatever. Now, according to the Office of the Inspector General, at least $6.5 trillion can’t be accounted for. And probably never will be. This is a truly unbelievable number. How dysfunctional has the system become that numbers like that can be dropped with impunity? World War 2 was only supposed to have cost $341 billion 1945 dollars…

    Even though the law requires annual audits of all federal agencies, the Pentagon never complies. They just tell Congress that the books are such a mess, they can’t give accurate numbers. No matter; nobody is shutting down the Pentagon. The Pentagon—which is to say the military-industrial complex—is at once so sacrosanct, so gigantic, and so corrupt that nobody dares get to the bottom of it.

    1. Tony Butka

      I seem to remember a study a year or so ago about what percentage of the Federal budget goes towards this stuff — black budgets, offloaded private contractors, all the alphabet soup homeland security etc. Does anyone know of a source?

        1. Lord Koos

          Thanks for the link. It’s interesting that the intelligence agencies are spending $20 billion on “Warning U.S. leaders about critical events”, but only a third of that on “Stopping spread of illicit weapons”.

    2. JTMcPhee

      I recall a couple of mythical fables that might be instructive: the one about cleaning out the Augean Stables, and the one about undoing the Gordian Knot. And maybe the ones about how to slay the Hydra, and that demigodess with the snakes for hair that could turn you to stone with a look in her eyes… But of course there are no Heraklian heroes around any more to do stuff like that — just bureaucrats and seat-fillers and sneaky bastards with briefcases and pallets full of $cash$, all in on the game. And us mopes make it all possible, by doing what we have to do every day to make the Real Economy and the Political Economy generate wealth for the Fokkers and Fuggers to divert to their set of games (that of course appear to be genetically coded into a large proportion of us humans, the “sharp” ones,” the ones that aren’t what FIREmen call “muppets” and “dumb money…”

    3. cnchal

      . . . Office of the Inspector General, at least $6.5 trillion can’t be accounted for. And probably never will be. This is a truly unbelievable number.

      To make it more believable, imagine lining up end to end along Interstate 80 from New York to San Francisco, 14,000 + Nimitz class aircraft carriers that $6.5 trillion represents.

      From an economic point of view, money spent on the military is almost totally wasted. It’s worse than money spent to dig holes during the day and then fill them in again at night—at least that does no actual damage. The “product” of the military is killing people and destroying property. . .

      Almost? Every dollar spent on the military should be subtracted from GDP three times over. Once for making the stuff, twice for using the stuff, and three times to represent the loss of the labor put into creating the stuff that what was destroyed.

      Are we at negative GDP yet?

      1. abynormal


        go team usa

    4. human

      Rumsfeld held a press conference on September 10, 2001. He announced that the Pentagon could not then account for some $2.1T and that another $1T was suspect. On September 11, 2001 he was photographed jauntily carrying a piece of debris from that days events which coincidentally found the audit departments location to bear the brunt of the damage to the building.

      As a friend of mine was fond of saying, “More gin, less Rummy.”

  4. JamesG

    Another view from a piece by Megan McArdle:

    ” … I actually spoke to some defense attorneys, in Hawaii and the District of Columbia, and it turned out that some inmates actually prefer private prisons — even though in the case of Hawaii, that means a long plane trip to the mainland for family who might want to visit you. Why? Because the mainland private prison wasn’t as overcrowded as the one in Hawaii. They could have televisions in their cells. It had a nice area that allowed “contact visits” — where you can sit down with your family members instead of talking to them across a glass window — with vending machines where they could buy snacks, and, as one attorney put it, “Have a little picnic.” Here in Washington, a friend who’s a public defender told me, the private prison is right next to the public prison, and there was a period of time where the public one ended visits (which are quite expensive for the prison), and the private one let them go on.

    “That’s not a slam-dunk case in favor of private prisons, of course, but as someone who favors incarceration reform, it seems to me that we should care what the prisoners prefer. And from what I can gather, it’s not clear that prisoners view private prisons as worse than public ones, though they’re not really overfond of either.”

    1. Felix_47

      I treat prison patients all the time. They often violate parole to get Hep C treatment or total joints or just Percocet for their aches and pains

    2. TomDority

      Private jail for profit – what could go wrong? It is so obvious that less than honest deals were worked out so that private prison profits were guaranteed by the public. Its the same profit guarantee that ensures health insurance companies profits under (jeez..I’ll say it) Obamacare. Its the same reason more private contractors were in Iraq with immunity than our own troops who died for a fabricated war (Thanks to those jackasses and cowards Bush and his team).
      It is the same reason so many in top positions within the administrations recently, those that hold these important positions have absolutely failed upward – they are miserable miscreants who do not care if their public failures and policies have caused death, depression, loss of freedoms, intrusions upon liberties etc. For the only place they have not failed is – in bringing privatization to that which never should be entrusted to private concerns. The same program is used, deliberately undermine that sector of the commons that one wishes to undermine then, go through the revolving door to the private sector crapification ya just enabled.

      Literally, what could be worse than privatizing prison, war, security……private prison only means more locked up people more profit, privatize war and to profit more you make more war, privatize security and you incentive(ize) it.

      Look at the politicians playing the fear card….like their job is to protect me instead of upholding the constitution. I will not vote for anyone who runs on protecting me…as if I am a coward and, why would I vote for a chicken little coward. You got Clinton stoking fear of Trump, Russians (lol) and terror. And, Trump stoking fear of Mexicans (sort of) and who knows what else.
      What a choice we voters have – With politicians like these…who needs enemies.
      I apologize for the extensive rambling rant.

      Its dispicable

      1. Nelson Lowhim

        It is interesting to think of our current corp of leaders are looking to only protect us (and from one of the many threats to us, and a weak threat at that) from some faceless horde. A protection racket for us all. Maybe something like serfdom?

  5. Otis B Driftwood

    Ironically, founding partner of Webster’s law firm, John J McCloy, was Assistant Secretary of War during WWII and chief architect of the Japanese-American internment program.

    1. Jacob

      John J. McCloy was a prominent Wall Street attorney in addition to working with the OSS and CIA. He, along with Allen Dulles, was largely responsible for allowing most of the WWII Nazi corporate leaders and high-level politicians to escape prosecution for war crimes. There are articles about him online. He died some years ago, so any currently high-placed McCloy is probably one of his offspring.

  6. HotFlash

    And I looked up Elaine C. Duke. I am sure there is more, but this is what her bio reads at GTSCoalition “Our vision is to provide an ethical, effective platform for information exchange between the public and private sector on homeland and national security ideas, technologies and innovations that will achieve mission.”

    We’re doomed.

  7. Isolato

    We might also remember that the DOJ announced to great fanfare that they were ending the asset forfeiture program. Three months later the exquisitely named “Equitable Sharing ” was reinstated as local police departments screamed at the loss of revenue. Talk about “policing for profit”…this program seized more assets than all property crimes combined. I await the reversal of the private prison decision momentarily…because…profit.

  8. Watt4Bob

    The name Jane Harmon jumps out at me do to the efforts of Sibel Edmonds;

    From Boiling Frogs

    The Marriage from Hell: Jane Harman & the Woodrow Wilson Center”

    Sibel Edmonds, you may remember, is the FBI whistle-blower who has become the most censored person in the US for her reporting on highly placed government officials traitorous behavior in the run-up to the Iraq War.

    Harman would persuade the Justice Department to reduce the charges against Rosen and Weissman; in exchange, AIPAC and its influential supporters would persuade then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to reappoint the unpopular Harman as top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.Harman apparently promised the “Israeli agent” to “waddle into” the AIPAC scandal “if you think it’ll make a difference.” Harman ended the exchange with “this conversation doesn’t exist.”

    The Justice Department and CIA wanted to prosecute Harman. But Alberto Gonzales, President Bush’s Attorney General, reportedly refused because – ironically – he “needed Jane” to support the government’s ongoing warrantless wiretapping program.

    Jane Harmon and Dennis Hastert were a couple of the people that Sibel Edmonds threatened to expose as illegal agents of foreign governments. (Israel and Turkey)

    This was while she was working for the FBI as an interpreter, and over-heard, and transcribed wire-tapped conversations involving among other things, Hastert’s involvement in transfer of our country’s nuclear secrets to a foreign country , and warning Turkish co-conspirators to stay away from doing business with Valerie Plame’s cover-company because it was a CIA trap.

    Remember Valerie Plame’s career was fighting nuclear proliferation.

    From the BradBlog;

    On April 10, 2009, The Hill reported that the Former Speaker of the House was contracted to lobby for Turkey. The Justice Department record on this deal indicates that Hastert will now be “principally involved” on a $35,000-a-month contract providing representation for Turkish interests. That seems to be the current arrangement for those serving foreign interests while on the job in Congress — to be paid at a later date, collecting on their IOU’s when they secure their positions with ‘the foreign lobby.’

    It’s truly depressing to learn how completely entrenched the evil bastards are in every nook and cranny of the systems of control and repression.

    1. Watt4Bob

      From The American Conservative;

      Perhaps more disturbing, Edmonds describes a number of failures to appreciate significant intelligence that might have enabled the government to foil 9/11, all part and parcel of a pervasive underlying narrative of espionage and corruption by high level government officials, both appointed and elected.

      She names names at the bureau, in Congress, and also at the State Department and Pentagon, including Congressmen Dennis Hastert, Dan Burton, Roy Blunt, Bob Livingston, Stephen Solarz, and Tom Lantos. She also fingers Douglas Feith, who headed the Office of Special Plans at the Pentagon, and Marc Grossman, who was the third ranking official at the State Department.

      Per Edmonds, all were part of the vast criminal enterprise that stole U.S. defense secrets, diverted weapons sales through false end-user certificates, participated in drug trafficking, and engaged in money laundering and bribery.

      The epicenter of the activity was Turkey and its major affiliates in the U.S., the American Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, which were two of the targets that Edmonds worked on, but she also learned that there was a parallel organization in Israel which cooperated with the Turks, most particularly on illegal weapons sales and technology transfers.

      Chicago was a focal point for the Turkish efforts, apparently due to good access to then House Speaker Hastert. The Israelis and Turks between them operated a number of front companies and had agents reporting to them who provided information from inside top secret nuclear weapons labs.

      Most of the buyers for the technology and weapons were governments in Asia, though there was at least one non-state player that might have had connections with terrorist groups.

  9. Propertius

    Military Insiders and War Profiteers Will Be Reviewing Private Prisons for Homeland Security

    Seems to me that the only way they could do this fairly would be to take up residence there.

    I approve.

  10. sharonsj

    I went to the DHS web site to see if there was a way to contact the Advisory Council. There isn’t. I assume one would have to track down each member and take it from there. Has anyone started a petition about this entire mess?

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