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At the end of the 19th Century, in the blood-red aftermath of the Homestead Strike, Congress passed a law that came to be known as the Anti-Pinkerton Act. That name probably wasn’t a stretch, since the text of the law specifically prohibits the Federal Government from contracting with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency or a “similar organization” offering “mercenary or quasi-military forces” for hire.

Yup. I know what you’re thinking.

Alas, because of a series of GAO findings and court rulings, things are not as cut on the bias as it would seem (seam?). Though I feel like common sense would dictate finding the Bush Administration, the State Department, the Pentagon, et al. guilty of violating the Anti-Pinkerton Act (though not all in the same way), the fact is that a variety of judges and comptrollers general have hemmed in this law to the point where two over-long nights of reading on my part have left me pretty sure that a) you’ll get nowhere with the current executive branch challenging the use of private security contractors under Pinkerton, b) if you’re lucky enough to have the standing to get to a finding of fact in the courts, it’s going to take a judge with a big-picture view and a lot of time on his/her hands to make the APA a ready-to-wear tool in stopping the Bush Administration’s extensive use of mercenary or quasi-military forces, and c) we really need a new-look Anti-Pinkerton-style law to cut through all this crap.

Of course, given the deep pockets of firms like Aegis, DynCorp, and the current bête noire, Blackwater—and all the lobbying that that would buy—I am deathly afraid to tug on a thread, lest the few protections the law still affords completely unravel.

But, given the overuse of private contractors for security, intelligence, and aggressive action, given the ever-growing list of revelations about PSC crimes, given that those crimes, committed in the name of security, are actually making us less secure—in and out of Iraq—and given that people are actually getting killed by these paid in the USA cowboys, it is absolutely time to pull that thread and write a modern law in the spirit of the Anti-Pinkerton Act. And that spirit would include strict prohibitions on the government hiring private firms to provide military or quasi-military duties (in addition to intelligence work and that old chestnut, the always fashionable “strikebreaking”).

Call it the Anti-Pinkerton Act for all seasons. I mean, the way things have gone lately, hadn’t we best tell those private summer soldiers that it’s now fall?

Further reading
Here are some of the articles that helped me fashion this post:

Some WikiHistory

A blog, probably a little to my right, but filled with Pinkerton Act info (don’t know what all the pictures are about)

An article from last summer

And one from this

The comment that got me thinking about all of this in the first place

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(cross-posted on guy2k and The Seminal)
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Originally posted to Red Wind on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 04:52 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Can you outsource the outsourcing? (14+ / 0-)

    Though it is a little tangential (only a little), I can’t let this go un-remarked upon. . .

    The initial State Department report on last month’s Blackwater instigated massacre? State outsourced the writing of that report to. . . wait for it. . . Blackwater.

    Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

    by Red Wind on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 04:52:27 AM PDT

  •  The right people aren't standing up (5+ / 0-)

    In a diary on New Orleans the other day, someone commented that Blackwater troops/guards/? protected a large library there immediately following Katrina, and that Blackwater troops are still in abundance in New Orleans in both public and private endeavors.

    While a private enterprise can hire anyone to protect their premises and businesses, I would think public and state financed operations would fall under the realm of our public law enforcement agencies.

    So, in the case of the library in New Orleans, why doesn't the police department say Thanks, but we'll take over now and you just go home?  

    And, in the same regard, why doesn't the US military just tell Blackwater and the other private armies to just get the hell out of Iraq and let us do our job?

    "Man's life's a vapor Full of woe. He cuts a caper, Down he goes. Down de down de down he goes.

    by JFinNe on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 05:14:49 AM PDT

    •  whi is Prime on the FEMA contract (0+ / 0-)

      THAT is who hired BWUSA

      We need to talk with our wallets because no one is listening to our words

      by one pissed off democrat on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 05:17:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Several problems, of course (5+ / 0-)

      First, the Feds don’t provide enough funding for local law enforcement--and, as expected, that support has been cut under Bush. The NOLA Police were in bad shape before Katrina; the flood just gave the administration an opportunity to fix matters--and when I say fix, I mean give taxpayer dollars to corporate cronies.

      Second, it’s often hard to isolate the contractor. For instance, the Pentagon doesn’t have a contract with Blackwater. Aegis, I believe, provides the bulk of their “force protection,” though Aegis subcontracts to others. . . I don’t know if Blackwater is one of those specifically subcontracted by Aegis, but, in a twist, a Blackwater subsidiary, Presidential Air, is contracted by DoD to provide transportation.

      The Blackwater killers involved in the recent shoot-em-up were under contract to the Department of State.

      It’s gotten so big, so out of hand under this White House, that we almost need another congressional committee just to untangle it all and provide oversight. I think it is certain that we need a new law.

      Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

      by Red Wind on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 05:39:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Actually Outsourcing the Outrsource is coommon (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    roseeriter, Red Wind, gem spa, JFinNe, jlms qkw

    find what you can on the FBI trilogy program, seethe failure,then see who wrote the document presented to congress.

    check the IRS Modernization Program, same thing

    Try Massacre in Columbia and Dyncorp.

    In fact Most of these contracts are not direct, meaning, there is a complex combination of companies, one being the Prime contractor, with everyone else subbing to them.  In that way, if BWUSA screws up, the Prime contractor simply replaces them with say KBR.  No pain no fuss, no change in personnel. change the badge, move the benefits, and poof you have a new security force.  so the real question on this is who is Prime on this contract, and why in the hell don't the Dem's STOP funding them

    We need to talk with our wallets because no one is listening to our words

    by one pissed off democrat on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 05:16:49 AM PDT

    •  Is Blackwater funding part of the military? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      one pissed off democrat

      Does Blackwater get funded through the military. i.e. the suplemental bills or do they get their funding through the State Department?

      When guns are outlawed only conservatives will have guns

      by exlrrp on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 05:44:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Contracts (3+ / 0-)

        Blackwater and other PSC are awarded contracts by various branches of the government--OR they are subcontracted by firms with said contracts. BWUSA has no direct contract with DoD that I know of, but, as I mention above, a BW subsidiary, Presidential Air, does get money from the Pentagon.

        BWUSA has a force protection contract with State.

        As best I understand, there isn't a line in the Budget that says "This money is for Blackwater," but money is budgeted for private contractors--and that can be regulated by Congress.

        The contracts have to pass muster with various procurement oversight bodies like the GAO.

        Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.

        by Red Wind on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 05:50:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  My understading is they have both (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Red Wind, jlms qkw

        a Task Order (conract) and sub arrangements with the beltway bandits

        The contracts have to pass muster with various procurement oversight bodies like the GAO.

        The original contract has to pass muster, once you have the TO your food to go.  Everything is done with work requests and statements of work that the GAO does not oversee

        We need to talk with our wallets because no one is listening to our words

        by one pissed off democrat on Thu Oct 04, 2007 at 11:43:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  congrats on your rescue! (2+ / 0-)

    thanks for writing on this in an understandable way.

    and thanks for all the links too.  

    someday, there will be an end to the bush jr. story.  

  •  Anti-Pinkerton ACTION? (0+ / 0-)

    I'm disabled and can't noodle around enough.

    Any petitions to sign?
    Anyone to contact?
    K.I.S.S. Talking Points?

    Thanks.

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