Republic Services, owner of the radioactively-contaminated West Lake landfill, employs a security guard service with historical ties to the CIA, DOE and State Department.
The motto emblazoned on its vehicles is “Securing Your World.” But G4S Security Solutions’ job in Bridgeton, Mo. is a tad more parochial: It guards Republic Services’ polluted property. The gig sounds like little more than a standard rent-a-cop deal. But there are reasons to suspect otherwise.
As the underground fire continues to burn unimpeded towards the radioactive waste at West Lake, things have heated up on the surface as well.
Vigilance became a corporate imperative following a protest staged by the Earth Defense Coalition in the early spring of 2017. In the wake of that demonstration, Republic, the owner of the radioactively-contaminated West Lake Landfill, pledged to prevent future disruptions of its business from occurring, and G4S Security Solutions is responsible for keeping that promise.
The protest shutdown Republic’s trash sorting operations at the location for 12 hours, after environmental activists blocked the entrance of the troubled landfill, demanding the EPA relinquish control of the site and handover the clean up duties to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The security company finds itself in the middle of a battle between private interests and public health. Despite its central role in the controversy, G4S’s presence has garnered little attention until now.
Patrolling the perimeter of the West Lake Superfund site is the most obvious part of G4S’s job description. Whether the security company has additional duties related to protecting Republic Services’ interests is unclear. But if the history of the security company’s operations are any indication, G4S’s role at West Lake may involve more than just manning the guardhouse at the front entrance.
That’s because the British corporation inherited the cloak and dagger reputation of Wackenhut Security, after merging with the notorious American espionage firm in the early 2000s. The cost of that buyout was pegged at $500 million.
Besides offering guard services, Wackenhut specialized in intelligence gathering, and keeping tabs on millions of American citizens suspected of being left-wing subversives or communist sympathizers.
George Wackenhut, a former FBI agent, founded the company in the 1950s during the McCarthy era. In the intervening years, Wackenhut Security grew in size and influence, scoring hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts from federal agencies, including the Department of Energy and U.S. State Department. By the early 1990s, Wackenhut Security was known as the “shadow CIA,” because of the clandestine services it offered to the intelligence community both at home and abroad.
G4S, Wackenhut’s successor, was founded in 2004, when the British multinational security company Securicor merged with a Danish counterpart, Group 4 Falck.
Today, G4S Security Solutions is inextricably tethered to Wackenhut’s tainted legacy. Its British parent company boasts more than 60,000 employees in 125 nations, and is reputedly among the largest employers in Europe and Africa. Closer to home, its American operation has the dubious distinction of being the employer of Omar Mateen, the mass murderer who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at an Orlando nightclub in 2016.
Not surprisingly, G4S Security Solutions denies any culpability for that horrid act. The Jupiter, Florida-based company, after all, can attribute the mass shooting by its longtime employee as being a random act of violence. It’s not quite as easy to deny the nefarious legacy of Wackenhut Security, however.
G4S now owns it.
By the mid-1960s, Wackenhut was known to be keeping dossiers on more than four million Americans, having acquired the files of a former staffer of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. In response to congressional reforms in the post-Watergate era, Wackenhut donated its cache of blacklisted individuals to the virulent anti-communist Church League of America in Wheaton, Illinois, but didn’t give up access to the information. The league cooperated closely with the so-called “red squads” of big city police departments from coast to coast that spied on suspected communist agitators.
By the early 1990s, Wackenhut was the largest provider of security services to U.S. embassies around the world, including U.S. State Department missions in Chile, Greece and El Salvador, where the CIA was known to have colluded with right-wing death squads.
Wackenhut also guarded nuclear sites in Hanford, Wash. and Savannah River, S.C. and the Nevada nuclear test site for the Department Energy and its predecessor, the Atomic Energy Commission.
As the company gained more power, it recruited an influential board of directors that included former FBI director Clarence Kelley and Defense Secretary and CIA deputy director Frank Carlucci. William Casey, President Ronald Reagan’s CIA director, served as Wackenhut’s lawyer before joining the Reagan administration.
There is also evidence that during the Iran-Contra era of the 1980s Wackenhut worked for the CIA to supply the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with dual-use technology that could be utilized to make chemical and nuclear weapons.
It could be argued that G4S Security Solutions’ current services at West Lake are unrelated to its predecessor’s tainted past. But many of the residents of St. Louis whose lives have been impacted by Republic Services’ radioactively-contaminated landfill would likely not agree that history is inconsequential.