The role of the Private Security Industrial Complex in 21st Century Agricultural Strike Breaking, Immigration Detention, and Mass Murder

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We have held on to the logic of the simple, that we are not from the left, we are not from the right, but are from below, and we are going after those on top. They after all, are people like you and I, they make so many mistakes, come up with false solutions, and place accumulating property and wealth over sustaining the lives of people, life and the Earth. They after all, have names, relationships, and addresses too, and they at heart are bureaucrats that keep records of their celebrated deeds of mass violence and premature death for the purpose of accumulation. We after all, know how to be poor and you can’t kill, disappear, deport or cage us all. You can’t exploit us forever. It’s simply not possible. (Madrigal 2015)

Seattle, WA – Security for whom? There have been so many premature deaths, the most common event that I observed in my years of ethnography of Washington farm workers were funerals. Just this past Sunday, 49 people were shot dead by a man that worked for the worlds largest security firm, G4S PLC and many more were left with multiple gunshot wounds. The gunman, Omar Mateen was a long term employee of the firm, and would not have known how to handle a high caliber assault weapon had this firm not trained him to do so. This essay seeks to dig deeper than the gut reaction to massive premature death that are not well thought out. Calls for reforms that many of us will not benefit from, the creation of a scapegoat to justify ongoing wars, or as this essay will describe, the commodification (gun sales, security contracts) and circulation of the crisis of capitalism (copycat schemes) in place of a collective struggle to end capitalism.

The Balkans

It was year’s ago, when a coworker, Djorge Popovic shared his story with me. He was the son of a Christian and a Muslim who had converted into athiest anarchists in order to be together in the former Yugoslavia. Popovic was a war resister, one who had escaped required service in the genocidal war in the 1990s by fleeing to the United States after his marriage to a citizen. His parents were activists in their country, one that no longer exists.

He would share with me that in the thick of it, his comrades and family couldn’t understand why NATO would have such an interest in their country to intervene in 1999 and make matters worse and more violent than they already were. After all, the cold war had just ended when armed fighting began in the region between 1993 and 1995 between competing factions. It wasn’t until arriving to the relative safety of the USA in the 2000s that Popovic came to the conclusion that perhaps the purpose of the war in the Balkans, and the foreign intervention that made matters worse, was not for the purpose of land grabs or to take control of natural resources in the region, reasons that the world had become accustomed to during the preceding cold war, instead Djorge calmly stated, “they did it to destablize our home.” Popovic in the way that only a stateless exile could understand, was one of the many displaced migrants that the Balkan conflict produced. This war would set the stage for the rise of what we will for now refer to as the Private Security Industrial Complex in globalized capitalism.

Popovic continued that advanced capitalism after the cold war was based upon the commodification and the perpetuation of the crisis wrought by capitalism, an analysis that Naomi Klien would later describe as “Disaster Capitalism” in her book The Shock Doctrine (2008) a portion of which Dawn Paley would further describe as “Drug War Capitalism” in her 2014 book by the same name. It is a capitalism that is informed by an ideology that Achille Nmembe termed “Necropolitics” in 2003, the struggle over the ability to “exercise control over mortality and to define life as the deployment and manifestation of power” (Mbembe 2003, 12) which is inforced more and more by the private security industry. In this context, since the end of the cold war, private security has become a commodity that is for sale to those that can afford to pay for it.

The Private Security Industry

Let’s take a step back and think about exactly what is meant by private security. Since the end of the cold war, security domains have emerged that the industry categorizes into the following: pandemics, international migration, environmental security, terrorism and health in the areas of globalization, human security, policy and new forms of war apart from those are the illicit endeavors that the private security industry is involved in, such as the drug trade and human trafficking as modeled by the Los Zetas Cartel in Mexico’s Gulf Coast (Paley 2014).

It should be noted that proponents of the private security industry draw upon two aspects that are well represented in the existing literature and were introduced in the opening narrative in the introduction, the first is that the globalization of production has “contributed to altering the nature of war, leading to a diminution of inter-state wars and a multiplication of low-intensity conflicts, insurgencies, and ethnic and civil wars (Van Creveld 1991, Kaldor 1999, Mackinlay 2002)”(12-13).

Another perspective of the industry provided by the EZLN, which has been on the receiving end of this development, has expanded their analysis of the war against them as the emergence of what they have termed “the fourth world war” (Marcos 2001). The Zapatista’s claim that in the fourth world war, the third being the cold war, humanity itself rather than nation states have become the enemy of empire, and that the purpose of the fourth world war is to destroy,

humanity as globalization is universalizing the market, and everything human which opposes the logic of the market is an enemy and must be destroyed. (ibid)

The literature from above and below hence agree, that since the end of the cold war, warfare has not been between two or more nation states, for example, but between an empire and groups of people that are determined to be expendible by that empire which has the sole voice of reason around the value of life (Mbembe 2003; Butler 2006).

The EZLN argues thus that the goal of this fourth world war is to erode the fabric of society, concluding,

That is why campaigns against homosexuals and lesbians, against immigrants, or the campaigns of xenophobia, are encouraged. Everything which previously maintained a certain equilibrium has to be broken at the point at which this world war attacks a Nation State and transforms it into something else. (ibid)

Protecting the emergence of that something else (empire) and securing that it is not toppled by humanity is thus one purpose of private security.

The Second matter that the proponents of private security are concerned with is that, “globalization has undermined the capacity of states to address security and military challenges on their own, and has changed the balance between state and non-state actors (Kirshner 1998, Freedman 2002)”(13). The EZLN argues that globalization has caused the interests of neoliberal capitalism to turn their attention to,

information technology, which, in the development of humanity, is as important as the invention of the steam engine. Computers allow one to be anywhere simultaneously. There are no longer any borders or constraints of time or geography. It is thanks to computers that the process of globalization began. Separations, differences, Nation States, all eroded, and the world became what is called, realistically, the global village. (Marcos 2001)

In this context, the emphasis of private security firms has been in the realm of information technology, with most of the research and development inroads for military contracts coming in the form of biometrics, facial recognition and predictive software. This allows private security corporations to operate globally and to anticipate new markets that may emerge in the industry as resistance to oppression exerts greater counter-power to the capitalist crisis. An example is the move by GEO Group Inc to the ankle bracelet industry when many of its detention center contracts came under threat of closure. This technological advanacement in warfare has allowed paramilitaries such as those established during the cold war, to expand into corporatized mercenary armies and cartels, such as Ze (formerly blackwater) or the Los Zetas cartel in Mexico for example, that offer many of the same services offered by G4S PLC, TransWorld Security Services, and GEO Group Inc, almost exclusively for their own financial benefit and that operate wherever the empire may roam on a global scale. In the Balkans, G4S was implicated along with other private security firms in corruption as it moved further into illicit activities in the region,

Private security firms played a pivotal role in the spread of organized crime in the region, said OCCRP, which recently concluded a three-month investigation into Southeast Europe’s private security sector. Security companies maintained ties with organized crime, corrupt politicians and law enforcement elements throughout southeastern Europe. The region’s weak legal infrastructure, lack of enforcement and widespread corruption had facilitated this development. (Dorsey 2010).

Proponents of the private security industry have basically come to the conclusion that state agents have now become so involved, blurring the line between state and non-state actors in the epistemic networks but also in the covered networks “engaging in illicit activities, ranging from terrorism (see below) to drug and human trafficking and the smuggling of nuclear know-how and materials (Chestnut 2007)”(ibid). Thus industry proponents argue that it is their job to act on behalf of both state and non-state actors when it comes to the areas of human security, policy, globalization and new forms of war, in short as mercenaries to whomever pays the most.

One of the more interesting points being brought up by proponents of private security have included what Fiona Adamson (2006) has proposed as the problem areas of, “state capacity and autonomy; the distribution of power among states; and the nature of violent conflict (see also Guild and Selm 2oo5)”(12). The first of which stretches state limits due to “border control and collective idenitity”(ibid). In this analysis nation states struggle to control the autonomous movement of people and contract these services out to private interests, interests that require the private security industry to train and educate staff at the level of the nation state that is hiring them, this leads to the hiring of emotionally broken and fragile war veterans to secure administratively held people (undocumented immigrants in the case of G4S and GEO Group Inc) or unionized migrant farm workers (Driscoll’s use of TransWorld Security Services) or to train those that already exhibit a toxic masculinty, such as Omar Mateen (G4S) to be able to be as lethal as a U.S. soldier. The role of private security as espoused by it proponents then is to provide non-state agents with the state means to fulfill its state obligations as it pertains to immigration law (i.e. run detention centers). This allows other capitalists to hire these private security agencies in whatever industry they may engage, to make big financial gains wherever they are deployed, by lethal means.

The Private Security Industry and Climate Change

Climate change issues including resource scarcity, rising sea levels and the intensification of natural disasters will continue to impact the above. The violence that we witnessed at the hands of private security before the arrival of federal forces in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina illustrate a case in point. Climate change, also removed many acres of farmland in New Orleans as sea levels rose.

These proponents of private security argue that “more frequent droughts are expected to affect crop production and, therefore, food security”(14). These will therefore address three basic types of resource wars including political instability, economic hardship and food insecurity and ultimately mass displacements of population. Though these industry researchers find that this a stretch of their need as security in the private sphere but conclude that the responses by different nations are “so vast that the nature of responses may vary widely”(17). The analysis from below identified this trend of capitalist development in producing hunger, rather than wellbeing way back in the 1970s and traces this politics of food stockpiling and removal back to World War II (Cleaver 1977). Cleaver argues that the Green Revolution was a tactic of the cold war to create famines across the world that would destabilize the support that Communist governments had in previously self-sustaining countries (ibid).

The thinktank for TransWorld Security Services also focused on the ongoing crisis in Mexico prior to the privatization of Mexico’s public oil holdings and the privatization of communications and public education systems that was in effect the nail in the coffin of these development policies meant to undermine the gains made as a result of the Mexican revolution in 1910, If you read as I do, the racism of the thinktank bleeds through, arguing that there was a dependence on oil revenues that made Mexican’s lazy, in order to justify the privatization of the nationalized oil holdings that would occur after the publication of this report which states,

Over-dependence on energy revenues can lead to domestic unrest. Not only does energy over-dependence appear to have harmed economic growth and governance in some countries…, but it has had tremendous disruptive potentials at certain junctures. A state like Mexico, for instance, which derives two thirds of its federal budget from energy revenues, would see its functioning capacities deeply affected by a sharp drop in oil prices. (17).

These private interests influenced greatly the reforms put in place by president Enrique Peña-Nieto to privatize national oil holdings and other public services such as education, a reform fought against by teachers unionized under CNTE, that is currently under a great pressure by the federal government which is backed by large corporate interests such as Microsoft and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. These were the same actors that were involved in the monopolization of Mexico’s communications industry, Microsoft, on top of being the only owner of Mexico’s satellites, owns a controlling share of Televisa, a target of the Yo Soy 132 movement. Though these repressions against the communities are committed primarily by federal government agents, the forces are trained in the United States, as well as by many of the global private security firms named in this article.

This think tank for private security end their “analysis” of the current moment in 2013 concluding that the areas of migration, energy and the environment have already been “securitized” and that their role as TransWorld Security Systems is to make it more streamlined. Second, that the security threat lies in their “ability to cope with them [migration, energy and environment]”(18). Third, they stipulate that the destinations of this new migration, energy and environmental factors leave potential clients (nation states) disproportionately unable to deal with these “problems” creating the need for their operation and existence in order to address the problems of border militarization, famine and displacement due to energy and environmental factors.

The report produced by the researchers of TransWorld Security Services states that they have gone over what security today has become, “the rise of new actors, both state and non-state”(46) but also the “changing nature of security and the evolving role of security actors, particularly (but not only) states, so that eventually it becomes easier to grasp the way the United States, on the one hand, and the European Union, on the other, have adjusted to these new parameters and paradigms”(ibid). Le Gloannec here marks the US and the EU as the largest employers of TransWorld Security Systems (modern day empires), similar to G4S PLC. She stresses that because of the rise of civil wars, security has changed since the end of the cold war. Le Gloannec states that “securitization” has become a farce in the aftermath of the “Global War on Terror” and Le Gloannec states that “what is new is the conflation of local and global – “glocal”-and the way globalization is ‘transforming the international security landscape [by increasing] the interconnectedness between societies and states, [by leading] to a contraction of space and time [and by] creating global challenges as well as global public goods’”(ibid). Le Gloannec argues that in her perspective many of the TransWorld Security Consultants exist in particular to protect these “global public goods”(47) and that the security consultants as a result draw several fundamental questions about “global security governance”(ibid) for the purposes of “war prevention and management”(ibid) and the nature of power that is different after the cold war, in particular that the BRICS “do not contribute to the current world order [empires will]”(ibid) and that “they are more inclined to undermine it by calling into question the very principles and practices which the West sought to develop and promote”(Ibid). In their own words, the purpose of the Private Security Industrial Complex is to maintain the will of empire and to enforce the violence of capitalism.

TransWorld Security Services

One of the more recent developments in industrial agriculture, as documented in Burlington, Washington for example, is the use of security forces to manipulate skilled labor and make farmland available (Paley 2014; Madrigal 2014, 2015; Zlolniski 2015). Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte for example have perfected Henry Ford’s past model for development in Brazil’s rubber plantations that used the Brazilian Military to quell labor strikes, in order to make the way for large swaths of African Palm which has been planted in the eastern plains of Colombia after the removal of the farming people that once lived there (Grandin 2009; Paley 2014: 65-7). Monsanto has been involved on both ends of this violent displacement, using its private army Ze for the enforcement of its patents across the world, as well as the peddling of Glysophate that was used to defoliate many of the holdings of the small-scale farmers in Colombia in the name of the Drug War prior to their displacement (Scahill 2007; Paley 2014: 58; Zlolniski 2o15).

Driscoll’s use of the same TransWorld Security Services patrols to illegally break the strikes at one of it’s supplier farms in Burlington, Washington (Sakuma Brothers Farm) just one year after using the same guards at one of its source farms (Montalvo Farms) in Ventura County, California in violation of the California Labor Relations Act is a case in point. After their corporate lawyers lost court cases in Skagit County Superior Court in Washington that upheld similar findings by the California Labor Review Board in 2012, Driscoll’s quickly removed all traces, physical and online, of its use of that private security firm at its subsidiary holdings in Baja California, Mexico, after organized farm workers reported cases of extreme repression by security gaurds at the farms where they worked when they went on strike in March of 2015.

Transworld Security Systems employees, many who are military trained, have been using counterinsurgency tactics against indigenous farmworkers. Some of the farmworkers were displaced from Mexico because of similar para-miliatry violence and this type of occupation has restimulated some of their traumatic experiences, causing their daily life movement to be restricted to their cabins, a narrative that was taken into account by the judge that side with the farmworkers in Skagit County Superior Court.

According to a report filed to market the justification for their services, Transworld Security Systems believes that political instability, social fragmentation, economic instability, innappropriate response and migration increase the opportunity and motivation for violence and therefore their private security services become neccesary because of the state’s [police and Sheriff’s] inability to cope with the risks and threats. Transworld Security Systems suggests that the US and the EU are the two top destinations for migrants which has led to border militarization in both empires and necessitates the involvement of private security firms.

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G4S PLC

Another globally operating private security corporation has recently made news headlines as the long-term employer of Omar Mateen that provided the military weapons training that Mateen used to murder 49 people and wound over 50 more at a Gay club that he frequented in Orlando, Florida.

G4S PLC is the parent company of G4S Americas, it is a publically traded corporation that is based in the United Kingdom and was found in 1935. It currently operates in 110 countries and had a revenue of $9.8 Billion in 2016 according to Worldscope-International Company Profiles, employing over 631,465 people according to its most recent filing and is led by Ashley Almanza (ashley.almanza@g4s.com), who is their current CEO. It’s ticker symbol is GFS.

G4S Americas is one of the corporations subsidiaries that is based in Jupiter, Florida. Grahame Gibson is their current CEO. The firm reported net sales of $915,000,000 in 2016 according to Worldbase and 400 employees. Also known as the Wackenhut Corporation since 1959 when it changed its name from Security Services Corporation, the company was found in 1955 and operates as a subsidiary of Falk Holding A/S. It self reported that it operates in the following industries,

government, healthcare, manufacturing, education, gaming and recreation, and commercial organizations, as well as to industrial complexes, commercial office buildings, residential communities, transit systems, retail establishments, financial institutions, and utilities. (LexisNexis Academic 2016)

It is not the first time that G4S was in the news, most recently G4S was a target of the Boycott Divest Sanction (BDS) movement for the abuses it perpetuates in its private prisons in Israel (TeleSur 2016). Further it was the subject of an investigation over the practice of dangerous hires in New York, which is substantiated in the policy of TransWorld Security Services presented above. G4S has a $250 million contract with the department of Homeland Security to transport and detain undocumented immigrants, many of which are on administrative civil hold (ibid). In the past 3 years, its contracts for juvenile detention in the US have resulted in over 1,497 complaints according to the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Organization.

Beyond its illicit involvement in the Balkans mentioned above under the supervision of CEO Graham Levinsohn (graham.levinsohn@g4s.com), it has also had a similar presence in Afghanistan and in Iraq as a contractor, TeleSur estimated that over 60,000 employees served under the supervision of CEO Dan Ryan (Dan.ryan@g4s.com) in the middle east.

Exposure of the firms operations through the massacre committed by its employee Omar Mateen, though increasing the sale of guns, has had the effect of a stock dump by corporations that wished not to be identified on Monday, worth $282.2 million in stock value (TeleSur 2016).

Similar private security firms operating in Puebla, Mexico, where Driscoll’s recently relocated its greenhouse operations (Svennson 2016) recently massacred 11 indigenous people to displace them from their land holdings (Dueñas 2016). Though the community does not know which Global Security Firm the commando came from, it’s only a matter of time before they are able to identify the agency.

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GEO Group Inc.

According to SourceWatch, GEO Group Inc was formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, and operates 73 facilities with room to detain 81,000 people worldwide (SourceWatch 2016). GEO Group Inc is based in Boca Raton, Florida and reported earning $1.8 Billion in 2016 according to Corporate Affiliations it reported 15,806 employees and is run by CEO and Chairman George Zoley (gzoley@thegeogroupinc.com). It’s a publically traded company and it’s ticker is GEO on the New York Stock Exchange.

Here in Washington, at the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center, a contract was renewed between the private security firm GEO Group Inc. and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to transport and detain the 1,575 detainees that fit in the detention center at any given time. Though Latinos comprise only 17 percent of the U.S. population, Latinos make up 22 percent of inmates in federal, state, and local prisons and jails (Malavé & Giordani 2016, 99). In 2015, DHS apprehended 406,595 people and deported 462,463 (www.ice.gov).

According to the Nortwest Detention Center Resistance,

The Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, WA is one of the largest immigration prisons in the country, with a capacity to hold up to 1575 immigrants. People end up in the detention center after being transferred from local law enforcement custody, after immigration raids, and after being transferred from the border regions. Up to 200 people, mostly women, many of whom are seeking asylum, are transferred from the US-Mexico border to the NWDC each month. Many held at the NWDC have lived in the US for years, in some cases for the majority of their lives. While some are deported after only weeks, due to mandatory detention policies, some are held for months and sometimes years awaiting the outcomes of their deportation cases. Few legal protections apply to these civil detainees, and those held are not entitled to an attorney at government expense; approximately 90% of them move forward in their cases unrepresented. The NWDC is operated by GEO Group, the second-largest private prison operator in the US. (NWDC Resistance Website 2016)

Maru Mora Villalpando illustrates the cruel reality of the criminalization of immigrants that GEO Group Inc has advanced, “We remain undocumented because the immigration system is built upon the presumption that we are workers, not human…our criminality has grown since 1996 via punitive laws that make us criminals, not deserving enough of citizenship” (Villalpando 2015). With this in mind the resistance to the GEO Group Inc run detention center in Tacoma was able to accomplish the following,

On Friday, March 7, 2014, approximately 1200 immigrants held at the Northwest Detention Center began refusing meals. The hunger strike continued for 56 days, and two more hunger strikes were organized that same year with strikers demanding improved detention conditions and an end to deportations.Those on strike established the following demands. Under their leadership, we act to support their demands.

  • Improved food, sufficient in both quantity and nutritional value, for detainees
  • Improved treatment by guards (detainees referenced a history of abusive treatment by guards towards non-English speaking detainees)
  • Improved access to and quality of medical treatment in the Detention Center
  • Improved pay (currently set at $1/day) for the work carried out by detainees (who do the cooking, cleaning, and maintenance of the facility)
  • Lower commissary prices (detainees depend on commissary items to supplement the subpar food provided by the facility)
  • Improved telephone service (quality of calls is low, the cost is prohibitive, and detainees are not returned the money in their phone account upon leaving the facility)
  • Affordable and consistent bond amounts for all detainees
  • More expedited processing of cases (currently only three judges are assigned to all detainees, resulting in months-long waits for court hearings).
  • End the GEO Group contract for the NWDC
  • An end to all deportations, especially for parents of children or spouses of US citizens

(NWDC Resistance Website 2016)

 

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