Private Contractor Surge Into Afghanistan-(post all AFPAK contractor news here)

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Offline bigron

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The Private Contracting Surge Into Afghanistan

Posted By Kelley B. Vlahos On May 13, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

Conveniently short on real details – perhaps deliberately so – the Obama administration’s new war strategy for Afghanistan has yet to acknowledge the huge footprint the United States will have on that country in another year’s time.

One thing is becoming clear, though: it will be a larger footprint than we had anticipated a year ago. In fact, it already is. Just like in Iraq, a "shadow army" has been serving alongside American servicemen and women in Afghanistan. So far, it is at least 70,000 strong. Private contractors – now indispensable to the U.S. military as it wages war – are expected to grow and much surpass that number as U.S. troops there double from 35,000 to nearly 70,000 by 2010.

"In short, we will be bringing as many contractors as we are troops – especially KBR [Kellogg, Brown and Root] – because they now feed and house the military, and the military has no real choice, because they have let that part of their logistics atrophy," pointed out Dina Rasor, director of the Follow the Money Project and co-author of Betraying our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War.

Despite previous calls by President Barack Obama to reform the flawed and ballooning dependence of the military on private contractors, serious problems have hardly been addressed. So while billions of dollars will remain in dispute in Iraq, Obama has no choice but to keep pouring money into American firms such as KBR, DynCorp, and even Xe (formerly Blackwater) if he wants to move forward with the mission in Afghanistan, despite those firms’ notorious reputations for waste, fraud, and abuse in theater.

Some of the most damning allegations include committing homicide against Iraqis and putting U.S. troops in harm’s way by serving them spoiled food and dirty water, exposing them to poisonous burn pits and toxic chemicals, and building them showers with faulty wiring.

"All of the fraud, waste, and … negligent homicide will be brought into Afghanistan if nothing is done," Rasor told Antiwar.com.

Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, told the Washington Post in February that it was "too late" to implement the structural changes necessary to get real oversight of U.S. taxpayer dollars in Afghanistan, at least of the billions that are expected to go into reconstruction. Already the government has spent about $30 billion through contractors on reconstruction there, according to Bowen.

Bowen gave the Wartime Contracting Commission – which was set up by Congress to study and make recommendations on how to do contracting better, but has yet to release an interim report, yet alone the real one (which isn’t due until next summer) – a similar rendering. In the same February hearing, Thomas Gimble of the Defense Department inspector general’s office, told commissioners that there are 154 open criminal investigations into allegations of bribery, conflicts of interest, defective products, bid-rigging, and theft in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait having to do with the military’s runaway spending on private contractors.

Just this month, April Stephenson, director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), told the commission that that the number of fraud investigations tied to KBR are "unprecedented" and suggested that as much as $4.3 billion might have been over-billed by the former Halliburton subsidiary, while some $3.3 billion in expenses wasn’t "supported" and another $550 million in expenses wasn’t "allowable." This all took place under the U.S. Army’s LOGCAP III (Logistics Civil Augmentation Program) contract, which covers all of the operations in the current war theater, including Afghanistan and is worth more than $16 billion to KBR.

According to investigative journalist Pratap Chatterjee, there is one KBR worker for every three U.S. soldiers in Iraq. "Obama needs to ask his Pentagon commanders: Can the U.S. military he has now inherited do anything without KBR? And the answer will certainly be a resounding no."

The military has been averse to resisting this stranglehold for many reasons, one being that the Pentagon believes it is saving an awful lot of money by contracting out the war. But more darkly, sources have testified that they did not question KBR’s more dubious practices or hold back payments, because they believed KBR might withhold goods and services for troops in the field or, at the very least, the military wouldn’t have had anyone else to turn to. Let’s face it: despite the slick, patriotic pose to the contrary, KBR is a business, with a bottom line. According to Jeffrey Parsons, head of the Army Contracting Command, which oversees LOGCAP, who also testified before the commission, "there was not any real backup plan. …This would have had to have been turned back over to the organic force, and it was questionable what that would’ve done."

The Army believed it was resolving at least some of the problems when it awarded LOGCAP IV last April. It split the monopoly KBR had on the massive cost-plus-award-fee rubric between DynCorp, the Fluor Corporation, and KBR. This left one commissioner befuddled.

"What does a contractor have to do to get the government not to contract with them?" asked Linda Gustitus. "We’ve gone through this litany of abuses from KBR … but, guess what, one of the contractors on LOGCAP IV is KBR."

Surging Into Afghanistan

When Obama was elected president, it wasn’t immediately clear to the American public what he had in mind for Afghanistan, but it became obvious – though not very well-publicized – back in January, when Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reported that the Army was building $1.1 billion worth of military bases and other facilities in Afghanistan and planning to start an additional $1.3 billion in projects this year.

"Massive construction of barracks, training areas, headquarters, warehouses, and airfields for use by U.S. and Afghan security forces – which could reach $4 billion – signals a long-term U.S. military commitment at a time when the incoming Obama administration’s policy for the Afghan war is unclear," according to Pincus. Since then, the administration has announced a sweeping new but "focused" strategy in Iraq that will include the addition of 21,000 troops, and more by 2010.

In April, the administration confirmed the combat numbers and announced a "civilian surge" in which U.S. State Department advisers (of whom it reportedly does not have enough to spare) will descend at some point on the country to help rebuild Afghan institutions, including its beleaguered and corrupted government ministries. Meanwhile, the military is also expected to engage in a massive drug interdiction effort as part of its overall counterinsurgency strategy of clear, hold, and build.

What this means to the private contracting industry is so far unclear, but we can guess it will be nothing short of a bonanza. At the height of the Iraq surge in late 2007, there were an estimated 180,000 contractors alongside a U.S. military force strength of 155,000. If there are some 71,000 contractors inside Afghanistan today, dwarfing the current number of U.S. military, which is 36,000 and climbing, well, we can do the math.

Hired Guns

Recently, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was asked to defend the ramped-up hiring and management of armed private security guards – of which there are now nearly 4,000 in Afghanistan on the U.S. government payroll – in light of myriad problems involving similar hired guns in Iraq. This came on the heels of reports since December that the Army was putting out bids for private guards to "protect the entry control points of the [U.S.] bases to prevent ‘threats related to unauthorized personnel, contraband, and instruments of damage, destruction, and information-collection from entering the installation.’"

The guards would be required to employ surveillance and counter-surveillance and be required to use “the appropriate force to neutralize any threat,” though they would be prevented from engaging in "offensive operations" alongside the military, and thus becoming full-fledged mercenaries.

"[This] would appear to dramatically expand the use of private security contractors in Afghanistan," complained Levin, who pointed out the "widespread abuses" of such notable security companies like Triple Canopy and Blackwater in Iraq. Five former Blackwater security guards are currently facing federal charges that they gunned down 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians in Nisoor Square in September 2007.

But there is one big difference when comparing the private security situation with Iraq: in Afghanistan, most of the hired guards are indigenous, not Western or international. In fact, only a fraction hold U.S. passports. Just before a Kabul crackdown on the private security contracting industry in 2007, there were some 120,000 men being employed by 2,000 militias.

These guns were – and still are – being hired out by private companies, including major ones with U.S. contracts, like DynCorp. Afghans today are frequently hired for embassy security details, and in addition to the base security, non-Americans are protecting critical U.S. military convoys coming down through Pakistan. Why not give the jobs to the locals, say defenders like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). But others wonder how the military got to the point where it could not do the work itself.

"In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, security contractors have filled a power vacuum that was created when the administration opted for a military deployment with neither the size nor the mandate to stabilize the country," wrote Carl Robichaud for the Century Foundation in 2007. "The coalition’s inability to establish security, and its subsequent failure to stand up an effective police training effort, forced it to rely upon hired help."

Not much has changed. DynCorp still gets millions of dollars in U.S.-government contracts to reform and stand up the Afghan police, but according to Chatterjee, the $653 million already spent in this area has been an abysmal failure and the police are virtually useless. However, DynCorp thrives and is already looking forward to new contracts – funded with a fresh $2 billion under Obama’s plan. "[We're] seeing the potential for increased demand for our services in Afghanistan," said DynCorp CEO William L. Ballhaus in February.

Security training and protection – even the massive private mobilization to house, feed, clothe, transport, and guard U.S. military and other personnel – is one thing. There are also huge private contracts going to American companies involved in rebuilding and humanitarian aid. Afghanistan has received far less than Iraq for aid and reconstruction – about $6.9 billion through USAID since 2002 – and critics complain much of it has gone down the slippery black hole that is Kabul when it isn’t going into corporate bank accounts and the gleeful hands of local operators.

"Many contractors are widely regarded as inefficient, absorbing a high volume of funds in consultant costs and profits while providing work that is of variable quality, relevance, and impact, and all done with very little transparency," warned a recent field report by OxFam America [.pdf].

"I don’t think you’re going to see much difference," said Robert Young Pelton, war correspondent and author of License to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror, who calls it all part of the "systematic abuse of our money by the Afghan government." The result: no one is happy.

Right now, "everybody is being whipsawed because they are trying to do both, they are fighting a war and doing nation-building," and there will be an ongoing need for private contractors, whether they be for security or otherwise, to fill the yawning gap. These days, he said, "it’s just the way wars are fought."

And lost, some might say. If the core of Obama’s new mission is to win over local populations in an effort to "clear, hold, and build," the looming shadow army and its formidable footprint on Afghanistan may not be an optimal selling point. But ironically, without it, there would be no chance for such a mission at all.

In 2007, war privatization expert Peter W. Singer, author of the Brookings report "Can’t Win With ‘Em, Can’t Go to War Without ‘Em: Private Military Contractors and Counterinsurgency," called war privatization "an addiction that is quickly spiraling to a breakdown" and asked whether "leaders have the will to just say no?"

It looks like, despite a new president and a new war strategy, the answer, sadly, is "no."



Article printed from Antiwar.com Original: http://original.antiwar.com

URL to article: http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2009/05/13/the-private-contracting-surge/


Offline bigron

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Contractors involved in shooting are virtual prisoners, attorney says


Story Highlights :

Four former contractors held in a safe house in a mosque, attorney says

Paravant says former employees told not to leave country without U.S. approval

Sources say Paravant linked to firm with same owner as Blackwater

At least two Afghans wounded in shooting after car accident


(CNN) -- Four security contractors under investigation by the U.S. military for a shooting in Afghanistan are being held against their will by their former employer, their lawyer told CNN on Saturday.

Not true, says Paravant, the employer. It said that while the former employees have been "instructed not to leave the country without the approval and direction of the Department of Defense," they haven't been constrained by the company.

Paravant is affiliated with Xe, the new company name for the security contractor Blackwater Worldwide, according to sources familiar with the incident. Paravant is owned by Erik Prince, who is also the owner of Xe.

The Iraqi government says Blackwater security guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in September 2007. Blackwater lost its contract there after Iraq's government refused to renew the firm's operating license.

Dan Callahan, the attorney for the four in Afghanistan, said Xe has been interviewing them about the May 5 incident in Kabul.

Callahan said the contractors acted appropriately in the incident, which began after a traffic accident.

He said one car slammed into another and the contractors got out to help the people who were rear-ended.

"The attacking vehicle did a U-turn and headed back at them, so they shot," Callahan said.

Two people were wounded.

The U.S. military provided a similar account of the incident, saying the contractors "were approached by a vehicle in a manner the contractors felt threatening."

Callahan said Xe is engaging in "false imprisonment" by keeping the men in a safe house in a mosque. They are mostly kept in one room but are free to leave that space and eat in other rooms. They've been able to get calls via Skype, the telephone service over the Internet, he said.

"They should be allowed to leave and not be treated as a pawn in negotiations with the Afghan government" to keep the company from losing its license to operate there, Callahan said.

The four have had their contracts terminated "for failure to comply with the terms of their contract, which require, among other things, compliance with all laws, regulations and company policies," Xe said.

Xe denied Callahan's claims about false imprisonment.

"Consistent with Paravant's obligation and desire to cooperate with the investigation, the company instructed the four terminated individuals to remain in Afghanistan pending approval from the proper DoD authorities," the company said.

It said the company continues to ask the Pentagon about the men's travel status.

"Paravant in no way has restrained these individuals. The company again renewed its request to DoD today to obtain assurance that the proper DoD authorities have granted permission for the four individuals to leave the country," it said.

One company source said that while the four are free to leave, the company won't buy them one-way tickets home and want the men to remain in the country for a meeting next week with military officials investigating the incident.

All AboutAfghanistan • U.S. Armed Forces Activities
 

 
 
 
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http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Afghanistan
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http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/U_S_Armed_Forces_Activities
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http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Afghanistan
U.S. Armed Forces Activities
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/U_S_Armed_Forces_Activities

 

 
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http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/05/16/afghanistan.contractors/index.html 
 

Offline bigron

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U.S. military probes Blackwater Kabul killing

By Peter Graff
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/17/AR2009051700107.html
Sunday, May 17, 2009 3:09 AM



KABUL (Reuters) - The U.S. military is investigating a shooting incident in which four contractors from the re-named firm formerly called Blackwater are accused of killing an Afghan man after a traffic accident, a spokesman said on Sunday.

The military said it had asked the firm to keep the four men in Afghanistan until its investigation was complete. The firm said it was cooperating with the investigation and had fired the four men for failing to follow regulations.

A lawyer for the four men said they were being held against their will by the firm in Kabul.

The North Carolina firm, which once had a lucrative contract to defend U.S. diplomats in Iraq, has changed its name to Xe Services and lost its Iraq contract this year.

It gained notoriety in Iraq after its staff killed 17 civilians in Baghdad during a traffic incident in 2007. One Blackwater guard has pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges over that incident and five others are awaiting trial.

"At this time, we can confirm an incident involving some of our off-duty contractors for Paravant in Afghanistan," Anne Tyrell, spokeswoman for the firm, said in an e-mail to Reuters. She identified Paravant as a subsidiary of Xe, the renamed firm.

"Paravant terminated the contracts with the four individuals involved in the incident for failure to comply with the terms of their contract, which require, among other things, compliance with all laws, regulations, and company policies," she said.

U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christian Kubik said the four men were employed to train Afghan troops.

After being involved in a car crash in Kabul on May 5, they fired on an oncoming car that they saw as a threat, wounding three Afghans, one of whom died two days later, Kubik said.

"The contracting company is cooperating with us. We have asked them to keep the individuals in-country until the investigation is complete," Kubik said.

"When you're talking about the death of an Afghan, that's very important to us. We want to get it right."

A U.S. lawyer, Daniel Callahan, who said he was representing the four men -- Chris Drotleff, Steve McClain, Justic Cannon and Armando Hamid -- said they were being held "captive" by the company at a "safe house" in a mosque in Kabul.

Xe spokeswoman Tyrell denied the men were being held, but said the company had told them they could not leave the country without the approval of the U.S. Defense Department, and the firm was trying to clarify whether they had permission to leave.

An Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman said he was looking into reports of the incident.

(Editing by Alex Richardson)


Offline bigron

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Published on Monday, May 18, 2009 by the Wall Street Journal


Killed Civilians Bring More Controversy for Blackwater

US Contractors Fired at Kabul Car


by August Cole

Four U.S. contractors affiliated with the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide fired on an approaching civilian vehicle in Kabul this month, wounding at least two Afghan civilians, according to the company and the U.S. military.

The off-duty contractors were involved in a car accident around 9 p.m. on May 5 and then fired on the approaching vehicle, which they believed to be a threat, according to the U.S. military. At least some of the men, who were former military personnel, had been allegedly drinking alcohol that evening, according to a person familiar with the incident. Off-duty contractors aren't supposed to carry weapons or drink alcohol.

The incident occurred at a delicate time for the U.S., which faces rising outrage from Afghan leaders over civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes. For Xe, which is the name Blackwater chose this year to distance itself from its controversial security work in Iraq, the shooting comes as the Obama administration and Defense Secretary Robert Gates reconsider the role of military contractors, a practice that boomed during the Bush years.

The contractors were trainers hired by Paravant LLC, a subsidiary of Xe. Paravant has terminated contracts with the four men "for failure to comply with the terms of their contract," according to Xe spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell. "Contractual and or legal violations will not be tolerated," she said.

The contractors were ordered not to leave Afghanistan without permission of the Defense Department, she said, and the company said it is cooperating with authorities.

The U.S. military is investigating the incident, according to a May 7 news release that didn't name the company involved. The statement also said two Afghans received hospital treatment for their wounds.

Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S., Said Jawad, said he is still waiting to learn the details from his Interior Ministry. "Blackwater has reached out to us and offered compensation to the families of the victims," he said. "The embassy has put them in touch with our Ministry of Interior."

Paravant was set up to subcontract to Raytheon Co. on a large U.S. Army training contract, according to a person familiar with the situation. Raytheon referred questions to U.S. Central Command, which runs the military effort in Afghanistan.

Large defense contractors typically rely heavily on specialized subcontractors when operating in hot spots such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Raytheon's use of Paravant is for a program called Warfighter Focus, a sweeping U.S. Army training effort valued at more than $11 billion over a 10-year period.

The incident comes at a transition point after Blackwater changed its name in February and Blackwater founder Erik Prince announced in March he was stepping back from day-to-day operations after bringing in new senior executives. The company, which has had problems with weapons-export paperwork and other back-office issues, also moved to shore up its operations after a meteoric expansion from a small training outfit founded in 1997 to the biggest U.S. private security company.

"While this kind of change does not happen overnight, we are confident that we have the right team in place to provide the best possible services to our customers," said Ms. Tyrrell.

Xe is now winding down its guard work in Iraq as the government there is effectively forcing them out after a 2007 shooting incident involving one of its State Department security teams left 17 Iraqis dead. The company is counting on offsetting that loss of business, for hundreds of millions of dollars a year, with contracts in Afghanistan doing everything from training to flying cargo for the U.S. military.

The May 5 shooting in Kabul is likely to further embolden critics of not only the company's tactics but also management of its contractors. A 2006 incident in Iraq also involved a Blackwater security contractor who shot and killed a bodyguard for Iraq's vice president on Christmas Eve.

-Yochi J. Dreazen and Siobhan Gorman contributed to this article.

Copyright ©2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/05/18-1

Offline bigron

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Why is Xe/Blackwater Still in Afghanistan?

May 19, 2009, 1:02PM
http://tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/talk/blogs/astral66/2009/05/why-is-xeblackwater-still-in-a.php?ref=reccafe

How is it with all of the incidents involving employees of Xe/Blackwater shooting civilians, that this company still receives its millions of dollars and is allowed to continue causing more harm than good? Last I heard, Iraq expelled the company from its borders (anyone know if that's correct?), so why are we still allowing these thugs to represent US interests at all?

Here's the latest from the Independent:

Four US contractors for the company formerly known as Blackwater were not authorised to carry weapons when they were involved in a deadly shooting in Afghanistan this month, the US military said today.

The men - accused of opening fire on a vehicle in the capital (Kabul) on 5 May - have charged that their employer, now called Xe, issued them guns in breach of the company's contract with the military. One Afghan was killed in the shooting, and two others wounded.

Xe has said its employees are not generally banned from carrying weapons in Afghanistan, though the authorization depends on the duties of the contractors. Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for Moycock, N.C.-based Xe, declined to comment on the terms of this specific contract or say if the company issued guns to the men.

But the military told The Associated Press that the contract did not allow the men to keep guns on them.

The four American contractors claim they are being scapegoated by Xe, claiming that Xe issued them the guns. It surely wouldn't be surprising to anyone to find out that this was true, but still, opening fire on unarmed citizens after being involved in an accident is a hard one to explain away.

"While stopped for the vehicle accident, the contractors were approached by a vehicle in a manner the contractors felt threatening" and opened fire, the statement said.

Callahan -- the attorney who also represented the families of four Blackwater employees killed in Iraq in 2004 who sued the security company -- said the contractors were traveling in two vehicles when a car hit the first one. They had gotten out to give first aid when another car made a U-turn and drove toward them, he said.

"These four men drew their guns and shot," Callahan said.

The brother of one of the wounded Afghans has said the car was full of shopkeepers heading home from work who misinterpreted one of the Americans hitting the car as an order to move. Bullets started hitting the back of the Toyota Corolla as it drove off. A passenger was hit in the stomach and died two days later, said Shah Agha, whose brother Farid was driving the car. Farid was shot in the hand and another person was injured outside the vehicle, Agha said.

One would have a hard time arguing that Xe/Blackwater was responsible for these men using unauthorized weapons to kill a civilian. But the overall picture is still the same, employees of Xe/Blackwater have again found themselves in another incident of needless killing. Is it lack of training? Lack of accountability? Lack of any real oversight?

Isn't it time that we stopped this practice of hiring private contractors to do the jobs that our military has traditionally done? Wasn't the whole argument put forward by Donald Rumsfeld that private contractors were more efficient and cost-effective? Where is the evidence of this?


Offline bigron

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Blackwater guards shoot civilians in Afghanistan

by Ed Brayton

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m54383&hd=&size=1&l=e

May 18, 2099

Four guards employed by Blackwater (now renamed Xe), a company founded by Michigan native Erik Prince, have sparked yet another international incident by opening fire on a vehicle full of Afghani civilians after a car accident in Kabul, Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal reports:


Four U.S. contractors affiliated with the company formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide fired on an approaching civilian vehicle in Kabul this month, wounding at least two Afghan civilians, according to the company and the U.S. military.

The off-duty contractors were involved in a car accident around 9 p.m. on May 5 and then fired on the approaching vehicle, which they believed to be a threat, according to the U.S. military. At least some of the men, who were former military personnel, had been allegedly drinking alcohol that evening, according to a person familiar with the incident. Off-duty contractors aren’t supposed to carry weapons or drink alcohol.

The men have been fired by Blackwater, but have been ordered not to leave the country. They may face charges due to the incident. Blackwater earlier this year was forbidden from operating in Iraq because of a string of similar incidents, including the shooting of the Iraqi Vice President’s bodyguard by a Blackwater employee while he was drunk.



 


Offline bigron

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Published on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 by the Wall Street Journal


Two Blackwater-Affiliated Contractors Flee Afghanistan


by August Cole

Two of the four Blackwater-affiliated contractors involved in a civilian shooting incident in Kabul earlier this month have fled to the U.S. in order to avoid possible prosecution from Afghan authorities, according to their attorney.

The four men worked as military trainers for Paravant LLC, an affiliate of Blackwater Worldwide, whose parent company is now called Xe after a recent name change. Paravant was assisting Raytheon Co. on a Defense Department contract.

Armed contractors working for the Defense Department have been a touchy issue in Iraq as well as Afghanistan because of civilian deaths when fighting sometimes erupts. In Afghanistan, the recent incident risks further inflaming anger over civilian deaths caused by U.S. forces, and is a test of the Afghan government's posture toward foreign contractors, who are set to dramatically increase as the Pentagon ramps up the number of troops there in the coming months.

Afghanistan does not have a formal agreement with the U.S. governing legal accountability for contractors, and issues about jurisdiction remain hazy. U.S. defense firms are very wary of subjecting their employees to legal systems in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Daniel Callahan, of Callahan & Blaine in Santa Ana, Calif., said that two of the men, Steve McClain and Justin Cannon, "slipped out" of their compound on Saturday and made it to a hotel in Kabul, where a friend helped them. Soon after they flew to Dubai, and then on to the U.S.

Their two colleagues, Chris Drotleff and Armando Hamid, were to follow, but Mr. Callahan has not heard from them since late Sunday. Paravant terminated the four men for contract violations following the May 5 nighttime shooting incident that left one Afghan bystander dead and wounded two others in a car.

He said his clients were held against their will by the company, a claim which Xe has denied.

"They didn't want to take a chance but they felt they were going to get flipped over to the Afghans," said Mr. Callahan, who previously representing the families of four Blackwater security guards killed in Iraq in a lawsuit against the company. "These guys called me on a Friday night and needed help getting free," he said. Blackwater has been criticized in the past for spiriting away contractors who may have broken rules or run afoul of local authorities.

The U.S. military has almost wrapped up its investigation of the incident, according to Lt. Col. Chris Kubik, a spokesman in Afghanistan. He said Paravant cooperated with U.S. authorities. "They kept the guys here until their portion of the investigation was done," he said. Afghan authorities have not asked for jurisdiction so far.

A Blackwater spokeswoman declined to comment.

According to Mr. Callahan, who had been in contact with the four men via an intermittent Internet phone connection, the contractors said they were traveling in the second of two company vehicles when a car came up behind them, passed, and then smashed into the lead vehicle. The four men got out of their vehicle when the Afghan car swerved toward them as if to run them over, prompting them to open fire.

The men were armed with AK-47 assault rifles because a manager told them to carry them, even though they weren't supposed to have weapons at that time, according to Mr. Callahan. The weapons allegedly came from a captured stockpile, he said.

A person familiar with the situation said that several of the contractors, who are former military personnel, had been drinking that night, in violation of their contract. Mr. Callahan said an allegation alcohol played a role in the incident is untrue. "We believe Blackwater is trying to paint these men as out on a lark and drinking so that the company can maintain its ability to work in Afghanistan after losing its work in Iraq," he said.

Copyright ©2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

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Offline bigron

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Obama's War: Drunk, Bored Trigger Happy Mercenaries Kill Afghan Civilians

Jeremy Scahill
http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m54479&hd=&size=1&l=e

                               

Blessed with immunity from the laws of any nation and a new company name mercenaries for the company formerly known as Blackwater are still hard at work, doing what mercenaries do.. getting paid, while corporate media protect us from the news. Independent journalist Jeremy Scahill uncovers another instance of oru tax dollars at work in Afghanistan


May 22, 2009

This item was Originally published at Rebel Reports

For those of you who have been following the intricacies of the various ongoing Blackwater/Xe scandals (hard to keep up with indeed), the situation unfolding in Kabul is certainly on your radar. In short, four Blackwater/Xe operatives working for Paravant LLC, a subsidiary of Blackwater/Xe are alleged to have fired on a civilian car they say they saw as a threat, killing at least one Afghan civilian. According to The Wall Street Journal’s August Cole, "At least some of the men, who were former military personnel, had been allegedly drinking alcohol that evening, according to a person familiar with the incident. Off-duty contractors aren’t supposed to carry weapons or drink alcohol."

The US military said the incident took place in Kabul on May 5. "While stopped for the vehicle accident, the contractors were approached by a vehicle in a manner the contractors felt threatening," according to the military. At last one Afghan was killed and three others were wounded.

Now, there are many layers to this story, not the least of which is yet another allegation of Blackwater-affiliated personnel drinking and killing in a foreign war zone. (A drunken Blackwater operative was alleged to have killed a bodyguard to an Iraqi vice president on Christmas Eve 2006 inside Baghdad’s Green Zone).

What’s more, this represents the first public mention of the Blackwater/Xe subsidiary Paravant, but also the fact that its work was apparently buried in a subcontract with Raytheon, which in turn has a large US Army training contract in Afghanistan. "Raytheon’s use of Paravant is for a program called Warfighter Focus, a sweeping U.S. Army training effort valued at more than $11 billion over a 10-year period," reports The Wall Street Journal.

"Warfighter Focus" is carried out by a Raytheon program the company describes in its contract handbook as such [PDF]:

The Raytheon-led Warrior Training Alliance (WTA) team is comprised of over 65 subcontractors with one common mission: to deliver unmatched training support services that cost-effectively meet the U.S. Army’s requirement for total warfighter readiness. The WTA’s ability to provide a comprehensive range of integrated training services will assist the Army in transitioning to a more collaborative, consolidated and streamlined training environment.

Now, the "Warfighter Focus" contract in and of itself is very intriguing and worthy of further investigation. But it is also particularly interesting given that Blackwater is under multiple investigations (DoJ, Congress, IRS, ATF, etc.) and continues to operate in Afghanistan (in part) on a subcontract through a subsidiary working for a massive defense Goliath. This is how the whole contracting scam works, particularly for companies in trouble. They hide under layers of subcontracts and subsidiaries. Blackwater/Xe of course still holds overt contracts in Afghanistan as well.

In addition to Raytheon/Paravant part of the Kabul story, there is yet another internal drama unfolding. According to the WSJ:

Paravant has terminated contracts with the four men "for failure to comply with the terms of their contract," according to Xe spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell. "Contractual and or legal violations will not be tolerated," she said.

The contractors were ordered not to leave Afghanistan without permission of the Defense Department, she said, and the company said it is cooperating with authorities.

A US military spokesperson confirmed this, saying, "The contracting company is cooperating with us. We have asked them to keep the individuals in-country until the investigation is complete."

In light of all of this, I thought it appropriate to share a document that proves an interesting read. Late Friday night/early Saturday, I received an email from Callahan & Blaine— the law firm that represents the four families of the Blackwater men killed in Fallujah on March 31, 2004. That lawsuit, of course, was the first really big case against Blackwater.

Callahan & Blaine has now apparently decided to represent the four Blackwater/Xe/Paravant men involved with the May 5 Kabul shooting. The law firm claims that the men are being held against their will in Afghanistan by Blackwater/Paravant "in a safe house located in a mosque in Kabul in an 8’ x 8’ room." The company’s alleged motivation for this according to Callahan & Blaine is as follows:

"[T]he Letter of Authorization issued by the Department of Defense to Blackwater specifically provided that the Blackwater personnel would not be armed in Afghanistan. This limitation presumably arose out of concern emanating from the September 16, 2007 shootings in Iraq which resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqi citizens. Blackwater in knowing violation of the limited authorization issued AK47s to each of the four men. Blackwater acquired these AK47s from a cache of weapons taken from Afghan insurgents. The fact that these men had weapons probably saved their lives but also puts Blackwater’s future involvement in Afghanistan at risk."

[…]

It is believed that Blackwater has already paid the families of the individuals that were injured or killed and is attempting to negotiate with Afghan authorities to allow Blackwater to remain in Afghanistan despite its breach of the Letter of Authorization in exchange for turning over these four Americans to the Afghanistan authorities, despite their being cleared for release.

I am providing the document below in-full for the public record and as a reference for journalists covering this case more closely than I am able to right now. I am not saying that this is what happened, but rather that it is a version that differs from that of Blackwater/Xe and publicly quoted US military spokespeople. It is from Callahan & Blaine:

FOUR AMERICANS HELD CAPTIVE IN KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

Blackwater USA, now known as Xe Company, is holding four Americans captive and against their will in Kabul, Afghanistan. The four men are being kept in a safe house located in a mosque in Kabul in an 8’ x 8’ room. These men, Mr. Chris Drotleff, Mr. Steve McClain, Mr. Justin Cannon and Mr. Armando Hamid, managed to access Blackwater’s Internet and make a Skype Internet telephone call to Dan Callahan of Callahan & Blaine, the attorney who represents the four Blackwater contractors murdered in Fallujah on March 31, 2004 and is actively involved in litigation against Blackwater.

The group has informed Mr. Callahan that the Letter of Authorization issued by the Department of Defense to Blackwater specifically provided that the Blackwater personnel would not be armed in Afghanistan. This limitation presumably arose out of concern emanating from the September 16, 2007 shootings in Iraq which resulted in the deaths of 17 Iraqi citizens. Blackwater in knowing violation of the limited authorization issued AK47s to each of the four men. Blackwater acquired these AK47s from a cache of weapons taken from Afghan insurgents. The fact that these men had weapons probably saved their lives but also puts Blackwater’s future involvement in Afghanistan at risk.

On May 5, 2009, Messrs. Drotleff, McClain, Cannon and Hamid were in the second vehicle of a two vehicle convoy going through Kabul when an insurgent vehicle passed the second of the two Blackwater vehicles and crashed into the first vehicle. The second vehicle, containing these four men, stopped, and two of the men exited their vehicle to attend to the injuries of the occupants of the first vehicle. The insurgent vehicle suddenly made a u-turn and attempted to run down these Blackwater contractors. At that point, all four Blackwater contractors opened fire on the insurgent vehicle. The driver of the insurgent vehicle was killed and a pedestrian located approximately 200 meters away was wounded and is last known to be in a coma. There were two other occupants in the insurgent vehicle. The men are not sure of those individuals’ medical status.

The United States Army Criminal Investigation Command ("CID") has investigated this shooting and has freed the men for return to the United States. Blackwater has discharged them and likewise has discharged their team leader, Carl Newman, and project manager, Johnnie Walker. Carl Newman and Johnnie Walker were allowed to leave Afghanistan and have returned to the United States.

Although the four men have been cleared to leave Afghanistan, Blackwater has detained them in a safe house in a mosque in Kabul against their will and contrary to their clearance to leave Afghanistan. It is believed that Blackwater has already paid the families of the individuals that were injured or killed and is attempting to negotiate with Afghan authorities to allow Blackwater to remain in Afghanistan despite its breach of the Letter of Authorization in exchange for turning over these four Americans to the Afghanistan authorities, despite their being cleared for release.

The individuals presently holding the men in an 8’ x 8’ room in a safe house contained within a mosque in Kabul are Tom Adams and Mike Bush, the head of Blackwater’s Afghanistan operation.

The four men told Dan Callahan that special agent Rodriguez of the CID had cleared them for release on May 12, 2009. The men were terminated on May 13, 2009 and told they could leave and since that time have been detained.

The men managed to access Blackwater’s Internet and make Skype Internet telephone calls to Dan Callahan in a request to gain their release.

The men are presently calling Dan Callahan on the hour and will continue to do so until Blackwater discovers that they have acquired this ability to place telephone calls, at which time it is expected that telephone access will be terminated.



 

Offline bigron

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Contractors in fatal shooting say they're scapegoats


Story Highlights :

Security contractors involved in Afghan shooting deny they'd been drinking

Men claim ex-employer wants to make them scapegoats to save contract

May 5 incident began with auto collision; men say vehicle then aimed for them

Xe spokeswoman denies company pressured men to admit drinking



From Mike Mount
CNN


This car driven by a contractor was hit in Kabul, Afghanistan, which led to a deadly shooting.



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two U.S. security contractors involved in the shooting death of an Afghan civilian said they were pressured to say they had been drinking in order to protect the company's contract.

"There was no question as to, 'Were you drinking?' It was, 'I know you were drinking, I know this happened,' and then pretty much trying to force us into making a statement on that," Steven McClain told CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" in a story to air on Wednesday.

McClain and Justin Cannon were on their first job with the security company Paravant. The former U.S. military members were hired to help the U.S. Army train Afghan troops.

McClain, Cannon and two other contractors, Armando Hamid and Chris Drotleff, were involved in a shooting in Kabul on May 5 that left an Afghan civilian dead and two wounded. The U.S. military is investigating.

"If you can say that a guy was drunk, you just turned that into a personnel issue," Cannon said.

Paravant is affiliated with Xe, the new company name for the security contractor Blackwater Worldwide. Both Paravant and Xe are owned by Erik Prince.

Xe company spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell told CNN the men's allegations are false.

"That did not happen," Tyrrell said. "Their direction from the company was to cooperate with the investigation, and lying is not cooperating."

Around 9 p.m., on a busy Kabul street called Jalalabad Road, the contractors said they were driving their interpreters and a car slammed into one of their two cars.

"Given the situation where we were, I immediately thought we were under attack," McClain told CNN.

The contractors got out to help their colleagues, and the vehicle that had struck the car did a U-turn and headed back at them, the men said. The contractors fired at the oncoming vehicle.

"The car was coming at us. At that point we attempted to stop and immobilize the vehicle and we engaged it in small arms fire. And the car didn't stop, it just kept going," Cannon said.

The incident spotlights the issue of the role and conduct of U.S. security contractors in Afghanistan. A similar issue arose in Iraq after a September 2007 confrontation involving then-Blackwater contractors that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

Blackwater lost its contract there after Iraq's government refused to renew its operating license. The company then changed its name to Xe, and it continues to receive multimillion-dollar contracts in Afghanistan.

The U.S. and Afghan governments have yet to work out which government or entity will oversee security contractors working in Afghanistan.

An Afghan government official said the shooting case should be handled by the Afghan government. An Afghan Interior Ministry official, who declined to be named, told CNN he believed the four contractors should go before the Afghan court system.

The United States will consider whether to refer charges to the Justice Department. Army spokesman Lt. Col. Christian Kubik said he does not know how long the probe will take.

In the wake of the shooting, all four men lost their jobs with Paravant for violating the company's alcohol policy.

"Paravant hereby notifies you that it terminates your Independent Contractor Services Agreement based on your breach of the agreement, including but not limited to a violation of Paravant's Alcohol Policy," read a termination document given to McClain, who provided a copy to CNN.

But McClain and Cannon deny they were drinking.

"We feel that Blackwater wanted to shift the blame from Blackwater itself to these men as if they were acting on a lark," said the men's attorney, Daniel J. Callahan. "Off duty, with weapons, weapons of their own, and while drinking. And I think the intent is to use these men as scapegoats."

Callahan has been involved in another suit against Xe/Blackwater.

The contractors said they had not been drinking and had not had a drink since their arrival in November.

"I think that their main objective is to keep their business over there," McClain said. "And so for them it's a business move to make us the scapegoats in this."

The men contend that Xe is concerned about the unlicensed use of firearms. It is unclear if the contractors were allowed to carry weapons while working in Afghanistan.

Cannon and McClain say they were not authorized and Paravant gave them the weapons regardless of Army regulations banning contractors from having weapons.

"We had to sign for them [guns] with our name. They were a controlled item from the company. The rules of engagement said we were not allowed to use them until we felt an imminent threat," Cannon said.

McClain provided CNN with a copy of the letter of authorization for his job that showed no weapon would be provided. However, the document does not indicate it is not legal for them to have a weapon.

The U.S. military is unclear whether the contractors were allowed to have the weapons. A spokesman said the issue is "not cut and dry."

"The contractors were not allowed by the original contract to carry weapons, but a local decision or memo may have provided them authorization or the perception of authorization," Kubik told CNN.

He said that issue is still part of the investigation, but would not talk about details.

Paravant employees in Afghanistan are allowed to be armed depending on the task the contractors are hired to perform, Tyrrell said, though she declined to discuss the terms of the men's contracts while the investigation continues.

Weeks after the shooting, three of the four contractors left the country, Callahan said. Cannon and McClain are now in Los Angeles. It is not clear where Hamid is, though Callahan said he understood he was returning to the United States.

The fourth contractor, Drotleff, made it to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and was brought back to Kabul by an Xe employee, said Callahan, who said he represents Drotleff as well.

An Xe lawyer asked Drotleff to return to Kabul, and he is cooperating in the investigation, an industry source said.

A security industry official with direct knowledge of the shooting case said Xe has no authority to clear Drotleff to leave the country. That authority belongs to the Army and the Afghan government, the official said.

All AboutAfghanistan • Blackwater Worldwide • U.S. Army Activities
 

 
 
 
Links referenced within this article

Blackwater Worldwide
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Blackwater_Worldwide
Afghanistan
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Afghanistan
Army
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/U_S_Army_Activities
Afghanistan
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Afghanistan
Blackwater Worldwide
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Blackwater_Worldwide
U.S. Army Activities
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/U_S_Army_Activities

 

 
Find this article at:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/05/27/afghanistan.contractors/index.html?eref=rss_latest 
 

Offline bigron

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Obama Has 250,000 'Contractors' Deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and is Increasing the Use of Mercenaries



Newly released Pentagon statistics show that in both Iraq and Afghanistan the number of armed contractors is rising.


By Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports
Posted on June 1, 2009, Printed on June 2, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/http://rebelreports.com//140378/

A couple of years ago, Blackwater executive Joseph Schmitz seemed to see a silver lining for mercenary companies with the prospect of US forces being withdrawn or reduced in Iraq. “There is a scenario where we could as a government, the United States, could pull back the military footprint,” Schmitz said. “And there would then be more of a need for private contractors to go in.”



When it comes to armed contractors, it seems that Schmitz was right.


According to new statistics released by the Pentagon, with Barack Obama as commander in chief, there has been a 23% increase in the number of “Private Security Contractors” working for the Department of Defense in Iraq in the second quarter of 2009 and a 29% increase in Afghanistan, which “correlates to the build up of forces” in the country. These numbers relate explicitly to DoD security contractors. Companies like Blackwater and its successor Triple Canopy work on State Department contracts and it is unclear if these contractors are included in the over-all statistics. This means, the number of individual “security” contractors could be quite higher, as could the scope of their expansion.



Overall, contractors (armed and unarmed) now make up approximately 50% of  the “total force in Centcom AOR [Area of Responsibility].” This means there are a whopping 242,657 contractors working on these two U.S. wars. These statistics come from two reports just released by Gary J. Motsek, the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Program Support): “Contractor Support of U.S. Operations in USCENTCOM AOR, IRAQ, and Afghanistan and “Operational Contract Support, ‘State of the Union.’”



“We expect similar dependence on contractors in future contingency operations,” according to the contractor “State of the Union.” It notes that the deployment size of both military personnel and DoD civilians are “fixed by law,” but points out that the number of contractors is “size unfixed,” meaning there is virtually no limit (other than funds) to the number of contractors that can be deployed in the war zone.


At present there are 132,610 in Iraq and 68,197 in Afghanistan. The report notes that while the deployment of security contractors in Iraq is increasing, there was an 11% decrease in overall contractors in Iraq from the first quarter of 2009 due to the “ongoing efforts to reduce the contractor footprint in Iraq.”



Both Pentagon reports can be downloaded here.
http://www.acq.osd.mil/log/PS/hot_topics.html


Jeremy Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

© 2009 Rebel Reports All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/http://rebelreports.com//140378/

Offline bigron

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UPDATE: Blackwater Denies Destroying Evidence In Case Of Three Iraqis Killed By Guards

Huffington Post   |  Cara Parks
First Posted: 06- 3-09 07:26 PM   
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/03/blackwater-sued-for-war-c_n_211139.html




 UPDATED: Xe spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell emailed The Huffington Post to respond: "Xe has strong internal and external document preservation controls and comprehensive policies to ensure we fulfill them. When the company was first accused of document destruction by these attorneys, outside counsel independently conducted a thorough investigation and found no support for any of those allegations. When pressed for provide specific information to support their allegations, plaintiffs' counsel was unable to do so."

**************************************************

The families of three men killed in Iraq sued Blackwater yesterday, alleging that company employees wrongfully killed the men and then destroyed documents to hide the evidence. The private military company, now known as Xe, faces civil action in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Virginia. The case was originally filed in a California federal court in April.

The suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges that on Feb. 7, 2007, heavily armed Xe-Blackwater employees shot the three men, who worked as security guards for the Iraqi Media Network. Sabah Salman Hassoon, Azhar Abdullah Ali, and Nibrass Mohammed Dawood were killed in front of approximately 20 other Xe-Blackwater employees and although company supervisors were alerted, the shootings were not reported, according to the complaint.

Not only did the company fail to report the shootings, claim the plaintiffs, but also actively covered up the incident by "refusing to identify the shooters to Iraqi authorities and destroying documents and other evidence relating to this and other Xe-Blackwater shootings."

This is the latest in a string of lawsuits filed against the company since the start of the Iraq War, including suits by both Iraqi and U.S. families accusing the company of fraud and negligence, among other charges. The plaintiffs in the recent case claim that Xe-Blackwater continues to operate a company in Iraq called Falcon though company officials have denied any connection to Falcon in the past.

Xe spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell told Huffington Post that she was unfamiliar with the case.

According to the lawsuit, Hassoon, Ali and Dawood were manning their posts at the Iraqi Media Network across from the Iraqi Justice Ministry. After escorting a U.S. diplomat to a meeting at the ministry, Xe-Blackwater "shooters" took up positions on the roof and fired at Dawood for "no reason," according to the lawsuit. When Ali and Hassoon ran to the guard's assistance, they also came under fire. The document goes on to say that the Iraqi Army commander at the site, Captain Ahmed Thamir Abood, questioned the Xe-Blackwater employees at the time of the shootings, but the employees "joked amongst themselves, giving contradictory statements regarding to whom the captain should speak."

The lawsuit alleges that "Xe-Blackwater management refused to fire or discipline mercenaries who murdered innocent Iraqis," and accuses the company of war crimes.

Read the complaint here:


Blackwater-1 -
http://www.docstoc.com/docs/6774141/?key=Y2MyZjU1ZmUt&pass=YzNkOS00Mjdl

Offline bigron

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Is the U.S. 'privatizing' war in Iraq, Afghanistan? 

05/06/2009 11:00:00 PM GMT
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/Is_the_US_privatizing_war_in_Iraq_Afghanist.html



(Press TV) The number of U.S. contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan is on the rise

 
 The Pentagon has announced that the number of U.S. contractors affiliated with the defense department is growing dramatically.


The number of US contractors working in Iraq and Afghanistan is on the rise despite Washington claims that it would withdraw forces from both countries within years.

The Pentagon has announced that the number of US contractors affiliated with the defense department is growing dramatically, a Russia Today report revealed on Friday.

The US outsource personnel working for the US private companies like Blackwater and Triple Canopy has reached 250,000, the report said.

Private security contractors form 25 percent of all the US forces in Iraq, while the equivalent number for Afghanistan is even higher with contractors constituting 30 percent of the Washington troops in the war-torn country.

The report further speculated that realities on the stage were indicative of a hypocritical disparity between words and deeds in the US administration.

In a much-anticipated address in Cairo University in Egypt on Thursday, the US President Barack Obama said the United States seeks no permanent presence in Afghanistan, while adding that Washington is planning to remove forces from Iraq by the end of 2011.




-- Press TV

 

Offline bigron

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Privatization of 'Obama's War'

by Michael Winship

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m54888&hd=&size=1&l=e

June 5, 2009

The sudden reappearance of former Vice President Dick Cheney over the last few months - seeming to emerge from his famous undisclosed location more frequently now than he ever did when he was in office - does not mean six more weeks of winter.

But it does bring to mind that classic country and western song, "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?" Or, maybe, "If You Won't Leave Me, I'll Find Someone Who Will."

In his self-appointed role as voice of the opposition, Mr. Cheney has been playing Nostradamus, gloomily predicting doom if the Obama White House continues to set aside Bush administration policy, setting the stage for recrimination and finger-pointing should there be another terrorist attack on America.

Cheney's grouchy legacy is the gift that keeps on giving. Just this week, The Washington Post reported for the first time that while vice president, Cheney oversaw "at least" four of those briefings given to senior members of Congress about enhanced interrogation techniques; "part of a secretive and forceful defense he mounted throughout 2005 in an effort to maintain support for the harsh techniques used on detainees...

"An official who witnessed one of Cheney's briefing sessions with lawmakers said the vice president's presence appeared to be calculated to give additional heft to the CIA's case for maintaining the program."

And remember Halliburton, the international energy services company of which Cheney used to be the CEO? After the fall of Baghdad, Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR were the happy recipients of billions of dollars in outside contracts to take care of the military and rebuild Iraq's petroleum industry.

Waste, shoddy workmanship (like faulty wiring that caused fatal electric shocks) and corruption ran wild, Pentagon investigators allege, even as Vice President Cheney was still receiving deferred compensation and stock options.

Reporting for TomDispatch.com, Pratap Chatterjee, author of the book, Halliburton's Army, writes, "In early May, at a hearing on Capitol Hill, DCAA [Defense Contract Audit Agency] director April G. Stephenson told the independent, bipartisan, congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan that, since 2004, her staff had sent 32 cases of suspected overbilling, bribery and other possible violations of the law to the Pentagon inspector general.

"The 'vast majority' of these cases, she testified, were linked to KBR, which accounts for a staggering 43 percent of the dollars the Pentagon has spent in Iraq."

In one instance, KBR was charging an average $38,000 apiece for "prefabricated living units" on bases in Iraq; another contractor offered to provide them for $18,000. But of a questionable $553 million in payments to KBR that the DCCA blocked or suspended, the Pentagon has gone ahead and agreed to pay $439 million, accepting KBR's explanations.

KBR, Halliburton and the private security firm Blackwater have come to symbolize the excesses of outsourcing warfare. So you'd think that with a new sheriff like Barack Obama in town, such practices would be on the "Things Not to Do" list. Not so.

According to new Pentagon statistics, in the second quarter of this year, there has been a 23 percent increase in the number of private security contractors working for the Pentagon in Iraq and a 29 percent hike in Afghanistan. In fact, outside contractors now make up approximately half of our forces fighting in the two countries.

"This means," according to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, "there are a whopping 242,647 contractors working on these two U.S. wars."

Scahill, who runs an excellent new website called "Rebel Reports," spoke with my colleague Bill Moyers on the current edition of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

"What we have seen happen, as a result of this incredible reliance on private military contractors, is that the United States has created a new system for waging war," he said.

By hiring foreign nationals as mercenaries, "You turn the entire world into your recruiting ground. You intricately link corporate profits to an escalation of warfare and make it profitable for companies to participate in your wars. 

"In the process of doing that you undermine US democratic policies.  And you also violate the sovereignty of other nations, because you're making their citizens combatants in a war to which their country is not a party.

"I feel that the end game of all of this could well be the disintegration of the nation-state apparatus in the world. And it could be replaced by a scenario where you have corporations with their own private armies. To me, that would be a devastating development. But it's happening on a micro level. And I fear it will start to happen on a much bigger scale."

Jeremy Scahill's comments come just as Lt. General Stanley McChrystal, the man slated to be the new commander of our troops in Afghanistan says the cost of our strategy there is going to cost America and its NATO allies billions of additional dollars for years to come.

In fact, according to budget documents released by the Pentagon last month, as of next year, the cost of the war in Afghanistan - more and more known as "Obama's War" - will exceed the cost of the war in Iraq.

The President asserted in his Cairo speech on Thursday that he has no desire to keep troops or establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

But according to Jeremy Scahill, "I think what we're seeing, under President Barack Obama, is sort of old wine in a new bottle. Obama is sending one message to the world," he told Moyers, "but the reality on the ground, particularly when it comes to private military contractors, is that the status quo remains from the Bush era."

Maybe that's one more reason Dick Cheney, private contractor emeritus, won't go away.

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program "Bill Moyers Journal," which airs Friday night on PBS.  Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at www.pbs.org/moyers.

 


Offline bigron

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Bill Moyers: The Rise of Private Armies -- Mercenaries, Murder and Corruption in Iraq and Afghanistan

Journalist Jeremy Scahill warns against the growing power of corporate private armies and the "disintegration of the nation state apparatus."


By Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal
Posted on June 9, 2009, Printed on June 9, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/140526/

The following is a transcript from the Bill Moyers Journal on PBS, broadcast on June 5.

There was good news and bad news about Afghanistan this week. And it was the same news.

That's right. The Senate held confirmation hearings for Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, slated to be the next commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Here's how two different news organizations reported his testimony:

The Associated Press headline read, "War in Afghanistan is 'Winnable,'" but the "Washington Independent" reported that the general had, quote, "painted a bleak picture of the Afghanistan war" and that the United States "needed to show significant progress within '18 to 24 months' or risk the war spiraling out of control."

What we know for sure is that the fighting in Afghanistan is escalating. At least 21 thousand more American troops are going in and the number of private security contractors working for the military there jumped 29 percent in the last three months alone. Get this: there are now more private security contractors in Afghanistan than there are U.S. soldiers. And as of next year, according to new Pentagon documents, the war in Afghanistan will be costing more than the war in Iraq.

It's the job of experienced, knowledgeable investigative reporters to throw a monkey wrench into the spin machine and try to make some sense of all this. They're an endangered species, but one of the best in the business is Jeremy Scahill, who's been digging into Pentagon documents and thick congressional hearings for several years now. He's twice winner of the George Polk Award for special achievement in journalism, and author of this best selling book, BLACKWATER: THE RISE OF THE WORLD'S MOST POWERFUL MERCENARY ARMY. Jeremy now runs the new Web site, RebelReports. Jeremy Scahill, welcome back to the JOURNAL…

Jeremy Scahill: It's great to be with you Bill.

Bill Moyers: How do explain this spike in private contractors in both Iraq and Afghanistan?

Scahill: Well, I think what we're seeing, under President Barack Obama, is sort of old wine in a new bottle. Obama is sending one message to the world, but the reality on the ground, particularly when it comes to private military contractors, is that the status quo remains from the Bush era. Right now there are 250 thousand contractors fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's about 50 percent of the total US fighting force. Which is very similar to what it was under Bush. In Iraq, President Obama has 130 thousand contractors. And we just saw a 23 percent increase in the number of armed contractors in Iraq. In Afghanistan there's been a 29 percent increase in armed contractors. So the radical privatization of war continues unabated under Barack Obama.

Having said that, when Barack Obama was in the Senate he was one of the only people that was willing to take up this issue. And he put forward what became the leading legislation on the part of the Democrats to reform the contracting industry. And I give him credit for doing that. Because he saw this as an important issue before a lot of other political figures. And spoke up at a time when a lot of people were deafeningly silent on this issue. I've been critical of Obama's position on this because I think that he accepts what I think is a fundamental lie. That we should have a system where corporations are allowed to benefit off of warfare. And President Obama has carried on a policy where he has tried to implement greater accountability structures. We now know, in a much clearer way than we did under Bush, how many contractors we have on the battlefield. He's attempted to implement some form of rules governing contractors. And it has suggested that there should be greater accountability when they do commit crimes.

All of these things are a step in the right direction. But, ultimately, I think that we have to look to what Jan Schakowsky, the congresswoman from Illinois, says. We can no longer allow these individuals to perform what are inherently governmental functions. And that includes carrying a weapon on U.S. battlefields. And that's certainly not where President Obama is right now.

Moyers: But many people will say of course, the truth, which is he inherited a quagmire from the Bush administration. What's he to do?

Scahill: Well, there's no question that Obama inherited an absolute mess from President Bush. But the reality is that Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan right now. And is maintaining the occupation of Iraq. If Obama was serious about fully ending the occupation of Iraq, he wouldn't allow the U.S. to have a colonial fortress that they're passing off as an embassy in Baghdad. Bill, this place is the size of 80 football fields. Who do you think is going to run the security operation for this 80 football field sized embassy? Well, it's mercenary contractors.

Moyers: So we're supposed to be withdrawing from Iraq. But you're suggesting, in all that you've written, that I've read lately, that we will be leaving a large mercenary force there.

Scahill: Absolutely. In fact, you're going to have a sizable presence, not only of U.S. forces, certainly in the region, but also in Iraq. These residual forces… I mean, Bill, you remember, during Vietnam, the people who were classified as military advisors. Or analysts. And, in reality, the U.S. was fighting an undeclared war. So, in Iraq, I think that we've seen reports from Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News' Pentagon correspondent. He's quoting military sources saying that they expect to be in Iraq 15 to 20 years in sizable numbers. Afghanistan, though, really is going to become Obama's war. And, unfortunately, many Democrats are portraying it as the good war.

Moyers: Let me show you a snippet of what he said in Cairo on Thursday. Take a look:

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Make no mistake. We do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan. We seek no military bases there. It is agonizing for America to lose our young men and women. It is costly and politically difficult to continue this conflict. We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. But that is not yet the case.

Scahill: Well, I mean, we have two parallel realities here. We have the speeches of President Obama. I'm not questioning his sincerity. And then you have the sort of official punditry that's allowed access to the corporate media. And they have one debate. On the ground though, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, you hear the stories of the people that are forced to live on the other side of the barrel of the gun that is U.S. foreign policy. And you get a very different sense. If the United States, as President Obama says, doesn't want a permanent presence in Afghanistan, why allocate a billion dollars to build this fortress like embassy, similar to the one in Baghdad, in Islamabad, Pakistan? Another one in Peshawar. Having an increase in mercenary forces. Expanding the US military presence there.

Moyers: Walter Pincus is an old friend of mine, an investigative reporter at "The Washington Post" for, you know, 30 or more years now. A very respected man. He reported in "The Washington Post" last fall that these contracts indicate how long the United States intends to remain in Afghanistan. And he pointed, for example, to a contract given by the Corps of Engineers to a firm in Dubai to build to expand the prison, the U.S. prison at Bagram in Afghanistan. What does that say to you?

Scahill: Right. Look, we have President Obama making it a point, regularly, to say, "We're going to have Guantánamo closed by early next year." The fact is that, at Bagram, we see an expansion. They're spending $60 million to expand that prison. You have hundreds of people held without charges. You have people that are being denied access to the Red Cross in violation of international law. And you have an ongoing position, by the Obama administration, formed under Bush, that these prisoners don't have right to habeas corpus. There are very disturbing signals being sent with Afghanistan as a microcosm. Not to mention these regular attacks that we're seeing inside of Pakistan that have killed upwards of 700 civilians using these robotic drones since 2006. Including 100 since Obama took power.

Moyers: Some people have suggested that the increasing reliance on military contractors in Afghanistan underscores the fact that the military is actually stretched very thin. General McChrystal said, this week, he admitted that he doesn't even know if we have enough troops there to deal with the situation as it is now. Does that surprise you?

Scahill: No. It doesn't surprise me. Because this is increasingly turning into a war of occupation. That's why General McChrystal is making that statement. If this was about fighting terrorism, it would be viewed as a law enforcement operation where you are going to hunt down criminals responsible for these actions and bring them in front of a court of law. This is turning into a war of occupation. If I might add about General McChrystal, what message does it send to the Afghan people when President Obama chooses a man who is alleged to have been one of the key figures running secret detention facilities in Iraq, and working on these extra judicial killing squads. Hunting down, quote unquote, insurgents, and killing them on behalf of the U.S. military. This is a man who's also alleged to have been at the center of the cover-up of Pat Tillman's death, who was killed by U.S. Army Rangers.

Moyers: But he apologized for that this week be before Congress.

Scahill: Well, it's easy to apologize when your new job is on the line. It's a different thing to take responsibility for it when you realize that the mistake was made, or that you were involved with what the family of Pat Tillman says was a cover-up.

Moyers: You know, you talk about military contractors. Do you think the American people have any idea how their tax dollars are being used in Afghanistan?

Scahill: Absolutely no idea whatsoever. We've spent 190 million dollars. Excuse me, $190 billion on the war in Afghanistan. And some estimates say that, within a few short years, it could it could end up at a half a trillion dollars. The fact is that I think most Americans are not aware that their dollars being spent in Afghanistan are, in fact, going to for-profit corporations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. These are companies that are simultaneously working for profit and for the U.S. government. That is the intricate linking of corporate profits to an escalation of war that President Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address. We live in amidst the most radical privatization agenda in the history of our country. And it cuts across every aspect of our society.

Moyers: You recently wrote about how the Department of Defense paid the former Halliburton subsidiary KBR more than $80 million in bonuses for contracts to install what proved to be very defective electrical wiring in Iraq. Senator Byron Dorgan himself, called that wiring in hearings, shoddy and unprofessional. So my question is why did the Pentagon pay for it when it was so inferior?

Scahill: This is perhaps one of the greatest corporate scandals of the past decade. The fact that this Halliburton corporation, which was once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, was essentially given keys to the city of U.S. foreign policy. And allowed to do things that were dangerous for U.S. troops. Provide then with unclean drinking water. They were the premier company responsible for servicing the US military occupation of Iraq. In fact, they were deployed alongside the U.S. military in the build up to the war. This was a politically connected company that won its contracts because of its political connections. And the fact is that it was a behemoth that was there. It was it was the girl at the dance, and they danced with her.

Moyers: Yeah. The Army hired a master electrician, I read, in some congressional testimony, to review electrical work in Iraq. He's now told congress that KBR's work in Iraq was, quote, "The most hazardous, worst quality work he'd ever seen." And that his own investigation, this is not a journalist, this is an employee of the Army, had found improper wiring in every building that KBR had wired in Iraq.

Scahill: Right. And we're talking about thousands of buildings. And so we've had, U.S. troops that have died from electrocution in Iraq as a result of the faulty work of KBR. This should be an utter scandal that should outrage every single person in this country. And, yet, you find almost no mention of this in the corporate media.

Moyers: Do you get discouraged writing about corruption that never gets cured?

Scahill: Well, I don't believe that it necessarily doesn't get cured. I think that I'm very heartened by the fact that we have a very vibrant independent media landscape that's developing right now. You know, to me, I once put on the tagline of an article that I wrote early on in the Obama administration that I pledge to be the same journalist under Barack Obama that I was under President Bush. And the reason I felt that it was necessary to say that is that I feel like we have a sort of blue-state-Fox culture in the media. Where people are willing to go above and beyond the call of partisan politics to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. This is a man- it's time to take off the Obama t-shirts. This is a man who's in charge of the most powerful country on earth. The media in this country, we have an obligation to treat him the way we treated Bush in terms of being critical of him. And, yet, I feel like many Democrats have had their spines surgically removed these days, as have a lot of journalists. The fact is that this man is governing over a policy that is killing a tremendous number of civilians.

Moyers: You mentioned you mentioned drones a moment ago. I was impressed to hear our new commander of our troops in Afghanistan admit this week that the United States cannot go on killing civilians. He said, in fact, this is creating a dangerous situation for our own country.

Scahill: Well, that that I mean, on the one hand, that those words are true. I think that the fact is that, when you are killing civilians, in what is perceived to be an indiscriminate way certainly by the people of Pakistan you're going to give rise to more people that want to attack the United States. They view themselves as fighting a defensive war. But never are the statistics cited that come out of Pakistan. 687 people are documented to have been killed. That the Pakistani authorities say are civilians since 2006. In the first 99 days of this year over 100 people were killed. And the fact is…

Moyers: By American military action?

Scahill: Right. By American military action with these robotic drones.

Moyers: 60 Minutes, on CBS News, recently got some very special access to the military. And came out with a report on drones. Let me show you a few excerpts from that.

LARA LOGAN: Right now, there are dozens of them over the skies of Iraq and Afghanistan. Hunting down insurgents every minute of every day. The fight for the pilot is on the video screen. Here a truck full of insurgents in Afghanistan is being tracked by the pilot. When the ground commander gives the order-he first, hitting his target. The trigger is pulled in Nevada. Inside these cramped single white trailers of small offices.

COL. CHRIS CHAMBLISS: And that white spot that this guy is carrying is actually a hot gun. It's been fired and already know that it's been used. We've met positive identification criteria that these are bad guys. And so now we can go ahead and strike these targets.

Moyers: Now, many people are like that fellow. They say that these drones are new miracle weapons that enable the United States military to kill the bad guys, as he said, without exposing Americans to danger. There's truth in that, right?

Scahill: Now, I have a lot of respect for Lara Logan, the CBS correspondent. She's really put her neck on the line and been in the thick of battle, and has been injured in battle. But I think that this piece was propaganda. She allowed the military to make claims about the effectiveness of their weapons that are being contested passionately by the people on the ground in Pakistan itself. I recently did an article about "Time" magazine's coverage of this. They said that the Taliban are using civilians as human shields. And that's why so many civilians have been killed. Their source for that was an Air Force intelligence officer who was allowed to speak on as though it was a Pentagon press release. I think that this is sick. Where you turn war, essentially, into a videogame that can be waged by people half a world away. What this does, these drones, is they it sanitizes war. It means that we increase the number of people that don't have to see that war is hell on the ground. And it means that wars are going to be easier in the future because it's not as tough of a sell.

Moyers: You will find agreement on people who say war is hell. But you'll also find a lot of people in this country, America a lot of Democrats and Republicans, who say Jeremy Scahill is wrong. That we need to be doing what we're doing in Afghanistan because, if we don't, there'll be another attack like 9/11 on this country.

Scahill: I think that what we're doing in Afghanistan increases the likelihood that there's going to be another attack.

Moyers: Why?

Scahill: Because we're killing innocent civilians regularly. When the United States goes in and bombs Farah province in Afghanistan, on May 4th, and kills civilians, according to the Red Cross and other sources, 13 members of one family, that has a ricochet impact. The relatives of those people are going to say maybe they did trust the United States. Maybe they viewed the United States as a beacon of freedom in the world. But you just took you just took that guy's daughter. You just killed that guy's wife. That's one more person that's going to line up and say, "We're going to fight the United States." We are indiscriminately killing civilians, according to the UN Human Rights Council. A report that was just released this week by the UN says that the United States is indiscriminately killing civilians in Afghanistan and elsewhere around the world. That should be a collective shame that we feel in this society. And yet we have people calling it the good war.

Moyers: So, step back to that issue of military contractors. You've been you've been writing about privatization and military contractors for a long time. In the large scheme of things what do you military contractors represent to you?

Scahill: Yeah. Well, I think that what we have seen happen, as a result of this incredible reliance on private military contractors, is that the United States has created a new system for waging war. Where you no longer have to depend exclusively on your own citizens to sign up for the military and say, "I believe in this war, so I'm willing to sign up and risk my life for it." You turn the entire world into your recruiting ground. You intricately link corporate profits to an escalation of warfare and make it profitable for companies to participate in your wars. In the process of doing that you undermine U.S. democratic processes. And you also violate the sovereignty of other nations, 'cause you're making their citizens in combatants in a war to which their country is not a party. I feel that the end game of all of this could well be the disintegration of the nation state apparatus in the world. And it could be replaced by a scenario where you have corporations with their own private armies. To me, that would be a devastating development. But it's on. It's happening on a micro level. And I fear it will start to happen on a much bigger scale.


Bill Moyers is the host of Moyers Journal on PBS.

© 2009 Bill Moyers Journal All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/140526/

Offline bigron

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Is Halliburton forgiven and forgotten? 

10/06/2009 09:18:00 AM GMT
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/39/Is_Halliburton_forgiven_and_forgotten_.html
 
 If forgiving and forgetting are now the norm, the question remains: Will the Pentagon complete this cleansing ritual or engage in the serious task of investigating Halliburton and KBR?


By Pratap Chatterjee 



How to stay out of sight while profiting from the war in Iraq?


The Houstonian Hotel is an elegant, secluded resort set on an 18-acre wooded oasis in the heart of downtown Houston. Two weeks ago, David Lesar, CEO of the once notorious energy services corporation Halliburton, spoke to some 100 shareholders and members of senior management gathered there at the company's annual meeting. All was remarkably staid as they celebrated Halliburton's $4 billion in operating profits in 2008, a striking 22% return at a time when many companies are announcing record losses. Analysts remain bullish on Halliburton's stock, reflecting a more general view that any company in the oil business is likely to have a profitable future in store.

There were no protestors outside the meeting this year, nor the kind of national media stakeouts commonplace when Lesar addressed the same crew at the posh Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Houston in May 2004. Then, dozens of mounted police faced off against 300 protestors in the streets outside, while a San Francisco group that dubbed itself the Ronald Reagan Home for the Criminally Insane fielded activists in Bush and Cheney masks, offering fake $100 bills to passers-by in a mock protest against war profiteering. And don't forget the 25-foot inflatable pig there to mock shareholders. Local TV crews swarmed, a national crew from NBC flew in from New York, and reporters from the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal eagerly scribbled notes.

Now the 25-foot pigs are gone and all is quiet on the western front. How did Halliburton, once branded the ugly stepchild of Dick Cheney -- the company's former CEO -- and a poster child of war profiteering, receive such absolution from anti-war activists and the media? Of course, the defeat of the Republicans in the 2008 election, the departure of the Bush administration, and a general apathy towards the ongoing, but lower-level war in Iraq are part of the answer, but don't ignore a potentially brilliant financial sleight of hand by Halliburton either. That move played a crucial role in the cleansing of the company.

"Burn & Loot"
Halliburton has been doing work in war zones since the early 1960s, when it acquired the construction company Brown & Root and was tasked by the Pentagon with building the infrastructure for the Vietnam War. Back in those days, it was vilified as "Burn & Loot." After more than three decades in news obscurity, in March 2003, with the invasion of Iraq, it suddenly returned to national attention. After all, not only had its former CEO been beating the public drums for an invasion, but its subsidiary KBR (the old Brown & Root) had been given a vast, open-ended, multi-billion dollar contract to build and maintain the new infrastructure of bases that the U.S. military was rushing to construct in that country.

More than six years later, KBR has taken in over $31 billion for a variety of services to the U.S.military, notably in the field of logistics, and the money continues to flow in. As of April 2008, under a renewed contract, the company estimated that it had served more than 720 million meals, driven more than 400 million miles on various convoy missions, treated 12 billion gallons of potable water, and produced more than 267 million tons of ice.

While these numbers may be impressive, so are the multiple claims from Pentagon investigators of Godzilla-like overcharges and waste, not to speak of spiraling claims of workplace negligence, including faulty electrical wiring that led to deaths and injuries on bases KBR built, and a failure to provide adequately clean water supplies to the troops; and then there are those allegations of war profiteering made by activist groups and politicians.

In September 2004, Lesar announced that Halliburton was considering spinning off KBR as a separate company, in part he claimed because it was bearing the brunt of a "vicious campaign" of political attacks and its employees didn't "deserve to have their jobs threatened for political gain." It took three years, but in April 2007 the spin-off of KBR was completed. It is now officially on its own, and the results for both companies seem little short of miraculous. No protestors even attended the three annual shareholder meetings that KBR has since held, though its activities in the war zones have hardly changed, and only five made it to Halliburton's in 2008. This year, of course, the protesting larder was bare.

Five shareholder activists did manage to attend Halliburton's annual meeting, including me. (I own a single share of Halliburton stock.) When I asked Lesar about the company's links to KBR, he responded unequivocally, "First of all, let's be very clear, KBR and Halliburton are legally separated."

Just three months ago, however, Halliburton didn't hesitate to pay off $382 million in fines to the U.S. Department of Justice as part of the settlement of a controversial KBR gas project in Nigeria in which the company admitted to paying a $180 million bribe to government officials.

Halliburton, Lesar assured us, had been willing to pony up such a sum to ensure that KBR could survive on its own. He painted the payment as an act of corporate generosity. I asked Albert Cornelison and Mark McCollum, Halliburton's top lawyer and chief financial officer, if the company had similarly agreed to pay off any future judgments against the company on its monster military logistics contracts in Iraq. Cornelison responded that he doubted the company had financial obligations for KBR's work in Iraq.

Military investigations continue
In reality, Halliburton's decision to spin the company off was surely tied to hopes that it might indeed escape a number of pending Iraq investigations and lawsuits, as well as tamp down the bad publicity KBR was generating. Still, those investigations are ongoing. At Fort Belvoir, Virginia, the headquarters of the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), the office in charge of reviewing the Pentagon's payments to KBR, a small group of investigators continue to pursue that company's failures.

In early May, at a hearing on Capitol Hill, DCAA director April G. Stephenson told the independent, bipartisan, congressionally-mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan that, since 2004, her staff had sent 32 cases of suspected over-billing, bribery, and other possible violations of the law to the Pentagon inspector general.

The "vast majority" of these cases, she testified, were linked to KBR, which accounts for a staggering 43% of the dollars the Pentagon has spent in Iraq. "I don't think we're aware of a program, contract, or contractor that has had this number of suspensions or referrals," she told the hearing. (In the allied area of overpricing services, DCAA also recommended $4.3 billion worth of reductions to proposed or billed costs and pointed to another $3.3 billion worth of costs under the KBR contract that they believed were simply not supported.)

Stephenson's staff, she indicated, recommended not paying the costs KBR had billed to the Pentagon on more than 100 occasions, among other things suspending or blocking some $553 million in payments. In but one example of typical KBR practices revealed at the hearing, the company allegedly billed the Pentagon for 4,100 prefabricated living units for military bases in Iraq at an average price of $38,000, even though another contractor offered to provide similar units for $18,000 each.

None of this may, however, matter, if the Pentagon continues to follow the precedents it has recently set. As Stephenson notes, the Pentagon has already agreed to pay out at least $439 million of the $553 million the DCAA questioned, after accepting the company's explanations for each incident.

"I'm struck by the fact [that] the military doesn't seem to care about the cost as long as they get the service," said Commissioner Christopher Shays, former Republican congressman from Connecticut. "Is part of the problem that, in essence with this one contractor, we've basically said, 'KBR is too big to fail?'"

Shocking revelations
The Pentagon even appears willing to pay KBR for contracts that may have resulted in the deaths of military personnel in Iraq, allegedly electrocuted due to shoddy work by the company's electricians.

Just as Lesar was addressing Halliburton's shareholders in Houston, Senator Byron Dorgan's Senate Democratic Policy Committee was holding a hearing on Capitol Hill focused on KBR. Testifying was Jim Childs, a master electrician hired by the U.S. Army to help review military facilities in Iraq.

Childs claims that as many as 70,000 KBR-maintained buildings where troops lived and worked were unsafe because of faulty electrical wiring. "When I began inspecting the electrical work performed by KBR, my co-workers and I found improper electrical work in every building we inspected," Childs said. Hundreds of soldiers are believed to have received electrical shocks in showers and elsewhere as a result. There have been four documented fatalities, including Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a Green Beret, who died of electrocution while showering in his barracks in Iraq on January 2, 2008. (Maseth's family has sued KBR, alleging wrongful death.)

According to Senator Dorgan, documents show that KBR was paid huge bonuses by the Pentagon for this work, much of it after the allegations became public. If accurate, this gives "shocking" a new meaning. "How could it be that, given these obviously widespread problems with KBR's electrical work, the Pentagon decided to give KBR bonuses totaling $83.4 million for such work?" he wondered.

KBR, of course, denies everything. "We believe the standards that we did employ were standards that were known and thought to be acceptable in an expeditionary environment," KBR's William P. Utt told the Associated Press in response. "We don't think the wiring that we installed was potentially dangerous." In a brief statement about the deaths, the company wrote: "Based on our current knowledge and the information we have gathered to date, KBR has found no evidence of a link between the work the military tasked KBR to perform and the reported deaths that have resulted from electrocution."

Who is responsible?
One of the biggest problems with the sprawling 2008 KBR mega-contract appears to be that not enough people are watching the store (and evidently, some of those who do regularly doze off when payment issues arise).

In early May, Michael Thibault, co-chair of the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, highlighted a simple, if disturbing statistic at the second hearing of his newly established commission. Out of 504 oversight officials that, by Pentagon estimate, are needed to keep an eye on KBR's contract in Afghanistan alone, just 166 were actually in the field in April 2009. As Thibault added:

"After more than six years of fighting, this is just one example of serious and persistent shortfalls in staffing and training. In military parlance, no one is pulling guard duty on contractor performance. This example, an issue by itself, points to another broader question. Who is responsible? Who's going to fix these types of issues?"

At the Democratic Policy Committee hearing in late May, Charles M. Smith, a 31-year veteran of contract management in the U.S. Army, testified that Pentagon officials were deliberately ignoring criticism in deciding to reward KBR. Smith was in charge of KBR contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as of the award-fee or bonus-payment process that went with them. He refused to allow any bonuses to be paid out, however, because the company was not able to provide proper documentation of its costs. This was one reason, he believes, that he was taken off the contract in August 2004. Smith became a whistleblower after he retired a year ago. Here is a sample of his testimony:

"The award-fee process is supposed to evaluate a contractor's performance level and provide a 'bonus' or award fee for superior performance. Failure to perform satisfactorily should result in a significantly lower or no award fee. [The award system] appears to me to have failed to work as it was intended and to have led to poor service for American troops, wasted taxpayer money, and possibly the deaths of soldiers in KBR operated facilities...

"The problems for operating in the environment of Iraq and Afghanistan are not insignificant. However, the major failure appears to me to have been a culture that decided KBR was too big to fail and too important to be held to account. The Army was aware of KBR's poor performance in Iraq. There have been numerous government inspections and reports. The Army, however, continued to give KBR high award fees. Those high award fees appear to have sent a message to KBR that performance did not really matter. Award-fee boards and decisions are a communications tool between the government and the contractor. The contractor learns what is important to the government and will respond accordingly."

And the record shows that KBR did "respond accordingly."

Remembering Halliburton
In the meantime, Halliburton, which provided so many years of corporate "oversight" for KBR, has been cleansed of all charges in the court of public opinion and has essentially dropped from view. It has also done its best to ignore a shareholder resolution brought by Patrick Doherty, the comptroller of the city of New York, that raises the obvious issue of war profiteering in Iraq, based on the Pentagon dollars it raked in while its former CEO helped oversee the war that was making it so much money.

Some shareholder activists continue to pursue the company by other means. For instance, the pension fund of the Policemen and Firemen Retirement System of the City of Detroit filed a lawsuit in mid-May against David Lesar and other executives of KBR and Halliburton, accusing them of a "reign of terror." The lawsuit listed a number of complaints including bribes in Nigeria, overcharging the Pentagon for services rendered, accepting kickbacks, engaging in human trafficking, and concealing the rape of an employee.

"Under defendants' watch, and supposedly under their control and supervision, the companies were permitted to engage in conduct so notorious that the name 'Halliburton' has become virtually synonymous with 'corruption,'" the pension fund said in a complaint filed at the Harris County District Court in Houston. "Defendants' failures have caused the Companies to suffer hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, and to be exposed to substantial additional judgments in the future."

Heather Browne, a company spokeswoman, responded: "It appears that the lawsuit is based on unfounded allegations. We intend to vigorously defend ourselves."

Another shareholder activist, John Harrington, a socially responsible investment manager in California, used his KBR shares to file a protest resolution against the company this May. According to Harrington's press release:

"KBR's management is obviously not taking their human rights footprint very seriously. The board of directors is accountable to shareholders, but only if we assert ourselves as the real owners of the company. Understandably, shareholders don't like being associated with atrocities. If ever there was a need for responsible fiduciary human rights oversight within a company, it is with KBR. This company has been castigated in the press, sued, and accused of bribery, rape, murder, political corruption, tax avoidance, and who knows what else."

KBR nonetheless took in another $5.7 billion from the US taxpayer in 2008, up 15% from the $4.8 billion it received in 2007. With the planned drawdown of US troops in Iraq, KBR expects its revenue to fall this year. But shareholders need not worry: its contract with the Pentagon, signed in April 2008, potentially sets it up to make more than triple the maximum profits allowed in the previous six years.

Recently, the Financial Times ran an interview with KBR's Utt, aptly headlined "KBR believes it is ready to construct a new image." The same day stock analyst Will Gabrielski raised his profit estimate for KBR, causing company shares to jump.

If forgiving and forgetting are now the norm when it comes to the records of Halliburton and KBR in the Bush years, the question remains: Will the Pentagon complete this cleansing ritual or engage in the serious task of investigating both companies?

-- Pratap Chatterjee is the author of Halliburton's Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War. He is the former executive director of CorpWatch and a shareholder of both Halliburton and KBR.

Copyright 2009 Pratap Chatterjee

TomDispatch





-- Middle East Online

 

Offline bigron

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Revealed: Blackwater Still Working in Iraq for John McCain-linked 'Non-Profit'

A new lawsuit reveals that the notorious mercenary firm is working, under a different name, for the International Republican Institute in Iraq.

By Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports
Posted on June 10, 2009, Printed on June 11, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/http://rebelreports.com//140561/

It seems as though every week there is a new lawsuit filed against Blackwater for the killing of civilians in Iraq. While the Justice Department has failed to prosecute most of these cases (the September 2007 Nisour Square massacre being an exception), attorney Susan Burke has dedicated a substantial part of her practice to holding the company responsible for its crimes. She works in cooperation with the Center for Constitutional Rights.



Not only is Burke representing the victims of Nisour Square in their civil suit, and the family of an Iraqi guard allegedly murdered by a drunken Blackwater operative, but she has filed at least a half a dozen other cases against the company. “Erik Prince, a modern-day merchant of death, acts as if he is above the rule of law,” charges Burke.



But beyond the specifics of her lawsuits, Burke is also alleging Blackwater/Xe remains firmly entrenched in Iraq, using affiliate companies like Greystone. She also says Blackwater is working for a “non-profit” organization, started under the Reagan administration, with a history of interference in internal affairs and elections of various nations, including allegations it helped foment a coup in Haiti: the International Republican Institute.



“The Iraqi government has barred Xe-Blackwater from operating in Iraq, and has refused to grant the licenses needed to carry weapons in Iraq,” Burke says.  “Yet Prince continues to provide armed personnel to the International Republican Institute. Such repeated illegal conduct by Prince must be stopped.”



According to SourceWatch:



Loosely affiliated with the Republican Party, the International Republican Insitute (IRI) works closely with the the National Endowment for Democracy and United States foreign policy instruments, including the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, to support economic and political development programs around the world. The organization is almost exclusively funded by the U.S. government and related agencies.


IRI is also closely linked to Sen. John McCain. According to IRI’s vice president, “Since the summer of 2003, IRI has conducted a multi-faceted program aimed at promoting democracy in Iraq. Toward this end, IRI works with political parties, civil society groups, and government officials and administrators. In support of these efforts, IRI also conducts numerous public opinion research projects and assists its Iraqi partners in the production of radio and television ads and programs.” One IRI grant recipient in Iraq told author Nikolas Kozloff, “Instead of promoting impartial, better understanding of certain ideas and concepts, they [the IRI] are actually trying to further the cause of the Republican administration.” Kozloff notes that in 2005-6 Blackwater donated $30,000 to IRI.



These new allegations surfaced today as Burke filed yet another lawsuit against Blackwater-Xe—this one over a 2007 civilian shooting in Iraq. Burke alleges that “Xe-Blackwater ‘shooters’ operating in Hilla, Iraq unnecessarily fired shots, killing Husain Salih Rabea and traumatizing Ali Kareem Fakhri, a student at the Babylon University College of Biology.”


According to the lawsuit, the men were shot at as they drove in separate vehicles on a public roadway on August 13, 2007. Mr. Rabea died from the gunshot wound, leaving behind five sons and three daughters.


The complaint, which was filed today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges that Blackwater/Xe:



• continues to flout Iraqi law and operate without a license by continuing to provide armed men  under contract to protect employees of the International Republican Institute, an American government-funded organization,


• tries to hide its continued illegal operations in Iraq by using the Greystone name rather than the Blackwater or Xe name,


• captured illegal conduct of personnel on videotape and audiotape, but did not report or punish the illegal conduct of “shooters” and instead intentionally destroyed the evidence of illegal conduct, and encouraged the “shooters” to do the same.



Blackwater affiliate, Greystone, which Burke alleges is still operating in Iraq, is covered in-depth in my book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, is registered offshore in Barbados. It is an old-fashioned mercenary operation offering “personnel from the best militaries throughout the world” for hire by governments and private organizations. It also boasts of a “multi-national peacekeeping program,” with forces “specializing in crowd control and less than lethal techniques and military personnel for the less stable areas of operation.”



The most recent lawsuit names as defendants 12 companies or entities owned by Erik Prince. It alleges “war crimes, assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotion distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, training and supervision, and tortious spoliation of evidence.”


Jeremy Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He writes at RebelReports.

© 2009 Rebel Reports All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/http://rebelreports.com//140561/

Offline bigron

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Published on Wednesday, June 10, 2009 by RebelReports


US War Privatization Results in Billions Lost in Fraud, Waste and Abuse--Report

Half of the personnel the US has working on its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are private contractors. A new report reveals how much of a rip-off this system has been to US taxpayers.


by Jeremy Scahill

At a hearing in Washington today, the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan [1] is releasing a 111-page report that represents its “initial investigations of the nation’s heavy reliance on contractors.” According to a release [2] on the hearing:
More than 240,000 contractor employees, about 80 percent of them foreign nationals, are working in Iraq and Afghanistan to support operations and projects of the U.S. military, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Contractor employees outnumber U.S. troops in the region. While contractors provide vital services, the Commission believes their use has also entailed billions of dollars lost to waste, fraud, and abuse due to inadequate planning, poor contract drafting, limited competition, understaffed oversight functions, and other problems.

These statistics support a recent DoD report [3] on the extent of the US reliance on contractors. That report also found that there has been a 23% increase in the number of “Private Security Contractors” working for the Department of Defense in Iraq in the second quarter of 2009 and a 29% increase in Afghanistan, which “correlates to the build up of forces” in the country. In Iraq, the Pentagon attributes the increase to better accounting. There are currently more private contractors (counting both armed and unarmed) in Afghanistan (68,197) than US troops (40,000). In Iraq, the number of contractors (132,610) is basically equal to the number of US troops.

(NOTE: I recently discussed this issue on Bill Moyers Journal [4])

The single greatest beneficiary of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is KBR, the former Halliburton subsidiary. KBR has been paid [5] nearly $32 billion since 2001. In May, April Stephenson, director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, testified [6] that KBR was linked to “the vast majority” of war-zone fraud cases and a majority of the $13 billion in “questioned” or “unsupported” costs. According to Agency, it sent the inspector general “a total of 32 cases of suspected overbilling, bribery and other violations since 2004.”

According to the Associated Press [5], which obtained an early copy of the commission’s report, “billions of dollars” of the total paid to KBR “ended up wasted due to poorly defined work orders, inadequate oversight and contractor inefficiencies.”

KBR is at the center of a lethal scandal [7] involving the electrocution deaths of more than a dozen US soldiers, allegedly as a result of faulty electrical work done by the company. The DoD paid KBR more than $80 million in bonuses for the very work that resulted in the electrocution deaths.

Among the other scandals involving KBR that the commission is investigating is a questionable contract [5] to rebuild a large dining facility at Camp Delta in Iraq:

In July 2008, the Army said a new dining facility was badly needed at the Camp Delta forward operating base because the existing one was too small, had a saggy ceiling, poor lighting and an unsanitary wooden floor.

KBR was awarded a contract in September. Work began in late October as American and Iraqi officials negotiated the agreement setting the dates for the U.S. troop withdrawal.

But during an April visit to Camp Delta, the commission learned that the existing mess hall had just been renovated. The $3.36 million job was done by KBR and completed in June 2008. Commission staff toured the renovated hall “without seeing or hearing of any problems or shortfalls,” the report says.

Here’s the kicker:

The decision to push ahead with the new hall was based on paperwork that was never updated and a failure to review the need for the project after the security agreement was signed. Most of the materials have been ordered and construction is well under way. That means canceling the project would save little money because KBR would have a legitimate claim for payment based on the investment it has already made.

So, are all these investigations and scandals hurting KBR? Apparently [8] not:

Today, neither Halliburton nor KBR are suffering from their divorce. Halliburton reported $4 billion in operating profits in 2008, while KBR recently said its first quarter revenues in 2009 were up 27%, for a total of $3.2 billion. Its sales in 2008 were up 33%, and according to the Financial Times, the company had $1 billion in cash, no debt, and was looking for acquisitions.

One last note for context: While the Wartime Contracting Commission is doing very important work revealing the scope of the corruption, shoddy work and abuses within this system, it also includes several members who are either pro-war or have worked for major war contractors. This is the composition of the commissioners:

Co-chair Michael J. Thibault, a former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Former Republican Congressman Co-Chair Shays was appointed by House Minority Leader John Boehner. The other six commissioners are Clark Kent Ervin, Grant S. Green, Linda J. Gustitus, Robert J. Henke, Charles Tiefer, and Dov S. Zakheim.

© 2009 Jeremy Scahill


Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/06/10-5

Offline bigron

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Privatizing war: Hire foreigners as mercenaries 


11/06/2009 11:30:00 AM GMT
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/39/Privatizing_war_Hire_foreigners_as_mercenaries.html


By hiring foreign nationals as mercenaries, 'You turn the entire world into your recruiting ground.'

 
 According to new Pentagon statistics, in the 2nd quarter of this year, there has been a 23% increase in the number of private security contractors in Iraq and a 29% hike in Afghanistan.


By Michael Winship

The sudden reappearance of former Vice President Dick Cheney over the last few months - seeming to emerge from his famous undisclosed location more frequently now than he ever did when he was in office - does not mean six more weeks of winter.

But it does bring to mind that classic country and western song, "How Can I Miss You When You Won't Go Away?" Or, maybe, "If You Won't Leave Me, I'll Find Someone Who Will."

In his self-appointed role as voice of the opposition, Mr. Cheney has been playing Nostradamus, gloomily predicting doom if the Obama White House continues to set aside Bush administration policy, setting the stage for recrimination and finger-pointing should there be another terrorist attack on America.

Cheney's grouchy legacy is the gift that keeps on giving. Just this week, The Washington Post reported for the first time that while vice president, Cheney oversaw "at least" four of those briefings given to senior members of Congress about enhanced interrogation techniques; "part of a secretive and forceful defense he mounted throughout 2005 in an effort to maintain support for the harsh techniques used on detainees...

"An official who witnessed one of Cheney's briefing sessions with lawmakers said the vice president's presence appeared to be calculated to give additional heft to the CIA's case for maintaining the program."

And remember Halliburton, the international energy services company of which Cheney used to be the CEO? After the fall of Baghdad, Halliburton and its then-subsidiary KBR were the happy recipients of billions of dollars in outside contracts to take care of the military and rebuild Iraq's petroleum industry.

Waste, shoddy workmanship (like faulty wiring that caused fatal electric shocks) and corruption ran wild, Pentagon investigators allege, even as Vice President Cheney was still receiving deferred compensation and stock options.

Reporting for TomDispatch.com, Pratap Chatterjee, author of the book, Halliburton's Army, writes, "In early May, at a hearing on Capitol Hill, DCAA [Defense Contract Audit Agency] director April G. Stephenson told the independent, bipartisan, congressionally mandated Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan that, since 2004, her staff had sent 32 cases of suspected overbilling, bribery and other possible violations of the law to the Pentagon inspector general.

“The 'vast majority' of these cases, she testified, were linked to KBR, which accounts for a staggering 43 percent of the dollars the Pentagon has spent in Iraq."

In one instance, KBR was charging an average $38,000 apiece for "prefabricated living units" on bases in Iraq; another contractor offered to provide them for $18,000. But of a questionable $553 million in payments to KBR that the DCCA blocked or suspended, the Pentagon has gone ahead and agreed to pay $439 million, accepting KBR's explanations.

KBR, Halliburton and the private security firm Blackwater have come to symbolize the excesses of outsourcing warfare. So you'd think that with a new sheriff like Barack Obama in town, such practices would be on the "Things Not to Do" list. Not so.

According to new Pentagon statistics, in the second quarter of this year, there has been a 23 percent increase in the number of private security contractors working for the Pentagon in Iraq and a 29 percent hike in Afghanistan. In fact, outside contractors now make up approximately half of our forces fighting in the two countries.

"This means," according to Jeremy Scahill, author of the book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, "there are a whopping 242,647 contractors working on these two U.S. wars."

Scahill, who runs an excellent new website called "Rebel Reports," spoke with my colleague Bill Moyers on the current edition of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS.

"What we have seen happen, as a result of this incredible reliance on private military contractors, is that the United States has created a new system for waging war," he said.

By hiring foreign nationals as mercenaries, "You turn the entire world into your recruiting ground. You intricately link corporate profits to an escalation of warfare and make it profitable for companies to participate in your wars.

"In the process of doing that you undermine U.S. democratic policies. And you also violate the sovereignty of other nations, because you're making their citizens combatants in a war to which their country is not a party.

"I feel that the end game of all of this could well be the disintegration of the nation-state apparatus in the world. And it could be replaced by a scenario where you have corporations with their own private armies. To me, that would be a devastating development. But it's happening on a micro level. And I fear it will start to happen on a much bigger scale."

Jeremy Scahill's comments come just as Lt. General Stanley McChrystal, the man slated to be the new commander of our troops in Afghanistan says the cost of our strategy there is going to cost America and its NATO allies billions of additional dollars for years to come.

In fact, according to budget documents released by the Pentagon last month, as of next year, the cost of the war in Afghanistan - more and more known as "Obama's War" - will exceed the cost of the war in Iraq.

The President asserted in his Cairo speech on Thursday that he has no desire to keep troops or establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan.

But according to Jeremy Scahill, "I think what we're seeing, under President Barack Obama, is sort of old wine in a new bottle. Obama is sending one message to the world," he told Moyers, "but the reality on the ground, particularly when it comes to private military contractors, is that the status quo remains from the Bush era."

Maybe that's one more reason Dick Cheney, private contractor emeritus, won't go away.

-- Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program, Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS. Check local airtimes or comment at the Moyers Blog at www.pbs.org/moyers.

ConsortiumNews





-- Middle East Online

 

Offline bigron

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Thursday, June 11, 2009
01:01 Mecca time, 22:01 GMT 
 http://english.aljazeera.net/news/americas/2009/06/200961019338938148.html
 
News Americas 
 
US 'failing' to oversee contractors 

 
The use of private contractors has proved controversial in Iraq [AFP]



The US military has failed to provide adequate oversight for tens of billions of dollars paid to private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, a congressional report has said.

The US government also has no central record of who the contractors are, what they do or how much they are paid, according to the Wartime Contracting Commission report.

"In short, the environment in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to be a place for waste, fraud and abuse," Michael Thibault, the co-chair of the commission, told the House Oversight and Government Reform's national security subcommittee on Wednesday.

The US military's dependence on private sector employees has now grown to "unprecedented proportions," the report added.

Controversial projects

The commission said more than 240,000 private sector employees are supporting military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and more work for the US state department and the US Agency for International Development.

++

External link :
Read the report in full here :
http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/download/documents/reports/CWC_Interim_Report_At_What_Cost_06-10-09.pdf

++



It highlighted a string of controversial projects, including the construction of a $30m dining facility at a US base in Iraq that is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year but is unlikely to be used.

A new building set to become the headquarters for US forces in Afghanistan was reported to be full of cracks in the structure, broken and leaking pipes, sinking pavements and other defects.

"The army should not have accepted a building in such condition," the report said.

KBR criticised

The commission also raised concerns over a massive support contract known as "LOGCAP" that provides troops with services including housing, meals, mail delivery and laundry.

The report found that only 13 government employees worked in an office managing the services for both Afghanistan and Iraq.

KBR Inc, the primary LOGCAP contractor in Iraq, has been paid nearly $32bn since 2001.

The firm has defended its performance and criticised the commission for making "biased" statements against the company.

"As we look back on what we've done, we're real proud of being able to go into a war theatre like that as a private contractor and support 200,000 troops," William Utt, the chairman of KBR, told the Associated Press news agency.
 
 Source: Al Jazeera and agencies 
 
 

Offline Satyagraha

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US contractors arrested in Iraq   
Sunday, June 07, 2009

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/06/20096712476954965.html
 
Five US contractors have been arrested by Iraqi police in connection with the murder of a colleague, officials have said.

If the men appear in court, it would be the first time American citizens face Iraqi justice since a bilateral security pact came into force in January.

A US embassy spokesman said no formal charges had been filed against the men who were detained on Sunday, and that they "appear well".

"Embassy officials have visited the men to make sure they're being given their rights in accordance with Iraqi law," he said.

The body of Jim Kitterman, a 60-year-old Texan, who was reportedly bound, blindfolded and stabbed, was found dead in his car last month in the protected Green Zone where his small construction company was based.

Security agreement

Iraq regained control of the Green Zone on January 1 under a US-Iraqi security agreement.

The agreement allows US troops to be tried in Iraqi courts in cases of serious, premeditated crimes committed while soldiers were off-base and off-duty.

Private contractors, previously immune to prosecution in Iraq, are now wholly bound by Iraqi laws.

The deal means Iraqis are now responsible for searching vehicles and checking identity papers at entry points to the Green Zone.

Although Americans and others have been killed in rocket or mortar attacks in the Green Zone, Kitterman was believed to be the first American murdered there since the protected area was established after the US invasion of Iraq in April 2003.

Heavily armed Western contractors are common in Iraq, especially in the Green Zone.

Many provide security for the US military in Iraq while others protect private firms.

Under the security pact, US combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from Iraqi towns and cities by the end of the month, while all US troops must leave the country by the end of 2011.
 
And  the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, 
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,  ye have done it unto me.

Matthew 25:40

Offline bigron

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Washington’s Afghan Shadow Army

Posted By Jeremy Scahill On June 12, 2009 @ 9:00 pm




I’ve been reading through the hot-off-the-presses, exciting 100+ page report from the Commission on Wartime Contracting: "At What Cost? Contingency Contracting In Iraq and Afghanistan." There have been several good pieces that covered the Congressional hearings related to this report, so I thought I would just post some of the more important excerpts from the report. One general note: The Commission, which was created due to the diligent efforts of Senators Jim Webb and Claire McCaskill, has been doing some incredibly important work digging deep into the corruption, waste, abuse, fraud, etc of the US war contracting system. The statute that created the commission :
http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/statute.htm
"requires the Commission to assess a number of factors related to wartime contracting, including the extent of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement of wartime contracts. The Commission has the authority to hold hearings and to refer to the Attorney General any violation or potential violation of law it identifies in carrying out its duties."

While the new report reveals some critical details about issues of waste and abuse, the general tone is very pro-contractor, which is not surprising. However, I find it disturbing that one of the members of the Commission, Dov Zakheim, is, according to his Commission bio, a current vice-president of Booz Allen Hamilton, a major defense, homeland security and intelligence contractor with a direct stake in US policy on contractors.

Booz is now majority owned by The Carlyle Group, which has deep political connections. In an Op-ed in The Washington Post last year, Zakheim campaigned against "More regulations and bureaucratic restrictions on contractors" and advocated for "a larger, more diversified base of prime contractors and suppliers." Zakheim, who was a foreign policy advisor to Bush and part of the circle of the Vulcans, is now a key member of the primary body that is responsible for investigating the industry and making formal recommendations on US policy. While the Commission is made up of appointees from both political parties, (Zakheim was appointed by President Bush) Zakheim’s corporate stake on these matters should be cause for a review of his position on the Commission.

***

One fact that jumped out at me in the report is that, at present, according to the Commission, "contracting oversight" in Afghanistan is being done remotely from Iraq. And remember, there are 70,000 contractors (and growing) in Afghanistan.

Here are some excerpts from the report, which I have categorized and in some cases highlighted or analyzed:

EXTENT OF US RELIANCE ON CONTRACTORS

Contractors are playing a key role in the drawdown of U.S. military forces in Iraq. As military units withdraw from bases, the number of contractor employees needed to handle closing or transfer tasks and to dispose of government property will increase… preparations for this major shift out of Iraq and into Afghanistan or other areas are sketchy
As the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have progressed, the military services, defense agencies, and other stakeholder agencies… continue to increase their reliance on contractors. Contractors are now literally in the center of the battlefield in unprecedented numbers.
From fiscal years (FY) 2001 through 2008, the Defense Department’s reported obligations on all contracts for services, measured in real-dollar terms, more than doubled — from roughly $92 billion to slightly over $200 billion. In fiscal year 2008, this figure included more than $25 billion for services to support contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. These figures do not include State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contracts.
[T]he missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are the first major contingency operations to reflect the full impact of the shift to heavy reliance on contractor personnel for critical support functions in forward operating areas. Despite the key role of contractors in overseas operations, DoD lacks enough staff to provide adequate contract oversight. The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development also use significant levels of contractor support in Southwest Asia.
The Commission believes that a serious shortage of U.S. government civilians in Afghanistan is all too likely to trigger heavy reliance on contractors in both the short term and the long run.
THE NUMBERS

During its April 2009 trips to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Commission sought to identify the total picture of contractor support in those countries. Officials in both Iraq and Afghanistan told us that there was no central list of all contracts providing support. The Commission was unable to put together a complete footprint of the contracts being performed at the bases we visited. GAO has also been unable to identify complete and reliable data on contractor personnel in Southwest Asia. Only DoD provided data on the number of contractor personnel, but officials have told GAO that its census data were not routinely evaluated for accuracy or completeness. There is still no clear picture of who the contractors in theater are, what services they provide, which contracts they perform, and what their support costs are.
U.S. Army Central Command’s second-quarter fiscal year 2009 census reflected 242,657 active DoD contractor personnel in its Southwest Asia area of operations. This total includes 132,610 in Iraq, 68,197 in Afghanistan, and 41,850 in other Southwest Asia locations.
ARMED "SECURITY CONTRACTORS"

According to a chart contained in the report, the total number of DoD PSCs in Iraq is: 12,942 and 3,321 for the State Department. In Afghanistan, there are 4,373 DoD PSCs and 689 State Department PSCs. As we previously reported, in the first quarter of 2009, there has been a 29% increase in the number of PSCs in Afghanistan and will continue to grow. The report also raises concerns about the poor or inadequate training some of the PSCs receive, particularly Third Country Nationals hired to guard US bases and facilities: "Poorly trained and ill-equipped contractor employees providing security for our operating bases put American forces at increased risk of harm."

In Iraq, 25,000 to 30,000 PSC personnel work for U.S. agencies, the government of Iraq, coalition governments, and U.S. contractors. These numbers exceed the PSC census data in the table above because they include PSC support to the government of Iraq and coalition governments. The total U.S. spending for PSCs is estimated to be between $6 billion and $10 billion from 2003 to 2007. Of this amount, $3 billion to $4 billion is estimated to be for obligations made directly by U.S. government agencies, and $3 billion to $6 billion is estimated to have been spent by U.S. contractors to acquire PSC support.
Regarding accountability, the report notes that the US civilian laws covering contractors are rarely enforced:

The MEJA (Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act) statute has been used infrequently. From MEJA’s enactment in 2000 through March 2008, DoD has referred 58 cases involving PSCs and other contractors to the Department of Justice. Federal prosecutors brought charges in 12 of those cases, and state prosecutors brought charges in one other case. Of those, eight resulted in a conviction and five await trial.
WASTE, FRAUD ABUSE

According to the Commission’s report, there is a severe shortage of oversight personnel to monitor these massive contracts and contractors. The report notes that within the Defense Contract Audit Agency "overall staffing levels have remained relatively constant at roughly 4,000 since FY 2000, even though DoD contract transactions have increased by 328 percent — from 304,500 in FY 2000 to over 1.3 million in FY 2006."

Through fiscal year 2008, the DCAA has taken exception to over $13 billion in questioned and unsupported costs associated with the efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Inadequate oversight, combined with poorly written statements of work, lack of competition, and contractor inefficiencies have contributed to billions of dollars in wasteful spending. The drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq brings the risk of more waste. Money is being wasted on completing projects that are no longer needed. And poor control of U.S. government property in Iraq that must be moved, handed over to the Iraqis, or scrapped could cause even more waste.
Without proper oversight, the government cannot confirm that contractors are performing in accordance with contract requirements, cannot support payment of award or incentive fees, cannot support the certification of invoices for services performed, and cannot ensure that services critical for the completion of our military and reconstruction missions are performed. Any one of these conditions invites waste and abuse. Taken together, they are a perfect storm for disaster.
CONTRACTORS "SELF-POLICING"

The Defense Contract Management Agency "told the Commissioners that contractor ’self policing’ had been tried, but ‘did not work out.’" Some contracts are actually being "monitored" by investigators physically located in the United States. While the Commission asserts there have been improvements in contractor oversight in Iraq, the system in Afghanistan "is very different and raises significant concerns about contracting for certain functions generally performed by the government." Similar to what happened in Iraq, a contractor was hired to monitor contractors as part of the Armed Contractor Oversight Division (ACOD). The company that won the contract is Aegis, the British-owned firm headed by famed mercenary Tim Spicer. According to the report, ACOD is "primarily staffed" by the company:

Aegis’s work raises heightened inherently governmental concerns because the ACOD receives limited U.S. government supervision. Since its establishment, ACOD in Afghanistan has primarily been run by contractor personnel from Aegis. Aegis’s responsibilities include working with the Afghan Ministry of Interior in investigations concerning PSC escalation-of-force incidents. CJTF-101 submitted an expedited request for four field-grade officers for ACOD; however, as of mid-May the request had yet to be approved and there were still no senior U.S. military officials assigned full-time to the directorate. A review of the Aegis contracting documents showed that without these military officers in place, Aegis is in a role of significant official responsibility in reviewing activities of other private security contractors.

According to the report, "DoD interviewees informed the Commission that sufficient military manpower and/or expertise did not exist in Afghanistan, and that contracting with Aegis allowed the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF-101) to obtain expertise quickly. Aegis does not currently provide armed contractors in Afghanistan, and as the ACOD is currently structured, an Aegis contractor serves as the Deputy Director and has day-to-day responsibility for managing the directorate. Should they be awarded a PSC contract under the current structure, there would be a conflict of interest."

KBR

The Commission believes that the services provided by contractor KBR under LOGCAP III — with $31.4 billion funded through March 20, 2009 — could have been delivered for billions of dollars less.
DCAA is reviewing $277 million in LOGCAP III subcontracts involving KBR employees or ex-employees that have been or may have been involved in improper procurement activities. The purpose of DCAA’s review is to assess the reasonableness of payments under those subcontracts.
The report notes that KBR is still firmly entrenched in the latest LOGCAP contract:

LOGCAP IV, the fourth iteration of the program, is a multiple-award contract competitively awarded in April 2008 to DynCorp International LLC, Fluor Intercontinental, and KBR Services. Each contractor can receive up to $5 billion of work under the contract in a given year, so total spending over the possible 10-year life of the contract could be as high as $150 billion. Meanwhile, work contracted under LOGCAP III continues, so a slow segue from one contract to another is under way.
The full report can be downloaded on the website of the Commission on Wartime Contracting. Here:
http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/



Article printed from Antiwar.com Original: http://original.antiwar.com

URL to article: http://original.antiwar.com/scahill/2009/06/12/washingtons-afghan-shadow-army/


Offline bigron

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Abuse at British embassy in Iraq

epolitix.com

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m55088&hd=&size=1&l=e

June 12, 2009

An investigation into abuse by private staff at the British embassy in Baghdad was "fundamentally flawed", according to Human Rights Watch.

The London director of the group, Tom Porteous, told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee that there needed to be a "proper investigation" into the allegations, and that if found guilty those responsible should face sanction.

The initial investigation was conducted by the company, Kellogg Brown and Root, itself, rather than by the UK government.

But Porteous said the Foreign Office has responsibility for the behaviour of its contractors, and should conduct its own inquiry.

He said the investigation also had procedural shortcomings, such as the failure to interview key personnel.

He also accused KBR of allowing those under investigation free access to the complainants.

Porteous added that whilst no disciplinary measures were taken against KBR staff, those that complained were dismissed.

He said that there had since been further allegations of sexual harassment made against the same individuals, "no doubt a consequence of the impunity that stemmed from this investigation".

"Those staff who have been the victim of this abuse and those who have been dismissed need to be compensated," he said.

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK also slammed the government for its attitude towards private military contractors.

Allen said proposals to allow companies to sign codes of conduct voluntarily was "absolutely insufficient", as well as being "extraordinarily weak".

"When you understand how much of what is happening in parts of the world has been contracted out, it is untenable that they not be accountable," she said.




 

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Published on Tuesday, June 16, 2009 by the Wall Street Journal




Audit Finds That US Overpaid Blackwater by Tens of Millions of Dollars


by Yochi J. Dreazen

WASHINGTON - A government audit found that the State Department overpaid the contract-security firm once known as Blackwater Worldwide by tens of millions of dollars because the company failed to properly staff its teams in Iraq.

The report didn't identify any specific security breaches, but it said the State Department should have withheld at least $55 million in payments to the company because of the shortfalls.

The audit by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction and the State Department's Inspector General said the firm didn't employ enough guards, medics, marksmen and dog handlers to fully man the teams, which were responsible for protecting the U.S. ambassador to Iraq and other high-level officials.

The failure to consistently field the right numbers of guards endangered the U.S. officials whom the company was being paid to protect, the report concluded.

"We believe the full manning of protective details is important to the safety of the principal being protected, as well as to the members of the protective details," the audit noted. "Insufficient manning exposed the department to unnecessary risk."

The audit also found that Blackwater, which this year changed its name to Xe, sometimes overcharged for airfare to and from Iraq and failed to properly account for some equipment received from the U.S. government.

Anne Tyrell, a company spokeswoman, said it had been "fully compliant with the terms and conditions of the contract." Ms. Tyrrell said the company believed it was entitled to all of the disputed $55 million.

Officials in the State Department's Diplomatic Security office, which oversaw the contract, referred questions to the department's Bureau of Administration, which declined to comment.

The audit is the latest report to raise questions about Blackwater, which was for years the best known Western contractor in Iraq. Under the new name, Xe, the company is seeking new contracts worth tens of millions of dollars in Afghanistan for services ranging from training Afghan personnel to flying cargo for the U.S. military.

Blackwater wound down its Iraq operations earlier this year, after the Iraqi government refused to renew its operating license because of a 2007 shooting incident involving one of its security teams in which 17 Iraqis died. In December, U.S. prosecutors charged five former Blackwater guards with manslaughter and weapons charges for their alleged roles in the incident. Families of several of the dead Iraqis have also sued Blackwater in federal court seeking financial compensation.

The company also faces civil and criminal scrutiny stemming from the alleged killing of an Iraqi guard by a Blackwater employee inside Baghdad's heavily protected Green Zone on Christmas Eve 2006.

In Afghanistan, four U.S. contractors affiliated with Xe are under U.S. military investigation in the shooting of a civilian vehicle in Kabul last month, wounding at least two Afghan civilians.

The company has said it is cooperating with the investigations into all three incidents but denied responsibility. When the five former guards were indicted in December, the company said it didn't believe "criminal violations occurred" but that the men should be held accountable for any wrongdoing. The company fired the guard involved in the Christmas Eve shooting, fined him thousands of dollars and sent him back to the U.S.

Last month, the company said it terminated the contracts of all four of the guards involved in the Kabul shooting.

Copyright ©2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.


Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/06/16-4

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Audit: Blackwater Owes Gov’t $55 Million, One Frialator
 
Investigators say the firm shorted State on guards and lost a federal-issue fryer.
—By Bruce Falconer and Daniel Schulman
 


—Photoillustration by Steve Aquino.
Mon June 15, 2009 3:00 PM PST
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/06/audit-blackwater-owes-us-55-million-one-frialator



Blackwater may owe the government more than $55 million—and one restaurant-quality deep fat fryer.

According to a federal audit reviewing the private security firm's work in Iraq, Blackwater failed to meet the terms of contracts worth more than $800 million. The audit, released on Monday, found that the company (which recently renamed itself Xe) regularly came up short on the staffing requirements outlined in two of its State Department task orders, issued under the multibillion dollar Worldwide Personal Protective Services (WPPS) contract. For instance, the audit notes, the firm didn’t supply enough personal security specialists for 16 of 19 months under a task order to provide guards in Baghdad and Ramadi—meaning that visiting dignitaries and other officials under the firm’s watch were potentially underprotected.

 
"The contract states that all positions must be filled 100 percent of the time and that Blackwater is to be assessed deductions when this level is not maintained," the audit, a joint effort by the State Department’s Inspector General and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, notes. Though Blackwater’s "muster sheets"—schedules showing the number of personnel available for duty—"indicated that Blackwater did not provide the required manning for protection details in accordance with the contract terms," the State Department failed to invoke a contract provision that would have penalized the company for failing to maintain the agreed upon staffing levels.

In the WPPS contract, the State Department pointed out that understaffing on high-threat protection contracts had proved a "major problem" in the past. And the agency included a clause in the contract to discourage this from happening again. "If manning falls below a minimum or the correct number of personnel are not deployed on time, a large reduction in the award price will be made in addition to not being able to invoice the hours/days not worked." Government auditors determined that Blackwater should have been docked $55 million for its persistent manpower shortages. And the audit concluded "insufficient manning exposed the Department to unnecessary risk that could have been avoided by full staffing."

Blackwater/Xe spokeswoman Anne Tyrrell says the company is still reviewing the audit, but disputed the allegation that the firm had not met its contractual obligations. "The government contracting officer determined that Blackwater was compliant with the terms and conditions of the contract at the time they were reviewing and therefore did not apply any deductions or penalties," she says, adding that "Blackwater only billed for services provided."

According to the audit, though, this is far from clear. Due to inadequate monitoring by the State Department’s diplomatic security division, "There is no assurance that personnel staffing data was accurate or complete and that correct labor rates were paid." The audit recommends that the State Department seek a legal opinion on "whether charging deductions for past inadequate staffing would be appropriate"—and the agency has agreed to do so.

Blackwater was also called out for $127,364 in "unallowable travel costs" expensed by contractors assigned to Baghdad and Hillah. As of February, the State Department had been able to recoup $56,457, but $70,907 remained outstanding. "We have not been informed of what the report is referencing but would work with the Department of State to reach a resolution if it became necessary," says Tyrrell. Given that Blackwater raked in over $1 billion before being booted from Iraq in May, these costs may appear somewhat trivial, but they represent the larger free-for-all in Iraq, when, after the invasion, contracts—along with duffle bags full of cash—were going out the door without proper oversight.

On other parts of the review, Blackwater fared well. Auditors found the firm's equipment, along with the vetting and training procedures for its personnel, were well within the terms stated in its task orders. As for the manpower discrepancies, auditors lay blame primarily on the federal government's contract management and accounting practices, which they found to be ill-suited to the task at hand. "Department officials in Iraq did not establish or perform measures to confirm the accuracy of labor costs used as the basis for contract billing. Monthly invoices from the contractor were paid without adequate review of support documentation."

And, while the audit commends State Department officials for keeping tabs on the guns and vehicles the government provided to Blackwater, the same can’t be said of the agency’s monitoring of other federal property issued to the company: "…Department oversight of all other government-furnished property was inadequate, and contractor lists were incomplete and inaccurate and therefore unreliable."

Due to this lax oversight, a handful of items—including binoculars, body armor, and walkie-talkies—have apparently gone MIA. Also unaccounted for: a Fagor brand deep fat fryer. "No word on the fryer yet," says Tyrrell, who’s currently investigating its whereabouts.

Bruce Falconer is a reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. For more of his stories, click here.
Daniel Schulman is the associate editor in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. For more of his stories, click here.




Blackwater Operating in Iraq Illegally, Alleges Lawsuit :
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2009/06/blackwater-operating-iraq-illegally-alleges-lawsuit

Blackwater/Xe Sued For War Crimes :
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2009/06/blackwaterxe-sued-war-crimes

Blackwater Guards Accused of Shooting Civilians in Afghanistan:
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2009/05/blackwater-guards-accused-shooting-civilians-afghanistan







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U.S. agencies eye coordinated Afghan "civilian surge"


By Paul Eckert, Asia Correspondent
Thu Jun 18, 3:04 pm ET
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20090618/wl_nm/us_afghanistan_usa_civilians


An Afghan policeman walks past a damaged vehicle belonging to a U.S. aid organization after a bomb blast in Kunduz, June 18, 2009. REUTERS/

 
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon and other U.S. government agencies are boosting the number of civilian experts dispatched to Afghanistan in parallel with a large surge of American troops, officials said on Thursday.

Pentagon policy chief Michele Flournoy said her agency backed a "civilian surge" of at least 400 new experts, while the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will more than double to 68,000 troops by year-end.

U.S. military-civilian coordination is part of an "unprecedented interagency effort" to implement President Barack Obama's counterinsurgency strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, which pairs fighting Taliban and al Qaeda with massive development assistance, she told a U.S. Congressional panel.

"The challenges we face in Afghanistan and Pakistan are economic, diplomatic and informational as well as military, and we are taking a 'whole of government' approach to addressing them," Flournoy said in a written statement to the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

That committee's chairman, Representative Edolphus Towns, echoed critics of the nearly eight-year-old U.S. war effort in Afghanistan in calling for greater transparency and accountability and better monitoring of U.S. taxpayer funds.

The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, told the committee the U.S. civilian build-up underscored a "commitment to supporting Afghan efforts to clear, hold and build their country."

He said the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development were getting strong responses for advertisements for 125 temporary or new civilian posts to be filled in Afghanistan in coming months.

The United States was also coordinating between the Afghan government and the international community to address Afghanistan's request for another 650 Afghan and international civil experts, Holbrooke said in a written statement.

The U.S. envoy also vowed to support tightened national- and provincial-level auditing of aid to Afghanistan and expand the powers of a Congressionally-mandated agency to curb corruption and weigh the effectiveness of the aid programs.

Accompanying the civilian increase in Afghanistan and the tripling of U.S. aid to Pakistan to $1.5 billion a year, every USAID contract and program in the two countries would be reviewed to ensure aid reaches the public instead of flowing to foreign contractors, said Holbrooke.

"We seek to improve vastly the coordination and integration of international assistance flowing to Afghanistan and Pakistan," his statement to the committee said.

Faced with a resurgence of the Taliban fed by slow economic development, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized international aid efforts, saying they were coordinated and funneled too much money to foreign experts.

(Editing by Patricia Zengerle)


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Lawmakers criticize federal insurance program for wartime contractors

A House subcommittee contends that private companies, such as AIG and CNA Financial, have reaped profits while providing inadequate medical care to civilian workers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By T. Christian Miller

http://fairuse.100webcustomers.com/thatseemsfair/latimes0215.html

June 19, 2009

Reporting from Washington — Lawmakers on Thursday sharply criticized a federal program that relies on private insurance companies to provide medical care and benefits to civilians injured while working in support of the U.S. military effort in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Members of a House subcommittee charged that the insurance firms had exploited the taxpayer-supported program to reap enormous profits while shortchanging workers.

"We've got to straighten out this mess and we're going to do that," said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md).

Testifying before a panel of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, insurance executives, injured civilians and Obama administration officials all agreed that the program, created in 1941, is inadequate to meet the demands of modern-day warfare.

The Defense Base Act, a World War II-era law, requires federal contractors to purchase workers' compensation insurance for civilians working overseas. Taxpayers pay the premiums, which are built into contract costs.

The program grew dramatically after the U.S. sent tens of thousands of civilians into war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 1,500 civilian workers have died in the two countries, and more than 31,000 have reported injuries.

Injured workers testified Thursday that they had to fight insurers for months and sometimes years to receive medical care. The hearing included dramatic moments when workers confronted insurance executives sitting beside them.

John Woodson, 51, a truck driver from Oklahoma who lost a leg and most of his vision to a roadside bomb in Iraq, held up a magnifying glass and said American International Group Inc. had challenged his doctor's recommendation for prescription glasses.

"I ask why? Where has the oversight been? Who is in charge of this operation?" Woodson said.

Kevin Smith, 39, a Texas truck driver who was injured in a shooting in Iraq, said he struggled to persuade AIG to approve treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome.

"We're not asking for millions in bonuses or lavish parties or even parades," Smith said. "We want what we're entitled to."

The hearing was prompted by an April report by the Los Angeles Times, ABC News and ProPublica.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) said he was outraged by evidence that insurers made windfall profits. Chicago-based CNA Financial Corp. earned as much as 50% profit on some of its war-zone policies, according to company records submitted to the subcommittee.

"What we're looking at is a horrendous situation," Sanders said. "There has been huge wartime profiteering."

Insurance executives said they had done their best to dispense benefits fairly under challenging conditions.

Charles Schader, AIG's president of worldwide claims operations, said his firm had increased its claims-handling staff from five to 70 people over the last seven years. AIG holds a near-monopoly on the war-zone insurance, handling about 85% of all claims.

"We do agree that there are many changes in this system that would help in administration and provide a better product," Schader said. "I want to make it very clear . . . that we really do owe [civilian workers] a debt. This is not anything vindictive or a corporate policy of denial."

George R. Fay, executive vice president of CNA Financial Corp., said his firm had worked hard to make sure that injured civilians received medical care and benefits.

But Fay, a retired Army Reserve general who served in Iraq, said the law required payment for injuries within 14 days, forcing carriers to issue denials to protect their legal rights.

"A regulatory scheme that creates such incentives can only produce unintended and sometimes tragic results," Fay said.

t.christian.miller@ propublica.org

This report is published in cooperation with ProPublica, an independent investigative newsroom.

Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times



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Halliburton’s army 


26/06/2009 11:30:00 AM GMT
http://aljazeera.com/news/articles/39/Halliburtons_army.html


 
 Halliburton exists within a wider context of corporate-military-political alliances. Its army takes a narrow perspective, focussing on the one company and the few individuals involved.


By Jim Miles

Halliburton’s Army – How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War.  Pratap Chatterjee. Nation Books, New York, 2009.

This is a book the Halliburton/KBR can live with.  It airs out their dirty laundry:  the bribes, kickbacks, the inefficient work, the near slave labour conditions of its subcontracted employees, the deaths from insurgent attacks and electrocution, massive overcharging on its invoices, poor record-keeping, and other serious allegations.  Yet for all that, the huge corporate profits taken in by Halliburton/KBR seem to reduce this to the cost of doing business, a business that now extends well into the future with the widening of the war into destabilizing Pakistan and Iran. 

Halliburton’s Army is a well-written record in three parts.  The first covers the histories of Rumsfield and Cheney and their many interlocking pathways through politics, the White House, and big business, in particular in this case, Halliburton.  The second part generally takes a historically sequenced run through the many complaints, allegations, and lawsuits that have accompanied Halliburton’s work through the Middle East and elsewhere (Nigeria, Bosnia).  The final section turns more towards the people who acted as whistle-blowers and the efforts towards investigation and punishment.

While much of the detail I read is new information and much of it is surprising in its individual case description, none of it overwhelmed me or made me want to call out in protest.  It somehow just seems so typically “American” that a large company should attempt to maximize its profits at the expense of the taxpayer by using the national government and its associated institutions to make a lot of money. 

As for the investigation and punishment, there is obviously something lacking there, a real drive to change or correct behaviours that benefit some people at the expense of many.  Many lawsuits have been taken or are in progress against Halliburton and while costly in terms of what the average person thinks of as large sums of money, they appear to be taken in stride by Halliburton as another part of business. 

Congress does hold its investigations, but there is nothing here to indicate that they really want to change the course of events by taking on Halliburton and kicking them out of their huge contracts with the Pentagon.  Certainly the Pentagon will keep them on as they could care less about the dollars spent as long as their system continues to operate – the Pentagon has never worried about the tax-payers dollar other than to keep it flowing through their offices to support their military mega-projects. 

Advocacy and context
Most of the lawsuits and criminal investigations appear to be ‘small fry’ in relation to the size and power of the corporation itself.  Congress has not taken on the big chiefs, the Pentagon appears pleased with the status quo, and no individual lawsuit appears to have gone against the corporate bosses themselves – the latter demonstrating why corporations are set up in the first place as a means of legally obfuscating and dissimulating (obscuring and concealing) the personnel involved…and then continuing with business as usual as long as they can get away with it.

This is where Chatterjee reaches his limit.  He is obviously against the machinations of Halliburton, and the book is a record of its many indiscretions.  The personal stories of individuals ‘betrayed’ by the corporation are heart wrenching and perhaps that is the best place to leave the record.  Yet at the same time I can’t help but wonder if there would be some way the book could serve as more of an advocate against what is happening. 

I receive no sense that perhaps the war itself is wrong, or that Congress could be doing much more to investigate and stop the incredible tax payer rip off, or that the rules and regulations that affect corporate U.S.A. need to be changed.  Halliburton exists within a wider context of corporate-military-political alliances.  Halliburton’s Army takes a narrow perspective, focussing on the one company and the few individuals involved and does a good job of that.  I would have liked to read more about Chatterjee's concepts of the broader context, of the broader liaisons with the military and politicians.

Perhaps though, a record of Halliburton’s failings is sufficient at the moment, a record to be looked back on in another year or two in order to see if Obama has really changed the way the U.S. works or if, as it is becoming more apparent as time passes, that he is just another cog in the wheels of a government that prizes its corporate entanglements.

- 30 -

-- Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews for The Palestine Chronicle.  Miles’ work is also presented globally through other alternative websites and news publications.




-- AJP

 

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Xe-Blackwater Personnel Shot Iraqi Children, Others in Multiple Incidents,
According to Burke O'Neil LLC


PR Newswire Association LLC

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m55615&hd=&size=1&l=e

WASHINGTON, July 1 /PRNewswire/ -- A spate of unprovoked civilian shootings by Xe-Blackwater personnel in Iraq between 2005 and 2008 are detailed in an amended lawsuit filed late Tuesday in Virginia federal court, according to the Washington, D.C. law firm that represents the families of those killed and wounded in the incidents.


The new allegations against several Blackwater-related defendants - now operating as Xe and other names under the control of chairman Erik Prince - include:



the shooting of three Iraqi families in a mini-van that killed nine-year-old Akram Khalid Sa'ed Jasim and wounded his three-month-old sister, who was shot in the face, his mother, his father, and uncle in July 2007;
the fatal shooting of 37-year-old Suhad Shakir Fadhil as she was driving home from work in the so-called Green Zone in February 2007;
the shooting of Maulood Mohammed Shathir Husein, a 31-year-old married professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Baghdad in August 2005;
the fatal shooting of 65-year-old Khalis Kareem Ali Al Qaysi, who was killed while he was being driven in Baghdad in March 2005;
the severe beating of 35-year-old Iraqi photographer Safeen Hameed Ahmed Qadir in April 2008 as he took photographs at a Ford automobile branch in the Arbil province that was visited by a U.S. diplomat, and;
the shooting of Husam Hasan Jaber, who was driving three passengers in Baghdad in a taxi cab he owns and operates.




The Iraqi families are represented by Burke O'Neil LLC, of Washington, D.C.


Susan L. Burke, of Burke O'Neil LLC, stated, "The staggering number of civilian deaths in Iraq caused by Erik Prince-controlled companies reflects the pattern and practice of recklessness in their use of deadly force. We believe the evidence will show that these mercenaries deployed by Prince and his companies have flouted the laws of the United States and their host nation Iraq."


The lawsuit, as first filed in April, alleged that three guards for the state-owned and operated Iraqi Media Network - Sabah Salman Hassoon, a 38-year-old married father of three; Azhar Abdullah Ali, a 33-year-old married father of three; and Nibrass Mohammed Dawood, a 25-year-old - were shot at the rear gate of the network as they tried to move along a slowing car in the King Faisal Square traffic circle on Feb. 7, 2007. The circle separates the Iraqi Media Network and Iraqi Justice Ministry, where Blackwater "shooters" were perched on the roof during a meeting involving a U.S. diplomat.


The amended lawsuit names several Blackwater-related defendants including Prince, Samarus CO LTD, Prince Group LLC, Xe Services LLC (formerly EP Investments LLC and d/b/a Blackwater Worldwide), Greystone Ltd, Total Intelligence Solutions LLC, Xe Services LLC, U.S. Training Center, Inc. (formerly Blackwater Lodge and Training Center, Inc.), GSD Manufacturing LLC (formerly Blackwater Target Systems), Blackwater Security Consulting LLC, and Raven Development Group LLC.


Xe-Blackwater is accused of committing war crimes, assault and battery, wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, training and supervision, and tortious spoliation of evidence.


The lawsuit also alleges violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). According to the complaint, Prince "has created an enterprise that has engaged in a series of illegal acts that suffice as RICO predicate acts extending over a substantial period of time beginning at least in 2003." The RICO allegations include murder in February 2005, December 2006, February 2007, August 2007, September 2007, and May 2009; kidnapping; destruction of audio and videotaped evidence; distribution of controlled substances (steroids); tax evasion; and weapons smuggling. According to the complaint, "The Prince RICO Enterprise continues to exist, continues to engage in repeated illegal acts, and poses a grave and special threat to the social well-being of the world."


Burke added, "We intend to seek a court order that requires Prince to divest himself of any direct or indirect interest in the Prince RICO Enterprise or dissolve the Prince RICO Enterprise after making due provision for the rights of innocents, imposes reasonable restrictions on Prince's future activities or investments, and prohibits Prince from engaging in any mercenary or private military business."


The case is "Estate of Sabah Salman Hassoon, et al., v. Xe, formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, et al.," in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Civil Action No. 1:09 cv 618).


Attorney Contact: Susan L. Burke, of Burke O'Neil LLC, Washington, D.C., 202.445.1409.


Media Contact: Erin Powers, Powers MediaWorks LLC, for Burke O'Neil LLC, 281.703.6000.



 

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Published on Tuesday, July 7, 2009 by Inter Press Service



New Charges Added to Blackwater Lawsuit


by William Fisher

NEW YORK - New charges filed against private security contractor Blackwater accuse the company of murder, destruction of audio and videotaped evidence, distribution of controlled substances, tax evasion, child prostitution, and weapons smuggling.

The new charges were filed under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act (RICO) by several of the Iraqi civilians who were injured or who lost family members when Blackwater personnel opened fire in Nisoor Square in Baghdad in September 2007.

The new allegations, which have been added to an ongoing civil lawsuit in Virginia federal court, charge that then Blackwater chairman Erik Prince "has created an enterprise that has engaged in a series of illegal acts that suffice as RICO predicate acts extending over a substantial period of time beginning at least in 2003."

"The Prince RICO Enterprise continues to exist, continues to engage in repeated illegal acts, and poses a grave and special threat to the social well-being of the world," say documents filed in the case.

The lawsuit alleged that Blackwater "created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company's financial interests at the expense of innocent human life."

It seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.

Blackwater has changed its name and is now operating as Xe and other names under Prince's control. Eric Prince has resigned as chairman of the company.

Katherine Gallagher of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, a member of the legal team bringing the suit, told IPS, "Through this case, the victims of the most notorious - though far from the only - shooting of civilians on the streets of Baghdad seek to hold accountable those who have caused irreparable harm to them and their loved ones."

"The plaintiffs are all Iraqis who were simply going about their daily lives when Blackwater opened fire in Nisoor Square," she said. "They look forward to having their day in court against Blackwater and its founder, Eric Prince."

The complaint alleges that Xe-Blackwater "created and fostered a culture of lawlessness amongst its employees, encouraging them to act in the company's financial interests at the expense of innocent human life... and contrary to the interests of the U.S. military and State Department, and the nation of Iraq."

The suit also seeks a court order requiring Erik Prince to "divest himself of any direct or indirect interest in the RICO Enterprise or dissolve the RICO Enterprise after making due provision for the rights of innocents, imposes reasonable restrictions on Prince's future activities or investments, and prohibits Prince from engaging in any mercenary or private military business."

This case, Abtan v Prince, was originally filed in the District Court for the District of Columbia in October 2007 following the shooting in Nisoor Square in September 2007.

The alleged victims voluntarily dismissed the case in the District of Columbia and filed in the Eastern District of Virginia last month. The amended RICO complaint was filed last week.

The underlying facts in this civil case form the basis for the criminal case filed by the Department of Justice against six Blackwater "shooters". One pled guilty and the trial of the remaining five defendants is currently set for early 2010.

The defendants in both cases include Prince, Xe, various Prince-controlled entities such as Blackwater, The Prince Group, Falcon, Greystone Limited, Total Intelligence Solutions, EP Investments, and Raven Development Group.

Blackwater was operating in Iraq under a contract with the U.S. State Department, its mission being to protect State personnel.

In December 2008, the State Department's inspector general warned that Blackwater might not be granted a license by the Iraqi government next year, forcing the Barack Obama administration to make new security arrangements.

The Iraqi government subsequently denied Blackwater a license and the State Department hired another private security firm.

The issue of private security contractors in Iraq was further complicated by the Status of Forces agreement negotiated between the U.S. and Iraq. Under that agreement, State Department contractors no longer have immunity from criminal prosecution under Iraqi law.

The IG report found that changes since the 2007 shooting "have resulted in a more professional security operation and the curtailment of overly aggressive actions" by contractors toward Iraqi civilians.

In response to its findings, Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, urged the State Department to drop Blackwater as an Iraq contractor.

Blackwater founder Erik Prince is a former U.S. Navy Seal and a major contributor to Republican Party candidates. In resigning, he released a brief statement announcing he is stepping down to "focus his efforts on a private equity venture unrelated to the company".

In a personal message sent to his employees and clients, Prince attempted to depict his departure as a natural evolution.

"As many of you know, because we focus on continually improving our business that Xe is in the process of a comprehensive restructuring," he wrote. "It is with pride in our many accomplishments and confidence in Xe's future that I announce my resignation as the company's Chief Executive Officer."

Blackwater's new name and Prince's resignation followed the State Department's announcement that it would not be renewing Blackwater's security contract in Iraq.

Blackwater still holds lucrative government contracts in Afghanistan and elsewhere and is reportedly marketing "CIA-type services" to Fortune 1000 companies through Prince's Total Intelligence Solutions.

The complaint alleges that Xe-Blackwater, "in addition to hiring persons known (or should have been known) to use steroids and other judgment-altering drugs, has been hiring as mercenaries former military officials known to have been involved in human rights abuses in Chile."

It contends that "Xe-Blackwater knows that the former Chilean commandos hired by Xe-Blackwater received amnesty from punishment for their wanton disregard of human rights in exchange for being forbidden from taking part in any military or security activities in Chile."

The suit also charges that "Xe-Blackwater has been hiring mercenaries from the Philippines, Chile, Nepal, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Peru, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, Jordan and perhaps South Africa."

"Blackwater hired foreign nationals without regard for the fact that they were forbidden by the laws of their country from serving as mercenaries," the complaint says.

It also alleges that Xe-Blackwater employees "shredded an unknown number of documents that related to the company's criminal and civil legal exposures".

The suit says that Xe-Blackwater "failed to take the appropriate steps in hiring proper personnel to perform services. It failed to properly screen personnel before their hiring; to train personnel properly; to investigate allegations of wrongdoing; to reprimand for wrongful actions; to adequately monitor for and stop illegal substance abuse; and negligently permitted repeated lawlessness by employees."

It also accuses the "Prince RICO Enterprise" of "willfully evading the payment of taxes during 2006 and 2007 by hiding the proceeds from its illegal racketeering acts in offshore accounts.

Copyright © 2009 IPS-Inter Press Service


Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/07/07-8

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Published on Sunday, July 12, 2009 by the Associated Press


Toxins Take a Toll on Troops
Guard members' claims against KBR raise questions about war zone contractors.

by Sharon Cohen

Larry Roberta's every breath is a painful reminder of his time in Iraq. He can't walk a block without gasping for air. His chest hurts, his migraines sometimes persist for days and he needs pills to help him sleep.


Larry Roberta of Aumsville sinks in exhaustion after testifying before the House Rules Committee on Wednesday in Salem about his exposure to hexavalent chromium in Iraq in 2003. The former Oregon Army National Guard soldier, who rarely leaves his home due to health problems linked to the exposure, appeared at the hearing "to help other veterans." (Fredrick Joe/The Oregonian )

James Gentry came home with rashes, ear troubles and a shortness of breath. Later, he developed lung cancer.

David Moore's postwar life turned into a harrowing medical mystery: nosebleeds and labored breathing that made it impossible to work, much less speak. His search for answers ended last year when he died of lung disease at age 42.

What these three men — one sick, one dying, one dead — had in common is they were National Guard soldiers on the same stretch of wind-swept desert in Iraq during the early months of the war in 2003. They and hundreds of other Guard members from Indiana, Oregon and West Virginia were protecting workers hired by a subsidiary of the giant contractor, KBR Inc., to rebuild an Iraqi water treatment plant.

The area, as it turned out, was contaminated with hexavalent chromium, a potent, sometimes deadly chemical linked to cancer and other devastating diseases. No one disputes that, but that's where the agreement ends. Among the issues now rippling from the courthouse to Capitol Hill are whether the chemical made people sick, when KBR knew it was there and how the company responded.

The case has raised broader questions about private contractors and health risks in war zones, says Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., who plans hearings on the matter: "How should we treat exposure to potentially hazardous chemicals as a threat to our soldiers? How seriously should that threat be taken? What is the role of private contractors? What about the potential conflict between their profit motives and taking all steps necessary to protect our soldiers?"

Dozens of National Guard veterans have sued KBR and two subsidiaries, accusing them of minimizing and concealing the chemical's dangers, then downplaying nosebleeds and breathing problems as nothing more than sand allergies or a reaction to desert air.

KBR denies wrongdoing. In a statement, the company said it found the chemical at the Qarmat Ali plant, restricted access, cleaned it up and "did not knowingly harm troops."

This isn't the first claim that toxins have harmed soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan; there have been allegations involving lead, depleted uranium and sarin gas.

It also isn't the first challenge to KBR, whose billions of dollars of war-related contracts have been the subject of congressional scrutiny and legal claims. Suits recently filed in several states against KBR and Halliburton Co. — KBR's parent company until 2007 — assert open-air pits used to burn refuse in Iraq and Afghanistan caused illnesses and death. KBR says it's reviewing the charges. Halliburton maintains it was improperly named and expects to be dismissed from the case.

This case stems from the chaotic start of the war in 2003 when a KBR subsidiary was hired to restart the treatment plant, which had been looted and virtually stripped bare. The Iraqis had used hexavalent chromium to prevent pipe corrosion at the plant, which produced industrial water used in oil production. It's the same chemical linked to poisonings in California in a case made famous in the movie "Erin Brockovich."

Hexavalent chromium — a toxic component of sodium dichromate — can cause severe liver and kidney damage. It is also "one of the most potent carcinogens known to man," said Max Costa, chairman of New York University's Department of Environmental Medicine. Costa provided a deposition for 10 civilian workers who settled an arbitration case over the poison at the water plant.

KBR says studies show only that industrial workers exposed to the chemical for more than two years have an increased risk of cancer — and in this case, soldiers were at the plant just days or months. The company also notes air-quality studies concluded the Indiana Guard soldiers were not exposed to high levels of hexavalent chromium.

Costa says those tests were done when the wind was not blowing. Both soldiers and former workers say there were days when strong gusts kicked up ripped-open bags of the chemical, creating a yellow-orange haze.

"I was spitting blood, and I was not the only one doing that," recalls Danny Langford, who worked for the KBR subsidiary.

Larry Roberta, a 44-year-old former Oregon National Guard member, remembers 137-degree heat and dust everywhere. He sat on a bag of the chemical, unaware it was dangerous. "This orange crud blew up in your face, your eyes and on our food," he says.

Roberta says he immediately felt sick to his stomach. He also reported coughing spells and agonizing chest pains that "went all the way through my back. ... Every day I went there, I had something weird going on."

Russell Kimberling, a former Indiana National Guard captain, had severe sinus troubles that forced his medical evacuation to Germany. After returning, he became alarmed one August day in 2003 while escorting some officials to the plant in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

"I jumped out of the truck and I turned around and they (KBR staff) had full chemical gear on," he says. "I looked at some of my soldiers and said, 'This can't be very good.' ''

Ed Blacke, hired as plant health, safety and environmental coordinator, says he became worried after workers started having breathing problems and a former colleague sent him an internal KBR memo outlining the chemical's dangers. Blacke says he complained, was labeled a troublemaker and resigned under pressure.

Kimberling is among nearly 50 current or former Guard members — most from Indiana, a smaller number from Oregon and West Virginia — who've sued.

Mike Doyle, a Houston lawyer representing the soldiers and civilians, maintains KBR knew as early as May 2003 the chemical was there, but didn't close the site until that September. The lawsuit cites minutes of an August 2003 KBR meeting that mentions "serious health problems at the water treatment plant" and notes "almost 60 percent of the people now exhibit the symptoms."

In a recent Associated Press interview, KBR chairman William Utt said the company has been unfairly targeted for its military work.

As for the water plant, KBR says once it learned of the chemical, it took precautions to protect workers, notified the Army Corps of Engineers and led the cleanup. It says the Corps had previously deemed the area safe.

KBR also points to Army tests of Indiana Guard soldiers that showed no medical problems that could be linked to exposure, as well as a military board review that found it unlikely anyone would suffer long-term medical consequences.

But Bayh and Doyle say those tests were done too late to be valid and note that soil tests were taken after the contaminated area was covered.

The Indiana, West Virginia and Oregon National Guards have sent hundreds of letters to soldiers notifying them of possible contamination and urging them to seek medical attention.

Bayh has introduced a bill calling for a medical registry that would require the Department of Defense to notify all military members of exposure to potential toxins and ensure their medical care. A similar measure that only mandates only notification was approved last month in the U.S. House as an amendment to the defense authorization bill.

© 2009 Associated Press


Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/07/12

Offline bigron

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Private contractors replacing troops in Iraq, Afghanistan

July 15, 12:12 PM
http://www.examiner.com/x-6665-Liberal-Examiner~y2009m7d15-Private-contractors-replacing-troops-in-Iraq-Afghanistan



U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, right, talks with his son, U.S. Army Capt. Beau Biden, at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq, Saturday, July 4, 2009. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed, Pool)


If you thought the end of American intervention in foreign wars was nearing, think again. President Obama has been replacing soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with private contractors—some 250,000 are currently deployed overseas—including Black Water (operating under another alias.)

Contractors are not subject to the same guidelines as our soldiers, and thus, have not been held accountable for the misdeeds they have afflicted upon civilian populations in the past.

This story has largely flown under the radar of the mainstream media, but will surely induce outrage at some uncertain point in the future.

Watch Video:

Private contractors replacing American troops in both wars :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4omE7t8SP8&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eexaminer%2Ecom%2Fx%2D6665%2DLiberal%2DExaminer%7Ey2009m7d15%2DPrivate%2Dcontractors%2Dreplacing%2Dtroops%2Din%2DIraq%2DAfghanistan&feature=player_embedded



Offline bigron

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Administration Bridles at Bar on Contractors

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 16, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/15/AR2009071503415_pf.html


The Obama administration has objected to a provision in the 2010 defense funding bill currently before the Senate that would bar the military's use of contractors to interrogate detainees.

The provision, strongly backed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), describes interrogations as an "inherently governmental function" that "cannot be transferred to contractor personnel." It would give the Defense Department one year from the bill's enactment to ensure that the military had the resources to comply with it.

A White House policy statement yesterday signaled "many areas of agreement" with the bill that emerged from Levin's committee late last month but said the administration has "serious concerns" about some provisions. The statement repeated Obama's threat to veto the $680 billion bill unless $1.75 billion to fund an additional seven F-22 fighter aircraft is removed.

Obama and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates "are as serious as a heart attack on this," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.

Levin and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee's ranking minority member, have agreed that the current ceiling of 187 F-22s is sufficient, but action on an amendment to that effect brought to the floor yesterday was postponed when the Senate took up a controversial hate crimes amendment.

The contractor interrogation issue is the latest challenge to the White House as it tries to fashion a policy on current and future detainees. It comes as the administration is struggling to address demands by human rights organizations, members of Congress and even some within its own ranks to fully investigate and make public actions taken by the Bush administration.

In executive orders issued during his first week in office, Obama ordered the CIA to end all use of what have been called enhanced interrogation techniques and to follow more restrictive regulations in the Army Field Manual that the administration has said comply with domestic and international law.

The Justice Department is investigating the development and approval of now-prohibited interrogation methods, including simulated drowning, in which contractors participated. In April, CIA Director Leon Panetta banned the use of contract employees to interrogate prisoners.

Last year, the Senate dropped a provision prohibiting the military from using contractors for interrogations after President George W. Bush threatened a veto unless it was removed.

The provision in this year's bill says that "the interrogation of enemy prisoners of war, civilian internees, retained persons, other detainees, terrorists, and criminals when captured, transferred, confined, or detained during or in the aftermath of hostilities is an inherently governmental function and cannot be transferred to contractor personnel."

"We ought to have enough trained interrogators in the military to do the job," a senior Senate aide said. "If we don't have enough, then train more or hire civilians, but they ought to be our employees." The measure provides exceptions for contractors used as interpreters and technicians.

The White House statement said that in "some limited cases," contractor skills might be necessary "to obtain critical information" and that the provision "could prevent U.S. Forces from conducting lawful interrogations in the most effective manner.

"You can't make an artificial distinction between an interrogator and a linguist who is actually going to be the one asking the questions," an administration official said. "You don't want to inhibit the ability to extract valuable intelligence that could save lives by not being able to use subject matter experts, linguists or other contract personnel.

"We all think of interrogations as somebody taken back to the facility and questioned. The reality is that people are out on patrol," and the best person to urgently question a captive during an operation may be a contractor. "You don't want to limit yourself," the official said.

Morrell offered a somewhat different explanation, saying that for the Pentagon, "it is first and foremost an issue of resources. We don't have enough interrogators to do the work we have."


Offline bigron

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Video: Private contractors replacing American troops in both wars


RealHistoryChannel

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m56070&hd=&size=1&l=e

July 16, 2009

Watch :
Private contractors replacing American troops in both wars:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4omE7t8SP8&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Euruknet%2Einfo%2F%3Fp%3Dm56070%26hd%3D%26size%3D1%26l%3De&feature=player_embedded





http://www.russiatoday.com/Politics/2009-06-05/Private_contr
actors_replacing_American_troops_in_both_wars.html ...

A report says that Iraq and Afghanistan are being left to mercenaries, as the number of private contractors in both countries has risen by over a quarter - all with the approval of the White House.

It has been revealed the number of private security contractors working for the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan has greatly increased by up to 30% since President Obama came to office.

While troops are being pulled out, a Pentagon report says that the number of contractors working for the US Defense Department has increased dramatically.

This figure has now swollen to 250,000 outsource personnel working for companies such as Blackwater and Triple Canopy, and this process could be called a "privatization of war".

Read more

25% of all the troops in Iraq are private contractors, while the number of private security contractors in Afghanistan is even higher – practically 30%.

This means that, even though President Barack Obama promised he would withdraw troops from Iraq, we see quite the opposite: an increase of private security personnel deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. This essentially allows Washington to keep its grip on the operations taking place in both countries.

Some of these private contractors carry weapons, some of them don’t. Some of them support combat troops. Some of them are Americans and some are not. They have also been dubbed by critics as 'shadow warriors’, first of all because they operate in secrecy, and also because the deaths of such private contractors are not accounted for in the total count of losses we see from the US government.

What is more important is that private security contractors are not held accountable for their operations, for example for the civilian casualties allegedly caused by them. This unaccountability allows Washington to more or less wash its hands of what is happening on the territories of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is the problem that many critics are charging Obama’s administration with: a hypocritical disparity between words and deeds.

Because of this lack of accountability, America’s presence in Iraq has been marked by numerous scandals after shootouts caused by private contractors ended up in the deaths of unarmed civilians. The Blackwater company has been involved in the most high profile cases.

Despite all the scandals, Blackwater is still operating in Iraq under different names, and recently Washington signed a new multimillion contract with Xe company (formerly Blackwater).

Despite the notorious past of the Xe company, American press pays scant attention to it. By comparison, this topic gets far less attention than the wardrobe of First Lady Michelle Obama. The thin information on the issue is published from time to time on the web – usually on websites dedicated to military and private contracting – forcing Americans to keep track of information online, while the mainstream media prefers not to put it in the spotlight.



 

Offline bigron

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Can Obama Avoid Another Abu Ghraib?

The Obama administration continues to rely upon private contractors to interrogate detainees.

By Robert Greenwald, Brave New Films
Posted on July 16, 2009, Printed on July 18, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/http://bravenewfilms.org/141374/

Watch:

CACI made $$ torturing at Abu Ghraib then covered it up :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EcCbdbpZJtU&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Ealternet%2Eorg%2Fblogs%2Fvideo%2F141374%2Fcan%5Fobama%5Favoid%5Fanother%5Fabu%5Fghraib%2F&feature=player_embedded


When I directed Iraq for Sale, it became appallingly evident that private contractors like CACI and Titan played a critical role in the torture and abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Much like Blackwater, KBR, and others, these war profiteers were never held accountable for their unconscionable crimes. Instead, they were rewarded with hundreds of millions in new contracts. The Obama administration has already taken some laudable steps to prevent another Abu Ghraib: ordering the CIA to end enhanced interrogation techniques and follow a more lawful code of conduct; and ordering the Justice Department to investigate the use of torture. However, the President’s recent objection to a provision in the 2010 defense funding bill that would make interrogation an “inherently governmental function” is a huge step backwards.



This provision, backed by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), states “the interrogation of enemy prisoners of war, civilian internees, retained persons, other detainees, terrorists, and criminals when captured, transferred, confined, or detained during or in the aftermath of hostilities is an inherently governmental function and cannot be transferred to contractor personnel.” In other words, our government would no longer be able to hand off interrogation duties (and the lavish contracts that come with them) to mercenary firms out to profit from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s more, if interrogators are caught violating the law and abusing detainees, our government would have the power to hold those interrogators accountable.



According to The Washington Post, both the White House and the Pentagon have a litany of excuses for opposing this provision. They don’t want US forces to be “limited” in conducting lawful interrogations, but the whole point of the provision is to set limitations and create transparency for interrogation practices. And either the US military should be training new interrogators themselves, as a senior Senate aide has suggested, or, lacking enough soldiers to accomplish this goal, perhaps our government should seek diplomatic alternatives to military escalation in Afghanistan.



Last month, Jeremy Scahill reported that the use of “private security contractors” has shot up 23 percent in Iraq and 29 percent in Afghanistan during the second quarter of 2009. Scahill estimated that there are over 242,000 contractors working on these two wars, and that contractors comprise a whopping 50 percent of our total forces in the region.



Our morals mean nothing if we do not act on them. Our tax dollars are funding this abuse and we must not be complacent. Call your senators today 202-224-3121 and tell them contractors have no place in interrogations, and you expect them to support Senator Levin’s government-only interrogation provision. Once you have done that, call the White House 202-456-1414 and leave a message for President Obama, urging him to stand with you to end prisoner abuse.


Robert Greenwald is a producer, director and political activist. His new media company, Brave New Films, is currently focused on making short videos like the FOX Attacks (FoxAttacks.com) and The REAL McCain (TheRealMcCain.com), which educate and empower viewers to take action and have been seen by millions.

© 2009 Brave New Films All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/http://bravenewfilms.org/141374/

Offline bigron

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July 17th, 2009

Contractor helicopter reported down in Iraq; 4 hurt


Posted: 05:03 PM ET

http://cnnwire.blogs.cnn.com/2009/07/17/contractor-helicopter-reported-down-in-iraq-4-hurt/


(CNN) — A helicopter from private military contractor Xe crashed outside Baghdad on Friday, leaving four people hurt, a company spokeswoman said.

The MD-530 “Little Bird” went down during a training exercise, said Stacy Capace, a spokeswoman for the company formerly known as Blackwater. Few details were immediately available, however.

“We don’t know the extent of injuries right now, and we don’t know the cause right now,” she said.


Offline bigron

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Helicopter crash kills 2 in Iraq
CNN

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m56149&hd=&size=1&l=e

July 18, 2009

(CNN) -- A helicopter from private military contractor Xe crashed outside Baghdad on Friday, killing two crew members and leaving two other injured, a company spokeswoman said.

The MD-530 "Little Bird" went down Friday morning at Butler Range, a training facility outside Baghdad, said Stacy Capace, a spokeswoman for the company formerly known as Blackwater.

An investigation into the crash is under way, and it was not known whether there was any hostile fire in the area at the time, Capace said.

"On behalf of all the employees of Xe Services, our thoughts and prayers are with our four brothers involved in this incident and with their families," the company said in a statement on the crash. "We are reminded of the risk in serving our nation and ever more proud of the men and women who bravely accept that risk on behalf of all Americans."

The company and its role in the 6-year-old war in Iraq have been magnets for controversy since 2004, when four Blackwater contractors were killed and their bodies mutilated in the insurgent-riddled city of Fallujah.

After a shooting in a Baghdad square in 2007 left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, Iraq's government refused to renew Blackwater's operating license, and it lost its contract to protect U.S. State Department personnel in Iraq earlier this year





 

Offline bigron

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Blackwater Seeks Gag Order

by Jeremy Scahill

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m56252&hd=&size=1&l=e

July 22, 2009

It became common practice during the Iraq occupation for the US State Department to work with private security companies like Blackwater to help facilitate giving what amounted to hush money to the families of Iraqis shot dead by private security contractors. In fact, Blackwater's owner, Erik Prince, discussed this practice when he testified in front of Congress in October 2007 and admitted to paying $20,000 to a Blackwater victim's family and $5,000 to another.

"We don't determine that value," Prince told Congress when asked how his company decides how much an Iraqi life is worth. "That's kind of an Iraqi-wide policy. We don't make that one."

Now, Blackwater (which recently renamed itself "Xe") is attempting to use other means to silence its victims. On July 20, the company's high-powered lawyers from Mayer Brown, which boasts that it represents eighty-nine of the Fortune 100 companies and thirty-five of the fifty largest US banks, filed a motion in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia to impose a gag order on Iraqi civilians suing the company. The motion also seeks to silence the lawyers representing the families of Iraqis allegedly killed or injured by Blackwater in a series of violent incidents spanning several years. Four cases in the Washington, DC, area were recently consolidated before Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia for pretrial motions. After preliminary issues are resolved, each case is slated to be tried individually.

The July 20 motion, filed on behalf of Blackwater by Peter H. White of Mayer Brown, requests that Judge Ellis issue "an Order restraining extrajudicial statements relating to these cases by the parties and their counsel to ensure that all parties receive a fair trial and a decision from an impartial jury." The motion specifically seeks to prohibit statements to "the national and local news media."

At the same time, according to a court filing, Blackwater is also asking Judge Ellis to seal evidence that Blackwater claims is confidential or could impact national security. The company argues that if its contracts with the State Department and its "Tactical Standard Operating Procedure" guide are publicly revealed, it "could give valuable information to those who wish to plan more effective attacks against diplomatic personnel stationed in Iraq." Susan Burke, the lead attorney on the civil lawsuits against Blackwater, is not contesting Blackwater's request to seal these specific documents--primarily because they will still remain evidence. But, it does mean that the public will not be able to view them. "Blackwater is basically trying to keep from public view all of the evidence that shows their criminality," says Burke. "They are trying to ensure that we cannot apprise the public of the progress of the lawsuit."

Blackwater's gag-order motion focuses at length on Burke. It cites her labeling of Erik Prince as "a modern-day merchant of death" whose "repeated illegal conduct...must be stopped" and then lists statements by Burke and other lawyers that Blackwater says "are merely the latest in a long line of inflammatory public utterances":


• The death of plaintiff Sa'adoon was "part of a pattern of illegal Xe-Blackwater shootings around the globe known to company management," and part of a "culture of lawlessness and unaccountability" fostered by the company.

• The deaths of plaintiffs in the Hassoon case "reflect the pattern and practice of recklessness in the use of deadly force" by Blackwater "mercenaries" who have "flouted the laws of the United States and their host nation Iraq."

• "Xe-Blackwater's repeated illegal conduct has caused hundreds of unnecessary deaths and thousands of unnecessary injuries. This shooting of [plaintiff] Rabea was not an isolated event. Xe-Blackwater personnel repeatedly and routinely shot for no reason as they prowled the streets of Iraq."
When asked about these specific statements, Burke quickly shot back: "It's all accurate. Those are all completely accurate statements. I stand by what I said."

The Blackwater legal team argues "there is no constitutional right to sway potential jurors through press releases, media interviews, and other extrajudicial statements. 'Legal trials,' the Supreme Court has observed, 'are not like elections, to be won through the use of the meeting-hall, the radio and the newspaper.'"

Burke's partner in the lawsuit, the Center for Constitutional Rights, says it will fight vigorously against Blackwater's attempt to silence their Iraqi clients and attorneys. "Blackwater has consistently spent millions of dollars on PR and public advocacy to try to promote their position and this is something that they have done before," says Bill Quigley, CCR's Legal Director. "This is a blatant attempt to gag the First Amendment rights of the individual Iraqis, their families, their lawyers and the public at large and to bury these factual allegations under a cone of silence. It's not new for Blackwater."

Judge Ellis has scheduled a public hearing on Blackwater's requests for sealed evidence for July 28 at 5:30 pm,, where journalists and the public can express their views to the judge. A hearing on the gag order request is set for August 7. Both will be held in the Eastern District of Virginia court. It is possible that Blackwater could ask the State Department to intervene on the company's behalf to support the sealing of documents, as Blackwater has done in the past with the Department of Defense. "I would encourage the State Department, the Obama administration and anybody else that thinks that Blackwater's misdeeds should be kept out of the public eye to really think very, very carefully before advancing that position publicly," says CCR's Quigley. As for the gag order, among the arguments Burke could make is this: Blackwater itself has a record of leaking information from court cases to the media.

Earlier this year, lawyers from the US Justice Department prosecuting five Blackwater operatives for the September 2007 Nisour Square massacre accused Blackwater's attorneys of improperly passing court discovery material to journalists, specifically Matt Apuzzo of the Associated Press. Apuzzo wrote several stories based on leaked "evidence" that supported Blackwater's line on the case, namely that their men fired in self-defense. (Apuzzo is a reporter with a track record of confronting US government attempts to keep information from the public or "off the record." There is no allegation Apuzzo engaged in improper or unethical conduct in covering Blackwater.) On April 6, 2009, US Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor wrote:


Since the prosecutors sent a letter to the defendants on December 3, 2008, formally advising them to surrender themselves for arrest, there have been a number of documents and other material associated with this case that have been selectively provided to Mr. Matt Apuzzo, a reporter for the Associated Press wire service. In each instance, the material was provided to Mr. Apuzzo in an apparent attempt to influence improperly the opinions of prospective jurors at a trial in this case.... [Blackwater's] counsel have insisted on the right to disseminate copies of discovery material to third parties as they deem appropriate, and have declined to accept language that would place enforceable limitations on what those third parties can do with the material.
The judge in that case issued an order clarifying the rules, and Blackwater's lawyers, who insisted they had done nothing wrong, reached an agreement with prosecutors not to leak information. This case shows that "it's Blackwater, not us, that has been violating court strictures," says Burke. "For them to actually be bringing this on against us is ridiculous. There's nothing we've done that would merit any kind of order."

Quigley sees Blackwater's attempt to gag the Iraqi victims, their families and the attorneys representing them as an attack on the public's right to information about a government contractor that has been paid more than $1 billion in US taxpayer funds. "Blackwater is concerned about what the lawyers say and what the parties say and what's in the record, but what they're really concerned about is that journalists will cover it," says Quigley. "And so, even though this isn't an attempt directly to gag journalists, it's clearly--the thrust of this thing is to deprive journalists of any information that they can use to write about Blackwater or to hold Blackwater accountable or even to discuss the issues of hired mercenaries by our government."

Another interesting line to emerge in Blackwater's motion is that the company now prefers to be called by one of its recently created alternate identities, "US Training Center." One would be forgiven for thinking this is an Olympic facility, instead of a mercenary operation. The lawyer representing Blackwater, Peter H. White, boasts in his bio that he is "listed in The Best Lawyers in America--White Collar Criminal Defense."

Blackwater/Xe/US Training Center did not respond to a request for comment.



 


Offline bigron

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UN Investigation on Military Contractors Begins Today


The Working Group on the use of mercenaries will focus on questions of transparency, accountability, and human rights.

By Suzanne Ito, Blog of Rights
Posted on July 20, 2009, Printed on July 24, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/http://blog.aclu.org//141430/



Starting Monday, July 20, a five-member United Nations Working Group on the use of mercenaries will conduct a two-week examination of this country’s use of private military and security contractors (PMSCs). Two members of the Working Group will meet with officials from the Obama administration, members of Congress, nongovernmental organizations (like the ACLU) and PMSCs. This official visit comes at the invitation of the U.S. government. From a statement released [Friday, July 17th]:



The Working Group will in particular focus on questions of transparency and accountability of PMSCs and their personnel, instances and circumstances which may give rise to impunity of contractors for violations of human rights as well as guarantees for ensuring that victims of violations have access to effective remedies. It will also look into the general trend towards the privatization of war and its consequences.


Among those consequences is "extraordinary rendition" -- the kidnapping and forced removal of individuals to places known to torture. The ACLU represents a group of such rendition victims in a lawsuit against a particular PMSC: Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan. In our lawsuit, we charge that Jeppesen knowingly participated in the rendition of our plaintiffs by providing flight planning and logistical support to the CIA to kidnap our plaintiffs to be detained and tortured in secret prisons overseas.



[Friday]’s New York Times editorialized about accountability for rendition, torture and other Bush-era war crimes:



Once the Bush team got into the habit of breaking the law, it became their operating procedure that any means are justified: ordering the nation’s intelligence agents to torture prisoners; sending innocents to be tortured in foreign countries; creating secret prisons where detainees were held illegally without charge.


Americans still don’t have the full story.





[…]President Obama has refused to open a full investigation of the many laws that were evaded, twisted or broken -- pointlessly and destructively -- under Mr. Bush. Mr. Obama should change his mind. A full accounting is the only way to ensure these abuses never happen again. The Working Group’s examination is a welcomed first step in shedding some light on the war crimes of the Bush administration. Attorney General Eric Holder is considering appointing a prosecutor to investigate these crimes. While the U.N. takes action on the international stage, there isn’t a more critical time to have your voice heard here at home. Send Attorney General Holder evidence of torture, and demand accountability.



© 2009 Blog of Rights All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/http://blog.aclu.org//141430/

Offline Satyagraha

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Afghanistan: US Military Weighs Private Security on Front Lines
« Reply #38 on: July 26, 2009, 09:15:27 AM »
Military Weighs Private Security on Front Lines
Firm Could Have Broad Protection Authority in Afghanistan
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/25/AR2009072501738.html

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 26, 2009


The U.S. military command is considering contracting a private firm to manage security on the front lines of the war in Afghanistan, even as Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says that the Pentagon intends to cut back on the use of private security contractors.

On a Web site listing federal business opportunities, the Army this month published a notice soliciting information from prospective contractors who would develop a security plan for 50 or more forward operating bases and smaller command outposts across Afghanistan.

Although the U.S. military has contracted out security services to protect individuals, military bases and other facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, this contract would award a commercial company unusually broad "theater-wide" authority to protect forward operating bases in a war zone.

"The contractor shall be responsible for providing security services, developing, implementing, adequately staffing, and managing a security program," the notice said, adding that the contractor would have to be available "24 hours a day, seven days a week."

The U.S. military currently has 72 contracts that provide 5,600 civilian guards, mostly local Afghans, at forward bases across Afghanistan, according to Lt. Cmdr. Christine M. Sidenstricker, chief of media operations for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. The intent of the proposed contract is to bring all "disparate and subordinate contracts" under single, theater-wide management at a time when the U.S. forces are expanding, she said.

The Army has not issued a formal proposal for a contract, but the notice says that interested companies should reply by Wednesday and that a formal request for proposals should follow. The "anticipated award date" for a contract is Dec. 1, according to the notice.

The request for information comes as Gates is moving to put soldiers back in charge of security roles that contractors have filled in recent years. Drawing on its experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Defense Department recently organized a task force to measure the military's dependence on contractor support in training and security, with the goal of determining an appropriate mix.

Lawmakers, too, have raised concerns about the cost of contractors and about outsourcing what have traditionally been government roles.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting, a bipartisan congressional panel, noted in a recent report that in previous wars, military police protected bases while other service members pursued the enemy. "Contractors are now literally in the center of the battlefield in unprecedented numbers," the commission said, creating "a need to define specific functions that are not appropriate for performance by contractors in a contingency operation."

Meanwhile, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on contracting oversight, said her panel had "revealed major concerns about the use of private security contractors in Afghanistan." She added that a hard look needs to be taken "at where we have gone wrong in the past, to ensure that the military does not repeat history."

Afghan forward operating bases are often considered dangerous posts. An American soldier was critically injured this month when insurgents attacked Forward Operating Base Salerno, near the eastern border town of Khost. Two U.S. troops died July 4 at Combat Outpost Zerok, also near the Pakistan border, in an insurgent assault.

In the worst attack on an outpost, roughly 200 insurgents broke through security walls last year at an outpost in Konar province and killed nine American soldiers. Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, recently asked the Pentagon's inspector general to investigate whether security at the post was adequate.

With Afghan army and police officers totaling roughly 160,000, and the number of U.S. service members in Afghanistan set to grow to 68,000 by year's end, the U.S. military is moving to protect the facilities where personnel will be based. But many experts say commanders do not have enough forces.

"We don't want to waste scarce Afghan army and police, so we must be creative," said Michael E. O'Hanlon, a senior fellow and military expert at the Brookings Institution.

But O'Hanlon also said he is concerned that if contractors were to take over security at forward operating bases, they would be the first to see hostile fire, and they -- not soldiers -- would have to decide whether to employ weapons against an enemy.

Instead of hiring a private firm, O'Hanlon said, the Americans and Afghans could create a local version of Iraq's Facilities Protection Service, the modestly trained but government-paid guard force that was pulled together to provide protection for government ministries in Baghdad and the oil fields. "We should create a different branch of the Afghan security forces that has minimal training," he said.

At a town hall meeting at Fort Drum, N.Y., on July 16, Gates said that the military had let contracting "grow without the kind of controls that we should" have had. The purpose, he said, was "to try and free up as many soldiers for actual combat duty, rather than having them do things that civilian contractors could do."

Contractors, Gates noted, have done a variety of jobs, including running dining facilities and doing laundry, cleaning chores and security work. "So, we're kind of going back through all of these roles, at this point, to figure out where military ought to be doing these things and where civilian contractors can be," he said.

And  the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, 
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,  ye have done it unto me.

Matthew 25:40

Offline bigron

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  • RON PAUL FOR PRESIDENT 2012
THIS IS BECOMING SO CRAZY