Did ICE Get Caught Shopping for ‘Urban Warfare’ Training Facilities?

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Documents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) show the agency planning to build an "urban warfare" training facility.

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A Newsweek story published on September 11, 2019 revived fears about the possible intentions of the United States’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after it showed that the agency failed to redact documents related to “urban warfare” training facilities. In reality, however, it was not the first report on the issue.

According to Newsweek:

On Tuesday, ICE published an acquisition form for the procurement of “hyper-realistic training devices” for a new training facility for its expanding Special Response Team (SRT) program on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

The immigration agency had sought to redact the location of the new training facility, but failed to do so properly. The agency, which has made this kind of mistake previously, appears to have a systemic information-security problem.

In this case, Newsweek was able to simply copy and paste the document’s contents into a word processor and quickly establish that the facility would be built at the Office of Firearms and Tactical Programs’ (OFTP) Tactical Operations Complex (TOC) at Fort Benning, Georgia, a U.S. Army post used to prepare soldiers for combat.

The documents stated that the facility would be expected to include mockups simulating “residential houses, apartments, hotels, government facilities and commercial buildings,” among other buildings. The replicas are reportedly to be done in styles dubbed “Chicago” and “Arizona.” The estimated final cost for the expanded training offerings was listed at $961,347.75.

But two months earlier, the news site Quartz had also reported on the agency’s plan to develop the “hyper-realistic” mockups. Quartz also listed the features for each design:

ICE’s Arizona-style home will consist of three 8 ft x 40 ft shipping containers placed side-by-side, creating a structure measuring 960 sq ft. It will include 10 windows, four entrance doors, and a minimum of six interior rooms. One of the containers will serve as a “garage,” complete with roll-up door, as well as an exterior door and window. The garage and the main house will have pitched roofs with shingles, interior electrical outlets, and a fenced-in yard area.

[…]

ICE’s Chicago-style home will be twice the size of the Arizona, with six 8 ft x 40 ft shipping containers stacked on top of one another to simulate a two-story apartment building. It will have 22 windows, three exterior doors, and one set each of interior and exterior stairs. There will be a minimum of five rooms on each floor, and a garage identical to the Arizona. Unlike the Arizona, ICE’s Chicago abode will feature an attic with a pull-down ladder and a trap door leading into the home.

Newsweek reported that ICE documents said that making the mock homes as realistic as possible was a “critical component” in their use.

“For example, details like the number of dishes left on the table, toys in the yard, lighting, furniture, etc. all provide clues that allow our agents and officers to infer vital information that directly affects their safety and the potential resolution or outcome in the scenario,” one document said.

The plans are real, but the intentions are — so far — opaque.