Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Halliburton to build mass detention centers in the US

Halliburton was recently awarded a $385 million contract to build mass detention centers in the US. According to the company press release
The contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S...The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other U.S. Government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency, such as a natural disaster. In the event of a natural disaster, the contractor could be tasked with providing housing for ICE personnel performing law enforcement functions in support of relief efforts.
The reference to "a national emergency, such as a natural disaster" is a rather unpersuasive attempt to cast this prison project in a humanitarian light.

Another possibility for which there is well documented historical precedent is that these are detention camps for political "subversives"* in case of a national emergency. Bush has already announced his inclination to respond to "emergencies" by mobilizing the military. Two scenarios spelled out so far are in reponse to hurricanes like Katrina or, slightly more ominously, to enforce a quarantine in the case of an outbreak of avian flu. I am not sure what kind of immigration emergency the press release above is referring to, but I would guess mass round ups of Arabs or Muslims is part of that plan.

There was an important precendent for this type of mass detention project in the 1980s--Rex 84.
Rex 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984, was a plan by the United States federal government to test their ability to detain large numbers of American citizens in case of massive civil unrest or national emergency. Exercises similar to Rex 84 happen periodically. From 1967 to 1971 the FBI kept a list of persons to be rounded up as subversive, dubbed the "ADEX" list.
There is much more detail on the program here.

The general consensus at the time was that a main focus was on controlling dissent in case the US military directly intervened in one of the various highly unpopular proxy wars the Reagan administration was conducting in Central America.

Rex 84 also featured prominently in Thomas Pynchon's novel Vineland. A 1999 article by David Thoreen The President's emergency war powers and the erosion of civil liberties in Pynchon's Vineland has a renewed resonance today.

* link thanks to The Fall of Humanity


At 11/02/2006 6:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The good news about the Iraq debacle is that it works as a blueprint for how to resist the American style control effort, and it should prove once and for all that an administration that is stupid enough to try it cannot master it.


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