American Samizdat

Saturday, October 10, 2009. *
SID -- a unit, known as founder and chairman George Wackenhut's "private FBI," that provided executive protection and conducted undercover investigations and sting operations. Once they arrived, they rented two gray Ford Taurus's and drove four hours to a desolate town on the Mexican border called Eagle Pass. There, just after dark, they met two truck drivers who had been flown in from Houston. Inside a nearby warehouse was an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, which the two truck drivers and the four Wackenhut agents in their rented cars were supposed to transport to Chicago. "My instructions were very clear," Ramirez recalls.

"Do not look into the trailer, secure it, and make sure it safely gets to Chicago." It went without saying that no one else was supposed to look in the trailer, either, which is why the Wackenhut men were armed with fully loaded Remington 870 pump-action shotguns.

The convoy drove for 30 hours straight, stopping only for gas and food. Even then, one of the Wackenhut agents had to stay with the truck, standing by one of the cars, its trunk open, shotgun within easy reach. "Whenever we stopped, I bought a shot glass with the name of the town on it," Ramirez recalls. "I have glasses from Oklahoma City, Kansas City, St. Louis."

A little before 5:00 on the morning of the third day, they delivered the trailer to a practically empty warehouse outside Chicago. A burly man who had been waiting for them on the loading dock told them to take off the locks and go home, and that was that. They were on a plane back to Miami that afternoon. Later Ramirez's superiors told him—as they told other SID agents about similar midnight runs—that the trucks contained $$40 million worth of food stamps. After considering the secrecy, the way the team was assembled and the orders not to stop or open the truck, Ramirez decided he didn't believe that explanation.

Neither do we. One reason is simple: A Department of Agriculture official simply denies that food stamps are shipped that way. "Someone is blowing smoke," he says. Another reason is that after a six-month investigation, in the course of which we spoke to more than 300 people, we believe we know what the truck did contain—equipment necessary for the manufacture of chemical weapons—and where it was headed: to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. And the Wackenhut Corporation—a publicly traded company with strong ties to the CIA and federal contracts worth $$200 million a year—was making sure Saddam would be getting his equipment intact. The question is why.

IN 1954, GEORGE WACKENHUT, THEN A 34-YEAR-old former FBI agent, joined up with three other former FBI agents to open a company in Miami called Special Agent Investigators Inc. The partnership was neither successful nor harmonious—George once knocked partner Ed Dubois unconscious to end a disagreement over the direction the company would take—and in 1958, George bought out his partners.

However capable Wackenhut's detectives may have been at their work, George Wackenhut had two personal attributes that were instrumental in the company's growth. First, he got along exceptionally well with important politicians. He was a close ally of Florida governor Claude Kirk, who hired him to combat organized crime in the state, and was also friends with Senator George Smathers, an intimate of John F. Kennedy's.

It was Smathers who provided Wackenhut with his big break when the senator's law firm helped the company find a loophole in the Pinkerton law, the 1893 federal statute that had made it a crime for an employee of a private detective agency to do work for the government. Smathers's firm set up a wholly owned subsidiary of Wackenhut that provided only guards, not detectives. Shortly thereafter, Wackenhut received multimillion-dollar contracts from the government to guard Cape Canaveral and the Nevada nuclear-bomb test site, the first of many extremely lucrative federal contracts that have sustained the company to this day.
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posted by Uncle $cam at 1:09 PM
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