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Who Is Securing the Texas Border? How Private Contractors Mislead the Public, Then Get Rich Off Taxpayer Money

Private contractors have taken over Texas border security operations, but are falsely identifying themselves as affiliates of state programs.

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One of the most striking and disturbing components of the August 2010 contract was the new public relations and outreach role given ALIS contractors. According to the contract, ALIS would assume a new role that would combine public relations, communications and policy-advocacy functions.

Instead of merely being a hired gun contracted for predetermined border-security operations in Texas, ALIS contractors were expected to develop strategies, gather information to support these strategies, and then work to shape public opinion and public policy about border security threats and responses. The only border experience that ALIS brought to the table when it was hired was that its founder General Abrams had in the late 1980s commanded a regiment that was responsible for protecting the German “inner-border” prior to German reunification.

Specific tasks outsourced to ALIS included producing “reports, briefings, studies, and recommendations” for “Texas leadership.” ALIS was also tasked to “orient senior government leaders on border security issues,” with possible options including “public affairs strategy and plans, fact sheets, talking points, speeches, presentations, and testimony.” 

The stipulated goal of the “Border Security media/public information outreach strategy” was, according to the DPS contract, to “build support for border security” among the public, media, and policy community in Texas. As noted in the contract, ALIS would at times also be expected to leverage its BSOC fusion center staff “to surge for 24/7 information operations.”  

Rather than gathering intelligence and analyzing information, DPS tasked ALIS to provide DPS and the Texas Rangers with “the necessary information to assist the ongoing operations.” Its BSOC staff were expected to “discipline the information operations process by serving the state information operations ‘net control” station for border security.” 

The BSOC and the JOICs would be tasked, according to the contract, to “provide needed information products as required by Texas Rangers” and to produce “effective information products.” 

In review, in the interests of border security and homeland security, ALIS was contracted by DPS – with the approval of the Public Safety Commission and the governor – to manufacture “information products.” What is more, DPS wanted ALIS to ensure that the information was “effective” as well as “necessary” for ongoing operations. There has been absolutely no review by policy makers or by the public of DPS outsourcing of border-security strategy and operations. 

It’s likely, though, that if there were ever such transparency and accountability, at least a few policymakers and concerned citizens would caution that structuring information as an instrument may replicate the information- and psychological-ops of the military and intelligence agencies but may not be an appropriate way to consider information gathering and dissemination on the home front. The term propaganda might arise in any public review this type of outsourcing. 

Similarly, the concept that a private contractor should participate in information surges that would parallel operational surges by law enforcement officers and state troops might also have sparked discussion about the proper use of state and federal funds. 

As is, it seems that the directors of Operation Border Star – Governor Perry and DPS Director McCraw – view information and intelligence as fungible commodities that can be created, manipulated and shaped to serve the greater good of the nation and Texas border security.

Tom Barry is the author of Border Wars (Boston Review Books). He blogs at http://borderlinesblog.blogspot.com.