The Other Police State -- The Private Intel Industry Grows
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On November 20th, the Center for Corporate Policy, a Washington, DC, good-government group, issued a revealing study, “ Spooky Business: A New Report on Corporate Espionage Against Non-profits.” Written by Gary Ruskin, it confirms one’s worst suspicions about the ever-expanding two-headed U.S. security state.
One “head” of this apparatus consists of the formal law-enforcement, security juggernaut. It includes the vast network of federal, state and local entities that are duly, “legally,” constituted to maintain law and order. It maintains state power.
The second “head” consists of a parallel “police” force, local and national corporate entities that use legal — and often questionable — practices to undermine democracy, most notably a citizen’s right to object to what s/he perceives as an unjust business practice. It maintains corporate power.
Together, the public-state and private-corporate security system is gaining ever-greater control over the lives of ordinary Americans. They constitute the postmodern, 21st century policing apparatus.
The revolving-door thesis acknowledges the link between government employees and private corporations. Pres. Eisenhower warned against it in his legendary 1961 Farewell Address in which he publically identified the military-industrial complex. In the last half-century, the revolving door has become an unquestioned, acceptable career path for upwardly mobile bureaucrats. So, few were surprised when Timothy Geithner, former Sec. of the Treasury and head of the New York Fed, and one of those who orchestrated the banking plunder known as the Great Recession, took a job as president and managing director of Warburg Pincus, a leading private equity firm.
“Spooky Business” shows that many leading U.S. corporations are retaining the services of former federal security personnel to wage campaigns to subvert Constitutionally protected citizen rights. It details the practices of Bank of America, BP, Brown & Williamson, Burger King, the Chamber of Commerce, Chevron Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, Kraft, McDonald’s, Monsanto, Shell and Wal-Mart. Going further, it argues that to pull this off, these companies hire former employees of the CIA, FBI, NSA, Secret Service, the military and local law-enforcement. As Ruskin shows, these “security officials” are linked to infiltration, espionage, surveillance and other tactics that are intended to undermine ostensible threats posed by nonprofit organizations, activists and whistleblowers.
The two-headed security apparatus is nothing new in America. It traces its roots to the post-Civil War era, a period of industrialization, immigration and urbanization. Then, especially in both big cities and the recently settled West, the formal state was weak, law enforcement still being development. Thus, many private companies turned to private security efforts to resolve differences.
The tension – and increasing integration – of the state and the corporation has shaped the U.S. since the Civil War. The interlinking of public and private policing is the gravest threat to American democracy. The security state flourished during the anti-Communist, McCarthy ’50 and again against anti-war and black activists during the ‘60s. It is now being implemented as the war against “terrorism.”
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The decades following the Civil War were an era of modernization. Many among the respectable classes shared the perception that the country’s moral life was degenerating. Social ills were mounting, painfully evident in the growing number of the urban poor, in the increase in beggars and prostitutes on city streets as well as an increase in saloons, gambling dens, dance halls and dime museums throughout the country.
Making matters worse, these upstanding citizens felt that police corruption was widespread, helping to turn vice – drink, gambling and prostitution — into a profitable business. In response, “good government” reformers embraced two strategies to confront what they saw as the crime threat. One involved establishing a network of private prevention societies; the second saw greater reliance on private police services.