Sunday, June 07, 2009

There is a growing trend today towards the "privatization of war, repression and security". This trend can be seen at its fullest in the dual American occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan where the visible armies of occupation are supplemented by a shadow network of private security firms who carry out many of the duties that, in other times and places, would be done by regular soldiers. The costs associated with these mercenaries are often hidden, but sometimes they are enormous.

This sort of contracting out has extended to other security as opposed to military operations in many countries, including Canada and the USA. These "quangsas" (quasi non-governmental spy agencies) are favoured by governments for various reasons. One is the fundamentalist faith in the "free market" held by many conservative politicians. This leads them to believe, with a touching childish faith, that security operations (and everything else for that matter) will be handled most efficiently and at less cost by private contractors. Not likely, if for no other reason than the fact of "competing" for such government contracts takes place in a political atmosphere that could only be described as "free competition" by say Steven Harper both on LSD and possessed by the ghost of William F. Buckley. (Code 10 !, Code 10!, exorcist to detox please)

The sort of atmosphere surrounding government contracts is also inevitably and massively corrupt. Ex-politicians and, in this case ex-soldiers and policemen tweak and fiddle their old friendships and connections to land the big fish of free government money. Canada has recently been treated to a revelation of just how this operates as ex-Prime Minister Lieing Brian Mulroney bullshitted his way through his testimony at the Schreiber Inquiry. Do you really think things are any cleaner at the lower levels of the pork barrel ?

More than a 'rent-a-cop', less than a soldier, but far less open to public scrutiny and control...these are the private security firms that are breeding like rabbits today. Their involvement in public events has other implications besides just corruptly siphoning off tax dollars. Here's an article originally published in the Vancouver Observer and reprinted at the website of the Olympics Resistance Network about this subject.
Corporate Involvement in Olympic Security:
Are Private Corporations Entwined in Olympic Security?

Olympics Watch
by Tim Groves
Canada's plans to involve US Government agencies in security for the 2010 Olympics may lead to US corporations, like Microsoft and Boeing, gaining access to Canadian security information. Top Canadian security officials have traveled to US military bases, security conferences, and congressional hearings in order to keep US officials abreast of planning in Canada.

The Privy Council's Office of the Coordinator for 2010 Olympics and G8 Security makes clear on its website that coordinating with the US is one of their key tasks. What role US agencies will play in Olympic security is not fully clear, but since the US government has been letting private companies play an increasing role in its security operations at home and abroad, Canada may become entwined with private companies as well.

The RCMP officer in charge of Olympic Security, Bud Mercer, and the former CSIS director who heads the Office of the Coordinator for 2010 Olympics and G8 Security, Ward Elcock, both travelled to Washington DC between April 23 and April 25, 2008, according to the travel and hospitality expense reports that all federal employees must file.

Mercer's disclosure says that they both attended a congressional hearing. It was not possible to acquire minutes from this hearing, however, minutes from an earlier congressional hearing do shed light on 2010 Olympic security.

On March 12th 2008, a subcommittee of The Committee on Homeland Security, held hearings on the 2010 Olympics. Among their witnesses was Jeffrey Slotnick, the CEO of Setracon Inc., a company that provides training for both public and private security officers.

He spoke at the hearing because he sits on the the Security Subcommittee for the 2010 Winter Olympic Task Force. According to the Chairwoman of the hearing this State of Washington based group is carrying out the bulk of planning efforts inside the US.

In his testimony Slotnick spoke of the economic cost that would be felt by an emergency. He expressed the need to expedite border crossings and specifically for agreements to allow police and other emergency personnel to easily cross the border in the case of any "critical incident."

He told congress the US federal government needs to provide a more serious approach to the games, and provide more funding. A member of the private security industry himself, Slotnick called for private security to play a greater role in Olympic operations.

Slotnick spoke of the need for intelligence sharing between government and corporations. He explained that many corporations based in the Pacific Northwest "possess significant intelligence assets" and named four specific corporations he felt should be integrated into Olympic security efforts - Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks and Washington Mutual.(Starbucks !?!?!?-Molly )

He said that "in many cases individuals in these organizations have higher security clearances than many law enforcement officials." Slotnick never made clear what the intelligence assets these corporations possess were or how they would be useful in Olympic security.(Watch out for those coffee cups at Starbucks-It gives a whole new meaning to the complaint,"waiter, there's a bug in my coffee-Molly)

Slotnick's testimony suggests that private/public security sharing is already underway, but that if the US government provided more funding(I betcha-Molly), private entities could be better incorporated into security efforts.

He indicated that intelligence and security information would be shared through the Northwest Warning, Alert & Response Network (NWWARN), a group that encourages the sharing of security information between corporations and government entities in five US states and three Canadian provinces or territories, including Washington and BC. NWWARN's role is to gather intelligence from the private and public sectors, and make the information available to a "fusion center" which would share it with organizations in Washington State.

In effect this means that any information Canadian officials share with their US counterparts may end up in the hands of US based companies. It is unclear what intelligence assets these corporations have, or how they would go about gathering information. Asking these companies to use their resources for intelligence gathering on the Olympics may encourage them to gather information on Canadian citizens and organizations. Being private entities, these corporations would be able to function with less accountability and oversight than their public sector counterparts.

On their website NWWARN describe themselves as a "collaborative effort between government and private sector partners within our region’s states and provinces with a goal to maximize real-time sharing of situational information without delay and provide immediate distribution of intelligence to those in the field who need to act on it." This raises another question; to what degree are Canadian corporations involved in sharing information on Olympic security?

The Congressional hearing took place in March 2008 and it is still unclear to what degree US corporations have been integrated into Olympic security operations. It is also uncertain which, if any, Canadian corporations are playing a role in Olympic intelligence gathering. However, the secrecy surrounding security operations means that the role of the private sector in the Vancouver Olympics may be far larger than what is publicly known. (Take heed, whatever you do don't bitch about the Olympics in a Starbucks outlet. Not unless you really want a free midnight flight to Syria-Molly)

Tim Groves is a Toronto based investigative researcher. After years of researching abandoned buildings for activist groups interested in squatting, he began immersing himself in mastering a wider range of research skills. He now works as a freelance researcher and trainer.

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