The history of Wackenhut Corporation is best described from its own literature. An outdated letter of introduction typed on Wackenhut letterhead once sent to prospective clients provided me with the following profile:
"Wackenhut Corporation had its beginnings in 1954, when George R. Wackenhut and three other former Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation formed a company in Miami, Special Agent Investigators, to provide investigative services to business and industry.
"The approach was so well received that a second company was formed in 1955 to apply the same philosophy to physical security problems. In 1958 the companies were combined under the name of Wackenhut Corporation, a Florida company. From the outset, George Wackenhut was President and chief executive officer of the enterprise. Wackenhut established its headquarters in Coral Gables, Florida in 1960, extending its physical security operations to the United States government through formation of a wholly owned subsidiary, Wackenhut Services, Incorporated. This was done in order to comply with federal statute prohibiting the government from contracting with companies which furnish investigative or detective services.
"In 1962, Wackenhut operations extended from Florida to California and Hawaii. On January 1, 1966, the company became international with offices in Caracas, Venezuela, through half ownership of an affiliate.
"The Wackenhut Corporation became public in 1966 with over-the-counter stock sales and joined the American Stock Exchange in 1967. Through acquisitions of subsidiaries and affiliates, now totaling more than 20, and expansion of it contracts into numerous territories and foreign countries, the Wackenhut Corporation has grown into one of the world's largest security and investigative firms.
"In 1978 acquisition of NUSAC, a Virginia company providing technical and consulting services to the nuclear industry, brought Wackenhut into the fields of environment and energy management. In 1979, Wackenhut acquired Stellar Systems, Inc., a California company specializing in outdoor electronic security.
"The executive makeup of the company reflects the stress Mr. Wackenhut placed on professional leadership. The Wackenhut Corporation is guided by executives and managers with extensive backgrounds in the FBI and other military, governmental and private security and investigative fields.
"The principle business of the company is furnishing security and complete investigative services and systems to business, industry and professional clients, and to various agencies of the U.S. Government.
"Through a whollyowned subsidiary, Wackenhut Electronic Systems Corporation, the company develops and produces sophisticated computerized security systems to complement its guard services.
"Major clients of Wackenhut's investigative services are the insurance industry and financial interests. These services include insurance inspections, corporate acquisition surveys, personnel background reports, pre-employment screening, polygraph examinations and general criminal, fraud and arson investigations.
"The wide variety of services offered by Wackenhut Corporation also includes guard and electronic security for banks, office buildings, apartments, industrial complexes and other physical structures; training programs in English and foreign languages to apply Wackenhut procedures to individual clients needs; fire, safety and protective patrols; rescue and first aid services; emergency support programs tailored to labor-management disputes, and pre-departure screening programs widely used by airports and airlines.
"The company now has some 20,000 employees and maintains close to 100 offices and facilities with operations spread across the United States and extending into Canada, the United Kingdom, Western Europe, the Middle East, Indonesia, Central and South America and the Caribbean."
On the surface, Wackenhut Corporation seemed innocuous enough, but through documents later obtained from Michael Riconosciuto, I learned there was another, darker side to Wackenhut operations, at the Cabazon Indian reservation near Indio, California.
Because Indian reservations are sovereign nations and do not come under federal jurisdiction, Wackenhut International had formed a partnership and entered into a business venture with the Cabazon Indians to produce hightech arms and explosives for export to third-world countries. This maneuver was designed to evade congressional prohibitions against U.S. weapons being shipped to the Contras and middle eastern countries.
In the early 1980's, Dr. John Nichols, the Cabazon tribal administrator, obtained a department of Defense secret facility clearance for the reservation to conduct various research projects. Nichols then approached Wackenhut with an elaborate "joint venture" proposal to manufacture 120mm combustible cartridge cases, 9mm machine pistols, laser-sighted assault weapons, sniper rifles and portable rocket systems on the Cabazon reservation and in Latin America. At one point, he even sought to develop biological weapons.
Again, through Michael Riconosciuto's files, I later obtained interoffice memorandums and correspondence relating to biological technology, but more on that in chapter 10. Meanwhile, in 1980, Dr. John Nichols obtained the blueprints to Crown Prince Fahd's palace in Tiaf, Saudi Arabia, and drafted a plan to provide security for the palace.
The Saudis were interested enough to conduct a background check on the Cabazons. Mohammad Jameel Hashem, consul of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., wrote former South Dakota Senator James Abourezk at his offices in Washington D.C. and noted,
"According to our black list for companies, the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians/Cabazon Trading Company and Wackenhut International are not included."
Translated, that meant that neither the Cabazons or Wackenhut were Jewish-run enterprises.
George Wackenhut's political leanings were once described in a book entitled, "The Age of Surveillance, The Aims and Methods of America's Political Intelligence System," by Frank J. Donner (Knopf, 1980), pp. 424425 as such:
"The agency's [Wackenhut] professional concerns reflect the political values of its director, George Wackenhut. A rightist of the old blood, he selected as his directors an assortment of ultras prominent in the John Birch Society, the ASC, and other rightwing groups. The agency's monthly house organ, the `Wackenhut Security Review,' systematically decried the subversive inspiration in virtually all the protest movements of the sixties, from civil rights to peace. This vigilance earned the publication the accolade of rightwing organizations, including (in 1962) the George Washington Honor Medal and the Freedom Foundation Award at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; and (in 1965 and 1966) the Vigilant Patriots Award from the All American Conference to Combat Communism."
Of all the articles written about Wackenhut Corporation, probably the most provocative was written by John Connolly for SPY magazine, published in September 1992, pp. 4654. Connolly, a former New York police officer turned writer, began his story with the following introduction:
"What? A big private company one with a board of former CIA, FBI and Pentagon officials; one in charge of protecting nuclear weapons facilities, nuclear reactors, the Alaskan oil pipeline and more than a dozen American embassies abroad; one with longstanding ties to a radical rightwing organization; one with 30,000 men and women under arms secretly helped Iraq in its effort to obtain sophisticated weapons? And fueled unrest in Venezuela? This is all the plot of a new bestselling thriller, right? Or the ravings of some overheated conspiracy buff, right? Right? WRONG."
Connolly highlighted George Wackenhut as a "hardline rightwinger" who was able to profit from his beliefs by building dossiers on Americans suspected of being Communists or left-leaning "subversives and sympathizers" and selling the information to interested parties. By 1965 , Wackenhut was boasting to potential investors that the company maintained files on 2.5 million suspected dissidents one in 46 American adults then living.
In 1966, after acquiring the private files of Karl Barslaag, a former staff member of the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities, Wackenhut could confidently maintain that with more than 4 million names, it had the largest privately held file on suspected dissidents in America.
Connolly wrote that it was not possible to overstate the special relationship that Wackenhut enjoys with the federal government. Richard Babayan, claiming to be a CIA contract employee, told SPY that
"Wackenhut has been used by the CIA and other intelligence agencies for years. When they [the CIA] need cover, Wackenhut is there to provide it for them."
Another CIA agent, Bruce Berckmans, who was assigned to the CIA station in Mexico City, but left the agency in January 1975 (putatively) to become a Wackenhut international operations vice president, told SPY that he had seen a formal proposal submitted by George Wackenhut to the CIA offering Wackenhut offices throughout the world as fronts for CIA activities. In 1981, Berckmans joined with other senior Wackenhut executives to form the company's Special Projects Division. It was this division that linked up with exCIA man Dr. John Phillip Nichols, the Cabazon tribal administrator, in pursuit of a scheme to manufacture explosives, poison gas and biological weapons for export to the contras and other communist fighting rebels worldwide.
SPY also printed testimony from William Corbett, a terrorism expert who spent 18 years as a CIA analyst and is now an ABC News consultant in Europe. Said Corbett,
"For years Wackenhut has been involved with the CIA and other intelligence organizations, including the DEA. Wackenhut would allow the CIA to occupy positions within the company [in order to carry out] clandestine operations."
Additionally, Corbett said that Wackenhut supplied intelligence agencies with information, and it was compensated for this "in a quid pro quo arrangement" with government contracts worth billions of dollars over the years.
On page 51, in a box entitled, "Current and Former Wackenhut Directors," SPY published the following names:
"John Ammarell, former FBI agent
Robert Chasen, former FBI agent
Clarence Kelly, former FBI director
Willis Hawkins, former assistant secretary of the Army
Paul X. Kelley, four-star general (ret.), U.S. Marine Corps
Seth McKee, former commander in chief, North American Air Defense Command
Bernard Schriever, former member, President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board
Frank Carlucci, former Defense Secretary and former deputy CIA director
Joseph Carroll, former director, Defense Intelligence Agency
James Rawley, former director, U.S. Secret Service
Bobby Ray Inman, former deputy CIA director"
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