Dissent or Terror: Counterterrorism Apparatus Used to Monitor Occupy Movement Nationwide

Newly revealed documents show how police partnered with corporations to monitor the Occupy Wall Street movement. DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy have obtained thousands of pages of records from counterterrorism and law enforcement agencies that detail how so-called fusions centers monitored the Occupy Wall Street movement over the course of 2011 and 2012. These fusion centers are comprised of employees from municipal, county and federal counterterrorism and homeland security entities, as well as local police departments, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.

Click here to see our extensive coverage of the police crackdown of the Occupy movement.

Read full report on government surveillance of Occupy movement by the Center for Media and Democracy / DBA Press.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Rothschild, it’s great to have you with us, editor of The Progressive magazine. And he did this very interesting story, a cover story for June issue of the magazine, “Spying on Occupy Activists: How Cops and Homeland Security Help Wall Street.” Can you compare what you have found—and start off by saying why Phoenix. Why did you focus on Phoenix?

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Well, I focused on Phoenix because the primary researcher for this story, Beau Hodai of DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy, had compiled tremendous amounts of information. He had issued Freedom of Information Act requests from the Phoenix Police Department, from the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center. And so, he got thousands, literally thousands, of pages of information, primarily about Phoenix and Arizona, but also some national context. But I thought by focusing on this one city, you could really tell, at the most granular level, how police officers and Homeland Security are really going after left-wing activists. And I thought it was important to really focus in narrowly, because I think those narrow details really give a clearer picture of just how hand-in-glove local law enforcement is with the private sector in going after these Occupy protesters.

AMY GOODMAN: How does this compare to the IRS monitoring tea party groups or, you know, sort of specially targeting them for deciding whether they should get nonprofit status?

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Well, I thought it was outrageous what the IRS was doing in that Cincinnati office. But this, to me, is much worse because, whereas the IRS office in Cincinnati, that may have been, you know, a bureaucratic mistake or bungling or lack of supervision, what’s going on with the spying on Occupy activists was a systematic effort by police departments, not just in Phoenix, but around the country, with Homeland Security, to track the Occupy activists—and to coordinate a response, even. One of the documents that Beau Hodai released, from the Center for Media and Democracy and DBA Press, was a file—a report on a teleconference that 13 police departments around the country had as to how to respond to Occupy, what they called “growing concerns” about the burgeoning Occupy movement, and that they needed to coordinate an effective response. And so, you know, when we had that crackdown on Occupy simultaneously over a weekend in many different cities, I wondered at the time whether there wasn’t coordination going on between the police departments to crush the Occupy movement. And this suggests that there was.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Matt Rothschild, you also speak specifically about the way in which protests against the NDAA, the National Defense Authorization Act, occurred. Could you elaborate on that and why that was a particular focus of law enforcement?

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Yeah, there’s documents, again, that show that police, from the U.S. Capitol Police all the way to the Phoenix Police Department, were monitoring protests of the National Defense Authorization Act. The National Defense Authorization Act allows the president of the United States to grab any single one of us and throw us into jail and deny us due process and access to a judge for as long as the president says so. And so, this is a huge clampdown on our civil liberties, and people should be protesting it. And it’s ironic that people trying to defend their civil liberties are having their civil liberties violated at the same time.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt Rothschild, explain what these fusion centers are and how they work, both with public law enforcement and with private companies.

MATTHEW ROTHSCHILD: Well, this is a real problem I have with fusion centers, Amy. Fusion centers are—in each state, there’s a fusion center. And the fusion center is supposed to represent law enforcement at every level, from, you know, campus police to city police, to sheriffs, to the FBI and state police. But also, within these fusion centers, there are representatives of the private sector. And there’s also an organization called InfraGard in these fusion centers. Now, InfraGard is an association of more than 50,000 business people with the FBI. They’re essentially FBI minders, with these business people in each state. And sometimes these business people get information from the FBI even before elected officials get it. And also, the FBI tells these business members of InfraGard, “Hey, if you ever have a problem with an employee, just let us know.” And so, you know, is this the kind of collaboration we want? That a boss, who doesn’t like what you’re doing on the workplace—maybe you’re forming a union, the boss calls the FBI, and then what? The FBI opens a file on you? We need to be careful of this institution called InfraGard, too, which was part of the Arizona fusion center, by the way.

AMY GOODMAN: Matt, we want to thank you for being with us. Matt Rothschild, editor and publisher of The Progressive magazine, wrote the cover story for the June issue of the magazine, “Spying on Occupy Activists: How Cops and Homeland Security Help Wall Street.” The piece draws heavily on documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy and DBA Press. Matt Rothschild is also author of You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2013

Watch Part One of our interview with Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive

Find this story at 22 May 2013

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How Our Massive Homeland Security Apparatus Does the Bidding of the Big Banks

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a nationwide “counter terrorism” apparatus emerged. And it has turned on dissenters like the Occupy movement.

The following is the first in a series of articles extracted from a new report by CMD and DBA Press entitled “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, In Partnership With
 Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street.”

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, a nationwide “counter terrorism” apparatus emerged. Components of this apparatus include the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (U.S. DHS), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), ODNI’s “National Counterterrorism Center” (NCTC), and state/regional “fusion centers.”

“Fusion centers,” by and large, are staffed with personnel working in “counter terrorism”/ “homeland security” units of municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/”public safety”/”counter terrorism” agencies. To a large degree, the “counter terrorism” operations of municipal, county, state and tribal agencies engaged in “fusion centers” are financed through a number of U.S. DHS grant programs.

Initially, “fusion centers” were intended to be intelligence sharing partnerships between municipal, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement/”counter terrorism” agencies, dedicated solely to the dissemination/sharing of “terrorism”-related intelligence. However, shortly following the creation of “fusion centers,” their focus shifted from this exclusive interest in “terrorism,” to one of “all hazards” — an umbrella term used to describe virtually anything (including “terrorism”) that may be deemed a “hazard” to the public, or to certain private sector interests. And, as has been mandated through a series of federal legislative actions and presidential executive orders, “fusion centers” (and the “counter terrorism” entities that they are comprised of) work — in ever closer proximity — with private corporations, with the stated aim of protecting items deemed to be “critical infrastructure/key resources” (CI/KR, typically thought of as items such as power plants, dams or weapons manufacturing plants).

As detailed in a report from DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy (DBA/CMD), “Dissent or Terror: How the Nation’s Counter Terrorism Apparatus, in Partnership with Corporate America, Turned on Occupy Wall Street,” through 2011 and 2012, “fusion centers” and other “counter terrorism” agencies engaged in widespread monitoring of Occupy Wall Street activists.

Records obtained by DBA/CMD indicate that, in some instances, these “counter terrorism” agencies worked in partnership with corporate interests to gather and disseminate intelligence relating to the activities of citizens engaged in the Occupy Wall Street movement. Ironically, records indicate that corporate entities engaged in such public-private intelligence sharing partnerships were often the very same corporate entities criticized, and protested against, by the Occupy Wall Street movement as having undue influence in the functions of public government.

This article examines the effects of such public-private intelligence sharing partnerships in Arizona, and how such partnerships benefited corporate interests that were subjects of Occupy Phoenix protest actions through 2011 and 2012.

Arizona Fusion Center Work on Behalf of Banks

In October of 2011, Jamie Dimon, president and CEO of J.P. Morgan Chase, had plans to travel to Phoenix for a “town hall” event with 2,000 of his employees at Chase Field (home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, located in downtown Phoenix). As Dimon is one of the most powerful men on Wall Street and the head of the largest bank in the country — a bank that played a key role in the collapse of the U.S. economy in 2008 — JP Morgan Chase Regional Security Manager Dan Grady contacted Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center personnel on October 17 (the day before Dimon’s scheduled visit), to ensure a smooth landing for Dimon in Phoenix.

The Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC), commonly known as the “Arizona Fusion Center,” is comprised of personnel from such entities as the Arizona Department of Public Safety Intelligence Bureau, the Phoenix Police Department Homeland Defense Bureau, the Tempe Police Department Homeland Defense Unit, the Mesa Police Department Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Unit, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI Phoenix Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Transportation Security Administration, and the U.S. DHS offices of Infrastructure Protection and Intelligence and Analysis.

Records indicate that Grady’s chief point of law enforcement/”counter terrorism” personnel contact in Phoenix — with whom he discussed the particulars of Dimon’s visit and shared a detailed itinerary — was Phoenix Police Department Homeland Defense Bureau (PPDHDB) Detective, and ACTIC Community Liaison Program Coordinator, Jennifer O’Neill. As records indicate, the chief area of discussion between Grady and O’Neill were concerns that citizens engaged in Occupy Phoenix, an Occupy Wall Street-inspired group that had launched only days prior, on October 14 and 15, might try to disrupt the event — or otherwise inconvenience Dimon.

According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, in response to Grady’s concerns, O’Neill stated that she and a PPDHDB “CI/KR security specialist” colleague had engaged in the monitoring of known online “social networking” outlets used by Occupy Phoenix for discussion relating to the Dimon visit. As such O’Neill stated: “we have not seen anything on social networking that leads us to believe protestors are aware of this event.”

By no stretch of the imagination was this monitoring of social media (known in the world of “counter terrorism” agencies as the acquisition of “open source intelligence”) for the benefit of JP Morgan Chase President and CEO Dimon the full extent of such activity conducted by ACTIC personnel. Records indicate that ACTIC personnel consistently gathered “open source,” and other, intelligence relating to Occupy Phoenix protests of corporate entities throughout 2011 and 2012. According to these records, in many instances ACTIC personnel would share this intelligence with personnel employed by corporations who were subject to these protests.

Another example of Occupy Phoenix-related ACTIC CLP work for the benefit of banks would be intelligence gathering and other monitoring conducted in preparation for “Bank Transfer Day,” November 5, 2011 — a day on which Occupy Wall Street groups nationwide, along with other mainstream activist/consumer advocate groups, encouraged citizens to discontinue business with the nation’s leading banks (such as J.P. Morgan Chase banks, Bank of America and Wells Fargo), in favor of credit unions and smaller community-based banks.

Records obtained by DBA/CMD show that, on November 3, Mesa Police Department (Mesa is a Phoenix suburb) Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Unit Detective/ACTIC Terrorism Liaison Officer (TLO) Christopher Adamczyk, issued an OWS-related bulletin to a number of ACTIC TLOs/analysts. While the actual Adamczyk bulletin is absent from records delivered to DBA/CMD by PPDHDB, records indicate that the subject of this Adamczyk bulletin was the impending November 5 “Bank Transfer Day.” It is important to note, however, that available records indicate that the Mesa TLO did not address “Bank Transfer Day” events set to take place in the Phoenix area.

Records show that, after receiving this bulletin, O’Neill contacted PPDHDB/ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Brenda Dowhan and asked if there was any specific information she could pass on to downtown Phoenix banks.

In response to O’Neill’s request, Dowhan indicated that she would try to find “FOUO” (“For Official Use Only”) information that could be released to downtown Phoenix banks. In addition, she offered:

“Occupy Phoenix just updated their [Facebook] page saying that they will be marching to Wells Fargo, B of A [Bank of America], and Chase Tower. They are supposed to do a ‘credit card shredding ceremony’ , but eh haven’t identified which bank they will be doing that at [sic]. We will have to monitor their FB [Facebook].”

As previously stated, O’Neill is the coordinator of the ACTIC Community Liaison Program (CLP). ACTIC CLP was created in 2006, in response to federal mandates calling for greater involvement of private sector corporations in the national “counter terrorism” “information sharing environment” (ISE, as created by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004. This piece of federal legislation also created ODNI, NCTC and set the groundwork for the national spread of “fusion centers,” per the implementation of ISE).

ACTIC CLP is intended to facilitate the flow of “counter terrorism” information/intelligence between private sector corporate partners and the Arizona “fusion center.” While the stated purpose of ACTIC CLP is to prevent terrorist activity, to identify terrorist threats, protect CI/KR, and “create an awareness of localized security issues, challenges, and business interdependencies,” records indicate that, during the course of 2011 and 2012, ACTIC CLP was used as an advance warning system to alert member corporations and banks of impending Occupy Phoenix protests.

ACTIC CLP is one of two primary vehicles through which corporate interests partner with ACTIC, the other vehicle being Arizona Infragard. Arizona Infragard is the Arizona chapter of Infragard, a public-private intelligence sharing partnership administered by the FBI and supported (both financially and through the delivery of intelligence) by U.S. DHS.

The Creepy Guy Cometh: Undercover Cop Goes to the Vegan Coffee Shop

Records indicate that these advance warnings concerning the planned actions of Occupy Phoenix, and other instances of intelligence sharing with private sector partners (including meetings between law enforcement/”counter terrorism” personnel and area bankers), were derived from the constant monitoring of Occupy Phoenix — and other activist groups — by Phoenix area law enforcement personnel, most of whom were “terrorism liaison officers” active in the ACTIC TLO Program.

While much of this TLO-gathered information came in the form of “open source intelligence” derived from the monitoring of social media, one source of intelligence that records show greatly benefitted not only ACTIC “counter terrorism” personnel, but also ACTIC’s private sector partners, was an undercover Phoenix Police Department Major Offenders Bureau (PPDMOB) detective who had infiltrated the Phoenix activist community and who had attended some of the earliest Occupy Phoenix planning meetings, as well as subsequent meetings throughout October and November, 2011.

This infiltrating undercover officer presented himself as a homeless Mexican national named “Saul DeLara” (Saul). One example of this undercover officer’s work product is as follows: following a request by Phoenix Police Department Community Relations Bureau (PPDCRB, the departmental entity that served as the public face of PPD interaction with Occupy Phoenix — known, affectionately, by members of the Phoenix activist community as the “Red Squad”) Sgt. Mark Schweikert, PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Tom Van Dorn dispatched Saul to attend an early Occupy Phoenix planning meeting held on October 2, 2011 at a local coffee shop. Following the meeting, Saul delivered a detailed report, dutifully relaying all plans the activists had discussed, to his PPD superiors. And records indicate that Van Dorn recommended at this time that PPD units augment the intelligence stream provided by Saul with constant monitoring of the Occupy Phoenix Facebook page.

But, Saul’s attendance at and reporting on the October 2, 2011 Occupy Phoenix planning meeting was far from the extent of the undercover detective’s involvement in the world of Phoenix activism. For example, records indicate that Saul had embedded himself among Phoenix activists in Occupy Phoenix’s encampment at Cesar Chavez Plaza, in an attempt at providing further intelligence relating to activist “Bank Transfer Day” plans.

As stated in a November 3, 2011 email, PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Van Dorn informed PPDHDB commanding officers that, “Saul will be spending today and tomorrow hanging out in the Plaza and [sic] with the Anarchists to try and gather additional intelligence as we head into the weekend.”

Interestingly, Saul’s first appearance among Phoenix activists is said to significantly predate the birth of Occupy Phoenix (which officially launched over the course of a two day event, held October 14 and 15, 2011) and even the emergence of the national Occupy Wall Street movement (which materialized on September 17, 2011).

According to then-Phoenix activist Ian Fecke-Stoudt (Fecke-Stoudt has since moved out of the Phoenix area), Saul first appeared at Conspire, a now-defunct coffee house and vegan cafe located in downtown Phoenix, in July of 2011.

Poetically enough, Conspire was awarded the title of “Best Hangout for Anarchists, Revolutionaries and Dreamers” by the Phoenix New Times in 2010. The coffee house also served, later in 2011 and early 2012, as a regular meeting place for members of Occupy Phoenix.

According to Fecke-Stoudt, Saul’s appearance roughly coincided with the beginning of activist meetings, held at Conspire, dedicated to the planning of protest events associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) States and Nation Policy Summit (SNPS), to be held at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa in the upscale Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale, from November 28 through December 2, 2011.

ALEC is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that bills itself as the nation’s largest state “legislative membership organization.” As such, ALEC claims roughly 2,000, or approximately one third, of the nation’s state lawmakers as members. The organization couples these legislative members on a variety of “task forces” with representatives from the nation’s leading corporations, lobby and law firms, as well as private ‘think tanks’ and ‘public policy foundations.’ These various “task forces” generate and adopt “model legislation,” which member lawmakers dutifully introduce and work to pass into law in their home assemblies.

Representatives of corporations and private foundations involved in ALEC are known as the organization’s “private sector members.” As is reflected by the organization’s tax filings, these private sector members fund most of ALEC’s activities. As such, ALEC is in reality the nation’s largest public-private legislative partnership, dedicated to advancing the legislative agenda of its corporate underwriters — though ALEC has steadfastly denied that any lobbying activity takes place at their events.

ALEC holds three primary events each year: the Spring Task Force Summit, the Annual Meeting and the States and Nation Policy Summit. Invariably, these events are held at upscale resorts in cites throughout the nation. Travel and boarding expenses for ALEC member lawmakers who attend these meetings are more often than not paid through the ALEC “scholarship fund,” a fund for which ALEC member lawmakers and ALEC member lobbyists raise (tax deductible) donations from other lobbyists/private sector donors.

The organization has come under fire in recent years for its involvement in disseminating various pieces of “model legislation” and policy initiatives — from “voter ID” laws, to laws aimed at crushing unions, as well as firearms-related laws (such as the “Stand Your Ground” law, which gained national attention following the February, 2012 shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin).

But, before the rise of public furor surrounding such pieces of “model legislation,” ALEC came under criticism for its involvement in disseminating the “No Sanctuary Cities for Illegal Immigrants Act,” a piece of “model legislation” introduced to the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force (ALEC claims it disbanded this task force in April of 2012) by then-Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce during the ALEC December, 2009 SNPS (a month and a half prior to Pearce’s introduction of the same bill, SB 1070, in the Arizona legislature).

The crux of criticism relating to ALEC’s role in adopting and disseminating this piece of “model legislation” was the fact that Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s premier operator of for-profit prisons and immigrant detention facilities, was a longstanding member — and corporate underwriter — of the ALEC Public Safety and Elections Task Force at the time of the “model legislation”’s adoption. Various records obtained by DBA/CMD show that the nation’s second largest private prison/immigrant detention center operator, Geo Group, was also active in ALEC during this time (Arizona lobby records indicate that Geo Group lobbyists were wining and dining lawmakers at the 2009 ALEC SNPS), along with the nation’s third largest private prison/immigration detention center operator, Management and Training Company (MTC, records obtained by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy indicate that MTC was paying into the ALEC Arizona Scholarship Fund as late as August of 2010).

And so, when Phoenix-area activists learned of ALEC’s plans (Fecke-Stoudt estimates that Phoenix activists first learned of these plans in June of 2011) a coalition of activist groups — including prison reform activists, anarchists, immigrants’ rights groups and indigenous rights groups — began planning protest actions at Conspire.

According to Fecke-Stoudt, at some point in early to mid-July, 2011, his roommate — also a Phoenix-area activist — mentioned that “a creepy guy who looked like he was probably a cop” had been hanging around Conspire. According to Fecke-Stoudt, his roommate told him that the “creepy guy” had wandered into Conspire and struck up a conversation with her. The roommate said that, following this initial conversation, the man would appear at Conspire and seek her out — as if they were friends. According to Feck-Stoudt’s recollection of the roommate’s impression, the “creepy guy” had come off as being “overly interested in anarchism.”

It was not long after that Fecke-Stoudt was also approached by the “creepy guy” at Conspire. According to Fecke-Stoudt, the man wore a blue t-shirt and blue jeans, had slicked-back salt-and-pepper hair, appeared to be in his 50s, was very clean-cut and in good physical shape. The “creepy guy” introduced himself to Fecke-Stoudt and other Phoenix activists as “Saul DeLara.” Despite the man’s fit and clean appearance, Fecke-Stoudt said Saul claimed to be homeless — and commented frequently on trouble he had with police through the course of his life on the street. Saul claimed to be a native of Juarez, Mexico, but seldom disclosed any other details of his background or personal life.

It is worth noting that Saul would later offer one other interesting detail of his life. As reported by activists present at a November 9, 2011, ALEC protest planning meeting, Saul claimed to have ties to recent “anarchist” actions in Mexico. This appears to have been an oblique reference to a group calling themselves “Mexican Fire Cells Conspiracy/Informal Anarchist Federation,” which, through a number of anarchists online forums, had claimed responsibility for a fire at Las Torres Shopping Mall in Juarez on November 2.

According to Fecke Stoudt and other activists interviewed by DBA/CMD, Saul consistently expressed a voracious interest in all things related to anarchism. Perhaps the only area of conversation that stimulated Saul’s interest as much as general discussion of anarchism, said Fecke-Stoudt and other activists interviewed by DBA/CMD, was discussion of the pending ALEC SNPS protest.

According to Fecke-Stoudt, Saul commenced to appear at Conspire on nights when the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition (PAC) would hold meetings. It was during one of these occasions that Fecke-Stoudt detected a particularly odd pattern of behavior on Saul’s part.

“There’s a certain thing that people do, when you can tell they’re interested in something, but they’re trying not to talk about it — where, whenever they hear, like, even the slightest mention of that thing, they come running over and they start listening intently, or, like, they’ll just kind of slowly put themselves into the conversation — that’s what he did,” said Fecke-Stoudt.

This behavior on Saul’s part, explained Fecke-Stoudt, would occur whenever mention was made of the planned ALEC protest.

“Once, after a PAC meeting […] he was hanging about and somebody said something about ALEC and, you know, he just kind of suddenly appeared in the conversation,” said Fecke-Stoudt. “I didn’t see it happen at that time, because I was engaged in the conversation, but I’m like, all of a sudden, ‘there’s Saul. Why is Saul in this conversation all of a sudden?'”

It is important to note that, according to both activists’ accounts and records obtained by DBA/CMD, Saul did not only attend anarchist protest planning meetings. Throughout his time as an activist infiltrator, Saul rubbed elbows with members of Occupy Phoenix, immigrants’ rights groups, faith-based organizations, indigenous rights groups, and others.

Records obtained by DBA/CMD show that Saul would report on these ALEC protest planning meetings to Van Dorn, who would then forward the intelligence on to PPDHDB personnel.

For example, on October 26, 2011, Van Dorn sent the following email to PPDHDB Lt. Lawrence “Larry” Hein, PPDHDB Sgt. Pat “Patrick” Kotecki and PPDMOB Lt. John Geroulis:

“Hey Bosses,” wrote Van Dorn. “Saul has stated that the Anarchists have officially posted the ‘resist ALEC’ on their website but they haven’t discussed specifics on how to disrupt the conference [sic]. There are also two websites that might be worth the TLO’s [ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison Officers”] monitoring.”

Van Dorn then went on to provide a link to “azresistsalec.wordpress.com,” and to detail the number of “likes” on the Facebook page associated with that site.

“According to Saul they are supposed to be having ‘resist ALEC’ training this weekend in downtown Phoenix as well,” added Van Dorn. “Kepp you updated [sic].”

Records indicate that PPDHDB Sgt. Kotecki forwarded this intelligence on to PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Rohme with instructions to “monitor and advise.”

Records obtained by DBA Press and the Center for Media and Democracy show that PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Van Dorn and a PPDMOB undercover detective named Saul Ayala attended two meetings (November 18 and 23, 2011), held in the ACTIC “training room.” The subject of both these meetings was planned protests of the ALEC conference.

Interestingly enough, records indicate that PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Michael Rohme had invited Westin Kierland Director of Security Phil Black to attend the November 23 ACTIC meeting. According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, Rohme had been the chief ACTIC point of contact between ALEC personnel in the months leading up to the 2011 SNPS. Such ALEC-related personnel Rohme had shared ACTIC resources/information with included Bayer Healthcare Head of Security Mark Davis. Bayer Healthcare is a longtime ALEC private sector member and had served as co-chair of the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force for several years, ending in 2011. At the time of the ALEC 2011 SNPS, Bayer Healthcare’s parent corporation, Bayer Corporation, served as “first vice chairman” of the ALEC Private Enterprise Board Executive Committee.

And, speaking to the private sector clout carried by ALEC in the world of “counter terrorism” public-private intelligence sharing partnerships, consider this: Arizona Public Service/Pinnacle West Capital Corporation (APS) served as a “chairman” level sponsor of the 2011 ALEC SNPS. The chairman of the Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP, an economic development corporation whose members are clearly active in ACTIC CLP) Board of Directors is APS/Pinnacle West President and CEO Donald Brandt. APS Enterprise Security Operations Director Bob Parrish served as longtime board member of Arizona Infragard at this time as well.

Furthermore, records obtained by DBA/CMD show that, in February of 2012, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Protective Security Advisor Christine Figueroa forwarded open source intelligence (derived from activist Facebook postings and the Occupy Phoenix events calendar) pertaining to planned February 29, 2012 protests of ALEC-member corporations (a nationwide effort launched by Occupy Portland, Oregon) to ACTIC personnel (including O’Neill) and other U.S. DHS personnel.

According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, the information distributed by Figueroa had been gathered by Salt River Project (SRP) Security Manager Jay Spradling. This Spradling advisory reiterated activist plans (as posted on the Occupy Phoenix events calendar) to “march from [Freeport-McMoran Center, worldwide headquarters of Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold, Inc.] to other ALEC corporations downtown. Send them a message that we won’t stand for the corporate takeover of our democracy any longer,” and to (as stated on the Occupy Phoenix Facebook page) hold a press conference for the purpose of “informing people about what ALEC is and why they are bad!” Records show that this information was then passed on, through PPDCRB Sgt. Schweikert, to Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold Manager of Corporate Security Thomas Tyo.

At the time of the F-29 protests SRP lobbyist Russell Smoldon served as the ALEC Arizona “private sector chair” (largely responsible for ALEC Arizona “scholarship fund” fundraising) and Freeport-McMoran Copper and Gold served as a “director” level sponsor of the 2011 ALEC SNPS. Freeport-McMoran is also active in ACTIC CLP through its position on the Downtown Phoenix Partnership Board of Directors.

As indicated by records obtained by DBA/CMD, as well as accounts of activists interviewed, Saul’s participation in ALEC protest planning meetings ended on November 9, 2011. The PPDMOB undercover detective attended an ALEC protest planning meeting that evening, after which an immigrants’ rights activist approached Saul and confronted him about his life as a cop.

According to the activist (who spoke to DBA/CMD on condition of anonymity), she had worked as a barista at a Phoenix Starbucks some years prior. During her time as a barista, the woman and her co-workers had become accustomed to the habits of two police officers who would come into the cafe to order drinks every night, while the cafe was closing. Rather than leaving coffee machines on and uncleaned, the cafe workers would set drinks aside for these two officers. One of these officers, said the activist, was the man who currently represented himself as the homeless anarchist wannabe, “Saul DeLara.”

According to this activist, when confronted, Saul denied having ever seen her before and angrily denied being a cop. Nevertheless, word of Saul’s possible relationship with law enforcement spread quickly through the Phoenix activist community and, as indicated by records obtained by DBA/CMD, details of this November 9 meeting were the last to be gathered by Saul and relayed through Van Dorn to PPDHDB/ACTIC personnel.

PPD Public Information Officer Trent Crump declined to confirm whether PPDMOB undercover detective Saul Ayala was in fact the man who presented himself to Phoenix activists as “Saul DeLara,” or to discuss any specifics of PPD undercover officer activity related to Occupy Phoenix or other Phoenix activist groups. However, Crump did state that it is a “regular practice” of PPD to employ “plainclothes or undercover” officers in the gathering of intelligence related to activist activity that may include “civil disobedience.”

When asked what suspicion of criminal activity PPD used to predicate such intelligence gathering conducted by undercover officers, Crump stated:

“I don’t even think that one has to say that we have to anticipate that there’s going to be criminal activity for us to gather intelligence — public safety is one of our job responsibilities. So, when we know they’re going to have, very possibly, some civil unrest, or we know we may have large groups of people organizing to rally under a protest — or whatever you want to call it — we gather intelligence on this, absolutely.”

Brenda the “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Facebook Queen

According to records obtained by DBA/CMD from the Arizona Department of Homeland Security (AZDOHS, the state agency that essentially acts as a bursar for U.S. DHS Arizona grant awards), PPD was awarded $1,016,897 in U.S. DHS State Homeland Security Grant Program funding in September of 2010 for the PPD “ACTIC Intelligence Analyst Project.” According to these AZDOHS records, these funds were intended to fill positions for both a PPD “ACTIC Intelligence Analyst” and “IT Planner.” Records obtained by DBA/CMD indicate that these project funds have been used, in part, to hire and pay the more than $71,000 compensation (this figure includes salary and benefits) of PPDHDB/ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Brenda Dowhan.

According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, Dowhan’s primary role at ACTIC over the course of 2011 (according to records, Dowhan appears to have been hired in July of 2011) and 2012 appears to have been the monitoring of social media activity associated with individuals involved in Occupy Phoenix — as well as to create bulletins for distribution to both ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison Officers” and other “fusion center” personnel nationwide, detailing trends in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, in order to facilitate Dowhan’s work PPD personnel regularly fed the “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” logs containing the names, addresses, social security numbers, driver’s license/state identification numbers, and physical descriptions of citizens arrested, issued citations — or even given “warnings” by police — in connection with Occupy Phoenix. The vast majority of these citizens who had been arrested, or had other interactions with PPD, were cited/warned for alleged violations of the city’s “urban camping” ordinance.

Records indicate that Dowhan took her job very seriously. Records obtained by DBA/CMD show that when, in December of 2011, two members of Occupy Phoenix posted plans to travel to Flagstaff for Christmas, Dowhan alerted ACTIC Terrorism Liaison Officers in the Flagstaff area to their impending arrival.

And, records show that, in November, 2011, when Dowhan first became concerned that those she surveilled within the Phoenix activist community may eventually detect her presence online, she asked her PPDHDB superiors if they could discuss the possibility of her using a “clean computer,” possibly one with an “anonymizer,” in the future. This appears to have been a reference to a computer utility product, made by Anonymizer, Inc., that allows users to visit websites anonymously.

In fact, Dowhan was so dedicated to her job of monitoring the Facebook posts (and other social media/blogs) of members of Occupy Phoenix that, when, on December 16, 2011, FBI agent Alan McHugh contacted ACTIC/Arizona Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) personnel (including FBI Phoenix JTTF Special Agent Marcus Williams and U.S. DHS Intelligence Analyst Anthony Frangipane) to advise them of a planned December 17 Occupy Phoenix protest to be held outside the Phoenix office of U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) in opposition to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA 2012), ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Dowhan giddily responded:

“Good Morning Alan [sic] [paragraph break] Tracking the activities of Occupy Phoenix is one of my daily responsibilities. My primary role is to look at the social media, websites, and blogs. I just wanted to put it out there so that if you would like me to share with you or you have something to share, we can collaborate [sic].”

Dowhan went on to state that ACTIC/PPDHDB was also concerned about the NDAA 2012 protest (dubbed by Occupy Phoenix the “No Indefinite Detention Rally”) as well as other Occupy Phoenix events planned for coming days. In closing, Dowhan stated that she would continue to “monitor online activities to get an idea of what kind of participation we can expect.”

This glimpse into the day-to-day working life of those in the “counter terrorism” world is, of course, hilariously ironic, since citizens protesting NDAA 2012 were protesting provisions of the law that would allow for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens who are even suspected of aiding, committing, or plotting acts of terrorism, “hostilities,” or any other “belligerent acts” against the nation.

However, perhaps a much less humorous side of this reality is illustrated in an October, 2011 advisory sent out to “fusion center”/”counter terrorism” personnel nationwide by Transportation Security Administration (TSA, a component of U.S. DHS) Office of Intelligence Field Intelligence Officer Larry Tortorich. In this advisory, focused on a planned October 6 Occupy New Orleans march, Tortorich opined: “the potential always exists for extremists to exploit or redirect events such as this or use the event to escalate or trigger their own agendas. […] Jihadists recently discussed how they can benefit from the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been ongoing in New York City, and suggested ‘that their continuation will make the enemy lose focus on the wars abroad.'” [It is not known what “Jihadists” Tortorich referenced.]

It is also worth noting that, according to records obtained by DBA/CMD, when President Barack Obama visited the Phoenix area in January of 2012, ACTIC personnel monitored associated NDAA 2012 protests. Furthermore records indicate that the U.S. Capitol Police Office of Intelligence Analysis (working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) had monitored Arizona protest activity aimed at NDAA 2012 in February of 2012.

In any event, let’s get back to Dowhan. While records obtained by DBA/CMD do show that Dowhan spent tremendous amounts of time trolling the Facebook pages of citizens engaged in Occupy Phoenix, as well as other Occupy Wall Street and activist groups, during 2011 and 2012, the mere culling of “open source intelligence” was not the extent of Dowhan’s U.S. Department of Homeland Security-funded activities.

Records obtained by DBA/CMD show multiple instances in which Dowhan attempted to identify citizens believed to be active in the Occupy Phoenix/Occupy Wall Street movement (though not believed to have committed any crime — other than an allegation of marijuana use, as discussed below) through the use of biometric data analysis applied to photos found on Facebook.

One example of the use of this facial recognition technology is as follows:

On November 18, 2011, ACTIC received information pertaining to an individual reported to be involved with Occupy Phoenix. This information came in the form of an anonymous tip submitted to ACTIC personnel through the Silent Witness “web tip” program (a service provided to ACTIC personnel by The Silent Witness, Inc., a private non profit corporation).

The anonymous tip stated:

“Met an Occupy nut online, she says she’s from your area […] She appears to be involved with some sort of violent organization. Has expressed intent to ‘take down the local power structure,’ desire to be killed in violent resistance as a martyr: ‘GOOD KILL US. That will really make people mad!'”

The anonymous “tipster” (records identified the source of this information as being “Web Tipster,” and Dowhan subsequently referred to the informant as “the tipster”) then went on to state that the “Occupy nut” “[had] indicated knowledge of specific plans for violent revolt, knowledge of bomb-related activities. When pressed further was reticent, claimed she did not want to give more details on the plans due to ‘outstanding warrants and paranoia’. [sic]”

In closing, the “tipster” wrote:

“Additionally, since I’m aware no crime has technically been committed there (apart for whatever the warrants are for), I’ve got an actual crime for you as well: illegal possession/use of marijuana, I’ve seen her smoking it on camera. I will attempt to get a picture in the future. [Paragraph break] I’m well aware that the threat of violence sounds like someone yanking my chain, and it quite possibly is, but she sounds serious about this and I feel it’s better to falsely report than to not report an actual threat.”

The anonymous “tipster” then went on to identify the “Occupy nut” as being a 20-year-old female known as “Amber.” The tipster stated that the young woman was unemployed and living with her twin sister and father. The tipster also provided ACTIC personnel with a photograph of what appears to be a teen-aged girl wearing eye glasses seated in front of a computer (the photo appears to have been taken by a monitor-mounted camera).

ACTIC PPDHD “Terrorism Liason All-Hazards Analyst” Dowhan immediately followed up on this tip on November 18, 2011, by distributing information contained in the anonymous tip to PPDHDB personnel.

In a December 23 email from Dowhan to PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Christopher “CJ” Wren, PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Rohme and PPDHDB Det. Robert Bolvin, Dowhan stated that she had attempted to identify “Amber” through the use of facial recognition technology, but that the attempt had failed.

“We have a Facebook photo and tried to do facial recognition, but she was wearing glasses,” wrote Dowhan in the December 23 email.

The facial recognition resources that Dowhan utilized in her efforts to identify individuals believed to be associated with Occupy Wall Street groups are provided through the ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit, a unit housed within ACTIC and operated by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).

According to records obtained from the Arizona Department of Homeland Security by DBA/CMD, the ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit has the ability to match biometric data contained in photographs — such as those found on Facebook — with biometric data contained in roughly 18 million Arizona Driver’s License photos, 4.7 million Arizona county/municipal jail “booking” photos, 12,000 photos contained in the “Arizona Sex Offender Database,” and 2 million photos available through the Federal Joint Automated Booking System.

The ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit, according to these AZDOHS records, also has the ability to utilize “portable units” during “special events.” And, according to AZDOHS records, MCSO has requested additional U.S. DHS funding in order to purchase additional “facial recognition video capture” technologies.

The ACTIC Facial Recognition Unit currently utilizes technology and services purchased from Hummingbird Defense Systems, Inc. (HDSI, a Nevada corporation allegedly headquartered in Phoenix, but which has had its status as an active corporation revoked in both Nevada and Arizona since at least 2008). HDSI purports to have partnered with Detaq Solutions in 2002 in the development of a biometric surveillance system for the Beijing Public Security Bureau. Part of this system, according to HDSI, was a “centralized biometric database […] that was deployed to help secure Tiananmen Square.” As such, HDSI boasts that this system “was awarded ‘National Technology Treasure’ status by the Ministry of Public Security of China.”

Tiananmen Square was, of course, the site of the massacre of hundreds of peaceful Chinese student protestors by People’s Republic of China armed forces on June 4, 1989. The students, demanding government reform, had occupied the square for weeks prior to the massacre. The site, and the “June 4 Massacre,” have remained significant rallying points to government reform activists in China.

All Actors in Play: the Facebook Queen, the Creepy Guy, Public-Private Partnerships, and Paid Cops

Occupy Phoenix was not a large operation. Despite a relatively large turnout during the group’s inaugural march on October 15, 2011 (which peaked at about 1,000 participants), the Occupy Phoenix encampment in Cesar Chavez Plaza typically saw fewer than 50 “occupiers.” So, given the galvanizing force offered in opposition to ALEC throughout the spectrum of the Phoenix activist community, protests of the 2011 ALEC SNPS were, by far, the most well-attended Occupy Phoenix protest events to take place during 2011 or 2012, aside from the initial October 15, 2011 march.

The largest of these protests was held on the morning of the first full day of the conference, November 30, outside the Westin Kierland’s east gate. Protestors, numbering in the hundreds, marched to the gate as ALEC member lawmakers, lobbyists, corporate executives, and right-wing ‘think tank’ luminaries were ushered into the resort through security check points. Arizona Governor Brewer was to be the keynote speaker at the day’s ALEC luncheon, held in one of the Kierland’s many grand dining rooms.

At about 9:40 a.m., an incident took place between protestors and riot gear-clad PPD “mobile field force” officers who had established a “tactical response unit” (TRU) outside the Kierland’s eastern gate. All told, five protestors were arrested on charges of trespassing and “crossing a police line” during this incident.

Following the arrests, PPD officials told local media that officers had been attacked by wild-eyed “anarchists” brandishing “nail filled sticks” and that these “anarchists” had attempted to overthrow police barricades with metal poles. These attacks, according to PPD officials parroted in media accounts, had “forced” officers to deploy amounts of oleoresin capsicum (“OC”) spray into the crowd and make the five arrests.

Interestingly, this PPD version of events, wherein officers were provoked by violent “anarchists” with “nail filled sticks,” seems to have little semblance to reality.

The following version of events that took place outside the east gate of the Westin Kierland, at approximately 9:40 a.m., November 30, 2011, is based on video evidence that resulted in the dismissal of charges against one of the activists arrested, as well as photographs and police records obtained from PPDHDB/PPD by DBA/CMD:

At approximately 9:40 a.m., several PPD officers (many of whom did not wear any identification, in violation of departmental policy), deployed as part of a TRU, were met by a group of protestors who had marched to the eastern entrance of the resort and stopped approximately 50 feet from a barrier line established by TRU officers. Protestors at the front of the group held a large banner. Behind these protestors were a number of other protestors. Some of these other protestors held signs, and some played marching band music on musical instruments. The crowd of protestors, contrary to PPD accounts, was not composed entirely, or mostly, of “anarchists.” Present at this protest were members of Occupy Phoenix, members of several immigrants’ rights groups, members of indigenous rights groups, members of faith-based groups, concerned citizens, as well as a small group of individuals who described themselves as being “anarchists.”

The protest group having stopped well outside the established police barricade line, four protestors moved to the front of the large banner at the head of the procession and sat passively on the ground — remaining several (approximately 30 to 40) feet from the police barricades.

Shortly after these four protestors had seated themselves, several TRU officers picked up a metal barricade, carried it over to where the protestors sat, and pushed the barricade down on top of them, as if to crush the protestors. At this point, another protestor, Ezra Kaplan, a member of the Occupy Phoenix media group, walked over to where the police were pushing the barricade down on protestors and started taking pictures with his camera. The TRU officers then lifted the metal barricade over the seated protestors and shoved it directly into the banner, pinning the cameraman between the police line and the banner. Protestors then began to shout: “we’re non-violent,” at which point the four seated protestors and Kaplan were grabbed by officers, rushed onto resort property and arrested on charges of “crossing a police line” and trespassing. At this point, TRU officer PPD Violent Crimes Bureau Gang Enforcement Unit Detective Gregory Liebertz, reached into the crowd, grabbed the banner and began spraying protestors with OC spray. This officer was joined by several other officers in pulling, tearing, and eventually stomping the banner. Simultaneously, several other officers also deployed OC spray on the protestors. With the onset of this police aggression, the protestors temporarily disbanded and retreated.

At no point does this video footage show any sign of crazed “anarchists” (or any other protestor) swinging “nail filled sticks” at officers, or of “anarchists” (or other protestors) attempting to overturn police barricades.

In reality, the TRU/”mobile field force” officers had been working under the command of PPD Sgt. Eric Harkins. According to records obtained by DBA/CMD, at the time of this incident Harkins was actually off-duty, earning $35 per hour as a private security guard employed by ALEC, under the direction of Westin Kierland Director of Security Phil Black. Records show that, by the time SNPS ended, Harkins had earned $630 for security services rendered to ALEC and Westin Kierland during November 30 and December 1.

Harkins wasn’t alone in this paid service to ALEC/Westin Kierland. Records indicate that ALEC/Westin Kierland had hired 49 active duty and 9 retired PPD officers to act as private security during the conference. All told, ALEC/Westin Kierland paid out a total of $36,015 in “off-duty” pay to these officers.

[Note: records obtained by DBA/CMD relating to this off-duty job detail clearly state that the “client company” for this event was ALEC. As previously discussed, other records obtained by DBA/CMD show that Westin Kierland Director of Security Black, clearly working for the benefit of ALEC, had coordinated closely with both ALEC personnel and PPDHDB/ACTIC personnel in preparation for this event.]

It is not known how many of these off-duty PPD officers working as private security for the ALEC conference were involved in the TRU/”mobile field force” incident at the Westin Kierland east gate, but it is known that Harkins and another off-duty officer working as private ALEC/Kierland security, Eric Carpenter (paid a total of $630 by ALEC/Kierland for services rendered), personally arrested the Occupy Phoenix photographer, Ezra Kaplan. Furthermore, Officer Carpenter’s report of the incident (actually filed as the joint report of both Harkins and Carpenter) explicitly states that Sgt. Harkins had “advised nearby officers to place [the four seated protestors] under arrest.”

As further stated in the Harkins/Carpenter report, off-duty officers had attended a briefing prior to the protests at which they were told, by PPD Off-Duty Job Coordinator Officer Tim Moore (who was paid $2,065 by ALEC/Kierland for services rendered under the direction of Black during the conference. Moore had also attended several meetings of both ACTIC and ALEC personnel regarding the planned protests, some of which were also apparently attended by PPDMOB Career Criminal Squad Sgt. Van Dorn and PPDMOB undercover detective Saul Ayala) that “no protestors were wanted on resort property and that the resort would want prosecution.” And, indeed, the five protestors arrested at the Kierland’s east gate were prosecuted — based, in part, on demonstrably false claims made by these off-duty police officers.

As for the presence of “mobile field force”/TRU officers at the gates of the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa during the ALEC SNPS, records obtained by DBA/CMD show that Black, citing an “article” he had been given by personnel employed by ALEC, had discussed the possibility of deploying a “mobile field force” to the grounds of the resort during the conference with PPDHDB Det./ACTIC TLO Rohme.

The article cited by Black as grounds for this “mobile field force” presence (“Occupy Wall Street Gets More Violent”) was written by Heritage Foundation Assistant Director of Strategic Communications Mike Brownfield, and had been published in a Heritage Foundation newsletter. Conspicuously absent from records obtained by DBA/CMD relating to the acquisition of a “mobile field force” apropos the Heritage Foundation “article,” is any disclosure on the part of ALEC personnel (or personnel working on behalf of ALEC, including Black) of the fact that Heritage is an ALEC member ‘think tank,’ co-founded by ALEC founder Paul Weyrich, and financed by many of the very same corporate interests that comprise ALEC “private sector” membership.

What’s more, according to records obtained by DBA/CMD, off-duty officers employed as private security for ALEC/Kierland had been given “face sheets,” generated by PPDHDB, containing the photographs (mostly driver’s license photos) of 24 Phoenix and Tucson-area activists listed as “persons of interest to the ALEC conference.” Such activists listed on the ALEC “face sheet” included members of Occupy Phoenix, anarchists, prison reform activists, members of Phoenix Cop Watch (a watchdog group that seeks to police unscrupulous or illegal actions of local law enforcement) and others.

While the exact purpose of the ALEC “face sheet” is unknown, since none of the activists listed on the sheet (with the exception of one activist who had been arrested prior to the ALEC event) were wanted in relation to any alleged crime at the time of the ALEC conference. For his part, PPD Public Information Officer Crump declined to answer any questions relating to the ALEC “face sheet.” Nevertheless, a November 17 email sent from ACTIC/PPDHDB “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Dowhan to ACTIC/DPS Intelligence Bureau Analyst Annette Roberts may provide some insight to PPDHDB/ACTIC motives [Note: DPS Northern Intelligence District Commander, Captain Steve Harrison, did not respond to requests seeking information pertaining to Roberts’ position within DPS. Records do, however, suggest that Roberts is most likely a DPS Intelligence Bureau analyst]:

“The ACTIC has identified groups that intend ‘Shut ALEC Down.’ While some may merely protest the event, such as Anti-SB1070 and the Occupy Phoenix movement, anarchist groups have shown a determination to disrupt and shut down the event with the use of violent tactics experienced by other states hosting these meetings. The Phoenix Police Department is taking the lead to identify and intercept persons they believe to pose a threat to the event or attendees.”

It should be noted that, regardless of Dowhan’s assertions, previous ALEC conferences were not — by any stretch of the imagination — subject to any “violent tactics” perpetrated by “anarchists” (or any other individuals). Indeed, the sole arrest to have occurred at any ALEC conference protest prior to the Scottsdale ALEC SNPS took place in New Orleans in August of 2011, during the ALEC Annual Meeting held at the Marriott New Orleans French Quarter Hotel. According to New Orleans Police Department records, on August 5 an officer (who was off-duty, working as private security for the ALEC conference) arrested a male subject for allegedly spray painting an “unknown symbol resembling the letter ‘A’ with a circle around it (in red color)” on Marriott property.

Nevertheless, this much, regarding the application of the ALEC “face sheet,” is known: during the ALEC protest on the morning of November 30, 2011, Jason Odhner, a Quaker street medic working with the Phoenix Urban Health Collective, was handcuffed by a police officer, who was likely off-duty and working as private security for ALEC/Kierland, while walking across a slim portion of the the Kierland golf course and detained in the back of a police vehicle for more than an hour (though he was not charged with any crime). At the time of Odhner’s false arrest, he had been seeking treatment for a protestor who was suffering from heat-related symptoms. Not surprisingly, Ohdner’s name and driver’s license photo were present on the ALEC “persons of interest” “face sheet.”

According to both a copy of the ALEC “face sheet” and other records obtained by DBA/CMD, officers equipped with this “face sheet” were instructed — by none other than the sheet’s creator, ACTIC “Terrorism Liaison All-Hazards Analyst” Brenda Dowhan — to destroy all copies of the “face sheet” after the ALEC event. And, as most — if not all — of the activists pictured on the ALEC “face sheet” had either known, been Facebook friends with, or been at ALEC protest planning meetings attended by, the “creepy guy” calling himself “Saul DeLara,” it is clear that intelligence provided to Dowhan in the creation of this “face sheet” likely had its origins, at least in part, with the PPDMOB undercover detective who had infiltrated the Phoenix activist community.

Beau Hodai is a freelance journalist and publisher of DBA Press, an online news publication and source materials archive. He can be reached at publisher@dbapress.com

By Beau Hodai / PR Watch May 22, 2013

Find this story at 22 May 2013

Copyright alternet.org

Revealed: how energy firms spy on environmental activists

Leaked documents show how three large British companies have been paying private security firm to monitor activists

Three large energy companies have been carrying out covert intelligence-gathering operations on environmental activists, the Guardian can reveal.

The energy giant E.ON, Britain’s second-biggest coal producer Scottish Resources Group and Scottish Power, one of the UK’s largest electricity-generators, have been paying for the services of a private security firm that has been secretly monitoring activists.

Leaked documents show how the security firm’s owner, Rebecca Todd, tipped off company executives about environmentalists’ plans after snooping on their emails. She is also shown instructing an agent to attend campaign meetings and coaching him on how to ingratiate himself with activists. The disclosures come as police chiefs, on the defensive over damaging revelations of undercover police officers in the protest movement, privately claim that there are more corporate spies in protest groups than undercover police officers.

Senior police officers complain that spies hired by commercial firms are – unlike their own agents – barely regulated.

Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, which until recently ran the secretive national unit of undercover police officers deployed in protest groups, said in a speech last week that “the deployment by completely uncontrolled and unrestrained players in the private sector” constituted a “massive area of concern”.

Revelations about Mark Kennedy and three other undercover police officers in protest groups caused a furore last month and led to four official inquiries into their activities.

Now a Guardian investigation has shed new light on the surveillance of green campaigners by private security firms whose intrusive operations include posing as activists on mailing lists and infiltrating full-time agents into campaign groups over many years.

Multinational companies, ranging from power producers to arms sellers, hire these firms to try to prevent activists running campaigns against them or breaking into their sites.

The leaked documents lay bare the methods of one firm, Vericola, run by 33-year-old Todd. Based in Canterbury, Vericola, according to Todd, is a “business risk management company” offering a “bespoke” service to clients “regarding potential threats” to their businesses.

Over the past three years, Todd, using different email addresses, has signed up to the mailing lists of a series of environ-mental groups organising major demonstrations such as the G20 rallies in London, demonstrations against E.ON’s Kingsnorth power station and the expansion of Heathrow airport, giving her access to communications and advanced notice of demonstrations.

Last July, she forwarded details about Climate Camp campaigners to two company directors she called “the usual suspects”.

One was Gordon Irving, the security director of Scottish Power since 2001 after spending 30 years in Strathclyde police force. The other was Alan Somerville, then a director of Scottish Resources Group which produces a large amount of Britain’s coal.

Todd highlighted a call from campaigners to submit more objections to coal-producing developments which needed planning permission.

Activists say she regularly attended meetings of an environmental group, known as Rising Tide, for around a year in 2007/08.

The documents also show her advising a colleague on how to fit in with the other activists at meetings held to organise future protests. One tip was that he should not mention he was flying to Germany as “obviously” the environmentalists “hate short-haul flights”.

Todd, who says she is not a corporate spy, told the Guardian that all the information she acquires comes from public sources such as subscribing to emailing lists through the websites of the environmental groups.

Despite emails revealing how she repeatedly tried to find ways for her agents to access protest gatherings, Todd denied her company “infiltrates” meetings of protest groups as they are open to any member of the public.

The environmental activists are angry that, by posing as a supporter, she has gained access to emails and meetings where tactics and strategies are discussed. Eli Wilton, a Climate Camp organiser, said: “It’s frightening that in a meeting about how to stop the fossil fuel industry, the person sitting next to you might be a spy paid for by the energy giants themselves.”

He said Todd and her colleagues “couldn’t have gotten subscribed without attending our meetings. These were internal lists where, for example, we strategised about how to stop new coal-fired power stations being built by E.ON.”

E.ON said it had hired Vericola and another security firm, Global Open, on an “ad hoc” basis as its executives wanted to know when environmentalists were going to demonstrate at or invade its power stations and other premises, as they had done in the past.

The E.ON spokesman said it asked Vericola only for publicly available information and if Todd and her colleagues had obtained private information, they had done so “under their own steam”.

SRG and Scottish Power did not comment.

Rob Evans and Paul Lewis
Monday 14 February 2011 21.00 GMT Last modified on Tuesday 20 May 2014 07.51 BST

Find this story at 14 February 2011

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy

New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent

It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a “terrorist threat”:

“FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) … reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat … The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.”

Verheyden-Hilliard points out the close partnering of banks, the New York Stock Exchange and at least one local Federal Reserve with the FBI and DHS, and calls it “police-statism”:

“This production [of documents], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement … These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.”

The documents show stunning range: in Denver, Colorado, that branch of the FBI and a “Bank Fraud Working Group” met in November 2011 – during the Occupy protests – to surveil the group. The Federal Reserve of Richmond, Virginia had its own private security surveilling Occupy Tampa and Tampa Veterans for Peace and passing privately-collected information on activists back to the Richmond FBI, which, in turn, categorized OWS activities under its “domestic terrorism” unit. The Anchorage, Alaska “terrorism task force” was watching Occupy Anchorage. The Jackson, Mississippi “joint terrorism task force” was issuing a “counterterrorism preparedness alert” about the ill-organized grandmas and college sophomores in Occupy there. Also in Jackson, Mississippi, the FBI and the “Bank Security Group” – multiple private banks – met to discuss the reaction to “National Bad Bank Sit-in Day” (the response was violent, as you may recall). The Virginia FBI sent that state’s Occupy members’ details to the Virginia terrorism fusion center. The Memphis FBI tracked OWS under its “joint terrorism task force” aegis, too. And so on, for over 100 pages.

Jason Leopold, at Truthout.org, who has sought similar documents for more than a year, reported that the FBI falsely asserted in response to his own FOIA requests that no documents related to its infiltration of Occupy Wall Street existed at all. But the release may be strategic: if you are an Occupy activist and see how your information is being sent to terrorism task forces and fusion centers, not to mention the “longterm plans” of some redacted group to shoot you, this document is quite the deterrent.

There is a new twist: the merger of the private sector, DHS and the FBI means that any of us can become WikiLeaks, a point that Julian Assange was trying to make in explaining the argument behind his recent book. The fusion of the tracking of money and the suppression of dissent means that a huge area of vulnerability in civil society – people’s income streams and financial records – is now firmly in the hands of the banks, which are, in turn, now in the business of tracking your dissent.

Remember that only 10% of the money donated to WikiLeaks can be processed – because of financial sector and DHS-sponsored targeting of PayPal data. With this merger, that crushing of one’s personal or business financial freedom can happen to any of us. How messy, criminalizing and prosecuting dissent. How simple, by contrast, just to label an entity a “terrorist organization” and choke off, disrupt or indict its sources of financing.

Why the huge push for counterterrorism “fusion centers”, the DHS militarizing of police departments, and so on? It was never really about “the terrorists”. It was not even about civil unrest. It was always about this moment, when vast crimes might be uncovered by citizens – it was always, that is to say, meant to be about you.

• This article originally referred to a joint terrorism task force in Jackson, Michigan. This was amended to Jackson, Mississippi at 4pm ET on 2 January 2012

Naomi Wolf
Saturday 29 December 2012 14.58 GMT Last modified on Friday 10 October 2014 12.01 BST

Find this story at 29 December 2012

© 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

Our National Security State: A Self-Perpetuating Machine for American Insecurity

A briefing of top Obama national security officials in the Situation Room of the White House, October 2009. (Photo: White House/Pete Souza)
As 2015 begins, let’s take a trip down memory lane. Imagine that it’s January 1963. For the last three years, the United States has unsuccessfully faced off against a small island in the Caribbean, where a revolutionary named Fidel Castro seized power from a corrupt but U.S.-friendly regime run by Fulgensio Batista. In the global power struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union in which much of the planet has chosen sides, Cuba, only 90 miles from the American mainland, finds itself in the eye of the storm. Having lost Washington’s backing, it has, however, gained the support of distant Moscow, the other nuclear-armed superpower on the planet.

In October 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower instituted an embargo on U.S. trade with the island that would, two years later, be strengthened and made permanent by John F. Kennedy. On entering the Oval Office, Kennedy also inherited a cockamamie CIA scheme to use Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro. That led, in April 1961, to the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in which, despite major Agency support, the exiles were crushed (after which the CIA would hatch various mad plots to assassinate the new Cuban leader). What followed in October 1962 was “the most dangerous moment in human history” — the Cuban missile crisis — a brief period when many Americans, my 18-year-old self included, genuinely thought we might soon be nuclear toast.

Now, imagine yourself in January 1963, alive and chastened by a world in which you could be obliterated at any moment. Imagine as well that someone from our time suddenly invited you into the American future some 52 Januaries hence, when you would, miracle of miracles, still be alive and the planet still more or less in one piece. Imagine, as a start, being told that the embargo against, and Washington’s hostility toward, Cuba never ended. That 52 futile years later, with Cuba now run by Fidel’s “younger” brother, 83-year-old Raul, the 11th American president to deal with the “crisis” has finally decided to restore diplomatic relations, ease trade restrictions, and encourage American visitors to the island.

Imagine being told as well that in Congress, more than half a century later, a possible majority of representatives remained nostalgic for a policy that spent 52 years not working. Imagine that members of the upcoming 2015 Senate were already swearing they wouldn’t hand over a plug nickel to the president or the State Department to establish a diplomatic mission in Havana or confirm an ambassador or ease the embargo or take any other steps to change the situation, and were denouncing the president — who, by the way, is a black man named Barack Obama — as a weakling and an “appeaser-in-chief” for making such a move.

Perhaps that American visitor from 1963 would already feel as if his or her mind were being scrambled like a morning egg and yet we’re only beginning. After all, our visitor would have to be told that the Soviet Union, that hostile, nuclear-armed communist superpower and partner of Washington in the potential obliteration of the planet, no longer exists; that it unexpectedly imploded in 1991, leaving its Eastern European empire largely free to integrate into the rest of Europe.

One caveat would, however, need to be added to that blockbuster piece of historical news. Lest our visitor imagine that everything has changed beyond all recognition, it would be important to point out that in 2015 the U.S. still confronts an implacably hostile, nuclear-armed communist state. Not the USSR, of course, nor even that other communist behemoth, China. (Its Communist Party took the “capitalist road” in the late 1970s and never looked back as that country rose to become the globe’s largest economy!)

Here’s a hint: it fought the U.S. to a draw in a bitter war more than six decades ago and has just been accused of launching a devastating strike against the United States. Admittedly, it wasn’t aimed at Washington but at Hollywood. That country — or some group claiming to be working in its interests — broke into a major movie studio, Sony (oh yes, a Japanese company is now a significant force in Hollywood!), and released gossip about its inner workings as well as the nasty things actors, producers, and corporate executives had to say about one another. It might (or might not), that is, have launched the planet’s first cyber-gossip bomb.

And yes, you would have to tell our visitor from 1963 that this hostile communist power, North Korea, is also an oppressive, beleaguered, lights-out state and in no way a serious enemy, not in a world in which the U.S. remains the “last superpower.”

You would, of course, have to add that, 52 years later, Vietnam, another implacable communist enemy with whom President Kennedy was escalating a low-level conflict in 1963, is now a de facto U.S. ally — and no, not because it lost its war with us. That war, once considered the longest in U.S. history, would at its height see more than 500,000 American combat troops dispatched to South Vietnam and, in 1973, end in an unexpectedly bitter defeat for Washington from which America never quite seemed to recover.

2015 and Baying for More

Still, with communism a has-been force and capitalism triumphant everywhere, enemies have been just a tad scarce in the twenty-first century. Other than the North Koreans, there is the fundamentalist regime of Iran, which ran its Batista, the Shah, out in 1979, and with which, in the 35 years since, the U.S. has never come to terms — though Barack Obama still might — without ever quite going to war either. And of course there would be another phenomenon of our moment completely unknown to an American of 1963: Islamic extremism, aka jihadism, along with the rise of terrorist organizations and, in 2014, the establishment of the first mini-terror state in the heart of the Middle East. And oh yes, there was that tiny crew that went by the name of al-Qaeda, 19 of whose box-cutter-wielding militants hijacked four planes on September 11, 2001, and destroyed two soaring towers (not yet built in 1963) in downtown New York City and part of the Pentagon. In the process, they killed themselves and thousands of civilians, put apocalyptic-looking scenes of destruction on American television screens, and successfully created a sense of a looming, communist-style planetary enemy, when just about no one was there.

Their acts gave a new administration of right-wing fundamentalists in Washington the opportunity to fulfill its wildest dreams of planetary domination by launching, only days later, what was grandiloquently called the Global War on Terror (or the Long War, or World War IV), a superpower crusade against, initially, almost no one. Its opening salvo would let loose an “all-volunteer” military (no more draft Army as in 1963) universally believed to be uniquely powerful. It would, they were sure, wipe out al-Qaeda, settle scores with various enemies in the Greater Middle East, including Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and leave the U.S. triumphant in a way no great power had been in history. In response to a few thousand scattered al-Qaeda members, a Pax Americana would be created on a global scale that would last generations, if not forever and a day.

Washington’s enemies of that moment would have been so unimpressive to Americans of 1963 that, on learning of the future that awaited them, they might well have dropped to their knees and thanked God for the deliverance of the United States of America. In describing all this to that visitor from another America, you would, however, have to add that the Global War on Terror, in which giant ambitions met the most modest of opponents any great power had faced in hundreds of years, didn’t work out so well. You would have to point out that the U.S. military, allied intelligence outfits, and a set of warrior corporations (almost unknown in 1963) mobilized to go to war with them struck out big time in a way almost impossible to fathom; that, from September 2001 to January 2015, no war, invasion, occupation, intervention, conflict, or set of operations, no matter how under-armed or insignificant the forces being taken on, succeeded in any lasting or meaningful way. It was as if Hank Aaron had come to the plate for a more than a decade without ever doing anything but striking out.

For our by now goggle-eyed visitor, you would have to add that, other than invading the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada against no opposition in 1983 and Panama against next to no opposition in 1989, the mightiest power on the planet hasn’t won a war or conflict since World War II. And after explaining all this, the strangest task would still lie ahead.

Our American beamed in from 1963, who hadn’t even experienced defeat in Vietnam yet, would have to be filled in on the two wars of choice Washington launched with such enthusiasm and confidence in 2001 and 2003 and could never again get out of. I’m talking, of course, about Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries that would barely have registered on an American radar screen 52 years ago, and yet would prove unparalleled quagmires (a Vietnam-era term our observer wouldn’t have yet run across). We would need to explain how the “lone superpower” of the twenty-first century would transform each of them into competitors for the “longest American war” ever.

Washington’s Iraq War began in 1991, the year the Soviet Union would disappear, and in one form or another essentially never ended. It has involved the building of major war-making coalitions, invasions, a full-scale occupation, air wars of various sorts, and god knows what else. As 2015 begins, the U.S. is in its third round of war in Iraq, having committed itself to a new and escalating conflict in that country (and Syria), and in all that time it has won nothing at all. It would be important to remind our visitor from the past that Barack Obama ran for president in 2008 on the promise of getting the U.S. out of Iraq and actually managed to do so for three years before plunging the country back in yet again.

The first American war in Afghanistan, on the other hand, was a CIA Cold War operation that began in 1979 just after the Soviets invaded the country and was meant as payback for Vietnam. And yes, to confuse that visitor even more, in its first Afghan War, the U.S. actually supported the crew who became al-Qaeda and would later attack New York and Washington to ensure the launching of the second Afghan War, the one in which the U.S. invaded and occupied the country. That war has been going on ever since. Despite much talk about winding it down or even ending the mission there 13 years later, the commitment has been renewed for 2015 and beyond.

In both countries, the enemies of choice proved to be lightly armed minority insurgencies. In both, an initial, almost ecstatic sense of triumph following an invasion slowly morphed into a fear of impending defeat. To add just a fillip to all this, in 2015 a Republican majority in the Senate as well as in the House — and don’t forget to explain that we’re no longer talking about Eisenhower Republicans here — will be baying for more.

The National Security State as a Self-Perpetuating Machine

So far, America’s future, looked at from more than half a century ago, has been little short of phantasmagoric. To sum up: in an almost enemy-less world in which the American economic system was triumphant and the U.S. possessed by far the strongest military on the planet, nothing seems to have gone as planned or faintly right. And yet, you wouldn’t want to leave that observer from 1963 with the wrong impression. However much the national security state may have seemed like an amalgam of the Three Stooges on a global stage, not everything worked out badly.

In fact, in these years the national security state triumphed in the nation’s capital in a way that the U.S. military and allied intelligence outfits were incapable of doing anywhere else on Earth. Fifty-three years after the world might have ended, on a planet lacking a Soviet-like power — though the U.S. was by now involved in “Cold War 2.0” in eastern Ukraine on the border of the rump energy state the Soviet Union left behind — the worlds of national security and surveillance had grown to a size that beggared their own enormous selves in the Cold War era. They had been engorged by literally trillions of taxpayer dollars. A new domestic version of the Pentagon called the Department of Homeland Security had been set up in 2002. An “intelligence community” made up of 17 major agencies and outfits, bolstered by hundreds of thousands of private security contractors, had expanded endlessly and in the process created a global surveillance state that went beyond the wildest imaginings of the totalitarian powers of the twentieth century.

In the process, the national security state enveloped itself in a penumbra of secrecy that left the American people theoretically “safe” and remarkably ignorant of what was being done in their name. Its officials increasingly existed in a crime-free zone, beyond the reach of accountability, the law, courts, or jail. Homeland security and intelligence complexes grew up around the national security state in the way that the military-industrial complex had once grown up around the Pentagon and similarly engorged themselves. In these years, Washington filled with newly constructed billion-dollar intelligence headquarters and building complexes dedicated to secret work — and that only begins to tell the tale of how twenty-first-century “security” triumphed.

This vast investment of American treasure has been used to construct an edifice dedicated in a passionate way to dealing with a single danger to Americans, one that would have been unknown in 1963: Islamic terrorism. Despite the several thousand Americans who died on September 11, 2001, the dangers of terrorism rate above shark attacks but not much else in American life. Even more remarkably, the national security state has been built on a foundation of almost total failure. Think of failure, in fact, as the spark that repeatedly sets the further expansion of its apparatus in motion, funds it, and allows it to thrive.

It works something like this: start with the fact that, on September 10, 2001, global jihadism was a microscopic movement on this planet. Since 9/11, under the pressure of American military power, it has exploded geographically, while the number of jihadist organizations has multiplied, and the number of people joining such groups has regularly and repeatedly increased, a growth rate that seems to correlate with the efforts of Washington to destroy terrorism and its infrastructure. In other words, the Global War on Terror has been and remains a global war for the production of terror. And terror groups know it.

It was Osama bin Laden’s greatest insight and is now a commonplace that drawing Washington into military action against you increases your credibility in the world that matters to you and so makes recruiting easier. At the same time, American actions, from invasions to drone strikes, and their “collateral damage,” create pools of people desperate for revenge. If you want to thrive and grow, in other words, you need the U.S. as an enemy.

Via taunting acts like the beheading videos of the Islamic State, the new “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria, such movements bait Washington into action. And each new terrorist crew, each “lone wolf” terrorist undiscovered until too late by a state structure that has cost Americans trillions of dollars, each plot not foiled, each failure, works to bolster both terrorist outfits and the national security state itself. This has, in other words, proved to be a deeply symbiotic and mutually profitable relationship.

From the point of view of the national security state, each failure, each little disaster, acts as another shot of fear in the American body politic, and the response to failure is predictable: never less of what doesn’t work, but more. More money, more bodies hired, more new outfits formed, more elaborate defenses, more offensive weaponry. Each failure with its accompanying jolt of fear (and often hysteria) predictably results in further funding for the national security state to develop newer, even more elaborate versions of what it’s been doing these last 13 years. Failure, in other words, is the key to success.

In this sense, think of Washington’s national security structure as a self-perpetuating machine that works like a dream, since those who oversee its continued expansion are never penalized for its inability to accomplish any of its goals. On the contrary, they are invariably promoted, honored, and assured of a golden-parachute-style retirement or — far more likely — a golden journey through one of Washington’s revolving doors onto some corporate board or into some cushy post in one complex or another where they can essentially lobby their former colleagues for private warrior corporations, rent-a-gun outfits, weapons makers, and the like. And there is nothing either in Washington or in American life that seems likely to change any of this in the near future.

An Inheritance From Hell

In the meantime, a “war on terror” mentality slowly seeps into the rest of society as the warriors, weapons, and gadgetry come home from our distant battle zones. That’s especially obvious when it comes to the police nationwide. It can be seen in the expanding numbers of SWAT teams filled with special ops vets, the piles of Pentagon weaponry from those wars being transferred to local police forces at home, and the way they are taking on the look of forces of occupation in an alien land, operating increasingly with a mentality of “wartime policing.” Since the events of Ferguson, all of this has finally become far more evident to Americans (as it would, with some explanation, to our visitor from 1963). It was no anomaly, for example, that Justice Department investigators found a banner hanging in a Cleveland police station that identified the place sardonically as a “forward operating base,” a term the military uses, as the New York Times put it, “for heavily guarded wartime outposts inside insurgent-held territory.”

In the wake of Ferguson, the “reforms” being proposed — essentially better training in the more effective use of the new battlefield-style gear the police are acquiring — will only militarize them further. This same mentality, with its accompanying gadgetry, has been moving heavily into America’s border areas and into schools and other institutions as well, including an enormous increase in surveillance systems geared to streets, public places, and even the home.

In the meantime, while a national security state mentality has been infiltrating American society, the planners of that state have been rewriting the global rules of the road for years when it comes to torture, kidnapping, drone assassination campaigns, global surveillance, national sovereignty, the launching of cyberwars, and the like — none of which will, in the end, contribute to American security, and all of which has already made the planet a less secure, more chaotic, more fragmented place. In these last years, in other words, in its search for “security,” the U.S. has actually become a force for destabilization — that is, insecurity — across significant swaths of the planet.

Perhaps one of these days, Americans will decide to consider more seriously what “security,” as presently defined by the powers that be in Washington, even means in our world. There can, as a start, be no question that the national security state does offer genuine security of a very specific sort: to its own officials and employees. Nothing they do, no matter how dumb, immoral, or downright criminal, ever seems to stand in the way of their own upward mobility within its structure.

As an example — and it’s only one in an era filled with them — not a single CIA official was dismissed, demoted, or even reprimanded in response to the recent release of the redacted executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. It hardly mattered that the report included actual criminal behavior (even by the degraded “enhanced interrogation” standards green-lighted by the Bush administration) and the grimmest kinds of abuse of prisoners, some quite innocent of anything. In an America in which, economically speaking, security has not exactly been the gold standard of the twenty-first century, it is hard to imagine any group that is more secure.

As for the rest of us, insecurity will surely be the story of our lives for the rest of the twenty-first century (as it was, of course, in 1963). After all, on August 6, 1945, when we consciously entered the age of the apocalyptic possibility at Hiroshima, we had no way of knowing that we had already done so perhaps 200 years earlier as the industrial revolution, based on the burning of fossil fuels, took off. Nor almost 20 years later, did that American of 1963 know this. By 1979, however, the science adviser for the president of the United States was well aware of global warming. When Jimmy Carter gave his infamous “malaise” speech promoting a massive commitment to alternative energy research (and got laughed out of the White House), he already knew that climate change — not yet called that — was a reality that needed to be dealt with.

Now, the rest of us know, or at least should know, and so — with what is likely to be the hottest year on record just ended — would be obliged to offer our visitor from 1963 a graphic account of the coming dangers of a globally warming world. There has always been a certain sense of insecurity to any human life, but until 1945 not to all human life. And yet we now know with something approaching certainty that, even if another nuclear weapon never goes off (and across the planet nuclear powers are upgrading their arsenals), chaos, acidifying oceans, melting ice formations, rising seas, flooding coastal areas, mass migrations of desperate people, food production problems, devastating droughts, and monster storms are all in a future that will be the definition of human-caused insecurity — not that the national security state gives much of a damn.

Admittedly, since at least 2001, the Pentagon and the U.S. Intelligence Community have been engaged in blue-skies thinking about how to give good war in a globally warming world. The national security state as a whole, however, has been set up at a cost of trillions of dollars (and allowed to spend trillions more) to deal with only one kind of insecurity — terrorism and the ever-larger line up of enemies that go with it. Such groups do, of course, represent a genuine danger, but not of an existential kind. Thought about another way, the true terrorists on our planet may be the people running the Big Energy corporations and about them the national security state could care less. They are more than free to ply their trade, pull any level of fossil fuel reserves from the ground, and generally pursue mega-profits while preparing the way for global destruction, aided and abetted by Washington.

Try now to imagine yourself in the shoes of that visitor from 1963 absorbing such a future, bizarre almost beyond imagining: all those trillions of dollars going into a system that essentially promotes the one danger it was set up to eradicate or at least bring under control. In the meantime, the part of the state dedicated to national security conveniently looking the other way when it comes to the leading candidate for giving insecurity a new meaning in a future that is almost upon us. Official Washington has, that is, invented a system so dumb, so extreme, so fundamentalist, and so deeply entrenched in our world that changing it will surely prove a stunningly difficult task.

Welcome to the new world of American insecurity and to the nightmarish inheritance we are preparing for our children and grandchildren.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015
by TomDispatch
byTom Engelhardt

Find this story at 6 January 2015

© 2014 TomDispatch.com

The Jason Bourne Strategy: CIA Contractors Do Hollywood

Think of it as the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) plunge into Hollywood — or into the absurd. As recent revelations have made clear, that Agency’s moves couldn’t be have been more far-fetched or more real. In its post-9/11 global shadow war, it has employed both private contractors and some of the world’s most notorious prisoners in ways that leave the latest episode of the Bourne films in the dust: hired gunmen trained to kill as well as former inmates who cashed in on the notoriety of having worn an orange jumpsuit in the world’s most infamous jail.

The first group of undercover agents were recruited by private companies from the Army Special Forces and the Navy SEALs and then repurposed to the CIA at handsome salaries averaging around $140,000 a year; the second crew was recruited from the prison cells at Guantanamo Bay and paid out of a secret multimillion dollar slush fund called “the Pledge.”

Last month, the Associated Press revealed that the CIA had selected a few dozen men from among the hundreds of terror suspects being held at Guantanamo and trained them to be double agents at a cluster of eight cottages in a program dubbed “Penny Lane.” (Yes, indeed, the name was taken from the Beatles song, as was “Strawberry Fields,” a Guantanamo program that involved torturing “high-value” detainees.) These men were then returned to what the Bush administration liked to call the “global battlefield,” where their mission was to befriend members of al-Qaeda and supply targeting information for the Agency’s drone assassination program.

Such a secret double-agent program, while colorful and remarkably unsuccessful, should have surprised no one. After all, plea bargaining or persuading criminals to snitch on their associates — a tactic frowned upon by international legal experts — is widely used in the U.S. police and legal system. Over the last year or so, however, a trickle of information about the other secret program has come to light and it opens an astonishing new window into the privatization of U.S. intelligence.

Hollywood in Langley

In July 2010, at his confirmation hearings for the post of the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper explained the use of private contractors in the intelligence community: “In the immediate aftermath of the Cold War… we were under a congressional mandate to reduce the community by on the order of 20%… Then 9/11 occurred… With the gusher… of funding that has accrued particularly from supplemental or overseas contingency operations funding, which, of course, is one year at a time, it is very difficult to hire government employees one year at a time. So the obvious outlet for that has been the growth of contractors.”

Thousands of “Green Badges” were hired via companies like Booz Allen Hamilton and Qinetiq to work at CIA and National Security Agency (NSA) offices around the world, among the regular staff who wore blue badges. Many of them — like Edward Snowden — performed specialist tasks in information technology meant to augment the effectiveness of government employees.

Then the CIA decided that there was no aspect of secret war which couldn’t be corporatized. So they set up a unit of private contractors as covert agents, green-lighting them to carry guns and be sent into U.S. war zones at a moment’s notice. This elite James Bond-like unit of armed bodyguards and super-fixers was given the anodyne name Global Response Staff (GRS).

Among the 125 employees of this unit, from the Army Special Forces via private contractors came Raymond Davis and Dane Paresi; from the Navy SEALs Glen Doherty, Jeremy Wise, and Tyrone Woods. All five would soon be in the anything-but-covert headlines of newspapers across the world. These men — no women have yet been named — were deployed on three- to four-month missions accompanying CIA analysts into the field.

Davis was assigned to Lahore, Pakistan; Doherty and Woods to Benghazi, Libya; Paresi and Wise to Khost, Afghanistan. As GRS expanded, other contractors went to Djibouti, Lebanon, and Yemen, among other countries, according to a Washington Post profile of the unit.

From early on, its work wasn’t exactly a paragon of secrecy. By 2005, for instance, former Special Forces personnel had already begun openly discussing jobs in the unit at online forums. Their descriptions sounded like something directly out of a Hollywood thriller. The Post portrayed the focus of GRS personnel more mundanely as “designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.”

“They don’t learn languages, they’re not meeting foreign nationals, and they’re not writing up intelligence reports,” a former U.S. intelligence official told that paper. “Their main tasks are to map escape routes from meeting places, pat down informants, and provide an ‘envelope’ of security… if push comes to shove, you’re going to have to shoot.”

In the ensuing years, GRS embedded itself in the Agency, becoming essential to its work. Today, new CIA agents and analysts going into danger zones are trained to work with such bodyguards. In addition, GRS teams are now loaned out to other outfits like the NSA for tasks like installing spy equipment in war zones.

The CIA’s Private Contractors (Don’t) Save the Day

Recently these men, the spearhead of the CIA’s post-9/11 contractor war, have been making it into the news with startling regularity. Unlike their Hollywood cousins, however, the news they have made has all been bad. Those weapons they’re packing and the derring-do that is supposed to go with them have repeatedly led not to breathtaking getaways and shootouts, but to disaster. Jason Bourne, of course, wins the day; they don’t.

Take Dane Paresi and Jeremy Wise. In 2009, not long after Paresi left the Army Special Forces and Wise the Navy SEALs, they were hired by Xe Services (the former Blackwater) to work for GRS and assigned to Camp Chapman, a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan. On December 30, 2009, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor who had been recruited by the CIA to infiltrate al-Qaeda, was invited to a meeting at the base after spending several months in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands. Invited as well were several senior CIA staff members from Kabul who hoped Balawi might help them target Ayman al-Zawahiri, then al-Qaeda’s number two man.

Details of what happened are still sketchy, but the GRS men clearly failed to fulfill their security mission. Somehow Balawi, who turned out to be not a double but a triple agent, made it onto the closed base with a bomb and blew himself up, killing not just Paresi and Wise but also seven CIA staff officers, including Jennifer Matthews, the base chief.

Thirteen months later, in January 2011, another GRS contractor, Raymond Davis, decided to shoot his way out of what he considered a difficult situation in Lahore, Pakistan. The Army Special Forces veteran had also worked for Blackwater, although at the time of the shootings he was employed by Hyperion Protective Services, LLC.

Assigned to work at a CIA safe house in Lahore to support agents tracking al-Qaeda in Pakistan, Davis had apparently spent days photographing local military installations like the headquarters of the paramilitary Frontier Corps. On January 27th, his car was stopped and he claims that he was confronted by two young men, Faizan Haider and Faheem Shamshad. Davis proceeded to shoot both of them dead, and then take pictures of their bodies, before radioing back to the safe house for help. When a backup vehicle arrived, it compounded the disaster by driving at high speed the wrong way down a street and killing a passing motorcyclist.

Davis was later caught by two traffic wardens, taken to a police station, and jailed. A furor ensued, involving both countries and an indignant Pakistani media. The U.S. embassy, which initially claimed he was a consular official before the Guardian broke the news that he was a CIA contractor, finally pressured the Pakistani government into releasing him, but only after agreeing to pay out $2.34 million in compensation to the families of those he killed.

A year and a half later, two more GRS contractors made front-page news under the worst of circumstances. Former Navy SEALs Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods had been assigned to a CIA base in Benghazi, Libya, where the Agency was attempting to track a developing North African al-Qaeda movement and recover heavy weapons, including Stinger missiles, that had been looted from state arsenals in the wake of an U.S.-NATO intervention which led to the fall of the autocrat Muammar Qaddafi.

On September 11, 2012, U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was staying at a nearby diplomatic compound when it came under attack. Militants entered the buildings and set them on fire. A CIA team, including Doherty, rushed to the rescue, although ultimately, unlike Hollywood’s action teams, they did not save Stevens or the day. In fact, several hours later, the militants raided the CIA base, killing both Doherty and Woods.

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The disastrous denouements to these three incidents, as well as the deaths of four GRS contractors — more than a quarter of CIA casualties since the War on Terror was launched — raise a series of questions: Is this yet another example of the way the privatization of war and intelligence doesn’t work? And is the answer to bring such jobs back in-house? Or does the Hollywood-style skullduggery (gone repeatedly wrong) hint at a larger problem? Is the present intelligence system, in fact, out of control and, despite a combined budget of $52.6 billion a year, simply incapable of delivering anything like the “security” promised, leaving the various spy agencies, including the CIA, increasingly desperate to prove that they can “defeat” terrorism?

Take, for example, the slew of documents Edward Snowden — another private contractor who at one point worked for the CIA — released about secret NSA programs attempting to suck up global communications at previously unimaginable rates. There have been howls of outrage across the planet, including from spied-upon heads of state. Those denouncing such blatant invasions of privacy have regularly raised the fear that we might be witnessing the rise of a secret-police-like urge to clamp down on dissent everywhere.

But as with the CIA, there may be another explanation: desperation. Top intelligence officials, fearing that they will be seen as having done a poor job, are possessed by an ever greater urge to prove their self-worth by driving the intelligence community to ever more (rather than less) of the same.

As Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to Leon Panetta, the former CIA director and defense secretary, told MSNBC: “If you’re looking for a needle in the haystack, you need a haystack.” It’s true that, while the various intelligence agencies and the CIA may not succeed when it comes to the needles, they have proven effective indeed when it comes to creating haystacks.

In the case of the NSA, the Obama administration’s efforts to prove that its humongous data haul had any effect on foiling terrorist plots — at one point, they claimed 54 such plots foiled — has had a quality of genuine pathos to it. The claims have proven so thin that administration and intelligence officials have struggled to convince even those in Congress who support the programs, let alone the rest of the world, that it has done much more than gather and store staggering reams of information on almost everyone to no particular purpose whatsoever. Similarly, the FBI has made a point of trumpeting every “terrorist” arrest it has made, most of which, on closer scrutiny, turn out to be of gullible Muslims, framed by planted evidence in plots often essentially engineered by FBI informants.

Despite stunning investments of funds and the copious hiring of private contractors, when it comes to ineptitude the CIA is giving the FBI and NSA a run for their money. In fact, both of its recently revealed high-profile programs — GRS and the Guantanamo double agents — have proven dismal failures, yielding little if anything of value. The Associated Press account of Penny Lane, the only description of that program thus far, notes, for instance, that al-Qaeda never trusted the former Guantanamo Bay detainees released into their midst and that, after millions of dollars were fruitlessly spent, the program was canceled as a failure in 2006.

If you could find a phrase that was the polar opposite of “more bang for your buck,” all of these efforts would qualify. In the case of the CIA, keep in mind as well that you’re talking about an agency which has for years conducted drone assassination campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Hundreds of innocent men, women, and children have been killed along with numerous al-Qaeda types and “suspected militants,” and yet — many experts believe — these campaigns have functioned not as an air war on, but for, terror. In Yemen, as an example, the tiny al-Qaeda outfit that existed when the drone campaign began in 2002 has grown exponentially.

So what about the Jason Bourne-like contractors working for GRS who turned out to be the gang that couldn’t shoot straight? How successful have they been in helping the CIA sniff out al-Qaeda globally? It’s a good guess, based on what we already know, that their record would be no better than that of the rest of the CIA.

One hint, when it comes to GRS-assisted operations, may be found in documents revealed in 2010 by WikiLeaks about joint CIA-Special Operations hunter-killer programs in Afghanistan like Task Force 373. We don’t actually know if any GRS employees were involved with those operations, but it’s notable that one of Task Force 373’s principal bases was in Khost, where Paresi and Wise were assisting the CIA in drone-targeting operations. The evidence from the WikiLeaks documents suggests that, as with GRS missions, those hunter-killer teams regularly botched their jobs by killing civilians and stoking local unrest.

At the time, Matthew Hoh, a former Marine and State Department contractor who often worked with Task Force 373 as well as other Special Operations Forces “capture/kill” programs in Afghanistan and Iraq, told me: “We are killing the wrong people, the mid-level Taliban who are only fighting us because we are in their valleys. If we were not there, they would not be fighting the U.S.”

As details of programs like Penny Lane and GRS tumble out into the open, shedding light on how the CIA has fought its secret war, it is becoming clearer that the full story of the Agency’s failures, and the larger failures of U.S. intelligence and its paramilitarized, privatized sidekicks has yet to be told.

by Pratap Chatterjee, Tomdispatch.com
December 5th, 2013

Find this story at 5 December 2013

G4S: the inside story

Damaging scandals are raising questions on how the third-largest listed private sector employer runs its empire

G4S’s Marcus Bloomfield in front of a ‘Street to Suite’ custody van in Boston, Lincolnshire

On an overcast Friday evening on a rundown suburban street in Boston, Lincolnshire, a part-time plumber and a retired policeman are sitting in a large white van outside a cell-block, waiting to hear from the police. In black bulletproof vests, smart black trousers and white shirts, they look like police officers. But their van is emblazoned with the words “G4S – working with local policing” and the epaulettes on their uniforms carry the red, white and black logo of the private security company above that of Lincolnshire Police.

This is the frontline of part-privatised policing, where police officers still make the arrests but G4S staff go to the scene, drive offenders away, and later process them for fingerprints and other paperwork in the company’s own “custody suites”. “We tell offenders we are just a taxi service,” says Julian Davis, the ex-policeman on duty for G4S. “It helps defuse the tension.”

To critics, the police authority’s 10-year contract with G4S looks more like a time bomb that could destroy an increasingly fragile consensus about where the limits of private security lie. For G4S, however, such potentially explosive deals with the public sector – in Britain and abroad – are a treasure-chest, which it wants to prise open further.
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That contradiction underlines the challenges facing an organisation of a scale and scope rarely seen in the private sector since the 18th century, when the East India Company ran its own army, ruled large parts of the British empire and implemented some of the most controversial government policies of the age. From “The Manor”, its modern black-and-white headquarters in Crawley in West Sussex, G4S employs 620,500 staff in 115 countries, pursuing a vision that was laid out by its ambitious, marathon-running former chief executive Nick Buckles during a decade of aggressive expansion. That vision is summed up in the company’s slogan “Securing Your World”.

The bulk of its business involves supplying private guards for commercial and residential property, stewards for large events – from The Rolling Stones’ appearance this year in Hyde Park to the Indian Premier League cricket tournament – and armoured vans to carry cash from stores to banks and from banks to cash machines. But G4S armed guards also protect ships against piracy off Somalia, while its uniformed employees screen airline passengers in Vancouver, Canada, manage detention centres where immigrants are held before deportation, clean hospitals, and install and monitor security systems.
©James Dodd/Statement Images

A branded epaulette is the only obvious difference between G4S support services employee Laura Greenley (right) and Sergeant Wills at Boston Police Station

Excluding state-controlled groups, G4S is the third largest listed private-sector employer in the world, behind only Walmart, with 2.2 million staff, and Hon Hai (which trades as Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturer of devices such as Apple iPads), with 1.3 million. The only employer to rival G4S for ubiquity is McDonald’s: 1.8 million people work there but most are employed in its fast-food franchises. It is an apt parallel. Academics have pointed to the growth of G4S and large rivals as evidence of the “McDonaldisation” of private security – a reference to sociologist George Ritzer’s theory that many products and services are now supplied, like burgers in buns, by multinationals that put a premium on efficiency, standardisation, predictability and control.

But G4S’s control over its empire has slipped. Buckles stepped down in May, hit by the triple blows of a failed takeover of ISS, a Danish outsourcing group, an embarrassing failure to supply enough security guards for last year’s Olympics and a profit warning. The pressure on his successor – the more technocratic Ashley Almanza – remains intense. The government has prompted a criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into alleged overcharging by G4S and rival Serco for electronic tagging of prisoners, some of whom had left the country, returned to prison or even died.

In July, an inquest jury recorded a verdict of unlawful killing for an Angolan, Jimmy Mubenga, who died after being restrained by three G4S security guards as he was being deported. A report into Oakwood prison, Staffordshire, run by G4S since 2012, revealed a serious drugs problem and shortages of clean clothing and basic toiletries (G4S blamed “teething problems”). Abroad, former G4S prison guards have claimed they oversaw forced injections and electric shocks at a South African maximum-security jail once lauded as a model.

Such high-profile, high-risk, high-margin contracts are still a vital part of G4S strategy. Work that puts staff in the line of fire is lucrative, and where Britain has led – fuelling the group’s growth over more than 20 years through privatisation of vital services in a sector the National Audit Office estimates is worth £93.5bn a year – G4S expects other countries to follow. “The true benefits of globalisation and being larger [are] that you can bring expertise to markets that aren’t familiar with the products and services you’ve developed in the UK,” Buckles says. According to Almanza, fighting to convince investors he can sustain G4S’s growth, its emerging markets business should continue to expand more strongly than its activities in the rest of the world.
©James Dodd/Statement Images

G4S’s Clare Heyes checking CCTV feeds from cells at Boston Police Station

But G4S’s ability to standardise and control such work only goes so far. As current and former executives concede, some of what G4S and its large rivals do will always give rise to highly public, sometimes violent, confrontation. Strict controls on cost may push already low wages down, increasing pressure on staff. Governments could also lose their appetite for privatisation and outsourcing. If managed too loosely, the group’s riskier activities could threaten the reputation and future of G4S as a whole, as its global presence could backfire. After years of expansion is G4S now simply too big, too complex and too risky to manage?

. . .

The trail to the modern world of private security starts with a Danish company called Kjøbenhavn Frederiksberg Nattevagt – the Copenhagen-Frederiksberg Night Watch – set up by drapery wholesaler Marius Hogrefe in 1901 with 20 guards. Three large companies, which together now employ nearly 1.5 million people, trace their histories back to this point. One is ISS – the Danish service company that G4S failed to buy two years ago. The others are the two global rivals in guarding, Securitas of Sweden and G4S itself.

Buckles was the architect of G4S. He started at Securicor (eventually the “S” in G4S) in 1985 as a project accountant but as early as the 1990s, he saw that size would be an asset in the business. His approach and appearance were not that of the typical leader of a blue-chip business. According to the head of one G4S subsidiary based outside the UK, when he first glimpsed Buckles at a regional management meeting about three years ago, the chief executive was wearing light-coloured trousers and loafers; with his long hair and open-neck shirt, he “looked more like Elvis than a CEO”. In person he was – and remains – engaging. Another G4S executive, based in Asia, says Buckles “had this ability to know you – he would always make sure that he spent time with all of his senior managers at any opportunity he could get”.

As chief executive of Securicor, Buckles helped broker a 2004 deal with Group 4 Falck, a direct Danish descendant of Hogrefe’s Copenhagen Night Watch. The Danish group was larger than the British company but within a year, Buckles, then aged 44, had become head of what was now Group 4 Securicor. Kean Marden, a London-based equity analyst with Jefferies, the investment bank, says: “Nick Buckles was good at planting flags on the map.” That is an understatement. Backed by a highly loyal and close-knit group of executives, Buckles aggressively pushed for rapid expansion. In the nine years to 2013, the group spent about £1.5bn and gobbled up more than 70 companies. The deal drive took G4S into new territory and brought an extraordinary array of sensitive security businesses, big and small, into the empire, including ArmorGroup, whose armed staff protect UK diplomats in Afghanistan and clear mines in Iraq, and Nuclear Security Services, which supplies security systems to nuclear, oil and chemical plants. Until Almanza said he would rein in the deals, the group kept £200m in an annual takeover war chest.
©Kalpesh Lathigra

Nick Buckles, former CEO: ‘There’s no difference in our service delivery today than 10 years ago – it’s probably better – it’s just that people are after us’

The Buckles strategy more than doubled G4S’s share price between 2004 and 2011 and made it a stock market favourite. His expansionist approach, however, did not go down well everywhere. “We have always heard that the goal is to be the largest private-sector employer in the world,” says the head of the G4S subsidiary. “What kind of metric is that? It’s size not quality. If you look at the environment they are operating in, in second-, third-tier countries, risks are very high; the opportunities for unethical behaviour are extremely high and, quite frankly, I think the business acumen of a lot of these folks is in question.”

In one area, though, the acumen of G4S managers is not in doubt. They are extremely adept contract bidders and negotiators. They honed this skill during years competing for public-sector business, after Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government introduced competitive tendering and private construction and management of hospitals, transport links and prisons in the 1980s. The policy helped drive smaller companies from the field – or into the arms of bigger outsourcing companies, which were better equipped to take on the potential liabilities. “The government really was the market maker in this industry,” says Dame DeAnne Julius, who wrote a report on outsourcing for the last British government in 2008 and used to be a director of fellow outsourcer Serco.

Ronald van Steden of VU University Amsterdam, an adviser to the Dutch government and co-author of a paper on how security companies have expanded and adapted, chameleon-like, to local jurisdictions, says: “Because there’s no debate and nobody really cares about it, [the security companies] follow a salami technique: slicing off a small part of public services to see how far they can go.” There is a further consequence: policy makers “are not always fully aware of the magnitude of the sector”.

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By the time Labour took power under Tony Blair in 1997, the idea of privatised public services was firmly embedded, despite early mistakes such as the episode in 1993 when a number of prisoners escaped from Group 4’s custody within weeks of the start of its contract to escort inmates. “Nobody was very impressed with G4S,” admits a former adviser to the UK government in the 2000s, “but nobody was very impressed with the UK Border officers or the Prison and Probation Service either. [G4S] only had to seem to be outperforming [them] rather than being a Rolls-Royce.”

This week, the National Audit Office warned about lack of transparency in government contracts with companies such as G4S and Serco and said the rise of a few major contractors needed to be scrutinised. But G4S and its rivals are not entirely to blame for the way the market has evolved, though they have profited from it. The government failed to co-ordinate or share information about early contracts, and the UK Treasury under Gordon Brown – the natural regulator of such activity – pushed to outsource more. Tom Gash, who was a senior crime policy adviser in Blair’s strategy unit and is now director of research at the Institute for Government, a think-tank, says: “There’s a pernicious public sector contracting dynamic: what you have had historically is often highly politicised drives towards outsourcing, with a heavy focus on doing the deal quickly and delivering success, not [on] how do we set up the market so it delivers in the long term.”
©Getty

Armed forces step in to secure the 2012 London Olympics

By December 2010, when the ill-fated Olympic security contract was signed, G4S was one of the few companies that could possibly have handled it. Then, in 2011, having secured the Olympics job, Buckles’ ambition hit a wall. He mounted a £5.2bn offer for ISS, G4S’s long-lost Danish cousin. The deal would have doubled the group’s size and moved it firmly into cleaning and facilities management. But previously loyal investors forced him to withdraw the bid. Just eight months later, Buckles faced further embarrassment when a shortfall in trained security staff for the London Olympics obliged the UK to mobilise armed forces personnel to assist. In front of a parliamentary committee that was hostile even by the Roman circus standards of such hearings, Buckles – who admits now he went into the committee room exhausted and unprepared – agreed with members of parliament that the prestigious contract had turned into “a humiliating shambles”. Two senior executives resigned and, following a profit warning in May this year, Buckles himself finally stepped down with a £16m package, including deferred pay, his pension and G4S shares.

Almanza – who was brought into the group as chief financial officer and promoted within a month – looks like the anti-Buckles. Where Buckles’ public persona is marked by blokeish bonhomie and grand ambition, Almanza’s style is buttoned-up and austere, with occasional flashes of dry humour. Buckles is a football fan; Almanza is a keen follower of rugby union. In his pomp, Buckles was known for his collar-length hair; Almanza is bald. Yet, as the new chief executive is starting to discover, many of the challenges he faces are the same as those that ultimately did for his predecessor.

. . .

Buckles’ most significant legacy is G4S’s global brand, imposed in 2005, when the group was already present in more than 100 countries, with 410,000 staff. He says the rationale was that it would help to raise standards and wages in the sectors that G4S served. Local companies “aren’t going to do [the job] as efficiently, with as much control and process as we do, because our reputation is at risk. So going into developing markets and establishing much stronger methods of security than they would otherwise get is a massive positive.” After that point, if managers came to him with the idea of exploring risky new areas, saying, “Don’t worry, we won’t brand it G4S,” Buckles says he would respond, “In that case, don’t do it.”
©PA

Buckles apologising to MPs for the 2012 Olympics ‘shambles’ when the company failed to supply enough security staff

The brand values include “the G4S Way” – common standards and practices including “service excellence” and ethics, reputation and crisis management. The GMB union, which represents 25,000 of the 45,000 G4S workers in the UK, compares the group favourably with other employers in the still-fragmented security sector. In India, for example, where all new recruits are paid more than the minimum wage, G4S guards get two weeks of classroom training at one of 31 schools around the country and two weeks’ training onsite and the chance to rise through the ranks to branch manager and beyond. “If you have ability, there’s possibility,” says the Asia-based G4S executive, pointing to G4S’s role in raising standards.

Although the G4S logo is omnipresent, the boots-on-the-ground nature of most of G4S’s business means most specific problems are handled locally – and usually don’t reverberate beyond the local market. Responsibility to “do the right thing lies quite heavily on our managers”, says the same executive, “down to the branch manager [who is] like a mini-managing director with profit and loss responsibilities”.

But for some G4S businesses, the brand is a handicap. One former executive, who used to sell expensive consulting services, says the logo was “troublesome” when trying to win business because “it stands for men in ill-fitting uniforms standing outside shopping centres or offices – in some parts of Africa, wearing flip-flops”.

Anthony Minnaar, who heads the security management programme at the University of South Africa (Unisa) and studies the global market for security services, says that while rival companies put their guards through Unisa’s professional development courses, few of G4S’s employees take part. “For them to just claim that they are assisting with the professionalisation of the guarding sector is nonsense,” he insists. G4S says that it is governed by the Private Security Regulations Authority and that all training is accredited before a guard gets a licence.

The most sensitive part of G4S’s South African business, however, is not guarding but prison management. Last month, South Africa’s Department of Correctional Services decided G4S had “lost effective control” of the Mangaung prison, accusing the company of using “uncertified security staff to perform custodial duties”. An investigation by the Wits Justice Project at the University of Witwatersrand, which interviewed former G4S guards, alleged they used electric shocks and forced injections to impose control. Andy Baker, G4S Africa’s regional president, strongly denies the allegations and says he expects “full management control [to] return to G4S once the current instability has abated”.
©Wits Justice Project

The company is under fire for alleged excesses by guards at Mangaung prison in South Africa

One former South Africa-based executive blames a change in the way the prison was overseen after G4S took on the jail in 2008 through an acquisition. After years in which control of the budget and local management had been handled by UK-based experts in correctional services, G4S switched to a system of devolved oversight by Africa regional heads, who have responsibility for all G4S activities on the continent. The change was “quite uncomfortable”, says this former executive, as budget considerations for differing activities clashed. “If I’m guarding a casino, I’ll have particular costs, which are tangible,” says the former executive. “If I’m running a prison, I’ll spend money on rehabilitation and other things that are less tangible.”

Campaigners have jumped on the Mangaung crisis as further evidence of a company failing to live up to its own promise to raise standards. “G4S is interested in cosmetic changes at the top level, but we haven’t seen any changes at the level [where] workers are being managed,” says Rafeef Ziadah, a senior campaigns officer at War on Want, which is pushing for stronger global oversight of security companies under the aegis of the United Nations.

Highly publicised failures, as well as the threat of greater regulation, could also erode G4S’s business and undermine the lucrative public outsourcing market, which is already stalling in some areas. A recent critical report by the US-based Sentencing Project could find only 11 countries, including the UK, US and South Africa, with any form of prison privatisation. David Hall, former director of the University of Greenwich’s Public Services International Research Unit, says privatisation and outsourcing are no longer “badges of international respectability” for governments. “In developing countries, as in Europe, in terms of general political trends . . . the momentum is no longer with the private side,” he says. “It is at best stalled, at worst . . . going backwards.” Even in the UK, sensitive outsourcing plans for areas such as defence procurement (where G4S is not involved) and probation services (where it is) are now under even more intense political and public scrutiny.

That G4S is now a whipping boy is galling for Buckles, who refers to the company as if he still works there and clearly remains proud of the group. “There’s no difference in our service delivery today than 10 years ago – it’s probably better – it’s just that people are after us,” he says.

His replacement sees the situation slightly differently. Asked about Buckles’ supposedly “hands-on” style, Almanza is careful not to criticise his predecessor directly but says: “I don’t think management has been hands-on at a corporate level [and] although I think there was a distributed operating model, at the centre in the executive team, decision-making was very concentrated.”

G4S’s size should not be a management challenge. “They aren’t managing 620,000 people, they’re managing 6,200 contracts and they can do that perfectly simply,” comments Hall. Almanza says he asked himself, “Is G4S too big to manage?” when he joined the group. But he points out that most of the high-profile problems faced by G4S in the past two years should have been overseen close to home, including the abortive ISS merger, the Olympics contract and the UK electronic tagging deal, where G4S and Serco are alleged to have overcharged the government by tens of millions of pounds.

Even so, by granting a large amount of autonomy to individual managers on the most sensitive contracts, G4S ran a risk that corners would be cut. The former G4S risk consultant recalls his unit “scrambling to get a yes or no [from headquarters] only 24 hours before tendering” for potentially risky contracts. Hall, citing the Serious Fraud Office’s tagging probe, says companies such as G4S should “expect a recurrence of these kinds of issues because . . . [they have] people operating a contract within a clear financial framework, set by the parent company [and they] have work that is highly sensitive and political”.
©Mike Abrahams

Ashley Almanza , G4S CEO: ‘It’s the nature of the business that we can hit the ball out of the park for 364 days of the year and on the last day of the year something goes wrong’

Almanza knows he must stop cracks in the brand from spreading. He says he has tightened assessment of the most complex and risky contracts. G4S now flies in executives with specific expertise to vet big, difficult deals. Almanza himself is demanding more information about who will take charge of such operations on the ground. In one recent case, he asked to see the organisational chart to assess the competence of the local management team.

He has strong financial reasons for clinging on to such work. What G4S calls “care and justice” – which covers both police and prison work – accounts for less than 10 per cent of group revenue but new contracts earn margins of more than 15 per cent, higher than for more mundane guarding. In return, G4S accepts that “stuff happens” – which is exactly what enrages campaigners and increasingly disquiets politicians.

At an investor meeting earlier this month, an analyst asked Almanza an unusually direct question for these normally anodyne sessions: is G4S at the stage where it is not worth putting shareholders’ money into some high-profile frontline contracts? The chief executive’s reply was equally direct: “We don’t think that’s the case.” He added: “We do difficult things sometimes in difficult places . . . It’s the nature of the business that we can . . . hit the ball out of the park for 364 days of the year and on the last day of the year something goes wrong.”

His response hints at an uncomfortable truth. When uniformed staff – however tightly supervised – are placating violent prisoners, tackling pirates or even fingerprinting drunks, the situation will occasionally get out of hand. Sometimes people will be hurt or could even die.

. . .
©James Dodd/Statement Images

The G4S ‘police’. G4S support staff Beth Pearce (taking calls) and David Blunkett (staffing reception) at Boston Police Station, Lincolnshire

Near the bottom of the organisational diagram, the challenges for G4S have a human face. In Lincolnshire, many of the men and women who now embody the company were transferred from the police force as part of the deal. Even if cells are now called “custody suites”, the uniformed staff behind the desk in Boston, waiting for the Friday night influx of offenders, are the same people as before. They joined the police because they wanted to contribute to society.

Lincolnshire Police says the G4S collaboration has improved emergency call response rates, saved time – freeing police to get back on the beat – and cut costs. But the year preparing for the transfer to G4S was, as Clare Heyes-Bowden, a custody suite worker and the union representative, puts it, “one of the most stressful I’d lived through . . . People were concerned that our jobs would be replaced by people who were cheaper. The feeling was that G4S would get us in the long run.” In fact, on the day, all that changed were her epaulettes. But she may yet be right about the long-term trend.

Laura Greenley, a senior custody detention officer, is keen to point out improvements since G4S came in: better communication, a new staff kitchen area, modernised cells. But she admits that with just two people on duty, and the cells usually full on a Friday night, the job is stressful. There is a rubber strip on the walls, which, if pushed in an emergency, will contact the nearest police station. But that assumes officers are there to heed the alarm. Often, they are out on a call.

With G4S in control, many new staff will be paid less than existing workers for doing the same job. Current G4S staff earn about £26,000 a year. Replacement jobs are being advertised at a rate that is £7,000 lower, in line with more menial and less stressful supermarket jobs. Clare Heyes-Bowden says would not reapply on those terms. “I wouldn’t do this job for £19,000,” she says. “I could stack shelves in Tesco for that.”

——————————————-

Andrew Hill is an FT associate editor and management editor. Gill Plimmer is an FT correspondent. To comment, email magazineletters@ft.com

This article was amended since the original publication to reflect the fact that the quote in the final paragraph was from Clare Heyes-Bowden.

November 14, 2013 11:00 pm
By Andrew Hill and Gill Plimmer

Find this story at 14 November 2013

© The Financial Times Ltd 2013 FT and ‘Financial Times’ are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.

Jimmy Mubenga’s unlawful killing was a death waiting to happen

Jimmy Mubenga’s inquest has shed light on the murky world of the privatised deportation business

A protest against the treatment of Jimmy Mubenga outside the Home Office in London. Photograph: Frank Baron for the Guardian

The inquest into the death of Jimmy Mubenga uncovered a shocking story of a cruel deportation system, of racism and inhumanity, and of a state seemingly unwilling to prosecute those who abuse and misuse their powers. The verdict of unlawful killing is an honest reflection of the evidence heard.

Mubenga died on 12 October 2010 on a British Airways flight bound for Angola, the country of his birth. He was being deported after being convicted of involvement in a pub fight, his first and only offence. He had been in the UK since 1994, and left behind a wife and five children, all of whom were born in the UK and are now British citizens. A committed family man, he was a regular at the school gates for the children.

Mubenga died a terrifying death while being restrained by three G4S guards in his aeroplane seat, belted and handcuffed behind his back. The restraint up to 40 minutes; this took place in front of passengers and BA crew, but no one intervened or gave first aid. That was left to the London Ambulance Service, who valiantly tried to save his life but by the time they arrived it was too late.

The investigation into his death was bungled from the outset. The guards were taken to Heathrow police station where senior G4S management, including a former Metropolitan chief superintendent, attended. The guards were not questioned but released and taken to a hotel where in the same room, and with senior management present, they wrote up their accounts. These claimed Mubenga had forced himself forward in his seat, causing his own death.

A different story came to light in the Guardian days later. Passengers described Mubenga being forced face forward in his seat by the guards, shouting that he couldn’t breathe, that he was being killed and pleading for help. Pathologists gave evidence that his death was caused by restraint and that you couldn’t “restrain yourself to death”. The matter was passed to the homicide squad. The guards were arrested and on two of their phones extreme racist texts were found. After almost two years the Crown Prosecution Service decided, inexplicably to the family, not to bring charges – the latest in a series of failures to prosecute over deaths in state custody.

At the inquest the reality of the murky private removals industry emerged, where deportations are a business for profit with multimillion-pound contracts. G4S was paid by the hour, and if a deportation failed profits were hit. The guards’ wages were dependent on the hours worked. It was important to “get the job away” and they were given incentives for successful removals.

Deportations could fail if the deportee made too much of a commotion and the pilot asked the guards to get off the plane. So a technique called “carpet karaoke” was developed by guards to silence deportees. They would push a seated and belted deportee forward so that would “sing to the carpet” and their shouts, screams and cries would be muffled. It is a potentially lethal, and illegal, technique as it affects the ability to breathe and was explicitly banned by G4S. The restraint described by passengers pointed to this banned technique, with Mubenga forced forward by guards while in his seat, his voice appearing to be projected downwards and gradually becoming quieter.

G4S no longer has the contract for overseas escorting – though escorts and senior managers remain the same. Before Mubenga’s death, there had already been allegations of ill-treatment, racism, and excessive and dangerous use of force by private security contractors during forced removals. The Home Office is responsible for supervision and oversight of the contracts, so it has questions to answer. There are also concerns arising from the relationship between the state and private companies, with senior employees retiring from one to reappear in the other.

A death such as Jimmy Mubenga’s was waiting to happen. A man died in a public space while all around him people did nothing. Will the response to this inquest bring any change?

Deborah Coles and Mark Scott
The Guardian, Tuesday 9 July 2013 16.05 BST

Find this story at 9 July 2013

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Deported Angolan Jimmy Mubenga ‘unlawfully killed’ on flight, jury rules as CPS reconsiders charges for G4S guards

An Angolan man who died after being restrained by three guards from the security firm G4S as he was being deported from Britain was unlawfully killed, a jury ruled, prompting the Crown Prosecution Service to reconsider its decision not to bring criminal charges.
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Jimmy Mubenga, 46, died on board a British Airways flight bound for Angola in October 2010. At the end of an eight-week inquest, the jury recorded a majority verdict of nine to one of unlawful killing after four days of deliberations.

The decision prompted an emotional response from Mr Mubenga’s wife, Adrienne Makenda Kambana, who had been living with her late husband in Ilford, east London, after arriving in the UK from Angola in 1994. Outside the court she said that Mr Mubenga had been treated “worse than an animal” on the flight. She called for deportations to be better monitored.

She added: “Someone walked onto a plane feeling fine and came out of the plane dead. How can my family live with this pain?”

During the inquest, the jury heard that Mr Mubenga had been calling out for help as the three guards – Stuart Tribelnig, Terry Hughes and Colin Kaler – restrained him for nearly half an hour. Several passengers said they heard him shouting that he could not breathe and that he was crying out: “They’re going to kill me.”

In evidence, the guards claimed they had not heard Mr Mubenga remarking he was unable to breathe and insisted he had been resting his head on the seat in front and intermittently forcing it down towards his knees as he was being restrained.

But counsel for Mr Mubenga’s family, Henry Blaxland QC, suggested that the guards had been trying to “teach Mubenga a lesson”. He said the trio had been pushing his head down in an attempt to keep him quiet and fabricated the story that he was doing it himself.

The inquest heard the three guards were subsequently arrested “on suspicion of criminal offences” relating to Mr Mubenga’s death, but last year – 21 months after his death – the CPS decided not to press charges and no further action was taken.

G4S maintained that its staff were “trained… and vetted to the standards defined by strict Home Office guidelines”. A spokeswoman added: “The death of anyone in our care is deeply felt by all of us and the death of Mr Mubenga was a very tragic event.

“The welfare of those in our care is always our top priority and we take great care to ensure that our employees on this contract, which has been carried out by another provider since November 2011, were made aware of their responsibilities in this respect.”

Scotland Yard said a thorough and complex 21-month investigation was carried out by its Homicide and Serious Crime Command into Mr Mubenga’s death. During the inquiry, more than 300 witness statements were taken from passengers, cabin crew, ground staff and first responders from the emergency services.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with Mr Mubenga’s family. We are very clear that we expect the highest standards of integrity and behaviour from all of our contractors.”

Kunal Dutta
Tuesday 09 July 2013

Find this story at 9 July 2013

© independent.co.uk

Jimmy Mubenga was unlawfully killed, inquest jury finds

Angolan man died after being restrained by G4S guards on deportation flight from UK

Jimmy Mubenga was heard shouting that he could not breathe before he died, according to passengers on the flight. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

An Angolan man who died after being restrained by three G4S guards as he was being deported from the UK was unlawfully killed, a jury has found.

Jimmy Mubenga, 46, died on board a plane at Heathrow airport that was bound for Angola in October 2010. At the end of an eight-week inquest, a jury of seven men and three women recorded a majority verdict of nine to one of unlawful killing after four days of deliberations.

The Crown Prosecution Service said it would reconsider its original decision not to bring criminal charges in the wake of the verdict.

The inquest heard that Mubenga had been calling out for help as the three guards – Stuart Tribelnig, Terry Hughes and Colin Kaler – heavily restrained him for more than half an hour. Several passengers said they heard him shouting that he could not breathe and that he was crying out: “They’re going to kill me.”

Returning the verdict of unlawful killing, the jury foreman said: “Based on the evidence we have heard, we find that Mr Mubenga was pushed or held down by one or more of the guards, causing his breathing to be impeded. We find that they were using unreasonable force and acting in an unlawful manner. The fact that Mr Mubenga was pushed or held down, or a combination of the two, was a significant, that is more than minimal, cause of death.

“The guards, we believe, would have known that they would have caused Mr Mubenga harm in their actions, if not serious harm. We believe that Mr Mubenga died in his seat … before the paramedics boarded the plane.”

The inquest heard that as the plane began to taxi on to the runway the guards said Mubenga became tired and stopped shouting. The guards said they realised something was wrong and the plane returned to the stand and paramedics were called. Mubenga was pronounced dead a short time later.

Outside the court Mubenga’s widow, Adrienne Makenda Kambana, said her late husband had been treated “worse than an animal” on the flight. Calling him a good man and a loving husband, she called for deportations to be better monitored. “He is a big gap in the family. We are going to miss him. We are not going to forget him.”

In evidence, the guards claimed they had not heard Mubenga saying he could not breathe and insisted he had been resting his head on the seat in front and intermittently forcing it down towards his knees as he was being restrained – a position known to carry a risk of death by asphyxia.

But counsel for Mubenga’s family, Henry Blaxland QC, suggested to Hughes that the guards had been trying to “teach Mubenga a lesson”. He said the three guards had been pushing Mubenga’s head down in an attempt to keep him quiet and had only “come up with” the story that Mubenga was forcing his own head down to explain what passengers on the plane would have seen.

The inquest heard the three guards were subsequently arrested “on suspicion of criminal offences” relating to Mubenga’s death, but last year – 21 months after his death – the CPS decided not to press charges and no further action was taken.

During the hearing it emerged that two of the guards – Hughes and Tribelnig – had a string of racist “jokes” on their phone. Hughes’s phone had 65 texts containing what the coroner Karon Monaghan QC said contained “very racially offensive material”.

A G4S spokesman said: “The death of anyone in our care is deeply felt by all of us and the death of Mr Mubenga was a very tragic event.

“The welfare of those in our care is always our top priority and we take great care to ensure that our employees on this contract, which has been carried out by another provider since November 2011, were made aware of their responsibilities in this respect. Our employees were also trained, screened and vetted to the standards defined by strict Home Office guidelines.

“We believe that at all times we acted appropriately and in full compliance with the terms of our contract with UKBA and it should be noted that the Crown Prosecution Service found no basis on which to bring criminal charges against G4S in this case.

“It would not be appropriate for us to comment on behalf of our former employees, who were separately represented throughout these proceedings.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with Mr Mubenga’s family. We are very clear that we expect the highest standards of integrity and behaviour from all of our contractors.”

There has been widespread concern about the way people are removed from the UK, with repeated allegations of mistreatment and assaults of detainees. The contract is now run by Tascor, and current guards who have spoken to the Guardian say there is still inadequate training for new recruits. One who did not want to be named said a number of detainees had been punched and assaulted by guards on a recent charter flight to Lagos.

A spokesman for Tascor said it could not comment on anonymous claims, but added that it focused on “delivering a professional service to its clients while ensuring its methods of operations are compliant with the relevant statutory regulations”.

Matthew Taylor, Paul Lewis and Guy Grandjean
theguardian.com, Tuesday 9 July 2013 14.58 BST

Find this story at 9 July 2013

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Jimmy Mubenga security guards had racist jokes on their mobile phones

Inquest hears jokes deriding blacks, Asians and Muslims when G4S officers are asked to read from their mobile phones

Jimmy Mubenga with his wife Adrienne. He died while being restrained on an aircraft as G4S officers were trying to deport him. Photograph: PA

A G4S security guard who was restraining an Angolan man who died as he was being deported from the UK had 65 racist jokes on his mobile phone when it was seized by police.

Terry Hughes, one of three detention custody officers in charge of Jimmy Mubenga’s forced deportation in October 2010, was told at an inquest at Isleworth crown court on Friday to read out a selection of the texts, which included offensive language directed at black, Asian and Muslim people.

Karon Monaghan QC, the assistant deputy coroner for Hammersmith, west London, said the texts contained “very racially offensive material”. The court heard that some of the texts had been sent by other detention custody officers.

Hughes is the second G4S officer involved in Mubenga’s case to be found with racist jokes on his mobile phone. This week, Stuart Tribelnig was found to have a string of texts deriding black, Pakistani and Muslim men.

When questioned in court, Hughes and Tribelnig said they had not read all the texts, although both had forwarded some of the material. They also said they did not know how to or never bothered to delete texts from their phones. Hughes said that, although the texts suggested “a great deal of racial hostility”, he was not at all racially hostile.

Mubenga, 46, died on a plane at Heathrow as it waited on the runway. He had been restrained by three G4S officers – Hughes, Tribelnig and Colin Kaler – for about 35 minutes.

The Angolan had been in the UK since 1994 and lived in London with his family. He was convicted of actual bodily harm in 2006, and a decision was taken to deport him at the end of his sentence. By September 2010 the appeals process had expired. Two weeks later he boarded the plane at Heathrow, at about 7.30pm, accompanied by the three G4S guards.

Once on the plane he was allowed to go to the toilet and use a mobile phone. The guards said he had acted as a gentleman up to that point. However, the jury was told that shortly afterwards he began a struggle in an attempt to get the deportation cancelled.

Hughes described how the three guards had tried to restrain him by using handcuffs and forcing him to sit in his seat. He said Mubenga at some stages had his head below the level of the television screen on the back of the chair in front, but insisted it was Mubenga himself who had forced his body into that position, one that is known to carry the danger of asphyxiation.

Hughes told the court Mubenga was shouting thoughout the restraint although he could not remember what Mubenga was saying. But in an earlier police interview read out in court he had said: “All the time Jimmy is shouting and screaming, ‘They are killing me – I am going to my death’.” After hearing the statement, Hughes accepted that Mubenga “must have been shouting that”.

Henry Blaxland QC, representing Mubenga’s family, asked Hughes whether Mubenga had complained about being unable to breathe during the struggle and whether one of the guards had replied: “If you cannot breathe how can you talk?”

Hughes said he did not remember that exchange taking place.

Blaxland asked if Hughes and the other guards had been trying to “teach Mubenga a lesson” after he had betrayed their trust by starting the struggle on the aircraft.

Hughes denied the allegation and also denied that any of the guards had pushed Mubenga’s head down during the struggle, insisting that Mubenga forced his own head down.

But Blaxland asked Hughes if he and the other guards had “come up with this” to explain what passengers on the plane might have seen: “Were you trying to come up with an explanation for what you thought people would have seen – a man bent double in his seat?”

“No sir,” replied Hughes.

Blaxland said the truth was that the guards had been pushing Mubenga down. Hughes again replied: “No sir.”

The struggle between the guards and Mubenga continued for more than half an hour before Mubenga went quiet and Hughes thought he had become “resigned” to returning to Angola.

However, he said the guards realised something was wrong before the plane took off and raised the alarm. The plane taxied back to the terminal stand, where emergency teams were called.

Mubenga was pronounced dead some time later.

In court Hughes broke down as he recalled the moment, that evening, when police told him Mubenga had died, and the inquest had to be suspended.

He was asked by counsel for Mubenga’s family if he had been crying because he knew he had caused the death. He replied: “Not at all, sir, no.”

The three guards were subsequently arrested “on suspicion of criminal offences” relating to Mubenga’s death. However, the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to press charges and no further action was taken.

The inquest, which is due to last eight weeks, continues.

Matthew Taylor
The Guardian, Friday 17 May 2013 16.14 BST

Find this story at 17 May 2013

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Jimmy Mubenga: Questions raised over flight guidelines for deportations

BA long-haul pilot tells Guardian it was a mistake to keep Mubenga on board once he began struggling with his escorts

Jimmy Mubenga died during deportation from the UK. Photograph: Graeme Robertson

The use of commercial aircraft to transport deportees has been called into question by a British Airways pilot following the death of Jimmy Mubenga.

A BA long-haul pilot told the Guardian that it was a mistake to keep Mubenga on board a passenger service once he began struggling with his escorts. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the pilot said that the prospect of restraining a passenger for the duration of a nine-hour flight would have been unacceptable to senior crew.

“We are legally responsible for safety, security and good order on board our aircraft. We must act if any of those are at risk. If the passenger is not accepting the situation he has been placed in, then a scheduled passenger aircraft is clearly not an appropriate method of transport. Besides, you cannot hold someone in their seat for eight to nine hours down to Luanda, and you certainly cannot restrain them for eight to nine hours.”

A BA spokesperson said the airline was obliged to carry deportees under the 1971 Immigration Act if the Home Office requested it. “Like all airlines, we must comply with the UK deportation law under the 1971 Immigration Act.” Virgin Atlantic and BMI have also transported deportees this year, while in 2009 nearly 2,000 people were deported on charter flights to destinations including Afghanistan, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria.

The government has spent more than £100m on flights deporting failed asylum seekers, foreign nationals and immigration offenders in the last five years. In 2008-9 alone, £8.2m was spent on chartered flights and £18.6m on scheduled flights – a total of £26.8m and up from £20.4m the previous year.

According to BA guidelines on carrying deportees, Mubenga should have been treated as a normal passenger unless he was under restraint. The guidelines state: “If the deportee is under restraint, then the rules relating to prisoners apply, otherwise, in most other respects, deportees should be treated as normal passengers.”

If Mubenga was not under restraint when he was escorted on to the aircraft on Tuesday night then he could have been classified as a passenger. However, according to one eyewitness handcuffs were used by G4S security guards to restrain him while the aircraft was still on the ground. BA guidelines state: “Physical restraint of a passenger can be applied only on the express instructions of the captain and only whilst airborne. The captain has the duty and the legal authority to order physical restraint when, in his judgment, it is essential to preserve the safety of the aircraft, the crew or other passengers.”

The guidelines for prisoners, or for deportees who are under restraint as they board, state that the prisoner should not be served alcohol and must be seated “off the aisle, near a toilet and, if handcuffed, away from emergency exits.”

Dan Milmo
The Guardian, Friday 15 October 2010 20.08 BST

Find this story at 15 October 2010
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Government refuses G4S’s £24.1m for ‘wrong’ tagging bills

NAO report finds G4S and rival Serco continued to charge for tagging criminals many years after removing the electronic equipment from their homes
G4S is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office, alongside Serco, over claims they overcharged the Ministry of Justice for tagging offenders Photo: Alamy

The Ministry of Justice has refused an offer from security firm G4S to hand back £24.1m that it has now admitted it “wrongly” billed for tagging criminals.

G4S made the offer on the eve of Wednesday’s appearance by new chief executive Ashley Almanza before MPs on the Public Accounts Committee – and just as a report from the National Audit Office provided fresh details of the tagging scandal.

The public spending watchdog found that G4S and rival Serco had continued to charge the taxpayer for tagging criminals many years after removing the electronic equipment from their homes.

Chris Grayling, the Justice Minister, launched an investigation in July after discovering evidence that the taxpayer had been overcharged, in some cases for tagging prisoners who were dead or back in prison.

The situation has since escalated into a criminal probe after the Serious Fraud Office said earlier this month that it was examining the contracts.
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As the scandal erupted, G4S hired law firm Linklaters to carry out an independent review. On Tuesday it admitted the law firm had found circumstances in which G4S “wrongly considered itself to be contractually entitled to bill for monitoring services when equipment had not been fitted or after it had been removed”.

G4S said it had “apologised” and “issued credit notes totalling £23.3m for amounts incorrectly billed between 2005 and May 2013” and a further £800,000 covering “June 2013 to date.” The company has also incurred £2m of professional fees. All sums were provided for at the half-year results.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman stressed, however, that it would not accept any sum until it had finished its own audit of the contracts. “The money has not been accepted and we are working with both companies to find exactly how much the taxpayer has been overcharged,” the spokesman said.

Mr Almanza said: “The way in which this contract was managed was not consistent with our values or our approach to dealing with customers. Simply put, it was unacceptable and we have apologised to the Ministry of Justice.”

G4S accepted that “the company’s assessment of these matters and the credit notes may not agree with the Ministry’s audit findings”.

The full scale of the scandal was made clear in the NAO report, which for the first time showed:

• G4S billed the taxpayer £4,700 for monitoring an offender even though the equipment had been removed 935 days earlier.

• Serco had been unable to install equipment at a criminal’s address but carried on charging for almost five years, at a cost of £15,500.

• A criminal was handed four separate court orders for four offences, leading Serco to bill the taxpayer four times “rather than one charge for the subject”.

• G4S charged for 612 days’ tagging – at a cost of £3,000 – even though it had been informed the offender had been sent to prison and the company had removed the monitoring equipment from his home.

G4S insisted that, having “conducted an extensive search and review of emails and numerous interviews with relevant employees”, Linklaters had “not identified any evidence of dishonesty or criminal conduct by any employee of G4S”.

Spending on electronic tagging has run to £722m since G4S and Serco were handed the contracts in 2005.

G4S stressed there had been a wholesale shake-up of senior management in recent months, including the arrival of a new chief executive, finance director and head of the UK business, adding pointedly that: “The executive previously responsible for the UK businesses is no longer working at G4S.”

Richard Morris, its former head of UK and Irish operations, departed last month. He has been replaced by Eddie Aston, who was recruited in July.

The Cabinet Office is reviewing all other G4S and Serco contracts with central Government, effectively barring them for bidding for such work until the review is complete.

Mr Almanza will be joined by Serco chairman Alastair Lyons at Wednesday’s PAC hearing.

G4S shares rose 3.5 to 260.3p, while Serco was 16.5 higher at 440.2p.

Kean Marden, an analyst at Jefferies, said: “G4S has issued an apology, stresses that senior management has been changed, and notes the newly-created position of group head of risk and programme assurance.

“This mirrors Serco’s statement on 25 October and, in our view, reads like a checklist of actions that the government wanted G4S/Serco to take before normalising relations. We continue to believe that this issue is reaching an endgame.”

By Alistair Osborne and David Barrett
5:16PM GMT 19 Nov 2013

Find this story at 19 November 2013

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013

G4S admits overcharging MoJ £24m on electronic tagging contract

Company has apologised to Ministry of Justice and issued credit notes for £23.3m incorrectly billed between 2005 and 2013

G4S said that an external review had confirmed it had been wrong to consider it was contractually entitled to bill for monitoring offenders when tags had not been fitted or after they had been removed. Photograph: Jeff Blackler/REX

Private security company G4S has admitted it has overcharged the Ministry of Justice more than £24m on its contract for the electronic monitoring of thousands of offenders in England in a practice that was going on for years.

The admission by one of the government’s largest suppliers comes just 24 hours before G4S and other outsourcing corporate giants, Serco, Atos and Capita are due to be grilled by the powerful Commons public accounts committee on Wednesday over their failings on public sector contracts.

G4S said an external review it had commissioned by the law firm Linklaters had confirmed it had been wrong to consider it was contractually entitled to bill for monitoring offenders when tags had not been fitted or after they had been removed.

G4S said it had apologised to the MoJ and issued credit notes for £23.3m that had been incorrectly billed between 2005 and May 2013.

A further credit note for £800,000 is to be issued to cover continued overcharging that has happened since June.

The security company said the Linklaters review had not identified “any evidence of dishonesty or criminal conduct by any employee of G4S in relation to the billing arrangements under the electronic monitoring contracts.”

The G4S statement added that it had “wrongly considered itself to be contractually entitled to bill for monitoring services when equipment had not been fitted or after it had been removed”.

The admission by the company comes after the Serious Fraud Office announced earlier this month that it was launching a criminal investigation into G4S and Serco for overcharging on criminal justice contracts.

The G4S statement was timed to coincide with the publication of a National Audit Office memorandum that shows that, in some instances, both contractors were charging the justice ministry for months or years after electronic monitoring activity had stopped. The charging continued even in cases where offenders had been sent back to prison or even died.

The NAO also says the firms charged the ministry over similar timescales when electronic monitoring was never undertaken and charged multiple times for the same individual if that person was subject to more than one electronic monitoring order at the same time.

Serco has also said it will refund any amount that it agrees represents overcharging.

The justice ministry has not yet agreed to any refund offers made by either firm.

In July, the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, revealed that G4S and Serco had overcharged the government by “tens of millions of pounds” on the tagging contracts. This claim was disputed at the time by G4S. Grayling also announced that accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers was carrying out a forensic audit into the contracts. A G4S whistleblower working in the call centre dealing with tagging was involved in raising initial concerns about billing practices.

The NAO gives examples of the disputed overcharging practices in its memorandum prepared for Wednesday’s showdown between MPs and the outsourced companies. They include:

• The justice ministry was charged £3,000 for 612 days monitoring of an offender who had been sent to prison for two years 20 months earlier. G4S removed the tagging equipment but kept on billing because the court had not provided the relevant paperwork.

• On 28 October 2010, G4S removed tagging equipment from the address of an offender where a number of breaches of curfew had been reported. The court failed to confirm the tag was no longer required even when chased in December 2012 so billing continued until 20 May 2013. The total bill was £4,700 for 935 days without a tag being in place.

• Serco billed £15,000 for almost five years’ monitoring in a case where it was unable to install tagging equipment in July 2008 at an address where the subject was due to be arrested. In October 2010, when Serco visited the property it was told nobody had been living there for 18 months.

Ashley Almanza, the G4S Group chief executive, said the company’s announcement was an important step in setting the matter straight and restoring trust.

“The way in which this contract was managed was not consistent with our values or our approach to dealing with customers. Simply put, it was unacceptable and we have apologised to the Ministry of Justice,” Almanza said.

“As part of a wider programme of corporate renewal, we have changed the leadership of our UK business and we are putting in place enhanced risk management and contract controls.

“We remain committed to working with the ministry and the UK government to resolve this matter and to provide enhanced oversight of service delivery and contract performance.”

The MoJ said it was not prepared to comment while a criminal investigation was under way.

The Cabinet Office is carrying out a government-wide review of G4S and Serco contracts but G4S said that no evidence had so far come to light that suggested that similar billing practices applied to other government contracts.

Both Serco and G4S withdrew from the tendering process for the next generation of electronic tagging. But both companies have been allowed to bid for £450m-worth of probation contracts but will not be awarded them unless they are given a clean bill of health over the tagging dispute.

Alan Travis, home affairs editor
theguardian.com, Tuesday 19 November 2013 11.58 GMT

Find this story at 19 November 2013

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Security firm G4S ‘charged for tagging the dead’

Cost: Scandal-hit security firm G4S facing claims it charged the Government for tagged people who were either dead or back in prison

Security firms faced a criminal probe today over claims it charged the taxpayer to tag offenders who were dead or back in prison.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling called in the Serious Fraud Office to consider investigating G4S Care and Justice Services, part of the company disgraced last year for failing to supply enough Olympic security staff.

Another firm, Serco Monitoring, was also believed to have charged wrongly. Mr Grayling told MPs that the sums involved ran to “tens of millions” of pounds.

The bombshell allegations sent the two companies’ shares on the FTSE 100 falling sharply.

In a statement to the Commons, Mr Grayling said officials spotted “what appeared to be a significant anomaly in the billing practices” while preparing new contracts for electronic tagging.

“It appeared that we were being charged in ways not justified by the contracts and for people who were not in fact being monitored,” he said.

To the astonishment and fury of MPs, he added: “It included charges for people who were back in prison and had had their tags removed, people who had left the country, and those who had never been tagged in the first place.

“There are a small number of cases where charging continued for a period when the subject was known to have died.

“In some instances, charging continued for a period of many months and indeed years after active monitoring had ceased.”

Mr Grayling added: “The House will share my astonishment that two of the Government’s biggest suppliers would seek to charge in this way. The House will also be surprised and disappointed to learn that staff in the Ministry of Justice were aware of a potential problem and yet did not take adequate steps to address it.”

Serco had agreed to co-operate fully with a sweeping forensic audit, and said its senior managers were not aware. “They do not believe anything dishonest has taken place,” said Mr Grayling.

However, G4S had refused to take part in an additional forensic audit, leaving him no option but to call in the SFO.

“I should state that I have no information to confirm that dishonesty has taken place on the part of either supplier,” he added.

“But given the nature of the findings of the audit work that has taken place so far, and the very clear legal advice that I have received, I am today asking the Serious Fraud Office to consider whether an investigation is appropriate into what happened in G4S.”

But G4S sources stressed no evidence of dishonesty had been discovered by either the MoJ review or its own inquiry carried out with the assistance of external experts.

They said the firm had co-operated fully with the MoJ and was given the choice of another audit by management consultants or a referral to the SFO.

G4S had preferred calling in the SFO, they added, to investigate any claims of dishonesty.

They insisted that they had found “absolutely no indication” that it had not complied with the terms of its contract.

But shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan was stunned by the allegations.

“To the public this appears a straightforward fraud – obtaining property by deception,” he said.

Keith Vaz, Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, added: “G4S should never have got another Government contract after the shambles of the Olympics.”

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced a government-wide review of contracts held by G4S and Serco.

Serco Group, which runs the Boris Bike scheme, said it would repay any amount agreed to be due and that given the investigation, it had decided to withdraw from the re-tendering process for the electronic monitoring service.

The company’s chief executive Christopher Hyman said: “We will not tolerate poor practice and behaviour and wherever it is found we will put it right.”

Joe Murphy, Political Editor
Nicholas Cecil
Published: 11 July 2013
Updated: 08:03, 12 July 2013

Find this story at 12 July 2013

© Evening Standard Limited

The ‘phantom’ electronic tags that cost us millions: Firms charged taxpayers for criminals who were dead or in jail

Taxpayers were charged tens of millions of pounds for ‘phantom’ electronic tags on criminals who were either dead, in jail or had left the country.

Two private firms, G4S and Serco, are accused of wrongly billing for tens of thousands of tags which had either been removed or simply never fitted.

Estimates suggest up to one in six of the 18,000 tags the Ministry of Justice was billed for every day were not real.

Taxpayers could have overpaid two private companies for their work tagging criminals

Last night ministers asked fraud investigators to look at G4S, after the company refused to allow forensic auditors access to its books and emails between senior executives.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling took the dramatic step after pledging to recover ‘every last penny’ owed to the public purse.

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He told MPs the scandal could date back as far as 1999, when tagging of criminals began in England and Wales. Since then the taxpayer has spent £1billion on tagging and monitoring offenders. The current contracts began in 2005.

Mr Grayling condemned the overcharging as ‘wholly indefensible and unacceptable’. In some cases, bills were paid for months or years after tags were taken off, he said.
G4S’S ROLL OF SHAME

OLYMPIC SECURITY

Just two weeks before the start of the 2012 Olympic Games, G4S admitted it was unable to supply more than 10,000 security guards it had promised.
Army and police personnel were drafted in to fill the gap (pictured above), with the company eventually picking up the £88million bill.

PROSTHETIC TAG
In 2011, two G4S workers placed an electronic tag on an offender’s false leg, meaning he could simply take it off.
Christopher Lowcock wrapped his prosthetic limb in a bandage to fool staff who set up the device in his home.

PRISONER DIES
Angolan prisoner Jimmy Mubenga died in 2010 after being restrained by G4S guards on his deportation flight. Three G4S staff were arrested on suspicion of manslaughter but charges were not brought because of a lack of evidence.

BIRMINGHAM KEYS
In 2011, a set of keys went missing at Birmingham Prison, a jail managed by G4S. Inmates were locked in their cells for an entire day, and new locks had to be fitted at a cost of £250,000.

He also launched a disciplinary investigation into former officials in the department after discovering contract managers were aware of billing issues in 2008, but ‘nothing substantive was done’.

Details of a ‘significant anomaly in billing practices’ within the deals emerged during a routine review as ministers prepared to negotiate contracts for satellite tags.

It found ‘charges for people who were back in prison and had their tags removed, people who had left the country and those who had never been tagged in the first place’, Mr Grayling said.

Charges were also made in a ‘small number of cases when the subject was known to have died’.

He added: ‘In some instances, charging continued for a period of many months and indeed years after active monitoring had ceased.’

The bill to taxpayers is put in the ‘low tens of millions’.

Tags are put on criminals after their early release from prison or as part of their community service.

Most involve a 12-hour curfew from 7pm to 7am, allowing the criminal, in theory, to work. A box in the offender’s home sounds an alert if the tag goes out of range or stops working.

Audits have also been launched into all other contracts between the Government and the two firms, both major suppliers to Whitehall. G4S received £1billion in revenue from UK Government contracts last year, while Serco made £2billion.

Serco has withdrawn its bid from the current tendering process for new satellite tags, while G4S is expected to be excluded after refusing to pull out.

Serco agreed to co-operate with a new audit but has said it does not believe ‘anything dishonest has taken place’.

G4S rejected the new audit and last night a spokesman insisted it has ‘always complied totally with the terms of the contract’.

The Serious Fraud Office will consider whether an investigation is appropriate into what happened at G4S, Mr Grayling said.

Indefensible: Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said G4S had rejected a demand for a new forensic audit

The firm’s reputation was shredded last year by its failure to fulfil the security contract for the Olympics. Thousands of armed forces and police personnel were called in to fill the gap and the company was forced to pick up the tab.

In May, G4S chief executive Nick Buckles quit with a £1.2million payoff. Several senior managers were sacked in the wake of the Olympic fiasco.

The price of shares in both firms plunged yesterday following the announcement, wiping £176.4million from G4S’s value and £269.6million from Serco.

G4S group chief executive Ashley Almanza said: ‘We place the highest premium on customer service and integrity and therefore take very seriously the concerns expressed by the Ministry of Justice.’

Serco group chief executive Christopher Hyman said: ‘Serco is a business led by our values and built on the strength of our reputation for integrity. We are deeply concerned if we fall short of the standards expected.’

By Jack Doyle and Peter Campbell
PUBLISHED: 11:52 GMT, 11 July 2013 | UPDATED: 08:19 GMT, 12 July 2013

Find this story at 11 July 2013

© Associated Newspapers Ltd

G4S and Serco face £50 million fraud inquiry

Serious Fraud Office investigates G4S claim of over-charging for government contracts

Whitehall contracts running into billions of pounds are being urgently reviewed after the Government disclosed that two major firms had charged the taxpayer to monitor non-existent electronic tags, some of which had been assigned to dead offenders.

In an announcement that throws the Coalition’s privatisation drive into disarray, the Serious Fraud Office was called in to investigate G4S, the world’s largest security company, over contracts dating back over a decade.

Serco, one of Britain’s largest companies, also faces an inquiry by auditors over its charges for operating tagging schemes.

The firms supply an array of services to the public sector from running courts, prisons and immigration removal centres to managing welfare-to-work schemes and the Atomic Weapons Establishment.

Between them the two companies receive around £1.5bn a year from the taxpayer, but their contracts are worth billions of pounds because the vast majority run for several years.

They were also hoping to cash in on moves by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to hand them further large contracts to operate prisons and supervise offenders in the community.

The process of awarding all contracts was put on hold last night as the inquiries got underway.

The MoJ began investigating all its agreements with the two firms, including the running of major prisons, while the Cabinet Office started scrutinising all other Government contracts with G4S and Serco.

Shares in both companies fell sharply after the announcement by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary.

Shares in G4S – which suffered torrid publicity over its mishandling of the last year’s London Olympics security contract – finished the day 12.6p down at 213p. Serco tumbled by 54p to 626.5p.

Each of the companies relies heavily on Britain both for income and burnishing its international reputation. The move by the Government is unlikely to result in the wholesale loss of contracts, as the firms have few competitors of the same size but is a blow to their standing worldwide.

Mr Grayling’s announcement came after an audit discovered G4S and Serco had overcharged taxpayers by up to £50m, billing them for offenders who were dead, back in custody or had left the country. According to one MoJ source, the companies charged for 18,000 offenders when the actual number was around 15,000.

Mr Grayling said latest estimates suggested taxpayers had been overcharged by the companies to the tune of “low tens of millions” since the electronic monitoring contracts were signed in 2005. He also disclosed that ministry staff could have known about the practice for five years and face possible disciplinary action.

He said in a Commons statement: “The House will share my astonishment that two of the Government’s biggest suppliers would seek to charge in this way.

”The House will also be surprised and disappointed to learn that staff in the Ministry of Justice were aware of the potential problem and yet did not take adequate steps to address it.“

Mr Grayling said he was asking the Serious Fraud Office to investigate the G4S contracts as the company had refused to co-operate with a further audit to rule out wrongdoing.

An investigation by PriceWaterhouseCoopers found that overcharging could have dated back as far back as 1999 when earlier contracts were signed.

Serco has agreed to withdraw from the current tender process for an electronic monitoring contract worth up to £1m, while Mr Grayling plans moves to exclude G4S as it is still attempting to bid.

Serco had also been the leading bidder for prison contracts in Yorkshire, but Mr Grayling will delay their award until the fresh audit is complete.

An urgent review of contract management across the Ministry of Justice’s major contracts has also been launched and will report by autumn, he said.

G4S and Serco were also among companies preparing to bid for a range of payment-by-results contracts to supervise low to medium-level offenders across England and Wales.

Ian Lawrence, general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers union, said: ”We’ve long maintained that these companies are unfit for purpose when it comes to holding important public contracts. The outcome of the initial investigation into G4S and Serco suggests a good deal of malpractice has been discovered.“

Ashley Almanza, the G4S group chief executive, said: ”We place the highest premium on customer service and integrity and therefore take very seriously the concerns expressed by the Ministry of Justice. We are determined to deal with these issues in a prompt and appropriate manner.“

Serco Group’s chief executive, Christopher Hyman, said: ”Serco is a business led by our values and built on the strength of our reputation for integrity.

“These values lie at the heart of the many thousands of our people who are endeavouring to deliver the highest standard of service to our customers around the world. We are deeply concerned if we fall short of the standards expected of all of us.”

Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary, said: “Given the scale of the allegations, the Government must immediately call in the police and the Serious Fraud Office to investigate both companies as fraud has potentially taken place.”

Security breach: Other G4S fiascos

* G4S faced fierce criticism last year following the botched handling of its Olympics security contract. It failed to deliver the numbers of security staff it had promised and the Government was forced to bring in additional armed forces personnel. The firm will take a £70m hit over the bungled contract with Games organisers, Locog.

* Earlier this week an inquest jury ruled an Angolan man who died after being restrained by three G4S guards as he was being deported from the UK was unlawfully killed. Jimmy Mubenga, 46, died on a plane bound for Angola in October 2010. The Crown Prosecution Service said it would reconsider its decision not to bring criminal charges in the wake of the verdict.

* In January, multimillion-pound plans by three police forces to outsource services to G4S collapsed. Hertfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, David Lloyd, said the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Strategic Alliance had discontinued negotiations with the firm.

However, last month it was revealed Lincolnshire’s police force now spends the lowest amount per head of population on policing in England and Wales after it handed over the bulk of its back-office functions to G4S.

Nigel Morris
Friday 12 July 2013

Find this story at 12 July 2013

© independent.co.uk

G4S faces fraud investigation over tagging contracts

Justice secretary tells MPs he has called in Serious Fraud Office to investigate private security firm for overcharging

The overcharging included billing for tracking the movements of people who had died. Photograph: David Davies/PA

The Serious Fraud Office has been called in by the justice secretary to investigate the private security company G4S for overcharging tens of millions of pounds on electronic tagging contracts for offenders.

Chris Grayling told MPs the overcharging included billing for tracking the movements of people who had moved abroad, those who had returned to prison and had their tags removed, and even people who had died.

He said he had made the decision after G4S refused on Wednesday to co-operate with a voluntary forensic audit of its billing practices and to withdraw as a potential bidder for the next generation of tagging contracts worth up to £3bn.

“At this time I do not have evidence of dishonesty by G4S but I have invited the Serious Fraud Office to investigate that,” he said.

Whitehall sources say that a new forensic audit will look at a central allegation that the justice ministry was being billed for the tagging of 18,000 offenders a day when only 15,000 were actually being monitored – raising the prospect of being charged for 3,000 “phantom” offenders or one in six of all those on tags.

Grayling told MPs that G4S and a second major supplier, Serco, had been overcharging on the existing £700m contract, with the Ministry of Justice being billed for non-existent services that dated back to at least 2005 and possibly as long ago as 1999.

Grayling added that it included charging for monitoring people who were back in prison and had had their tags removed, people who had left the country, and those who had never been tagged in the first place.

“There are a small number of cases where charging continued for a period when the subject was known to have died,” he told the Commons.

“In some instances, charging continued for a period of many months and indeed years after active monitoring ceased. This is a wholly indefensible and unacceptable state of affairs. The house will share my astonishment that two of the government’s biggest suppliers would seek to charge in this way.”

Shares in Serco fell about 8% and for G4S almost 6% by the close on Thursday.

The decision to call in the SFO follows an audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers commissioned by Grayling in May after billing discrepancies were discovered during a re-tendering process. Under the contracts the movements of more than 20,000 offenders are monitored using electronic ankle tags at any one time.

“The audit team is at present confirming its calculations but the current estimate is that the sums involved are significant, and run into the low tens of millions in total, for both companies, since the contracts commenced in 2005,” Grayling said.

Serco, which is one of the government’s biggest and most important suppliers, agreed on Wednesday to fully co-operate with a forensic audit to establish whether any dishonesty took place on its part. It has also agreed to withdraw from bidding for the £3bn next-generation tagging contract.

“They have said they take the issue extremely seriously and assure me that senior management were not aware of it. They do not believe anything dishonest has taken place, but we have agreed that if the audit does show dishonest action, we will jointly call in the authorities to address it,” Grayling said.

Serco was the leading bidder to take over the management of a prison in South Yorkshire. Grayling said that decision had now been delayed until the voluntary forensic audit was completed.

The Cabinet Office is to review all G4S and Serco contracts held across government as a result of the tagging scandal. The Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude, had already started preparations for a register of companies holding public sector contracts to detail their track record in the wake of G4S’s failure last year to fulfil its contract to provide security guards for the London Olympics.

Grayling, who had the attorney general, Dominic Grieve QC, next to him when he made his Commons statement, said he had taken the decision to call in the SFO “given the nature of the findings of the audit work that had taken place so far, and the very clear legal advice that I have received”.

He said the SFO was being asked to consider whether an investigation was appropriate, and to confirm “whether any of the actions of anyone in that company represent more than a contractual breach”.

The justice secretary has started a formal process to determine whether to exclude G4S from the next 10-year tagging contract which is due to start shortly. He has also taken action within the justice ministry after disclosing that his own officials became aware in a limited way of some of the problems in 2008 but failed to take adequate steps to address them.

He said an entirely new contract management team had been put in place. “The permanent secretary is also instituting disciplinary investigations to consider whether failings on the part of individual members of staff constitute misconduct”, he said.

The shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, said the disclosures were “truly shocking” and the police should be called in immediately to investigate Serco as well as G4S. “There can be no cosy relationship with either company if we are to truly get to the bottom of these very serious allegations,” he said.

G4S said the justice ministry was an important customer and it was committed to resolving its concerns. It said it was conducting its own review and would reimburse any overbilling it identified. It said it was not aware of any indications of dishonesty or misconduct.

Ashley Almanza, the G4S chief executive, said: “We are committed to having close and open relationships with our customers and we strive to work in partnership for the mutual benefit of our organisations.

“We place the highest premium on customer service and integrity and therefore take very seriously the concerns expressed by the Ministry of Justice. We are determined to deal with these issues in a prompt and appropriate manner.”

Serco Group’s chief executive, Christopher Hyman, said: “Serco is a business led by our values and built on the strength of our reputation for integrity. These values lie at the heart of the many thousands of our people who are endeavouring to deliver the highest standard of service to our customers around the world. We are deeply concerned if we fall short of the standards expected of all of us.”

Alan Travis, home affairs editor
The Guardian, Friday 12 July 2013

Find this story at 12 July 2013

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

G4S and Serco: Taxpayers overcharged by tens of millions over electronic tagging

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, has asked the Serious Fraud Office to investigate security firm G4S after a review found the Government had been overcharged by tens of millions of pounds in its electronic tagging contract.

A review has found G4S and rival security company Serco both over-billed the taxpayer for running the tagging schemes, in what the minister said was a “wholly indefensible and unacceptable state of affairs”.

It included charging the government for tagging offenders who had died, been returned to prison, left the country or who had never been put on the tagging scheme in the first place, Mr Grayling told the House of Commons.

Ministry of Justice sources said although they typically had 15,000 offenders on a tag at any one time G4S and Serco had been charging them for 18,000 – meaning one in six was spurious.

It also emerged civil servants first became aware of some of the problems in 2008 but failed to take appropriate action – and Mr Grayling said some may now face disciplinary action.

“I am angry at what has happened and am determined to put it right,” said Mr Grayling.
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“This has included instances where our suppliers were not in fact providing electronic monitoring.

“It included charges for people who were back in prison and had had their tags removed, people who had left the country, and those who had never been tagged in the first place but who had instead been returned to court.

“There are a small number of cases where charging continued for a period when the subject was known to have died.

“In some instances, charging continued for a period of many months and indeed years after active monitoring had ceased.

“The House will share my view that this is a wholly indefensible and unacceptable state of affairs.

Mr Grayling said he expected MPs would share his “astonishment” that two of the government’s two biggest contractors would behave in such a way.

He added: “The audit team is at present confirming its calculations but the current estimate is that the sums involved are significant, and run into the low tens of millions in total, for both companies, since the contracts commenced in 2005.

“It may date back as far as the previous contracts let in 1999.”

Serco has agreed with a Ministry of Justice proposal for a further investigation, and allow inspection of its internal emails.

But G4S, which was widely criticised for its failure to fulfil security requirements at last year’s Olympics, has rejected that proposal, said Mr Grayling.

“I should state that I have no information to confirm that dishonesty has taken place on the part of either supplier,” he told MPs.

“But given the nature of the findings of the audit work that has taken place so far, and the very clear legal advice that I have received, I am today asking the Serious Fraud Office to consider whether an investigation is appropriate into what happened in G4S, and to confirm to me whether any of the actions of anyone in that company represent more than a contractual breach.”

Mr Grayling first launched an investigation into G4S and Serco in May after an internal audit uncovered a “significant anomaly” in the billing process.

The Ministry of Justice brought in external auditors to find out how much the two companies have incorrectly claimed from the taxpayer, which uncovered the remarkable details announced by Mr Grayling to the Commons.

He said: “I am making changes in my department because it is quite clear that the management of these contracts has been wholly inadequate.

“Enough knowledge came into the department to find out about these issues some years ago but it was not acted upon.

“Proceedings are likely to include, or may well include, disciplinary proceedings to establish precisely what did go wrong.”

Spending on electronic tagging has run to £700 million since G4S and Serco were handed the contracts.

Mr Grayling said no-one had been put in danger and the problem was purely to do with the billing arrangements. The contracts were awarded by the Labour government in 2004 and are ministers are currently going through a process to re-allocate the work.

Serco has pulled out of the bidding process but Mr Grayling said he was “disappointed that G4S still feel it appropriate to participate”.
By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
12:40PM BST 11 Jul 2013

Find this story at 11 July 2013

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013

 

Olympic gaffe security company in bid to print money: G4S teams up with French firm for £1bn tender G4S has faced calls to be barred from public work after a string of scandals

The shambolic Olympic security firm G4S is bidding for the right to print Britain’s banknotes, it emerged last night.

The embattled group has teamed up with a French company to try to get its hands on the lucrative £1billion contract.

Currently the work is done by the British firm De La Rue, which was first commissioned to print UK banknotes at the outbreak of the First World War.

G4S, which has faced calls to be barred from public work after a string of scandals, wants to take over the contract

Now G4S, which has faced calls to be barred from public work after a string of scandals, wants to take over the contract.

It has joined forces with France’s Oberthur Technologies, which would take control of the printing process itself.

Labour MP Keith Vaz, who has called for the company to be blacklisted from future taxpayer contracts, demanded G4S pull out of the bidding.

He said: ‘G4s have failed the public on numerous occasions.

‘At a recent public meeting Jon Shaw, a G4S director, agreed with the Home Affairs Select Committee that companies that fail to deliver on public contracts should be on a high risk register.

The group faced public outrage last summer when it failed to provide enough guards for the Olympic venues. The army was drafted in to make up the shortfall

‘In light of this they should withdraw their application for this important contract until they have got their house in order.’

Before 2003 the Bank of England managed its own banknote printing.

In 2003 the Bank gave the work to De La Rue, which has held the contract for ten years.

Now it is has put the job out to tender.

The winning company will be responsible for printing notes from 2015 to 2025, with the possibility of extending the work even further to 2028.

But even if G4S and its Franco partner win, they will have to print the notes in the UK.

Any successful company can only print the notes using the Bank’s secure printing works in Debden in the Epping Forest.

From there the notes are taken securely to the Bank’s cash distribution centres around the country.

The Bank has issued paper banknotes ever since the central bank was created in 1694 as a way of raising money for King William III’s war against France.

But now it is planning to issue plastic notes, which can survive a spin in the washing machine.

Polymer banknotes, as well as being hard to fake, are durable and stay cleaner for longer because the material is more resistant to dirt and moisture.

Whichever firm wins the contract will have to be able to produce them as well as paper notes, the Bank has said.

Current provider De La Rue entered the plastic banknote market earlier this year with deals to supply Fiji and Mauritius.

G4S has been embroiled in a number of public blunders over the last 18 months.

The group faced public outrage last summer when it failed to provide enough guards for the Olympic venues.

The army was drafted in to make up the shortfall, and G4S was forced to pay compensation.

In July the company was accused of charging taxpayers for electronic tags on prisoners who were either dead, in jail or had left the country.

Ministers said they would review the company’s entire portfolio of government work – worth almost £1billion a year.

The blunders happened on the watch of flamboyant boss Nick Buckles, who was forced to resign earlier this year after a humiliating warning that the company’s profits would fall short of expectations.

G4S refused to comment last night. The Bank of England also refused to comment.

By Peter Campbell

PUBLISHED: 01:11 GMT, 27 September 2013 | UPDATED: 13:31 GMT, 27 September 2013

Find this story at 27 September 2013

© Associated Newspapers Ltd