Inside Look At Yet Another Religious Group With A Private Army

Some readers have been asking, where are all the new posts? Here’s the answer:

I got lured back to the States to work for a newspaper (again). Between the cross-continental move on short notice and the urgent demands of my new job (special projects reporter and web investigations czar for Willamette Week in Portland, Oregon), I simply haven’t had the time to keep the site fresh.

What does this mean for War Is Business? It means it will continue, but at a somewhat slower pace. The goal with the next round of fundraising will be to hire a part-time editor who can help with aggregation and site maintenance. Anyone who’s interested should contact me.

As it happens, my first cover story for Willamette Week revisits a subject I last covered for the Santa Fe Reporter one year ago: the unraveling of the Sikh Dharma business empire.

Sikh Dharma is a group founded by the late Yogi Bhajan, who converted thousands of white Americans to Sikhism. The group owns a number of large companies, the largest of which is Akal Security, a $500 million-a-year US government contractor that guards federal courthouses in 40 states, at least one US Embassy abroad and a number of international airports.

My story last year included many previously obscure details on Akal, including some long-ago connections to a would-be arms smuggler and the family of a CIA deputy director. The connections this group has are truly incredible. I also found out that Sikh Dharma leaders apparently sat in on negotiations between the Indian government and the US government for the sale of enriched uranium.

The story out on the streets of Portland today, and online here, focuses on allegations of subterfuge and fraud stemming from the legal fight for control of Akal’s parent company in Oregon.

The Oregon Attorney General’s office got involved in the case last year. Which begs a question that no one I’ve spoken to has been able to answer: If the state of Oregon believes the board of Akal Security is led by untrustworthy people, then why do the departments of Defense and Homeland Security continue to award contracts to the company? Akal won a four-year $150 million contract to guard the Kansas City airport this spring—months after the Oregon AG filed its complaint.

Granted, the rank-and-file security guards don’t know what’s going on in the boardroom, but the conduct of the leadership does speak to the future reliability of the company as a whole.