Houston-based KBR, formerly the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton Co., has a contingency contract in place with the Department of Homeland Security to construct detention facilities in the event of a national emergency.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, spokeswoman Jamie Zuieback confirmed yesterday in a telephone interview that the KBR contract for $385 million was awarded initially in January 2006 for a one-year base period with four one-year options. It has been extended into 2007. KBR held a previous emergency detention contract with ICE from 2000 to 2005.
Zuieback told this writer the primary intent of the KBR contract was to build temporary detention facilities that could be used in the event of a mass migration across the border that required ICE to respond on a quick basis to an illegal-immigration crisis.
“The idea of the KBR contract is to support the Army Corp of Engineers,” Zuieback explained, “in case we experienced a sudden mass immigration and we had to respond quickly. We would need immediate detention facilities in the form of temporary housing that would enable us to determine if the large numbers of illegal immigrants were political or economically motivated, or if they were criminals or terrorists.”
Zuieback confirmed that the KBR contract for detention facilities could apply to national emergencies, including natural disasters.
Several times, Zuieback insisted in the telephone interview that the KBR contract was a “contingency contract,” specifying that detention facilities were to be built only when an immigration emergency or a national emergency, including a natural disaster, had been declared.
Heather Browne, spokeswoman for KBR, also sent me an e-mail yesterday confirming KBR built a temporary facility in New Orleans that provided cantonment for up to 500 federal detention officers who were tasked with maintaining law and order during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Last week, WND reported President Bush had signed May 9 a little-reported National Security and Homeland Security Directive (NSPD-51 and NSPD-20) that granted extraordinary powers to the president in the event of a declared national emergency, apparently without congressional approval or oversight.
NSPD-51/HSPD-20, published on the White House website, rescinds Presidential Decision Directive 67 signed by Bill Clinton Oct. 21, 1998, and establishes a new White House office of the National Continuity Coordinator, a position now occupied by Frances Fragos Townsend, the assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Terrorism.
The new directive concentrates an unprecedented amount of emergency authority in the office of the president, specifying that the president now has the authority to direct “National Essential Functions” of all federal state, local, territorial and tribal governments, as well as private sector organizations in the event of a national emergency.
The directive loosely defines “catastrophic emergency” as “any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions.”
The KBR contingency contract appears to give ICE the ability to have detention facilities constructed under the president’s direction in response to a national emergency as declared under NSPD-51/HSPD-20.
The initial White House press release announcing the presidential directive included no background explanation of the directive or statement by the president. The press release merely posted NSPD-51/HSPD-20 on the White House website.
Sections 23 and 24 of NSPD-51/HSPD-20 specify that Annex A and the classified Continuity Annexes are incorporated into the directive, even though they remain secret and are not available for examination as part of the published document.
Still, Zuieback said she was not familiar with NSPD-51/HSPD-20. At her request, this writer e-mailed to her the White House website link to the directive posting.
The White House declined comment on the initial WND story and has not yet responded to the story or to my previous column on the subject.