Friday, February 24, 2006

Labor Camps and Halliburton in a post-democratic U.S.

This is follow up to yesterday's post on a recent government contract awarded to Halliburton to build containment centers/camps/prisons expressly for 1) an influx of immigrants, 2) a national disaster, or, as the contract ominously states, "new programs":

A curious development in January when the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root a $385 million contract to construct detention centers somewhere in the United States, to deal with "an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs," KBR said.

According to, the contract funding and language referred to a program that allows civilian labor:

There also was another little-noticed item posted at the U.S. Army website, about the Pentagon's Civilian Inmate Labor Program. This program "provides Army policy and guidance for establishing civilian inmate labor programs and civilian prison camps on Army installations." The Army document, first drafted in 1997, underwent a "rapid action revision" on Jan. 14, 2005. The revision provides a "template for developing agreements" between the Army and corrections facilities for the use of civilian inmate labor on Army installations. On its face, the Army's labor program refers to inmates housed in federal, state and local jails. The Army also cites various federal laws that govern the use of civilian labor and provide for the establishment of prison camps in the United States, including a federal statute that authorizes the attorney general to "establish, equip, and maintain camps upon sites selected by him" and "make available … the services of United States prisoners" to various government departments, including the Department of Defense. [Source: ]

Of course, the U.S. has more people in prison than any industrialized nation, and these imprisonment rates reveal deeply embedded racism and the travails of poverty: "At yearend 2004 there were 3,218 black male sentenced prison inmates per 100,000 black males in the United States, compared to 1,220 Hispanic male inmates per 100,000 Hispanic males and 463 white male inmates per 100,000 white males" (DOJ statistics). (There is an important discussion to be had here about the accumulation of risk factors that come along with poverty, but it is off topic, so I'll save it for later.)

More to the topic is the idea of repression today's related story at

In these times of the Patriot Act and domestic surveillance, we might justifiably be concerned that our society is becoming post-democratic. So, while the government charging a citizen with the good, old-fashioned crime of sedition might not exactly be commonplace, it is in keeping with recent trends. In September, Laura Berg, a Veteran’s Administration nurse in Albuquerque wrote to a local paper, The Alibi, expressing outrage at the administration’s incompetent and inhumane handling of Katrina and Iraq. “Is this America the beautiful?” she asked. Evidently so, given that Berg’s letter prompted the VA to investigate her for sedition, a charge that would have sounded significantly less anachronistic back when “America the Beautiful” was written in 1893. Peter Simonson, Executive Director of the ACLU in New Mexico, was stunned: “Sedition? That’s like something out of the history books.” While there does still exist a federal law governing sedition, which can carry up to a $250,000 fine and a 20-year sentence, it refers exclusively to intentionally instigating violent revolt against the government. To read Berg’s call to “act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit” as a direct appeal for insurrection is certainly a colorful interpretation. Nonetheless, Berg’s work computer was seized within days of her letter’s publication. It took the VA's chief of human resources, Mel R. Hooker, almost two months to admit that no evidence of the letter having been written on the VA’s computer could be found. Rather than apologize, Hooker went on to reiterate the possibility that the letter constituted sedition. Moreover, according to Berg’s American Federation of Government Employees Union representative, the VA has turned the offending letter over to the FBI.

Anyone who thinks this (or anything ) is beyond the pale, even for this administration should reconsider. Forget what you've been taught in school and look at what is actually happening. We are prosecuting people for sedition now--and for anyone who has forgotten history, the Alien and Sedition Acts were some of the very first tools of the Federalists who did not take kindly to criticism in newspapers and pro-Jeffersonian meetings and clubs. The Alien and Sedition Acts worked directly against free speech and, in particular, against the Federalists political opponenents. Is it any surprise that Scalia, Alito, Ashcroft (and for all I know, Gonz
alez) are members? Just as in 1798 we find supporters of an imperial presidency that should not be questioned and that gathers its support from the upper classes, whose agenda it supports.

Several more prosecutions come to mind. Take for example the DOJ's rabid pursuit of "Eco-terrorists." An Oregon man was sentenced to 20 years for torching SUVs (no human was harmed). That is more than many murderers get, and is certainly way more than anyone at Enron will serve. And here is an excerpt from testimony by James Jarboe, Domestic Terrorism Section Chief, Counterterrorism Division, FBI, Before the House Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Forests

Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives. During the past decade we have witnessed dramatic changes in the nature of the terrorist threat. In the 1990s, right-wing extremism overtook left-wing terrorism as the most dangerous domestic terrorist threat to the country. During the past several years, special interest extremism, as characterized by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), has emerged as a serious terrorist thrLinkeat. Generally, extremist groups engage in much activity that is protected by constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly. Law enforcement becomes involved when the volatile talk of these groups transgresses into unlawful action. The FBI estimates that the ALF/ELF have committed more than 600 criminal acts in the United States since 1996, resulting in damages in excess of 43 million dollars.

While I DO NOT support these groups, it is a farce to think they are as dangerous as the Right Wing extremists in this country who have a proven track record of blowing up buildings, killing people and openly preaching hatred. It is disturbing that our government is focusing on tree huggers rather than on violent, racist terrorists à la McVeigh.

I leave it there for today, but go read David Dneiwert on "Rush, Facism and Newspeak" and on Bush, the Nazis and America.

Dneiwert is scholarly and brilliant. You will learn a lot. He also has much information on the Minutemen Project. (Hey, you can go read some of my posts on border issues too if you want. It is a project I'm just beginning, but, hey, it has pictures.)

So, connect the dots. KBR, FBI, Bush, Fascims, Internment Camps.... That's my post du jour. Gotta run.