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Five Things You Didn't Know About Wackenhut Security

LAST EDIT April 24, 2023

Five Things You Didn't Know About Wackenhut Security

A Wackenhut patrol car.
A Wackenhut security patrol car.

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You probably won't need to scan the private security interwebs for long before finding someone giving an account of their time working for Wackenhut Security.

For example, consider this statement "I got my first security job with Wackenhut. It was in the jobs postings section of the newspaper. I called in and got hired right away. They gave me one of those white uniforms with the gray pants and silver whistle (which I never had occasion to use in any official capacity even though I wore it on the uniform shirt) and one of those weird square, silver Wackenhut badges. The uniform was so unique that I didn't feel like a real security guard. Years later I came back to Wackenhut as a Custom Protection Officer was given a brown uniform with the purple stripe. Upon seeing me in this uniform my sister completely cracked up laughing at me and declared that my employers must be on drugs. But at least the badge wasn't square anymore. In retrospect I had know idea how big that company really was or what I was a part of. Our company guarded Area 51? Wow!"

Yup, that's right: Area 51.

Wackenhut officers were responsible for maintaining the parameter of Area 51 and according to Area 51 insiders were also responsible for a 1980s nuclear scare.

These guards would become the bane of UFO watchers' existence.

But, perhaps even more interestingly, a 2011 book entitled Area 51 blames Wackenhut for a nuclear scare.

The book describes an account of the incident from the security operations coordinator who was charged with securing a nuclear device. It was the early 1980s and the device was in the process of being lowered into its housing deep underground. As a crane carefully lowered the device, the security official was told of an ongoing attack at one of Area 51's access points. Armed gunmen were firing semi automatic weapons from an approaching helicopter. This purported attack required the official to make a decision: should he continue lowering the device or stop and risk that the attackers could take control of it? Which approach carried more risk? This set off a chain of notifications to the Pentagon and the White House, reportedly causing the Navy to place its nuclear-armed submarines on alert and potentially meaning that Tomahawk missiles were actively targeting Area 51.

The crisis subsided when it was realized that "the attack" was Wackenhut officers conducting a drill; a mock attack on an Area 51 access point—using blank ammunition.

The Private Police

In his inaugural speech on January 3, 1967, newly-elected Florida Governor Claude Kirk declared a War on Crime. 1960s Florida was rife with public corruption and the new Governor wanted to make an immediate impact.

The Governor was known to be a friend of George Wackenhut and shortly after his inauguration was sighted relaxing on George Wackenhut's yacht, Security Risk.

Kirk appointed Wackenhut and his Wackenhut agency to oversee the war on crime; an effort that was to be funded by private donations.

Tensions arose when Wackenhut officers asked for access to police records but police pushed back because they were afraid Wackenhut would copy the files and put them into the Wackenhut archives where Wackenhut was known to have its own system of intelligence and data collection.

Kirk defended the plan by stating, "Wackenhuts will always work for the Governor's office and the Governor will always work for the people."

The effort brought Wackenhut, now the third largest American security firm behind Pinkerton and Burns, nationwide recognition. Over the course of a year's time the controversial, privatized war on crime reportedly cost $500,000 dollars. It resulted in the ouster of 20 public officials and is believed to have been an impetus behind the arrest of nearly 100 persons.

Though the "private" effort only lasted a year, it appeared to force the hand of The State Legislature which, upon seeing Wackenhut's work, created a new statewide law enforcement agency, the Florida Bureau of Law Enforcement.

The George Wackenhut TV Show

In January of 1990, now a big business success, George Wackenhut commissioned writer John Minahan to write The Quiet American: A biography of George Wackenhut. Over the next few years Minahan methodically assembled the story of Wackenhut's life. Minahan conducted numerous tape-recorded interviews with Wackenhut's associates dating back to Wackenhut's childhood.

As he attempted to find a publisher, Minahan faced rejection: namely, that Wackenhut wasn't a well known personality to the American public and it took until July of 1993 before International Publishing Group agreed to publish the book.

The fact that Wackenhut's book contains the title "The Quiet American" has fueled theories of the Wackenhut Corporation's alleged work with the CIA. That's because a popular 1955 novel entitled "The Quiet American" prominently featured a CIA Agent.

After the book's publication, producer Don Klune purchased the television rights to Wackenhut's story. A script was drawn up entitled "The Governor's War on Crime" and focused on Wackenhut's work for Governor Kirk. The story would have depicted Wackenhut as fighting the drug-trafficking gangs that supplied all five New York Mafia families and corrupt law enforcement officials.

But, none of the major studios would purchase the script.

Are you a movie producer looking for a unique story? A yet-to-be-told story of a private security force working for a Governor to stop narcotics traffic and expose corruption in law enforcement is just sitting there—waiting for a smart production company to swoop it up.

Wackenhut's book can still be found on Amazon.

A Wackenhut Special Police Services Officer
A Wackenhut Special Police Services Officer.

World War I Flying Hero Eddie Rickenbacker

George Wackenhut wasn't the only notable official to lead the Wackenhut corporation. As a public company Wackenhut was governed by a board of directors. Over the years that board contained various notable and famous people. Perhaps the most famous of these was World War I pilot Eddie Rickenbacker. In 1918 Rickenbacker had defeated 26 enemy planes; a record for that war. In civilian life he had owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and operated Eastern Airlines amongst many other notable accomplishments.

Wackenhut and Rickenbacker shared a common background: Wackenhut himself had his own fascinating military experience. Stationed in Hawaii with the Army Corps of Engineers, Wackenhut was present at the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. He recalled that he was so close to a Japanese warplane that he could see the face of the pilot.

Other notable Wackenhut board members included:

Former FBI Director Clarence Kelley; former director of the Secret Service James Rowley; and former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci.

And, notably, before Ronald Reagan appointed him director of central intelligence, William Casey was Wackenhut's outside legal counsel.

Connection to Blackwater

Wackenhut organized its services into separate divisions. One of these divisions handled the private sector security contracts. Another maintained government contracts such as nuclear facilities.

In 2002 Group 4 Falck purchased Wackenhut. G4 continued to separate the government and private contracts into different organizational structures.

In 2014 G4 divested of the government sector division; it was sold to a private equity firm. In 2017 the private equity firm re-sold the division to a new company: Constellis. At this time of its acquisition, the division still contained approximately 9,000 employees.

Those who closely monitor the private security/military services space will perhaps recognize the name Constellis; it's the company that owns what used to be Blackwater USA. That's right, Wackenhut's government security division and Blackwater's USA private military services now share the same corporate space.

G4 would later sell Wackenhut's private sector division to Allied Universal.

Because you are reading this article there's a pretty good chance that you worked forWackenhut and now you know just a little bit more about the commonality that all of us who worked for this company now share.

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