By Matt Graber
On September 10 – 13, up to twenty-five thousand private security professionals will gather at the Philadelphia Convention Center for the 58th annual seminar and expo hosted by the ASIS International Foundation – a global organization formerly known as the American Society for Industrial Security. 
The seminar brings together private security employees and employers offering surveillance systems and security operations internationally to police forces, militaries, and private corporations. It features more than 200 workshops for security professionals, and closed-door sessions between former government officials and Corporate Security Officers (CSOs). Muhammed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1997 to 2009 will speak on Tuesday, and Robert Gates, former US Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1991 to 1993, will speak on Wednesday. *
The lack of public awareness, scrutiny, and participation in the seminar, coupled with the proposed agenda, raises a number of compelling questions.
Consider, for example, the workshops that make connections between social media, surveillance, and law enforcement. In this age of surveillance, Smart Phones function as tracking devices , the Patriot Act authorizes government surveillance without public scrutiny , and social media provides insight into the private details of our lives. With workshops such as, “Using Social Networking Sites, Search Engines, and Web 2.0 to Screen Applicants,” “Trends in Law Enforcement and Private Security Partnerships,” “New School Security Risks and Solutions,” and hundreds of others, what is the relationship between people, private security firms, corporations, and the government?
As new social movements emerge world-wide such as the Occupy Movement, the Arab Spring, and the demonstrations across Europe, how will private security firms and corporations respond to social movements calling for a more equitable distribution of resources ? One workshop led by CIKR Protection, a security firm that has been working in New York City, will teach attendees how to predict and prepare for demonstrations utilizing social media, and will present cost-effective measures to alleviate the impacts of protests on business. Do private security firms comply with, support, and/or actively suppress free speech and popular dissent? If so, how?
With droughts ravaging the United States’ corn supply this year, international experts have predicted a forthcoming global food crisis . What are the implications of a workshop between private security companies and corporations in the agriculture industry such as General Mills on defending the global food supply? Is there a contradiction between private security and the equitable distribution of essential resources? With a global food crisis, will the seminar address ways and means of feeding the impoverished among us?
The United States has a prison population of over two million people, the largest in the world . This has proven to be a lucrative market for private security firms, which are able to profit from partnerships with public police departments. For example, in New York, private security firms partner with the New York Police Department , which enforces “Stop and Frisk” policies disproportionately targeting Black and Latino youth , and has spied on mosques and other Muslim and Arab communities throughout the East Coast . One security firm, Nice Systems, partners with the police department in Maricopa County, Arizona , which, according to a Department of Justice investigation, is guilty of flagrant racial profiling . How do private and public programs of surveillance, criminalization, and militarization relate to people on the basis of their racial, ethnic, religious, gender, class, and other identities?
What is the significance of a workshop entitled ‘Corporate Manslaughter. Be prepared!’ which considers the subject of laws in England, Wales, Hong Kong, and elsewhere which hold corporations accountable for homicide ? The session description asks attendees, ‘Do you know how corporate manslaughter could affect you and your corporation?’, and the session proposes to teach attendees how to “mitigate” Corporate Criminal Liability. Does this mean that corporations are actively organizing ways of avoiding accountability when they are responsible for homicide? What are the precedents and possibilities for people to hold corporations accountable for homicide and other crimes?
Finally, the global scope of the seminar is breath-taking. One workshop is entitled, “Africa: Open for Business,” and is led by Jeffrey Gruber of The World Bank Group, Charlie Sellens of the US Department of Defense, and others. What implications may this have on the principles of sovereignty and self-determination for the people of Africa? Muhammed El Baradei, the former head of the IAEA who led UN nuclear inspections in the lead-up to the 2003 US-led war in Iraq , and who has been a prominent part of the negotiations and inspections of the nuclear energy program of Iran , will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday morning.
Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will deliver a keynote address on Wednesday morning providing insight gleaned from his four and a half decades of experience in the United States’ intelligence and defense departments. In 2008, Gates – who was Secretary of Defense under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations – fired the top two leaders of the US Air Force in an effort to expand the US drone policy . The United States has killed up to 4,389 people (including up to 1,104 civilians) by drones in Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen since the inauguration of the program in 2001, according to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism . In addition to a keynote address, Robert Gates will meet with Corporate Security Officers for a close-door roundtable discussion on Wednesday morning. What may Robert Gates and the leaders of corporate America discuss? Why is the session not open to the press?
This week at the Philadelphia Convention Center, questions must be raised. How will Gates, El Baradei, and executives from major corporations engage with the private security industry?
Moreover, what is the relationship between people, private security firms, corporations, and the government? What impact does public opinion and welfare have on the compelling issues being considered at the seminar?
What do you think?
 Information on the conference gleaned from the conference websites ASIS2012 and ISC2.org.
 That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker. Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan, The New York Times, July 13, 2012. Online at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/15/sunday-review/thats-not-my-phone-its-my-tracker.html.
 Full text of the American Patriot Act [H.R. 3162] available via Thomas.gov.
 The Arab Spring was sparked in December of 2010 when a poor man in Tunisia, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in an act of self-immolation. Bouazizi, who supported his family by selling fruits on the street, had his food cart taken by the police, and thus embodied for millions of people through North Africa and the Middle East the desperate conditions forced upon them by the police and the ruling classes. In Europe, Greece, Great Britain, Spain, and other countries have seen riots and social protest movements demonstrating against similarly deplorable conditions enforced by police and the ruling classes in stark conditions of economic disparity. In the United States, the call of ‘We are the 99%’ of the Occupy Movement highlights the economic disparity in our country.
5] Global Food Crisis May Hit Us ‘Very Soon,’ IFPRI’s Fan Says. Luzi Ann Javier. Bloomberg News, August 13, 2012. Available online at
 Correctional Population in the United States, 2010. Lauren E. Glaze. Bulletin by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the US Department of Justice. December, 2011. Online at http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cpus10.pdf.
 The NYPD Shield program is the department’s private-public collaboration project. Online at www.NYPDShield.org.
 Report: NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Activity in 2011. Published by the New York Civil Liberties Union, 2012. Online at http://www.nyclu.org/files/publications/NYCLU_2011_Stop-and-Frisk_Report.pdf.
 Matt Apuzzo and Adam Gold of the Associated Press have a long series of investigative reports detailing the NYPD intelligence program available online at http://www.ap.org/Index/AP-In-The-News/NYPD.
 Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Installs NiceVision in Madison Street Jail. Nice Systems press release, September 12, 2000. Available online at http://www.nice.com/maricopa-county-sheriffs-office-installs-nicevision-madison-street-jail.
 Re: United States’ Investigation of the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department. Letter from US Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the County Attorney of Mariposa County Bill Montgomery. December 15, 2011. Available as public record online at http://www.scribd.com/doc/75822856/1215arpaioletter.
 El Baradei, who led the UN weapons inspections, testified before the UN that there had been no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq thirteen days prior to the US-led invasion.
 ‘No credible evidence’ of Iranian nuclear weapons, says UN Inspector. Julian Borger and Richard Norton-Taylor. The Guardian, September 30, 2009.
 El Baradei Says Iran to Develop Atomic Weapons If Israel Attacks. Albing Guo. Bloomberg News, March 21, 2012. Available online at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-21/elbaradei-says-iran-to-develop-atomic-weapons-if-israel-attacks.html.
 Less Ego, More UAVs. Richard Gasperre. airforce-technology.com, July 17, 2008. Available online at http://www.airforce-technology.com/features/feature2104/.
 All of the data for the Bureau of Investigative Reporting is available online at http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drone-data/.