Author Topic: Private Contractor Surge Into Afghanistan-(post all AFPAK contractor news here)  (Read 179360 times)

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Offline Satyagraha

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Yes - scary crazy. Now they won't report the number of militants killed (why not??? To give us fake numbers? Or to hide the fact that only 10% of all the people killed by drones are actually the 'enemy'?) Now we're going back to plan "A" - more contractors; and we'll see new horrors as these steroid-fueled jackbooted thugs take the lead on the front lines!
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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US Blackwater-Xe mercenaries spread fear in Pakistan

http://www.earthtimes.org/articles/show/279077,us-blackwater-xe-mercenaries-spreads-fear-in-pakistani-town--feature.html

Peshawar - Fear is spreading across University Town, an upmarket residential area in Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar, due to the overt presence of the controversial US private security contractor Blackwater. Sporting the customary dark glasses and carrying assault rifles, the mercenaries zoom around the neighbourhood in their black-coloured armoured Chevy Suburbans, and shout at motorists when occasionally stranded in a traffic jam.

The residents are mainly concerned about Blackwater's reputation as a ruthless, unbridled private army whose employees face multiple charges of murder, child prostitution and weapons smuggling in Iraq.

"Sometimes, these guys stand in the streets and behave rudely with the passers-by, sometimes they point guns at people without provocation" said Imtiaz Gul, an engineer, whose home is a few hundred metres from the US contractor's base on Chanar Road in University Town.

"Who rules our streets, the Pakistani government or the Americans? They have created a state within the state," he added.

Repeated complaints to the authorities have been to no avail since, according to residents.

Blackwater provides security to the employees of Creative Associates International Inc (CAII), an American company carrying out multi-million-dollar development projects in the country's Islamic militancy-plagued Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former US Navy SEAL officer and a major contributor to Republican Party candidates, Blackwater has hired thousands of former military personnel from Western countries as well as other mercenaries from the Third World.

It emerged as the largest of the US Department of State's private security companies, winning multi-million-dollar contracts globally, but attracted a lot of media attention in September 2007 when its personnel killed 17 civilians in an unprovoked shooting while escorting a convoy of US State Department vehicles to a meeting in Baghdad.

The firm is now facing a civil lawsuit filed in the US state of Virginia by those who were injured and who lost family members in the massacre.

The company faces charges of human rights violations, child prostitution and possible supply of weapons to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, an Iraqi group designated by United Nations, European Union and NATO as a terrorist organization. It has been declared persona non grata in Iraq.

To conceal its bad reputation, the shadowy company renamed itself Xe Worldwide in February 2009 and Prince resigned as its chief executive officer the following month.

 

Offline bigron

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'Multiple' failures led to Iraq electrocution, Pentagon says


Story Highlights:

KBR denies responsibility; soldier's mother "pleased"

Report looks into 2008 death of Green Beret in shower at U.S. base

Inspector: Nine deaths caused by improper grounding or faulty equipment

Fault placed with commanders, Army, contractor KBR

From Scott Bronstein, CNN Special Investigations Unit


Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, a 24-year-old Green Beret, died in a shower at his base in Iraq in January 2008.


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Green Beret sergeant was electrocuted in Iraq in 2008 because of failures by the U.S. military and a major defense contractor, which did not properly ground and inspect electrical equipment, according to a Pentagon report out Monday.

Nine of 18 electrocution deaths reported in Iraq were caused by "improper grounding or faulty equipment," including the January 2008 death of Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth, the Defense Department's inspector-general found.

Investigations remain open in five of those cases, according to a summary of the report obtained by CNN.

The new report concluded that "multiple systems and organizations failed," leaving Maseth "exposed to unacceptable risk."

The decorated soldier from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was electrocuted in a shower at a U.S. base in Baghdad that once served as one of Saddam Hussein's palaces.

The report found that a water pump installed by military contractor KBR was not grounded, leading to Maseth's electrocution when it short-circuited.

It found that Maseth's commanders failed to ensure that renovations to the palace had been properly done, the Army did not set standards for jobs or contractors, and KBR did not ground electrical equipment it installed at the facility.

The Houston, Texas-based company has defended its performance in the war zone from extensive criticism by Congress and has argued that it was not to blame for any fatalities.

In a statement issued Monday afternoon, it said it had not seen the Pentagon report and would not comment.

"While the death of Staff Sgt. Maseth was tragic, KBR continues to maintain that it was not responsible for his death," company spokeswoman Heather Browne said. "The building in which Staff Sgt. Maseth lived was built by Iraqi and other contractors under the previous Iraqi leadership."

Brown said the building, "like many other pre-existing buildings in Iraq, had not been grounded or bonded by the contractors who built the structure," and she said KBR had warned the military about the hazard nine months before Maseth died.

"Prior to that incident, the military never directed KBR to repair, upgrade or improve the grounding system in the building in which Maseth resided, nor was KBR directed to perform any preventive maintenance at this facility," Browne said.

But Maseth's mother, who has filed suit against KBR in her son's death, said she was "pleased" by the findings.

"The results are revealing and contrary to what KBR and its president have continuously stated over the past year," Cheryl Harris said. "On that note, the DOD IG report states that KBR installed the water pump that killed my son, a point that KBR has flatly denied over the past year."

Maseth's death led to congressional hearings in 2008 and demands for a full investigation by the military, which resulted in the report out Monday.

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who pushed for the investigation, said Monday's report should not be the end of the process.

"We cannot stop with the publication of this report alone," the Democrat said in a written statement. "Those who failed to carry out their contractual obligations in a way that contributed to the death of a U.S. soldier should be held fully accountable for their negligence."

Another report is being prepared by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, Casey said.

Maseth's family and that of Christopher Everett, another soldier mentioned in the report, have sued KBR over their deaths.

Everett, an Army sergeant, was electrocuted in 2005 while using a power washer at an American base outside Ramadi.

Other deaths the inspector-general's report found were caused by faulty electrical equipment or improper grounding include the death of Army Spc. Marvin Campo-Siles in April 2004 in Samarra; Spc. Chase Whitham, May 2004, in Mosul; Spc. Marcus Nolasco, also May 2004, in Baiji; Marine Pfc. Brian Cutter, in Fallujah, the same month; Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class David Cedergren, killed in Iskandariya in September 2004; Sgt. Michael Montpetit, who died in Baghdad in June 2007; and Sohan Singh, a private contractor killed in Fallujah in July 2005.

In March, a top Army inspector said that thousands of buildings on U.S. bases in Iraq and Afghanistan have such poorly installed wiring that American troops face life-threatening risks.

Jim Childs, a master electrician and the top civilian expert in an Army safety survey, said problems were "everywhere" in Iraq, where 18 U.S. troops have died by electrocution since 2003. The nine electrocutions not caused by faulty grounding were caused by other electrical accidents, such as contact with live power lines.

CNN's Matt Smith contributed to this report.

All AboutIraq • KBR Inc. • U.S. Department of Defense
 

 
 
 
Links referenced within this article

Pentagon
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/U_S_Department_of_Defense
KBR
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/KBR_Inc
Iraq
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Iraq
KBR Inc.
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/KBR_Inc
U.S. Department of Defense
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/U_S_Department_of_Defense

 

 
Find this article at:
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/07/27/military.electrocutions/index.html 

Offline bigron

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South Asia Features



US Blackwater-Xe mercenaries spreads fear in Pakistani town (Feature)


By Nadeem Sarwar and Aqeel Yousafzai
Jul 27, 2009, 6:22 GMT
http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/southasia/features/article_1492033.php/


   Peshawar - Fear is spreading across University Town, an upmarket residential area in Pakistan's north-western city of Peshawar, due to the overt presence of the controversial US private security contractor Blackwater.

   Sporting the customary dark glasses and carrying assault rifles, the mercenaries zoom around the neighbourhood in their black-coloured armoured Chevy Suburbans, and shout at motorists when occasionally stranded in a traffic jam.

   The residents are mainly concerned about Blackwater's reputation as a ruthless, unbridled private army whose employees face multiple charges of murder, child prostitution and weapons smuggling in Iraq.

   'Sometimes, these guys stand in the streets and behave rudely with the passers-by, sometimes they point guns at people without provocation' said Imtiaz Gul, an engineer, whose home is a few hundred metres from the US contractor's base on Chanar Road in University Town.

   'Who rules our streets, the Pakistani government or the Americans? They have created a state within the state,' he added.

   Repeated complaints to the authorities have been to no avail since, according to residents.

Blackwater provides security to the employees of Creative Associates International Inc (CAII), an American company carrying out multi-million-dollar development projects in the country's Islamic militancy-plagued Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

   Founded in 1997 by Erik Prince, a former US Navy SEAL officer and a major contributor to Republican Party candidates, Blackwater has hired thousands of former military personnel from Western countries as well as other mercenaries from the Third World.

   It emerged as the largest of the US Department of State's private security companies, winning multi-million-dollar contracts globally, but attracted a lot of media attention in September 2007 when its personnel killed 17 civilians in an unprovoked shooting while escorting a convoy of US State Department vehicles to a meeting in Baghdad.

   The firm is now facing a civil lawsuit filed in the US state of Virginia by those who were injured and who lost family members in the massacre.

   The company faces charges of human rights violations, child prostitution and possible supply of weapons to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, an Iraqi group designated by United Nations, European Union and NATO as a terrorist organization. It has been declared persona non grata in Iraq.

   To conceal its bad reputation, the shadowy company renamed itself Xe Worldwide in February 2009 and Prince resigned as its chief executive officer the following month.

   In Pakistan, the Interior Ministry asked the regional governments of all four provinces to keep an eye on the activities of Blackwater in early 2008, immediately after it was believed to have been hired by CAII, according to a media report.

   CAII works locally under the name of FATA Development Programme Government to Community (FDPGC).

   Lou Fintor, a spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad, said that Blackwater-Xe was not in any way associated with its missions in Pakistan. But the denial does not include the possibility that the security firm was working for a private US company.

   Blackwater has recruited dozens of retired commandos from Pakistan's army and elite police force through its local sub-contractors, said an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

   Some Pakistani security officials suggested that besides providing security to the aid workers, Blackwater was carrying out covert operations.

   Among these were buying the loyalties of influential tribal elders and tracking the money flowing to al-Qaeda and Taliban through the national and international banks, something which perhaps goes far beyond the mandate of a private security firm.

   Taliban and al-Qaeda militants who use the tribal regions to attack civilian and government targets inside Pakistan and NATO-led international forces in Afghanistan are also watching Blackwater's moves.

   On June 9, suicide bombers drove an explosive-laden vehicle into Peshawar's sole five-star hotel, the Pearl Continental, after shooting the security guards, and detonated it at the side of the building where some Blackwater guards were staying.

   Sixteen people died including four of the security firm's personnel - two Westerners and the same number of locals. Four more guards were injured.

   The dead bodies and injured were moved quietly. Neither the Pakistani government nor any foreign official admitted these deaths, apparently at the request of US officials.

   'Absolutely no comments,' Qazi Jamil, the senior superintendent of police in Peshawar said abruptly when German Press Agency dpa asked him about the Blackwater deaths.

   But a minister in the North-West Frontier Province government, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he knew that some US private guards died but did not know how many and which firm they were from.

   'The provincial government was not directly dealing with the issue. It's the federal intelligence agencies that handled it,' said the minister.

   The possibility that Islamist militants might be plotting more attacks on the contractors is also a source of concern for many residents in University Town.

   'In the first week of July we requested the interior minister in a letter that targets like Blackwater should be kept away from the residential areas,' said Ihsan Toro, a trader and member of council of citizens in University Town.

   'Al-Qaeda and the Taliban must be after them,' added Toro.


 

Offline bigron

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US Blackwater Nightmare for Peshawaris


By Aamir Latif, IOL Correspondent

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m56486&hd=&size=1&l=e

July 29, 2009

PESHAWAR — Already shaken by a spate of unrest in their homeland, people in Peshawar now have another source of fear on their city’s streets, the notorious US security firm Blackwater.

"We are deeply scared by their presence and movement as they have posed a serious threat to our lives and properties," Ahmed Yar Khan, a local businessman, told IslamOnline.net.

According to intelligence sources, the company, which gained world notoriety over involvement in dozens of unprovoked civilian killings in Iraq, has set up different stations in Peshawar and its vicinity.

Sporting black gaggles and carrying sophisticated assault rifles, Blackwater members move freely in Peshawar, the capital of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and its adjoining districts.

They are often seen in their black-colored armored vehicles carrying diplomatic number plates.

"Officially, Blackwater is providing security to the US, European and Afghan diplomats and officials working on various development projects financed by the US government in federally administered tribal areas," a senior intelligence official told IOL, requesting anonymity for not being authorized to discuss the issue with the media.

But residents say that Blackwater agents spur fear and awe, with many of them openly standing guard on the streets and behaving rudely with the locals.

"If they are stuck in a traffic jam, they don’t allow any vehicle to come near them. And if someone mistakenly does that, they shout and point guns at them," fumed Khan.

Some residents have even filed complaints with the authorities over mistreatment by Blackwater members, but officials turned deaf ears.

"Nothing has so far happened despite several complaints," Khan lamented. "It seems as if these streets have been sold out to Blackwater."

Established 10 years ago by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL, the South Carolina-based security firm has grown into what US investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill describes as the "world's most powerful mercenary army."

Riding machine-gun mounted utility vehicles, Blackwater’s armed contractors have gained notoriety for shooting first and not bothering to ask questions later.

A US congressional report has blamed Blackwater of involvement in 195 shooting incidents since 2005, mostly unprovoked.

Taliban Showdown

Peshawar residents also fear a possible showdown between Taliban groups and Blackwater.

"We have sent a detailed report to the higher authorities that the free movement of Blackwater members is posing a serious threat to the security of Peshawar," the senior intelligence official said.

One main task for Blackwater recently was tracking down Taliban fighters.

They are reportedly running a spy network in the tribal belt with the aim of hunting down Taliban.

"We have concrete information that mercenaries are involved in covert operations ranging from distribution of funds among anti-Taliban tribesmen to hiring of former military officers and commandoes to work for them," said the intelligence official.

Blackwater has also hired the services of some local security agencies to work for them in some of the province’s areas where white-skinned agents cannot enter, he added.

"Taliban may carry out suicide bombings in the residential areas, where they (Blackwater members), are stationed."

Some 18 people were killed and 46 injured on June 9 in a suicide attack at Pearl Continental Hotel Peshawar, which was believed to be a headquarters for Blackwater.

The US embassy in Islamabad denied the killing of any Blackwater members in the attack.

But government and intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the deaths of several agents.

Some residents are so fearful of troubles because of the presence of Blackwater that they decided to leave Peshawar.

"We are trying to sell our house, but no one is ready to buy even at a much cheaper price," said Khan, the local businessman.

"We are sure that the day is very near when a suicide bomber will rock our area because of them."




 

Offline bigron

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Published on Friday, July 31, 2009 by Forbes


DynCorp Takes Afghanistan: As KBR and Blackwater Get Shut Out, DynCorp Profits From Afghan War

Increasingly frozen out by the U.S. military, KBR concedes the Afghan battlefront.


by Nathan Vardi

DynCorp International, the Falls Church, Va., provider of mission critical services to the U.S. military, got good news Thursday from Houston rival KBR, which said it would not be protesting the recent loss of work supporting American troops in Afghanistan to DynCorp and Fluor Group.
"We recently met with the customer for a debrief of the selection criteria and the decision metrics for the awards," said KBR chief William Utt on KBR's Thursday conference call. "After the debrief we decided KBR will not protest the outcome of the awards."

The announcement was excellent news for DynCorp, which has been consistently winning government war-zone work from competitors like Blackwater USA and KBR that have had trouble in Iraq. DynCorp is counting on the expanding war in Afghanistan to provide corporate growth and was bracing for a potential challenge from KBR. It is now likely that within six months DynCorp will begin working on a five-year, $5.9 billion deal awarded in July to logistically support U.S. troops in southern Afghanistan. Fluor won the work that will be required in northern Afghanistan.

DynCorp has emerged as one of the big winners of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which now generate 53% of DynCorp's $3.1 billion of annual revenue. The company's revenue grew 45% last year thanks to a 51%-owned joint venture that has a multiyear $4.6 billion contract to supply 9,100 linguists to translate for U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Last year DynCorp and Fluor, together with KBR, became part of the Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, or Logcap, a huge contract once awarded exclusively to KBR. The three companies now are competitively bidding on various jobs under the wars' biggest contract. In the last six years, Logcap has meant big revenues for KBR, which earned an estimated $700 million of income (before interest and taxes) on $31.4 billion of revenues off of the program, mostly in Iraq, but been dogged by accusations of overbilling and negligence.

In July the Pentagon announced that it planned on having DynCorp and Fluor take over KBR's work in Afghanistan under Logcap, doing everything from providing laundry to food and fuel. The decision came as President Obama sent 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan to go after the Taliban in an expanding war. KBR has now accepted the military's contracting switch in Afghanistan and will focus on trying to retain its Logcap work in Iraq, which should be up for bid by the end of this year.

"We all know that there has been a lot of, I think, pressure on the Department of Defense to diversify the contractor base," said KBR chief Utt. "I think the military wanted to get a diversity of contractors."

It is true that Defense Department officials believe bringing a market dynamic to the big Logcap contract would help eliminate some of the war-contracting problems the military has experienced in Iraq. But it also seems like KBR is being frozen out.

On KBR's conference call, Utt said KBR did not win Logcap's new Afghan jobs even though one of the winning bidders submitted a more expensive proposal than his company. Under the reconfigured Logcap, KBR has been unsuccessful at getting the first four new jobs the military has put up for bid.

On the other hand, DynCorp continues to get work from companies that have had public embarrassments. Blackwater USA, now known as Xe Services, got kicked out of Iraq after its employees killed civilians in Baghdad's Nisur Square in 2007. In June the Department of State awarded DynCorp Blackwater's old contract to provide air-support and security for American diplomats in Iraq, worth $915 million over the next five years.

The man who benefits the most from all this is Robert McKeon, DynCorp's chairman and head of private equity firm Veritas Capital, who Forbes recently revealed owns one-quarter of DynCorp. (See: "Wall Street Goes To War.") The company's stock went up 1.6% Thursday, making McKeon's DynCorp shares worth $285 million.

Despite conceding ground in Afghanistan, KBR was still able to report a 40% rise of second quarter profit of $67 million, compared with $48 million in the second quarter of 2008.

 

2009 Forbes.com LLC


Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/07/31-3

Offline bigron

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More War, More Money for DynCorp

Sunday, August 02, 2009 
http://www.allgov.com/ViewNews/More_War_More_Money_for_DynCorp_90802



War has been very good for DynCorp, a security and logistics contractor that has earned billions from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than half of the company’s $3 billion in annual revenues comes from jobs in the two war-torn countries, with a huge jump last year alone (45%) when the company provided 9,100 linguists to help U.S. soldiers in Iraq. DynCorp stands to make even more money in Afghanistan, thanks to a new five-year, $5.9 billion deal with the Defense Department to help supply American troops in southern Afghanistan.

 
The boost in government work follows recent disclosures about ethical lapses by company employees, including those with serious drug problems and others hiring young Afghani men to dance at parties. The revelations, which surfaced in April, resulted in DynCorp firing four senior managers in Afghanistan and planning to create a chief compliance officer post to focus on ethics, business conduct, investigations and regulatory compliance.

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 August 3, 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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Published on Tuesday, August 4, 2009 by The Nation


Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

by Jeremy Scahill

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-US Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company's owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."
In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting "illegal" or "unlawful" weapons into the country on Prince's private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the US State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.

These allegations, and a series of other charges, are contained in sworn affidavits, given under penalty of perjury, filed late at night on August 3 in the Eastern District of Virginia as part of a seventy-page motion by lawyers for Iraqi civilians suing Blackwater for alleged war crimes and other misconduct. Susan Burke, a private attorney working in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights, is suing Blackwater in five separate civil cases filed in the Washington, DC, area. They were recently consolidated before Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia for pretrial motions. Burke filed the August 3 motion in response to Blackwater's motion to dismiss the case. Blackwater asserts that Prince and the company are innocent of any wrongdoing and that they were professionally performing their duties on behalf of their employer, the US State Department.

The former employee, identified in the court documents as "John Doe #2," is a former member of Blackwater's management team, according to a source close to the case. Doe #2 alleges in a sworn declaration that, based on information provided to him by former colleagues, "it appears that Mr. Prince and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information, to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct." John Doe #2 says he worked at Blackwater for four years; his identity is concealed in the sworn declaration because he "fear violence against me in retaliation for submitting this Declaration." He also alleges, "On several occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince's employ, Mr. Prince's management has personally threatened me with death and violence."

In a separate sworn statement, the former US marine who worked for Blackwater in Iraq alleges that he has "learned from my Blackwater colleagues and former colleagues that one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information about Erik Prince and Blackwater have been killed in suspicious circumstances." Identified as "John Doe #1," he says he "joined Blackwater and deployed to Iraq to guard State Department and other American government personnel." It is not clear if Doe #1 is still working with the company as he states he is "scheduled to deploy in the immediate future to Iraq." Like Doe #2, he states that he fears "violence" against him for "submitting this Declaration." No further details on the alleged murder(s) are provided.

"Mr. Prince feared, and continues to fear, that the federal authorities will detect and prosecute his various criminal deeds," states Doe #2. "On more than one occasion, Mr. Prince and his top managers gave orders to destroy emails and other documents. Many incriminating videotapes, documents and emails have been shredded and destroyed."

The Nation cannot independently verify the identities of the two individuals, their roles at Blackwater or what motivated them to provide sworn testimony in these civil cases. Both individuals state that they have previously cooperated with federal prosecutors conducting a criminal inquiry into Blackwater.

"It's a pending investigation, so we cannot comment on any matters in front of a Grand Jury or if a Grand Jury even exists on these matters," John Roth, the spokesperson for the US Attorney's office in the District of Columbia, told The Nation. "It would be a crime if we did that." Asked specifically about whether there is a criminal investigation into Prince regarding the murder allegations and other charges, Roth said: "We would not be able to comment on what we are or are not doing in regards to any possible investigation involving an uncharged individual."

The Nation repeatedly attempted to contact spokespeople for Prince or his companies at numerous email addresses and telephone numbers. When a company representative was reached by phone and asked to comment, she said, "Unfortunately no one can help you in that area." The representative then said that she would pass along The Nation's request. As this article goes to press, no company representative has responded further to The Nation.

Doe #2 states in the declaration that he has also provided the information contained in his statement "in grand jury proceedings convened by the United States Department of Justice." Federal prosecutors convened a grand jury in the aftermath of the September 16, 2007, Nisour Square shootings in Baghdad, which left seventeen Iraqis dead. Five Blackwater employees are awaiting trial on several manslaughter charges and a sixth, Jeremy Ridgeway, has already pleaded guilty to manslaughter and attempting to commit manslaughter and is cooperating with prosecutors. It is not clear whether Doe #2 testified in front of the Nisour Square grand jury or in front of a separate grand jury.

The two declarations are each five pages long and contain a series of devastating allegations concerning Erik Prince and his network of companies, which now operate under the banner of Xe Services LLC. Among those leveled by Doe #2 is that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe":

 

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.
 

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince's executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to "lay Hajiis out on cardboard." Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince's employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as "ragheads" or "hajiis."
Among the additional allegations made by Doe #1 is that "Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq." He states that he personally witnessed weapons being "pulled out" from dog food bags. Doe #2 alleges that "Prince and his employees arranged for the weapons to be polywrapped and smuggled into Iraq on Mr. Prince's private planes, which operated under the name Presidential Airlines," adding that Prince "generated substantial revenues from participating in the illegal arms trade."

Doe #2 states: "Using his various companies, [Prince] procured and distributed various weapons, including unlawful weapons such as sawed off semi-automatic machine guns with silencers, through unlawful channels of distribution." Blackwater "was not abiding by the terms of the contract with the State Department and was deceiving the State Department," according to Doe #1.

This is not the first time an allegation has surfaced that Blackwater used dog food bags to smuggle weapons into Iraq. ABC News's Brian Ross reported [1] in November 2008 that a "federal grand jury in North Carolina is investigating allegations the controversial private security firm Blackwater illegally shipped assault weapons and silencers to Iraq, hidden in large sacks of dog food." Another former Blackwater employee has also confirmed this information to The Nation.

Both individuals allege that Prince and Blackwater deployed individuals to Iraq who, in the words of Doe #1, "were not properly vetted and cleared by the State Department." Doe #2 adds that "Prince ignored the advice and pleas from certain employees, who sought to stop the unnecessary killing of innocent Iraqis." Doe #2 further states that some Blackwater officials overseas refused to deploy "unfit men" and sent them back to the US. Among the reasons cited by Doe #2 were "the men making statements about wanting to deploy to Iraq to 'kill ragheads' or achieve 'kills' or 'body counts,'" as well as "excessive drinking" and "steroid use." However, when the men returned to the US, according to Doe #2, "Prince and his executives would send them back to be deployed in Iraq with an express instruction to the concerned employees located overseas that they needed to 'stop costing the company money.'"

Doe #2 also says Prince "repeatedly ignored the assessments done by mental health professionals, and instead terminated those mental health professionals who were not willing to endorse deployments of unfit men." He says Prince and then-company president Gary Jackson "hid from Department of State the fact that they were deploying men to Iraq over the objections of mental health professionals and security professionals in the field," saying they "knew the men being deployed were not suitable candidates for carrying lethal weaponry, but did not care because deployments meant more money."

Doe #1 states that "Blackwater knew that certain of its personnel intentionally used excessive and unjustified deadly force, and in some instances used unauthorized weapons, to kill or seriously injure innocent Iraqi civilians." He concludes, "Blackwater did nothing to stop this misconduct." Doe #1 states that he "personally observed multiple incidents of Blackwater personnel intentionally using unnecessary, excessive and unjustified deadly force." He then cites several specific examples of Blackwater personnel firing at civilians, killing or "seriously" wounding them, and then failing to report the incidents to the State Department.

Doe #1 also alleges that "all of these incidents of excessive force were initially videotaped and voice recorded," but that "Immediately after the day concluded, we would watch the video in a session called a 'hot wash.' Immediately after the hotwashing, the video was erased to prevent anyone other than Blackwater personnel seeing what had actually occurred." Blackwater, he says, "did not provide the video to the State Department."

Doe #2 expands on the issue of unconventional weapons, alleging Prince "made available to his employees in Iraq various weapons not authorized by the United States contracting authorities, such as hand grenades and hand grenade launchers. Mr. Prince's employees repeatedly used this illegal weaponry in Iraq, unnecessarily killing scores of innocent Iraqis." Specifically, he alleges that Prince "obtained illegal ammunition from an American company called LeMas. This company sold ammunition designed to explode after penetrating within the human body. Mr. Prince's employees repeatedly used this illegal ammunition in Iraq to inflict maximum damage on Iraqis."

Blackwater has gone through an intricate rebranding process in the twelve years it has been in business, changing its name and logo several times. Prince also has created more than a dozen affiliate companies, some of which are registered offshore and whose operations are shrouded in secrecy. According to Doe #2, "Prince created and operated this web of companies in order to obscure wrongdoing, fraud and other crimes."

"For example, Mr. Prince transferred funds from one company (Blackwater) to another (Greystone) whenever necessary to avoid detection of his money laundering and tax evasion schemes." He added: "Mr. Prince contributed his personal wealth to fund the operations of the Prince companies whenever he deemed such funding necessary. Likewise, Mr. Prince took funds out of the Prince companies and placed the funds in his personal accounts at will."

Briefed on the substance of these allegations by The Nation, Congressman Dennis Kucinich replied, "If these allegations are true, Blackwater has been a criminal enterprise defrauding taxpayers and murdering innocent civilians." Kucinich is on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and has been investigating Prince and Blackwater since 2004.

"Blackwater is a law unto itself, both internationally and domestically. The question is why they operated with impunity. In addition to Blackwater, we should be questioning their patrons in the previous administration who funded and employed this organization. Blackwater wouldn't exist without federal patronage; these allegations should be thoroughly investigated," Kucinich said.

A hearing before Judge Ellis in the civil cases against Blackwater is scheduled for August 7.

Copyright © 2009 The Nation


Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/04-8


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Outrage over Afghan child deaths 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8185222.stm


The attack infuriated villagers who took the bodies to Kandahar city

Three children and a man have been killed in an overnight air strike by international forces, angry villagers in southern Afghanistan say.

The bodies were taken to the city of Kandahar to be displayed in front of officials. US and Nato-led forces said they were investigating the reports.

The issue of civilian casualties at the hands of foreign troops has caused deep resentment among Afghan people.

President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly spoken out against such incidents.

Gen Stanley McChrystal ordered troops to limit the use of airstrikes to prevent civilian casualties soon after assuming command of Nato and US forces last month.

The US military said it had killed four insurgents on motorcycles in the area of the alleged airstrikes, but could not confirm any civilian fatalities.


Concern about civilian deaths has prompted a shift in the US approach


A reporter for the Associated Press news agency witnessed residents of Kowuk bring the bodies of three boys and a man to the guesthouse of the Kandahar governor from their village, 20km (12 miles) north of the provincial capital, Kandahar city.

The villagers shouted "Death to America! Death to infidels!" as they displayed the corpses in the back of a pickup truck.

The father of the dead boys, Abdur Rahim, told AP that he heard a pair of helicopters circling over his compound early on Wednesday before they fired two missiles that hit his home.

His brother and another son were wounded, he said.

"What was the fault of my innocent children? They were not Taliban," Mr Rahim said.

"Did they come here to build our country or kill our innocent children?"

A US military spokeswoman confirmed that a helicopter had fired on four insurgents who were carrying jugs on motorcycles through a field away from a populated area of the local district, Arghandab.

"The helicopter engaged the militants with guns and rockets, however the explosions heard by locals were caused by the jugs exploding," Capt Elizabeth Mathias told AP.

She said that commanders on the ground were checking into reports of the civilian deaths.

Last week the UN said the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan had increased by nearly 25% in the first half of 2009 compared to the same period last year.

Separately, officials in the eastern province of Nangarhar said two tribal elders and their four bodyguards were killed by a roadside bomb.

Insurgent groups regularly carry out such attacks.

The violence came as the new secretary-general of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is in Afghanistan for talks on security ahead of this month's presidential and provincial elections.

Mr Rasmussen will be meeting the Afghan leadership, presidential candidates and senior officers from the Nato-led force which currently has more than 60,000 troops in the country.


 

Offline bigron

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Blackwater Responds to Murder Allegations


— By Daniel Schulman | Wed August 5, 2009 11:57 AM PST
http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2009/08/blackwater-responds-murder-allegations

Two ex-Blackwater employees (or individuals claiming to be) say the company and its enigmatic founder, Erik Prince, murdered—or arranged for the murders—of people cooperating with federal authorities investigating the controversial security firm. Blackwater, which renamed itself Xe earlier this year, says it "questions the judgement of anyone who relies upon" the anonymous declarations filed Monday in connection with a series of civil suits brought on behalf of Iraqi civilians. It calls the accusations—which also include charges of weapons smuggling, money laundering, and a "wife-swapping and sex ring" run out of the company's Moyock, North Carolina headquarters—"unsubstantiated," "offensive," and slanderous.

Earlier today, Blackwater/Xe spokeswoman Stacy DeLuke emailed me the company's statement on the allegations. I've updated my post from yesterday with the company's comments. Given the nature of the charges, I'm reprinting them again here (typos and all).

The proper place for this case to be litigated is in the Court, and we will respond fully in our reply brief (which will be filed on August 17) to the anonymous unsubstantiated  and offensive assertions put forward by the plaintiffs. Because the plaintiffs have chosen inappropriately to argue their case in the media, however, we will also say this:

- The  brief filed by Plaintiff includes two anonymous affidavits state that  their "information" has been provided to the Justice Department -- we can gauge the credence given to those statements --  which hold no water. When the indictments were announced, the United States Attorney the United States Attorney made a point of stating that "[t]he indictment does not charge or implicate Blackwater Worldwide"; "t charges only the actions of certain employees for their roles in the September 16 shooting." He emphasized that the indictment was "very narrow in its allegations": "Six individual Blackwater guards have been charged with unjustified shootings . . .  not the entire Blackwater organization in Baghdad.  There were 19 Blackwater guards on the . . . team that day . . . .  Most acted professionally, responsibly and honorably.  Indeed, this indictment should not be read as accusation against any of those brave men and women who risk their lives as Blackwater security contractors."

- It is obvious that Plaintiffs have chosen to slander Mr. Prince rather than raise legal arguments or actual facts that will be considered by a court of law. We are happy to engage them there.

-We question the judgment of anyone who relies upon and reiterate anonymous declarations.

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From The Times August 6, 2009

Blackwater security company was feared and despised by all Iraqis

Blackwater is a dirty word in Iraq

by Deborah Haynes and Oliver August

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6740737.ece

Blackwater is a dirty word in Iraq. Its guards became despised by the locals for their aggressive behaviour. In the most notorious case, 17 Iraqis died in a shootout involving a Blackwater convoy in Baghdad two years ago.

The killings triggered a backlash against the many foreign security companies that made fortunes after the invasion. Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, called for Blackwater to be ejected from the country in September 2007, but the North Carolina-based company managed to stay on. Now renamed Xe, it continued to protect US diplomats in the country until May this year, and will retain a presence until September.

Blackwater Worldwide was one of the first companies of its kind in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, winning multimillion-dollar contracts from Washington, which was keen to reduce military costs by turning to the private sector for help. Early in the conflict, four Blackwater guards were ambushed in Fallujah, a one-time insurgency hub to the west of Baghdad. Their burnt and mutilated bodies were hung from a bridge.

Blackwater guards — armed with machineguns and pistols, protected by body armour and typically wearing sunglasses, and powering through the streets in armoured vehicles with tinted windows — became feared and resented. Immune from Iraqi law until the start of this year, they would level their weapons at any civilian car that got too close. That act bred anger among locals who wondered why these foreigners, who were not military, were allowed to behave so threateningly.

Iraqi officials reacted gleefully to the news of fresh allegations against the company in legal documents filed in the United States.

“The company is mainly made up of mercenaries who lack high standards and discipline like official forces of international institutions,” said Tahsin al-Shekhli, a Defence Ministry spokesman.

“They needlessly massacred Iraqi citizens, and in cold blood.”


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Murder, Inc?

Blackwater accused of murder in 'crusade to eliminate Muslims'


By Keith Olberman and Jeremy Scahill
http://informationclearinghouse.info/article23205.htm

MSNBC Broadcast August 04, 2009  - See Part 2 Below Broadcast August 05, 2009

Watch :

"Countdown-The Nation's Jeremy Scahill on Blackwater chief Eric Prince's deep troubles"

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yofTTH46-qo&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Finformationclearinghouse%2Einfo%2Farticle23205%2Ehtm&feature=player_embedded

Transcript For August 04, 2009

OLBERMANN: The slaughter of civilians for sport, weapons smuggling, destruction of evidence, wholesale corruption and finally murder. In our third story on the COUNTDOWN, a full-fledged criminal enterprise executed by the military contractors known formally as Blackwater, according to the sworn testimony of two of its employees. "The Nation's" Jeremy Scahill, who broke the story, joins us in a moment.

The details come straight from two sworn affidavits filed late last night by persons who identities have been sealed to protect their identity, men who have previously cooperated with federal prosecutors in the criminal inquiry into Blackwater. From John Doe number two, a former member of Blackwater's management team, quoting the affidavit, "it appears that Mr. Erik Prince, Blackwater's founder, and his employees murdered or had murdered one or more persons who had provided information or were planning on providing information to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct. On several occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince's employ, Mr. Prince's management has personally threatened me with death and violence."

John Doe number two also stating that Mr. Prince, pictured here, smuggled unlawful weapons into Iraq, including sawed-off, semi-automatic machine guns with silencers and illegal hand grenades. The affidavit also says that Prince, quote, "views himself as a Christian crusader eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe. To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the crusades. Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game."

Striking similar allegations made in the affidavit of John Doe number one, a former U.S. marine who worked for Blackwater in Iraq. He alleges that incidences of unjustified deadly force were initially videotaped and watched in a session called a Hot Wash. Blackwater, now known as XE Services, spelled XE, maintains that Mr. Prince and the company are innocent of any wrongdoing and performed their duties on behalf of their employer, the State Department.

Joining me now, as promised, the contributor to "The Nation Magazine" and author of "Blackwater, the Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army," Jeremy Scahill. Good to see you. Thanks for coming in.

JEREMY SCAHILL, "THE NATION": Thanks for having me back, Keith.

OLBERMANN: As horrific as all this sounds, it's just part of what you described in the piece today. Flesh it out for us.

SCAHILL: Obviously to hear the term murder and Blackwater in the same sentence is no great surprise, particularly to people who have been following the history of this company. It's been at the center of some of the worst violence of in Iraq, killing civilians repeatedly. Five of its men are going to be tried on manslaughter charges for the Nisr (ph) Square Massacre in Baghdad in September '07. Another one pled guilty.

The Congress is investigating. The IRS is investigating. This is a scandal-plagued company.

What is explosive about what's happened here-and you just went through some of the most explosive of these details-is that you have two former Blackwater officials. I have learned from sources that's John Doe number two was actually in Blackwater management and was privy to some of the inner workings of the company.

Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater, remains the sole owner of the company, no matter that he stepped down as CEO and founder of the company. He micro-manages every aspect of Blackwater's operations and that's been well known.

On the Christian supremacist angle, let's remember that Erik Prince viewed Blackwater as a neo-crusader force and has from the beginning. This is a guy who comes from the powerhouse of the radical religious right. His father was a major bank roller and gave the seed money to Gary Bauer to start the Family Research Council, James Dobson, Focus on the Family.

And then we have his force employed in Iraq as part of a war against a Muslim nation that George Bush characterized as a crusade. What we have here, Keith, is a confirmation from insiders at Blackwater that, in fact, Erik Prince did have a neo-crusader agenda, and, most explosively, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were intending to or did cooperate in the federal government's criminal investigation of Blackwater.

This is deadly serious.

OLBERMANN: To the murder in a second. But you mentioned something in here that strikes an obvious question. How could the Bush administration's State Department have missed this crusader element here, or was that what they were looking for?

SCAHILL: Missed it? I think it was considered a plus in the Bush White House. Remember, Keith, what we had here was the Bush administration essentially create a force that acted as an armed wing of the administration, not subject to the military command, not subject to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, that reported directly to George Bush's secretary of state and then to the president.

These were his men, his private force in Baghdad. And the allegations that they were running around shooting Iraqis as part of a war to eliminate Islam globally, as is actually what one of these individuals said, is extremely disturbing to anyone who believes in any semblance of Constitution, law or human rights.

OLBERMANN: Some specifics, to what you know about them. This is a strong term murder in court documents. This is under oath. This is not somebody throwing something up against a wall to see if it will stick. Are we talking about something related to the 2007 Baghdad Massacre or something here?

SCAHILL: It's unclear but I will tell you what I do know about this, Keith. The fact of the matter is that these individuals, in these sworn depositions, provided those depositions to lawyers, Susan Burke and the Center for Constitution Rights, that are suing Blackwater on behalf of Iraqis killed by Blackwater operatives in Iraq. They are suing them in civil litigation.

What we do know is that these same individuals say that they gave this identical information to the federal government, one of them in Grand Jury testimony, as part of the on-going criminal investigation. When I called the Justice Department and asked specifically, are you investigating Erik Prince on allegations that he was involved with murder, the Justice Department interestingly said that they would not confirm or deny any action that they may or may not be taking against uncharged individuals.

Erik Prince, according to the lawyers suing Blackwater, could be eligible for murder charges in both Virginia and the state of North Carolina under this existing law. That's the argument they're making in their motion that was filed late last night in the Eastern District of Virginia.

OLBERMANN: Jeremy Scahill, who has been the watchdog on Blackwater, now Xe, of "The Nation," who brought this story to everyone's attention today. Great thanks for doing so and great thanks for coming in.

SCAHILL: Thank you, Keith.

Update - MSNBC Broadcast August 05, 2009

Watch :

"Keith Olbermann: Blackwater - Murder, Inc."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW9g6ao1p9U&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Finformationclearinghouse%2Einfo%2Farticle23205%2Ehtm&feature=player_embedded

 

Blackwater Founder's Visions of Christian Supremacy in Iraq

By Kevin Gosztola

Open Salon --- Explosive allegations concerning Blackwater have recently become public in a bombshell of a story published by Jeremy Scahill, a man who has been on the Blackwater beat for years now.

Two individuals, a former employee and a Marine who used to work as a security operative, allege that Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, may have murdered or assisted in the murders of individuals who were helping federal authorities investigate his company. 

What’s striking isn’t that Blackwater and murder is in the news. Blackwater has a history of being linked to allegations of murder (for example, the Nissour Square killings on September 16, 2007).

The most salient part of this news are the words written in a five page declaration by a former member of Blackwater’s management team, who is being referred to as “John Doe #2” because he fears he may face violent retaliation if his identity is found out.

Doe #2 alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe":

To that end, Mr. Prince intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis. Many of these men used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades.

Mr. Prince operated his companies in a manner that encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life. For example, Mr. Prince's executives would openly speak about going over to Iraq to "lay Hajiis out on cardboard." Going to Iraq to shoot and kill Iraqis was viewed as a sport or game. Mr. Prince's employees openly and consistently used racist and derogatory terms for Iraqis and other Arabs, such as "ragheads" or "hajiis."

That Erik Prince may have been involved in murders of people cooperating with investigations of his company isn't as important as the fact that if this is true he murdered because he felt compelled by a higher power to do so.

Jeremy Scahill, a journalist for The Nation and the man who broke this news story yesterday, discussed Prince’s Christian supremacist ideology on Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann yesterday night.

“…let`s remember that Erik Prince viewed Blackwater as a neo-crusader force and has from the beginning. This is a guy who comes from the powerhouse of the radical religious right. His father was a major bank roller and gave the seed money to Gary Bauer to start the Family Research Council, James Dobson, Focus on the Family.

And then we have his force employed in Iraq as part of a war against a Muslim nation that George Bush characterized as a crusade. What we have here, Keith, is a confirmation from insiders at Blackwater that, in fact, Erik Prince did have a neo-crusader agenda, and, most explosively, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were intending to or did cooperate in the federal government`s criminal investigation of Blackwater…”

When asked how Bush could have missed the “crusader element,” Scahill rightfully explained that Bush viewed this as a “plus” and did not miss it.

Scahill said, “These were his men, his private force in Baghdad. And the allegations that they were running around shooting Iraqis as part of a war to eliminate Islam globally, as is actually what one of these individuals said, is extremely disturbing to anyone who believes in any semblance of Constitution, law or human rights.

Robert Weitzel, in an article titled, “U.S.’s Military Crusade for Christ,” writes that “Prince envisions an evangelical “end time” role for his warriors, “Everybody carries guns, just like Jeremiah rebuilding the temple in Israel—a sword in one hand and a trowel in the other.””

Prince has served on the board of directors of Christian Freedom International, a “crusading missionary organization operating in the overwhelmingly Islamic countries of Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Prince is and has been one of many leaders who have been using forces and violence because of what they believe. When considering other crusader elements that have played a role in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the entire “war on terror,” it becomes more apparent that the U.S. is waging violence in a calculated manner similar to Islamic jihad and many are doing it for religious reasons like Islamic jihadists, aiming to advance a Christian supremacist agenda.

In 2007, Operation Stand Up planned to send “freedom packages” to soldiers and Marines in Iraq that would have contained Bibles and “the apocalyptic video game, "Left Behind: Eternal Forces,” where “Christians carry on warfare against people of other faiths.” (The Military Religious Freedom Foundation prevented the packages from being sent.)

Campus Crusade for Christ (known as “cru” on college campuses) has been providing weekly “God’s Basic Training” programs to the U.S. Air Force Academy so that “‘government paid missionaries’ can complete their training.”

Televangelist John Hagee, a pastor of a 16,000 member church with millions of viewers a week, preaches “that in order to bring about the Second Coming of Christ and the Rapture of true believers, Islam first has to be destroyed.”

In an interview on NPR, Hagee, who Americans may remember from John McCain’s presidential campaign, said on Fresh Air in September of 2006:

GROSS: Pastor Hagee, if you believe that the Bible takes precedence over Washington, D.C., I would assume maybe you'd think the Bible takes precedence over the Israeli government as well. If you use the Bible as the basis of policy, is there any room for compromise? And if you use the Bible as the basis for policy, then should Muslims be using the Quran as the basis of their policy? And again, what possible room for compromise is there at that point?

HAGEE: There's really no room for compromise between radical Islam and --

GROSS: I'm not talking about radical Islam. I'm just talking about Islam in general.

HAGEE: Well, Islam in general, those who live by the Quran have a scriptural mandate to kill Christians and Jews. Now, I had an Islamic on my television show last week. His name was Walid Shoebat. He was raised as a Palestinian terrorist and at one time was -- placed a bomb and was supposed to walk into a bank. And I said, "Walid, I'm trying to understand the definition of what is a radical Islamic person, because I've read many books, many magazines and I can't come up with a good definition of what constitutes a radical Islamic." And he says these words, and I'll quote them, he said, "Anyone who truly believes the Quran is willing to kill Christians or Jews. That's waging jihad." He said, "Now, those people who are willing to go into another country and start a war will only be about 15 to 20 percent of Islam."

There are 1.3 billion people who follow the Islamic faith, so if you're saying there's only 15 percent that want to come to America or invade Israel to crush it, you're only talking about 200 million people. That's far more than Hitler and Japan and Italy and all of the axis powers in World War II had under arms. That is a massive number of people. So while we may define radical Islam as a minority, because there are so many, it is still an overpowering military potential.

Bush once thanked Hagee for “spreading the hope of God's love and the universal gift of freedom." 

If you recall, in May, GQ got a hold of “briefing covers” showing that briefings from Rumsfeld and elite Pentagon strategists on progress in Iraq came illustrated by “victorious quotes from the Bible and gung-ho photographs of U.S. troops.”


Major General Glen Shaffer, the director for intelligence serving Mr Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a devout Christian dressed the briefings up with religious themes and Bush read them and accepted that what was happening in Iraq as part of his “mission from God.”

The latest news from Iraq reported by the Jerusalem Post is that Iran’s Fars news agency is claiming the CIA and Mossad have been “actively promoting Christianity in the Kurdish region of Iraq.”

The agency claims Americans and Israelis have been “offering $1,000 to any youngster willing to convert to Christianity.”

To those who have read the opening chapters of Reza Aslan’s How to Win a Cosmic War or for those familiar with the core ideas of his book, you know how dangerous it is that American foreign policy is so entangled with Christian supremacist forces in America.

Aslan argues, for the most part, that the way to win a cosmic war (how he characterizes “the war on terror”) is to not fight it. But, Christian supremacists acting based on what they believe about end times will never choose to not fight.

So long as people like Erik Prince and others with views similar to him influence foreign policy or play a role in carrying out America’s foreign policy goals and objectives, Americans can count on hearing more news of torture and abuse of Muslims, more news of murder and mass killings of Muslims, and more news proselytizing and attempts to convert Muslims.

We can count on a bloody war on Islam to continue under the guise of the "war on terror."

UPDATE 1

For additional reading on how Christian supremacist ideology is transforming the U.S. military, check out Jeff Sharlet's article from Harper's, which was published in May of this year.

Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military
http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/05/0082488


Offline bigron

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Iraqis speak of random killings committed by private Blackwater guards

by Oliver August, Times
http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m56731&hd=&size=1&l=e

 

Suhad Abul-Ameer, mother of Ali Husamaldeen, who was killed by members of Blackwater, carries his picture as she prays at her house in Baghdad


Baghdad, August 6, 2009

Guards employed by Blackwater, the US security company, shot Iraqis and killed victims in allegedly unprovoked and random attacks, it was claimed yesterday.

A Virginia court also received sworn statements from former Blackwater employees yesterday alleging that Erik Prince, the company’s founder, "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe".

They also accused the company of following a policy of deliberate killings and arms dealing and of employing people unfit or improperly trained to handle lethal weaponry.

In Baghdad yesterday, some Iraqis said they believed that the case was a last chance for justice and an opportunity for America to divorce the behaviour of its military from the private guards.

Farid Walid, who was shot in Nisour Square two years ago during a massacre that killed 17 Iraqis, said: "Everybody here knows of cases where Blackwater guards shot innocent people without a second thought. They are a symbol of the occupation. Nobody will forget. But Iraqis might think at least a little differently of America if the killers are put in prison."

Mr Walid is among several Iraqis behind an attempt to take Blackwater to court in the US, helped by an American lawyer, Susan Burke, and her local legal team.

Umm Sajjad, whose husband was allegedly shot by Blackwater guards, said: "The US forces have come to our neighbourhood many times and they never harmed anybody. It was Blackwater that wanted to harm people."

Her husband was working as a security guard at the Iraqi Media Network, a state broadcaster, when a Blackwater convoy passed them one day in 2007. She says that without warning, the Iraqis were fired upon and three of them were killed. The Blackwater convoy never stopped or sent anyone to check what happened.

Umm Sajjad said: "I was told that there was no exchange of fire or any other reason to provoke them to shoot at my husband and his colleagues. They were on a high building but they didn’t have weapons in their hands."

Other families have tales of shootings allegedly committed by Blackwater, which has since changed its name.

Abu Suhad lost his daughter in 2007 when she was driving her car near the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in central Baghdad. He said: "Eyewitnesses told me that four white Blackwater cars went by her. Three were already past when the last one shot her in the head at close range and killed her. The eyewitnesses said they were very bewildered why they shot her. The bullet came from the driver’s window, which means that he got next to her when he shot her. The bullet entered from under the ear and left from the upper side of her skull. There were bits of her hair and skin on the car roof."

Mr Walid remembers the Nisour Square shooting on September 16, 2007 — for Iraqis one of the blacker days of the US occupation. Claiming to have come under fire, Blackwater guards stopped in the middle of a large roundabout and began shooting in all directions.

"I left my car and ran away to hide in a petrol station, which was made of concrete. The shooting was so heavy it was like rain," he said. "I saw lots of people getting shot. The driver who had been in front of me died and his wife fell out of the car. Her child was killed as well. The shooting went on for about ten minutes."

Iraqis still find it hard to believe that companies such as Blackwater were given such free rein. Until the start of this year its employees were immune from prosecution in the country.

In another alleged incident involving the company, Ali Husamaldeen was walking in Wathba Square, central Baghdad, on September 9, 2007, when he was felled by a single gunshot. Passers-by reported a Blackwater helicopter overhead, from which they say the fatal shot was fired. According to his mother, Umm Ali, her son was unarmed and in no way a threat.

Leqaa al-Yaseen, an MP, said: "I believe the US authorities have the main responsibility for what happened because Blackwater came to Iraq with their permission. Regarding Blackwater smuggling weapons into Iraq, that suggests the US forces didn’t know about it at the time. But I think they did know.

"The tragedies that happened to our Iraqi people at Nisour Square and other places are not separate from the US forces in Iraq. The US Government is trying to avoid responsibility by blaming private companies."

Officials in Baghdad have told The Times that they are continuing to investigate allegations similar to those made in the US against Blackwater.

Major-General Fathel al-Barwari, commander of the Iraqi Special Operations Forces, said he was gathering evidence of illegal weapons trading by the company. As a result, Blackwater could also face criminal prosecution in Iraq, where it is now banned, but other companies connected to Mr Prince still operate.

Tahseen Al-Shekhli, for the defence ministry in Baghdad, said: "If the allegations of illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq are proven, the Iraqi authorities will definitely take legal measures against this company."

The Iraqi Government has tightened up rules for private security companies in recent years.



 

Offline bigron

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Security firm denies criminal allegation

Published: Aug. 6, 2009 at 2:18 AM
http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/08/06/Security-firm-denies-criminal-allegation/UPI-95801249539507


Chairman of Blackwater USA Erik Prince testifies before a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on private security contracting in Iraq in Washington on October 2, 2007. (UPI Photo/Kevin Dietsch)

Xe, a private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, has denied claims in court documents that its founder engaged in criminal activity in Iraq.

The allegations are contained in affidavits filed in Virginia in a lawsuit brought by two former employees of Blackwater. The plaintiffs -- who are identified only as John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 -- accuse Blackwater founder and former Chief Executive Officer Erik Prince of murder and other serious crimes in Iraq, CNN reported.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Virginia on behalf of Iraqi families who say relatives were killed by Blackwater personnel.

Xe issued a statement saying it would file a brief Aug. 17 in response "to the anonymous unsubstantiated and offensive assertions put forward by the plaintiffs."

The firm was contracted until May by the U.S. State Department to provide security in Iraq. The government did not renew the contract, CNN said.



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Blackwater used 'child prostitutes in Iraq' 


08/08/2009 09:04:00 PM GMT
 
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/Blackwater_used_child_prostitutes_in_Iraq_.html


New disturbing charges have emerged against XE, the infamous private security firm formerly known as Blackwater Worldwide, whose operations came under spotlight after its 2007 carnage in Baghdad.

According to a report by MSNBC and based on alleged sworn declarations by two Blackwater employees in federal court, the firm used child prostitutes at its compound in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone.

The declarations added Iraqi minors got involve in sexual acts with Blackwater members in exchange for one dollar and Erik Prince, the firm's owner, "failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men."

Based on other statements, the firm was involved in another sex scandal; "Prince's North Carolina operations had an ongoing wife-swapping and sex ring, which was participated in by many of Mr. Prince's top executives."

The two employees also alleged that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," The Nation reported.

Prince also allegedly forced health professional to endorse the redeployment of those Blackwater members who had been mental problems, such as excessive drinking and drug abuse.

Other charges against the firm include arms smuggling, money laundering and tax evasion.

The criminal activities of the firm first came under scrutiny after a group of the firm's members who were tasked to guard US diplomats in Iraq opened fire on civilians in Baghdad on September 2007, killing 17 people.

According to federal contract data obtained by The Nation, the Obama administration has recently extended a contract with Blackwater for more than $20 million for "security services" in Iraq.



-- Press TV

 
 

 

Offline bigron

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US Still Paying Blackwater Millions

by Jeremy Scahill
http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m56778&hd=&size=1&l=e


 

August 8, 2009



Just days before two former Blackwater employees alleged in sworn statements filed in federal court that the company's owner, Erik Prince, "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," the Obama administration extended a contract with Blackwater for more than $20 million for "security services" in Iraq, according to federal contract data obtained by The Nation. The State Department contract is scheduled to run through September 3. In May, the State Department announced it was not renewing Blackwater's Iraq contract, and the Iraqi government has refused to issue the company an operating license.

"They are still there, but we are transitioning them out," a State Department official told The Nation. According to the State Department, the $20 million represents an increase on an aviation contract that predates the Obama administration.
Despite its scandal-plagued track record, Blackwater (which has rebranded itself as Xe) continues to have a presence in Iraq, trains Afghan forces on US contracts and provides government-funded training for military and law enforcement inside the United States. The company is also actively bidding on other government contracts, including in Afghanistan, where the number of private contractors is swelling. According to federal contracting records reviewed by The Nation, since President Barack Obama took office in January the State Department has contracted with Blackwater for more than $174 million in "security services" alone in Iraq and Afghanistan and tens of millions more in "aviation services." Much of this money stems from existing contracts from the Bush era that have been continued by the Obama administration. While Obama certainly inherited a mess when it came to Blackwater's entrenchment in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has continued the widespread use of armed private contractors in both countries. Blackwater's role may be slowly shrinking, but its work is continuing through companies such as DynCorp and Triple Canopy.

"These contracts with Blackwater need to stop," says Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat and a member of the House Select Committee on Intelligence. "There's already enough evidence of gross misconduct and serious additional allegations against the company and its owner to negate any possibility that this company should have a presence in Iraq, Afghanistan or any conflict zone--or any contract with the US government."

On July 24 the Army signed an $8.9 million contract with Blackwater's aviation wing, Presidential Airways, for aviation services at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Bagram, home to a massive--and expanding--US-run prison, has been the subject of intense criticism from the ACLU and human rights groups for holdings hundreds of prisoners without charges and denying them habeas corpus and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Blackwater aviation contract for Afghanistan is described as "Air Charter for Things" and "Nonscheduled Chartered Passenger Air Transportation." The military signed an additional $1.4 million contract that day for "Nonscheduled" passenger transportation in Afghanistan. These payments are part of aviation contracts dating back to the Bush era, and continued under Obama, that have brought Blackwater tens of millions of dollars in Afghanistan since January. In May, Blackwater operatives on contract with the Department of Defense allegedly killed an unarmed Afghan civilian and wounded two others. Moreover, Presidential Airways is being sued by the families of US soldiers killed in a suspicious crash in Afghanistan in November 2004.

The sworn affidavits from the former Blackwater employees, first reported by The Nation on August 3, have sparked renewed calls on Capitol Hill for the Obama administration to cancel all business with Blackwater. "I believe that the behavior of Xe, its leadership, and many of its employees, puts our government and military personnel, as well as our military and diplomatic objectives, at serious risk," Schakowsky wrote in an August 6 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "Given this company's history of abuse and in light of recent allegations, I urge you not to award further contracts to Xe and its affiliates and to review all existing contracts with this company." Schakowsky sent a similar letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.

Meanwhile, VoteVets.org, a leading veterans' organization, has called on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to investigate the allegations contained in the sworn declarations submitted in the Eastern District of Virginia on August 3. VoteVets.org, which has more than 100,000 members, also appealed to the House and Senate Judiciary Committees to "immediately hold hearings, and make recommendations on a new legal structure" to hold private military contractors accountable for alleged crimes.

"Given the charges made against Xe and Erik Prince in these sworn statements, which include smuggling and use of illegal arms inside of Iraq, as well as the encouraged murder of innocent Iraqis, it is essential that these loopholes be closed, retroactively, so that Xe, Prince, and his employees cannot escape proper prosecution in the United States now or in the future," wrote the group's chair Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran, in a letter to Senator John Kerry and other lawmakers. "It is absolutely crucial that we show Iraqis and the rest of the world that no matter who you are or how big your company is, you will be held accountable for your conduct--especially when in a war zone. Failure to do so only emboldens our enemy, and gives them yet another tool to recruit more insurgents and terrorists that target our men and women in harm's way."

For its part, Blackwater/Xe issued a statement responding to the sworn statements of two of its former employees. The company called the allegations "unsubstantiated and offensive assertions." It said the lawyers representing alleged Iraqi victims of Blackwater "have chosen to slander Mr. Prince rather than raise legal arguments or actual facts that will be considered by a court of law. We are happy to engage them there."

What Blackwater/Xe's statement did not flatly say is that the allegations are untrue. "I would have expected a crisp denial," says military law expert Scott Horton, who has followed this case closely. "The statement had the look of a denial to it, without actually refuting the specific allegations. I can understand why from the perspective of a corporate public affairs officer--just repeating the allegations would be harmful and would add to their credibility."

Blackwater also claims that the accusations "hold no water" because, even though the two former employees said that they had already provided similar information to federal prosecutors, no further Blackwater operatives or officials have been indicted. The company claims that according to the US attorney, the indictment of five Blackwater employees for the September 2007 Nisour Square shootings is "very narrow in its allegation" and does not charge "the entire Blackwater organization in Baghdad."

But, as Blackwater certainly knows, there are multiple prosecutors looking into its activities on a wide range of issues, and more than one grand jury can be seated at any given time. Simply because indictments were not announced regarding other actions when the Nisour Square charges were brought by the Justice Department does not mean Prince, Blackwater and its management are in the clear.

"We know that the federal criminal investigation is still ongoing, so this prosecutor's statement was not really anything definitive," says Horton. "Second, the presumption in US law is that, with fairly rare exceptions, crimes are committed by natural persons, not by legal entities like corporations. A corporation might be fined, for instance, but if it's deeply entangled in criminal dealings, it's the officers who would be prosecuted. Among other things, of course, it's impossible to put a corporation in the slammer. So saying that Blackwater wasn't charged with any crime really doesn't mean much."

Blackwater says it will formally respond to the allegations against Prince and Blackwater in a legal motion on August 17 in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Prince and the company are being sued for war crimes and other alleged crimes by Susan Burke and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

On August 5, Blackwater's lawyers filed a motion with the court reiterating their request for a gag order to be placed on the plaintiffs and their lawyers. That motion largely consisted of quotes from two recent Nation magazine articles covering the case, including one about the allegations against Prince. Despite the fact that the affidavits of "John Doe #1" and "John Doe #2" were public, Blackwater accused the lawyers of "providing this information" to the media. Blackwater's lawyers charged that the plaintiffs' attorneys comments to The Nation were intended "to fuel this one-sided media coverage and to taint the jury pool against [Erik Prince and Blackwater]," adding that The Nation articles and the "coordinated media campaign" of the lawyers "demonstrate a clear need for an Order restraining extrajudicial commentary by the parties and their counsel." On August 7, Judge T.S. Ellis III, a Reagan appointee, denied Blackwater's motion.



 

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Briton, Australian Contractors Killed in Iraq Shooting  
 
10/08/2009 06:53:56 AM GMT   
 
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/Briton_Australian_Contractors_Killed_in_Iraq_Shoo.html
 
Two men, one Australian and one British security contractor, were killed in a shooting inside central Baghdad's secure "Green Zone" early on Sunday, a British embassy official said.
   
"We're looking into an incident... involving some Brits. As far as I know we have two fatalities. One British and one Australian," embassy spokesman Jawad Syed told AFP.
   
The victims were killed in the heavily fortified area which is home to foreign embassies and Iraqi government offices, Syed said.
¬
Source: AJP
 

Offline bigron

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Baghdad meets the Wild West


Private security contractors in Iraq operate in an environment
where violence, alcohol and inexperience are rife



by Sharkey

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m56860&hd=&size=1&l=e

August 11, 2009

The arrest of a British contractor in the Baghdad Green Zone for the murder two of his colleagues has once again shone a spotlight on the behaviour of private security companies working in Iraq. Here "Sharkey", a private security contractor who has spent much of the past six years in Iraq, describes his experiences and the changing nature of the industry.

Baghdad's Green Zone compounds are a lot like the Wild West; often volatile, foreboding places, where disparate groups of men and personalities are thrown together and expected to get along. They are mini-forts behind concrete walls, with many of the trappings of western life, including alcohol. There are guys operating under stress there and others who simply shouldn't be there in the first place.

Add to that the overall environment in which they are operating. Iraq is not a normal place, and nor is the Green Zone where most of the companies are based. Along with having young men armed to the teeth, most of their outfits have bars.

A couple of years ago at one of the compounds inside the British embassy, around 50 young guys got into a fist fight. They were young and obnoxious, many were on steroids and there they were with guns and beer, which should never mix.

A friend of mine from the regiment was looking after a top Iraqi politician and two SAS guys he was with got in an argument and pulled weapons on each other. They didn't start shooting, but it was close.

Another time, I was in one of the compounds celebrating a birthday for one of the lads and it was obvious all night that something was going to kick off. There were the tight T-shirts, the Americans, the Brits and the attitude. Sure enough, a brawl erupted.

Most contractors have a story or two about violence of some sort in one of the compounds. Several years back, I was in a low-profile car out near the airport and one of the Blackwater guys fired just above me, believing I had got too close to him. I was livid and took him to task on the spot. Several nights later, I saw him at one of the bars, and he walked over to me. I thought he wanted to fight, but he offered his hand in apology.

I accepted and we got drunk together, so gripes can be sorted there just as they could be in an English bar.

But none of us went out drinking with a weapon. It's my philosophy that when you have a weapon you just should not drink. End of story.

I was in Baghdad in May 2003 and have spent much of the past six years working all around Iraq. When the occupation phase of the war started, the security companies specialised in ex-special forces operatives from all the three British units, the SAS, the SBS and the Det (an intelligence-driven unit operating in Northern Ireland).

But when the contracts got bigger and more manpower was needed, the companies turned towards a lower tier which was ex-military, but had much less experience in close protection. The contracts kept coming hard and fast and the industry started taking in all comers.

They were greedy and their standards dropped. Soon they were hiring people with no military experience at all; doormen from pubs and people who had done a bodyguard course were all of a sudden calling themselves private security contractors.

There were paramilitaries from developing nations, mercenaries from South Africa and desperados looking for a quick buck. Many of them were trigger-happy and boisterous. It became farcical. They had no idea of risk or how to manage it. Standards kept slipping to the extent that guys were taking massive pay cuts.

To put that into perspective, some of them were only earning £175 per day. I was earning £250 per day in the south of France 15 years ago.



 


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Iraq contractor KBR cited by oversight commission

Wartime contracting commission takes aim at KBR for resisting oversight, failing to cut costs

RICHARD LARDNER
AP News
http://wire.antiwar.com/2009/08/11/iraq-contractor-kbr-cited-by-oversight-commission/

Aug 11, 2009 17:43 EST

An independent panel examining waste and fraud in wartime spending accused contracting giant KBR Inc. on Tuesday of resisting government oversight and failing to cut costs on support work in Iraq.

During a hearing held by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, KBR defended its performance, telling the panel the company was under heavy pressure to meet the urgent demands of military commanders.

KBR's internal accounting and cost estimating systems have been inadequate since 2005, commissioners said, leading to questionable billings and drawn out arguments with federal auditors over hundreds of millions of dollars in charges.

Commissioner Dov Zakheim said KBR's top managers meet regularly with the Defense Contract Audit Agency. Yet the company has been unable to come up with solutions that satisfy the agency. By comparison, other large contractors, such as Dyncorp International, seem to work out their problems quickly, he said.

"Are you guys stonewalling?" asked Zakheim, a former Pentagon comptroller.

William Walter, KBR's senior vice president for government compliance, said the company was incurring expenses for the work it was doing in Iraq at the same time auditors were poring over the company's cost projections, a situation prone to confusion and disagreements.

"It's a vicious cycle that we were stuck in," Walter said. He described the disagreements over contract charges as "differences of judgments."

KBR is the primary support contractor in Iraq, providing troops with essential services, including housing, meals, mail delivery and laundry. The company has been paid more than $32 billion since 2001.

But in a prior report, the commission said billions of dollars of that amount ended up wasted due to poorly defined work orders, inadequate oversight and contractor inefficiencies.

Commissioner Charles Tiefer said KBR is keeping more employees in Iraq than it should in order to keep charging the government for work even as U.S. forces are drawing down.

In late January, Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, ordered military units to begin cutting U.S. contractors by 5 percent each quarter and to hire Iraqis instead.

Tiefer, a professor of government contracting at the University of Baltimore Law School, said figures he's compiled show KBR's personnel rates in Iraq are declining more slowly than others.

"They're slow rolling the drawdown," he said.

Walter said much work remains to be done in Iraq even as the U.S. presence is decreasing. That includes shutting down bases and housing units.

Commissioners also faulted KBR for building a $30 million dining facility at a U.S. base in Iraq shortly after the company had renovated the base's existing mess hall at a cost of $3.36 million.

The panel wanted to know whether KBR tried to tell the military the new facility was unnecessary, especially with American forces scheduled to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

Walter said the renovation work and the new facility were two separate contracts from two different Army agencies, evidence of the need for government to speak with "one voice."

"And nobody from KBR went to anybody senior in the Army and said, 'What in God's name are you doing?'" Zakheim said.

Walter said KBR does what it is told to do by the customer.

Commissioner Linda Gustitus asked Walter whether the company has been criticized by government officials for not proactively seeking cost savings.

Walter didn't answer immediately.

"The answer is yes, by the way," Gustitus said.

___

On the Net:

Commission on Wartime Contracting: http://www.wartimecontracting.gov/

Source: AP News


Offline bigron

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Blackwater should be blacklisted

By Linda S. Heard
http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m56902&hd=&size=1&l=e



Online Journal - Aug 12, 2009, 00:19

The notorious private security company Blackwater, which now calls itself Xe Services, has become the center of a growing storm. In sworn statements filed in a US federal court on Aug. 3, two former employees allege that the company’s founder and owner Erik Prince either murdered or arranged the murder of witnesses who were cooperating with federal investigators.

For fear of ending up in the same boat, the men’s identities have been concealed, so statements were made in the names of John Doe 1 and John Doe 2. The story that was initially broken by author and journalist Jeremy Scahill in The Nation has been picked up by most mainstream television networks and newspapers and is being intensely debated.

John Doe 1 is an ex-marine who was sent by Blackwater to Iraq to guard American government personnel and now has a laundry list of accusations against his former employer. He says the company smuggled weapons into Iraq hidden in bags of dog food, which were used by persons not properly vetted by the State Department to kill or injure Iraqi civilians. He says his colleagues fired upon vehicles without stopping to check whether civilians were alive or in need of medical care and failed to report such incidents to either the Iraqi authorities or the State Department.

John Doe 2 says he worked for Blackwater for four years and has been threatened by the company’s management with "death and violence." In addition, he says, "based on information provided to me by former colleagues, it appears that Prince and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct." He further accused Prince of setting up a web of companies to obscure wrongdoing, fraud and other crimes, including money laundering, illegal arms dealing and tax evasion.

In the same statement John Doe 2 alleges that Prince views himself as a Christian Crusader, tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe and to that end he intentionally deployed to Iraq certain men who shared his vision of Christian supremacy, "knowing and wanting these men to take every available opportunity to murder Iraqis."

Many of these men, he says, "used call signs based on the Knights of the Templar, the warriors who fought the Crusades." He claims that Prince’s executives considered the killing of Iraqis as a sport, while company employees would regularly use such racist or derogatory terms such as "raghead" when referring to Arabs. He also accuses Blackwater of providing its employees with weaponry designed for maximum kill that had not been approved by the US authorities.

Lastly, he says Prince was a frequent visitor to the company’s "man camp" in Iraq’s Green Zone and failed to stop his men drinking heavily, taking steroids, and using prostitutes, including "child prostitutes."

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who sits on a House committee that has been investigating Blackwater’s activities for the past five years, says if the allegations are true then "Blackwater has been a criminal enterprise defrauding taxpayers and murdering innocent civilians."

"Blackwater is a law unto itself, both internationally and domestically," he said. "The question is why they operated with impunity. In addition to Blackwater, we should be questioning their patrons in the previous administration who funded and employed this organization. Blackwater wouldn’t exist without federal patronage; these allegations should be thoroughly investigated."

The company has denied the allegations, adding that it will respond formally on Aug. 17 in a federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia.

The reclusive Prince and his company were embroiled in scandal after scandal before these latest revelations. In 2007, Prince was called before Congress to be questioned on circumstances surrounding the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians by a Blackwater security detail. In September of that year, federal prosecutors launched an investigation into employees of Blackwater accused of smuggling weapons into Iraq that were later allegedly transferred to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the US and other countries consider to be a terrorist organization.

Yet despite its murky reputation, the Obama administration has signed contracts with Blackwater for security services in Iraq and Afghanistan to the tune of $174 million plus untold millions more for aviation services. Just last month, Blackwater’s Presidential Airways received a US Army contract for aviation services in Afghanistan worth $ 8.9 million.

At the same time, the company feels free to bid for further US government contracts and is currently doing so. In the heat of war, perhaps former President Bush can be forgiven for seeking the help of one of his evangelical cronies without too much oversight but what excuse does President Obama have for his failure to be discerning?

Even if the John Doe allegations turn out to be exaggerated, it is well documented that Blackwater thugs have been involved in hundreds of shooting incidents inside Iraq, including the killing of a vice president’s security guard that resulted in the inebriated killer being quickly shipped out of the country and allowed to walk free. Isn’t it time that the families of those victims were given their day in court so they can seek justice? The problem is so-called US contractors were given immunity from prosecution, but this should not prevent Blackwater’s boss, Erik Prince, being called to account in an American court.

Speaking to MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, Jeremy Scahill characterized Prince as "a guy who comes from the powerhouse of the radical religious right" who viewed Blackwater as a neo-Crusader force from the beginning. "And then we have his force employed in Iraq as part of a war against a Muslim nation that George Bush characterized as a crusade," he said.

Congresswoman Rep. Jan Schakowsky D-Illinois has urged US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not to enter into further contracts with Xe and to immediately review any existing contracts. In a letter copied to CNN, she says, "the behavior and actions of both the company’s leadership and a number of individuals employed by the company have harmed our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and endangered the lives and welfare of our troops and diplomatic personnel serving overseas." Good for her! But why isn’t Congress in its entirety up in arms when America’s reputation as a force for good is, surely, at stake?
Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at [email protected].





 

Offline bigron

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Major problems cited in Iraq interpreter contract


By RICHARD LARDNER, Associated Press Writer Richard Lardner, Associated Press Writer

Wed Aug 12, 5:47 pm ET
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090812/ap_on_re_us/us_us_iraq_translators
 
WASHINGTON – A company with a $4.6 billion contract to supply U.S. forces in Iraq with Arabic-speaking translators received a scathing review on Wednesday from government officials who described tens of millions of dollars in questionable costs and poor management.

The company, Global Linguist Solutions, has not been replaced because there isn't another company readily available to provide the linguists even as the U.S. presence in Iraq is winding down, the officials said at a hearing by the independent Commission on Wartime Contracting.

Federal contracting officers who went to Iraq to examine the company's performance found about $5 million being spent on three-bedroom apartments and automobiles for individual contractor employees, said John Isgrigg, deputy director of contracting at the Army Intelligence and Security Command.

At the same time, the company was slow getting linguists into Iraq, Isgrigg said. GLS is now meeting the required numbers, he said.

Interpreters provide critical links between U.S. troops and foreign populations in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet finding steady numbers of translators for troops in foreign war zones has troubled the government for years. At times during the war in Iraq, the U.S. experienced shortages among translators to aid American troops.

John Houck, the company's general manager, defended the company's performance, saying that more than 9,000 interpreters are working in Iraq and other Middle East countries. He said greater communication between customer and contractor would likely resolve most of the problems.

Isgrigg said Global Logistics Solutions initially struggled to meet the heavy demands. An Army unit in Iraq was "non-mission capable with respect to linguist support," he said.

The shortcomings led to a dispute over how the company was spending the money. Subsequent negotiations with GLS to cut the cost of contract's first installment by about $225 million were "extremely contentious," he said.

Isgrigg said he and other government officials believe GLS "lost control of their subcontractors and associated costs due to their business practices and management decisions."

Isgrigg acknowledged that too few government personnel were assigned to manage and watch over the contract, which he referred to as a "monster."

He also criticized GLS management for what he called a media campaign to convince U.S. authorities in Iraq that the salaries of linguists would have to be slashed because the command was reducing the value of the contract.

Instead, it was GLS that was trimming the salaries to make up for the lower cost of the contract, he said. The company then attempted to shift the blame to the government.

Houck denied there was a media campaign, but he did say people employed by GLS did talk to military officials.

April Stephenson, director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, said $2.9 billion of the $4.6 billion has been used to hire 18 subcontractors. The sole role of a dozen of these smaller companies is to pay the linguists.

"These 12 subcontractors do not hire, manage or interact with the linguists other than to pay the amount stipulated by GLS," Stephenson testified.

If all the options years of the contract are exercised, Stephenson said, this arrangement could total $556 million in unnecessary costs.

Houck said the contract was structured that way to ensure that linguists, who are often operating in hard-to-reach locations, are paid on time. "If a subcontractor was not to pay their linguists ... that would have direct impact on the mission," he said.

___

On the Net:

Army Intelligence and Security Command: http://www.inscom.army.mil/Default.aspx?textoff&size12pt


Offline bigron

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DynCorp Billed U.S. $50 Million Beyond Costs in Defense Contract

By V. Dion Haynes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/11/AR2009081103461_pf.html


A Defense Department auditor testified Tuesday that DynCorp International billed the government $50 million more than the amount specified in a contract to provide dining facilities and living quarters for military personnel in Kuwait.

April G. Stephenson, director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, described a variety of problems in DynCorp contracts associated with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. She appeared before the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, which Congress established to investigate overspending by military contractors and issue recommendations for improvement.

Stephenson said the Falls Church-based company exceeded the costs outlined in its contract with the government for the Kuwait project by 51 percent. She said the government was overbilled $13.3 million -- all of which was repaid -- for generators, rifle scopes, body armor and other equipment that was not delivered. And she noted that, in a recent audit, the government rejected 15 of 29 billings, or $8.7 million out of $20.6 million in expenses.

DynCorp is working under several contracts with the government and provides other services, such as recruiting and deploying civilian peacekeepers and destroying land mines.

Stephenson, who also testified about similar problems with contractors KBR and Fluor Corp., blamed DynCorp's situation in part on frequent changes in its organization structure and on new business systems that were applied inconsistently throughout the company.

Members of the commission, though, expressed frustration after hearing Stephenson's testimony.

"There is a tremendous amount of waste and abuse and some fraud -- billions and billions of dollars are wasted," former congressman Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), co-chairman of the panel, said in an interview. "We're looking to change policy, regulations, law -- and in some cases culture."

William L. Ballhaus, president and chief executive of DynCorp, said the billing problems with the Kuwait contract were largely the result of the government's decision to expand the scope of the project and shorten the time frame for it, which required the company to use more expensive workers from the West rather than locals.

"The transition time got compressed. It caused us to adjust our labor and staffing profile," Ballhaus said. As a result, he added, 50 percent of the labor the company is using is from the West, compared with 10 percent called for in its proposal.

Ballhaus told the commission that the company is upgrading its information technology system to better track expenses and is implementing new measures to better assess compensation and benefits costs. "We will see cost reductions over time," he said. "If we're not competitive [in costs], it's possible for the government to replace us."

But Stephenson, in a written statement, said the company submitted a "corrective action" plan in 2007 but has not implemented it.


Offline bigron

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After Iraq, Blackwater Haunts Afghans


IslamOnline.net
http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m56935&hd=&size=1&l=e



August 13, 2009

CAIRO — After gaining notoriety for killing many Iraqi civilians, the US private security company Blackwater, which now calls itself Xe Services, is running amok in Afghanistan.

"The Americans must answer for my son's death," Mirza Mohammed Dost, an Afghan elderly, told the Los Angeles Times, standing at the foot of his child’s grave, near a headstone that reads, "Raheb Dost, martyred by Americans."

His 24-year-old son and another civilian, 22-year Romal, who was on his way home from work, were killed in May by four Blackwater gunmen on a busy Kabul street.

The contractors opened fire after one of their vehicles tipped over in a traffic accident.

The killing revealed that US security contractors, whose heavily-armed convoys are a common sight on Kabul's traffic-clogged streets, were running amok.

"They have caused some serious difficulties for the people," said Fazlullah Mujadedi, a member of a parliamentary commission looking into security companies.

A June report by the US Commission on Wartime Contracting in Afghanistan and Iraq cites serious deficiencies among private security companies in Afghanistan in terms of training, performance and effective use-of-force rules.

Zemaray Bashary, an Interior Ministry official, says many of the contractors, whose main task is to guard embassies and other premises or act as bodyguards, are "unlicensed and unregulated."

Some race past in SUVs with tinted windows, sealing off traffic lanes and forcing motorists and pedestrians to the curb.

Media reports put the number of security contractors in Afghanistan between 18,500 and 28,000.

But according to P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who wrote extensively on the subject, they number more than 71,000.

Accountability

"If they keep killing civilians, I'm sure some Afghans will decide to become insurgents," Shafi said.
The recent killings have infuriated Afghans and spurred demands to hold the private gunmen accountable.

"We want to confront them and ask them: Why do you think you're allowed to do such a terrible thing?" asks Friba, Raheb's aunt, while standing over his grave.

Security contractors sign contracts making them liable for prosecution for violating Afghan laws.

But the four contractors in the May shooting left for the US before Afghan authorities could file a case against them.

The Interior Ministry has since stepped up licensing of security contractors and is demanding stricter monitoring.

It wants limits on the number of contractors while lawmakers, after complaints from their constituents, have proposed legislations to reign in contractors.

Mohammed Shafi, a community leader, warns that if contractors continued to act above the law, the situation would backfire.

"Some Americans think all Afghans are terrorists or insurgents," he said.





 

Offline bigron

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Deadly contractor incident sours Afghans

Four men with the U.S. firm once known as Blackwater are said to be under investigation in the deaths of two Afghans.

A U.S. report found serious fault with private security firms in Afghanistan.


By David Zucchino

August 13, 2009
http://fairuse.100webcustomers.com/thatseemsfair/latimes0287.html

Reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan

 Mirza Mohammed Dost stood at the foot of his son's grave, near a headstone that read, "Raheb Dost, martyred by Americans."

His son was no insurgent, Dost said. He was walking home from prayers on the night of May 5 when he was shot and killed on a busy Kabul street by U.S. security contractors.

"The Americans must answer for my son's death," Dost said as a large crowd of young men murmured in approval.

The shooting deaths of Raheb Dost, 24, and another Afghan civilian by four gunmen with the company once known as Blackwater have turned an entire neighborhood against the U.S. presence here.

Already enraged by the deaths of civilians in U.S. military airstrikes, many Afghans are also demanding more accountability from security contractors who routinely block traffic and bark orders to motorists and pedestrians.

As the war escalates in Afghanistan and the U.S. seeks to win over a wary public, incidents such as the one that left Raheb Dost dead raise uneasy ghosts of the Iraq war. With more than 70,000 security contractors or guards in Afghanistan and billions of dollars at stake in lucrative government contracts, the consequences of misconduct are significant.

A June report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan cites serious deficiencies among private security companies in Afghanistan in training, performance, accountability and effective use-of-force rules.

The report says U.S. authorities in Afghanistan have not applied "lessons learned" in Iraq after a 2007 incident in which Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. Iraq revoked the firm's license, and five contractors face U.S. federal manslaughter and weapons charges.

The Afghan Interior Ministry has stepped up licensing of security contractors and is demanding stricter monitoring. The ministry says it wants limits on the number of contractors here, even as the Pentagon considers hiring a private security firm to provide more guards for its military bases.

Members of parliament, responding to complaints from constituents, have proposed legislation cracking down on contractors.

"They have caused some serious difficulties for the people," said Fazlullah Mujadedi, a member of a parliamentary commission looking into security companies.

The extent of those difficulties is hard to gauge: The United Nations office in Kabul, the capital, didn't break out contractor involvement in its recent report on deaths or injuries of civilians, and other agencies here don't track such incidents.

In June, Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused Afghan guards working for U.S. forces of killing a police chief and four police officers in the southern city of Kandahar.

The U.S. military called it an "Afghan on Afghan incident" and said no U.S. forces were involved.

Such incidents have fed a sense among some Afghans that private gunmen are above the law -- both Afghan and American. Security contractors are subject to Afghan laws, but the four contractors in the May shooting left for the U.S. before Afghan authorities could mount a case against them.

Since February, oversight of security contractors in Afghanistan has been entrusted not to Congress or the Pentagon, but to a British-owned private contractor, Aegis. The company was hired by the American government after the U.S. military said it lacked the manpower and expertise to monitor security contractors. Aegis is supposed to help U.S. authorities make sure contractors are properly trained, armed and supervised.

The wartime contracting commission, set up by the U.S. last year, expressed concern over "limited U.S. government supervision" of private security contractors in Afghanistan. Many are unlicensed and unregulated, said Zemaray Bashary, an Interior Ministry official.

Anger toward hired gunmen runs especially high in Yaka Toot, a densely packed neighborhood in east Kabul, where residents are still simmering over the May shooting.

Residents say the U.S. contractors opened fire without provocation after one of their vehicles tipped over in a traffic accident. Killed along with Dost was Romal, 22, a passenger in a Toyota sedan on his way home from work. Like many Afghans, Romal used just one name.

Mohammed Shafi, a neighborhood elder who said he ran to the shooting scene that night, said the Toyota driver told him that the Americans ordered him to stop, then told him to move on. When the driver began pulling away, Shafi said, the Americans started shooting.

Dost, who was walking about 200 yards away, was shot in the head. No weapons were found in the Toyota, or on Dost, according to an Afghan police investigator.

"Some Americans think all Afghans are terrorists or insurgents," Shafi said.

"But if they keep killing civilians, I'm sure some Afghans will decide to become insurgents."

Daniel J. Callahan, a Santa Ana lawyer representing the four contractors, said the men fired in self-defense after one car rammed one of the contractors' two SUVs, forcing it into a ditch, and a second car tried to run down two contractors.

Callahan accused Blackwater, now called Xe, of "trying to make them scapegoats to take the heat off Blackwater." He said the company falsely accused the men of drinking alcohol that night.

In fact, Callahan said, Xe supervisors issued the four men automatic rifles and told them to escort Afghan interpreters home that night. He said military investigators found no evidence the men had consumed alcohol.

A U.S. military spokesman in Kabul said in May that the four contractors, who trained Afghan security forces, were authorized to handle weapons only when conducting training. At the time of the 9 p.m. incident, he said, they were not permitted to have weapons.

Xe has said that the four men were fired for not following terms of their contract. An Xe spokeswoman, Stacy Capace, did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman declined to say whether the contractors are under criminal investigation in the United States. Callahan said the Justice Department has told him it is conducting an investigation.

Callahan, who called the contractors "four good Americans," identified them as Chris Drotleff, Steve McClain, Justin Cannon and Armando Hamid.

The Interior Ministry has licensed 39 security companies employing 23,000 people who are assigned 17,000 weapons. More than 19,000 of the employees are Afghans.

The U.S. military employs 4,373 private security contractors, according to the wartime contracting commission. More than 4,000 are Afghans, many of them former militia fighters who help guard U.S. and coalition bases.

The State Department employs 689 security contractors, most for U.S. Embassy security. American employees traveling in certain areas are protected by Xe contractors supervised by State Department security agents.

The U.S. spent between $6 billion and $10 billion on security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 through 2007 alone, according to Congress.

In all, there are more than 71,000 security contractors or guards, armed and unarmed, in Afghanistan, said P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on the subject.

Private security convoys are a common sight on Kabul's traffic-clogged streets. Some race past in SUVs with tinted windows, sealing off traffic lanes and forcing motorists to the curb.

Many businesses hire uniformed guards armed with assault rifles. Kabul restaurants that cater to Westerners employ armed, uniformed guards who operate security gates and metal detectors.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, citing poor performance, fired its private security contractor, MVM, in 2007 and hired another American-owned company, ArmorGroup North America.

If U.S. or Afghan authorities don't properly monitor companies such as Xe, those firms should answer in person to the families of civilians killed or wounded by contractors, said Raheb Dost's aunt, who goes by one name, Friba.

"We want to confront them and ask them: Why do you think you're allowed to do such a terrible thing?" Friba said, standing over her nephew's grave.

Mirza Dost, the dead man's father, said he was summoned to a police station in May to meet U.S. Embassy officials and Americans who told him they represented Xe. He said the Americans apologized and agreed to pay hospital bills for his son, who was in a coma but later died after 31 days in the hospital.

After his son's death, Dost said, he was paid "a good sum of money"; he declined to elaborate.

Shafi, the neighborhood elder, said the family of the other man who was killed was also paid.

Dost, who lost a leg to a land mine fighting the Soviet army in 1989, said his son was the family's sole wage earner. He said he considered Xe's payment fair compensation but was offended that neither the embassy nor Xe paid a condolence call after his son died.

"That's our culture, but the Americans don't know our culture," he said.

Dost said he does not blame all Americans, but he is wary of any American contractors or U.S. forces he encounters on the street.

"They need to be more careful and show more respect for Afghan people," he said.

Security contractors sign contracts making them liable for prosecution for violating Afghan laws. But Dost does not insist that the Xe contractors be tried in Afghanistan. Nor does his neighbor Shafi, the community elder.

"It wouldn't make me happy to see them face Afghan justice," Shafi said as young men from the neighborhood leaned across Dost's grave to hear his pronouncement.

"What would make me happy," Shafi said, "is to never have another innocent person killed."





Copyright 2009 Los Angeles Times


Offline bigron

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Blackwater Still Armed in Iraq

by Jeremy Scahill

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m56982&hd=&size=1&l=e

August 14, 2009

Despite the Iraqi government's announcement earlier this year that it had canceled Blackwater's operating license, the US State Department continues to allow Blackwater operatives in Iraq to remain armed. A State Department official told The Nation that Blackwater (which recently renamed itself Xe Services) is now operating in Iraq under the name "US Training Center" and will continue its armed presence in the country until at least September 3. That means Blackwater will have been in Iraq nearly two years after its operatives killed seventeen Iraqi civilians in Baghdad's Nisour Square.

"Authorized personnel under that task order are permitted to continue carrying weapons until that time," said a State Department diplomatic security official who spoke on condition that his name not be used. He added: "The purpose and mission of the Department of State's private security contractors is limited to protection of US diplomats and diplomatic facilities only and is defensive in nature."

That last point will come as little comfort to Iraqis. The Blackwater operatives involved with the Nisour Square killings on September 16, 2007, were operating under that very description. "The public perception in Iraq is that Blackwater is no longer operating in the country; that they were kicked out and their license revoked," says Raed Jarrar, the Iraq consultant at the American Friends Service Committee. "The public perception is that they are gone already. This is very disturbing."

The State Department's confirmation of Blackwater's continued armed presence in Iraq comes a week after a former Blackwater employee alleged in a sworn statement that the company's owner, Erik Prince, views his company's role as fighting a Christian crusade to "eliminate" Muslims and Islam globally, alleging that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life."

According to the State Department, Blackwater's sole remaining contract for diplomatic security in Iraq is an aviation contract. As The Nation recently reported, the Obama administration extended that contract on July 31, increasing Blackwater's payment by $20 million and bringing the total paid by the State Department to Blackwater for its "aviation services" in Iraq to $187 million. Blackwater has also been paid over $1 billion by the State Department for "diplomatic security." The large, publicly traded company DynCorp is scheduled to take over Blackwater's aviation contract in September, while Triple Canopy will get the lion's share of the protective security work in Iraq.

On January 28, the Iraqi government announced that it was not issuing Blackwater a license to operate in Iraq, saying the company needed to leave once private security companies were officially placed under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law, as outlined in the Status of Forces Agreement. "Those companies that don't have licenses, such as Blackwater, should leave Iraq immediately," declared Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf. Despite these declarations, Blackwater remained. "Why were they allowed to stay for seven months without any operating license?" asks Jarrar.

The language of the Status of Forces Agreement that took effect January 1, 2009, technically places Defense Department contractors under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law, but it appears to exempt State Department contractors such as Blackwater, Triple Canopy and DynCorp from Iraqi jurisdiction. Whether that has played a role in Blackwater's continued presence in Iraq is unclear. Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other officials "gave a lot of lip service after the Nisour Square massacre, promising to prosecute Blackwater and ban them from Iraq, but they've done nothing," says Jarrar. "It seems they were deliberately deceiving the public without actually holding the State Department or Blackwater accountable."

A week after Nisour Square, Maliki's government said it would ban the company. "The Iraqi government is responsible for its citizens, and it cannot be accepted for a security company to carry out a killing," Maliki said on September 23, 2007. "There are serious challenges to the sovereignty of Iraq." (The Iraqi government did not respond to a request for comment.)

Meanwhile, Blackwater continues to have a substantial presence in Afghanistan as well. There it also operates under the banner of US Training Center on a diplomatic security contract for the State Department's Worldwide Personal Protection Program. It also works for the Department of Defense under the banner of Paravant LLC, another Prince-owned company. Four Paravant operatives are under investigation by the US military over the shooting deaths of two Afghan civilians in May.

Blackwater is bidding on more contracts in Afghanistan, which is increasingly becoming the new gold mine for the war industry. Nearly 70,000 contractors are now deployed in Afghanistan on the US government payroll, meaning there are now more contractors than US soldiers (48,000) in Afghanistan. Afghanistan's Interior Ministry has licensed nearly forty private security companies who collectively employ 23,000 people in Afghanistan. These companies also control 17,000 weapons there. In addition to those hired by the State Department, the US Department of Defense has about 4,300 security contractors in Afghanistan, and these numbers are steadily increasing. In the second quarter of 2009, the Obama administration increased the number of armed private contractors in Afghanistan by 29 percent.

"I'm not surprised that this transition is happening," says Sonali Kolhatkar, author of Bleeding Afghanistan: Washington, Warlords and the Propaganda of Silence. "We were warned before the election of Obama that Afghanistan was going to be the top war priority, so it is not surprising that Washington would dedicate much of its war machinery to Afghanistan." As for Blackwater, she says: "If they build the same record of killing civilians in Afghanistan that they had in Iraq, it will cement the Afghan resistance even further against the US occupation."

On August 6, Representative Jan Schakowsky wrote letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates citing Blackwater's "history of abuse" and called on Clinton and Gates "not to award further contracts to Xe and its affiliates and to review all existing contracts with this company." Neither department has responded to Schakowsky.



 

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August 14, 2009
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-human-timebomb-why-was-he-given-iraq-job-1771861.html

The human timebomb: why was he given Iraq job?

By Terri Judd


Security worker Daniel Fitzsimmons has been accused of murder in Iraq


He faced assault charges, had been fired and suffered from post-traumatic stress. So why did a security firm in Iraq give Daniel Fitzsimons, who is now accused of killing two people, a job with a gun?
A British military contractor accused of shooting dead two of his colleagues in Iraq was hired despite being sacked from another security firm and having a long history of psychiatric illness, The Independent has learnt.

Daniel Fitzsimons, 29, is in Iraqi custody facing charges of premeditated murder after the shooting of fellow ArmorGroup colleagues Paul McGuigan and Darren Hoar and wounding Iraqi worker Arkhan Mahdi. If convicted he faces execution.

Last night, in an interview with The Independent, his family revealed that just months before being hired by ArmorGroup, a psychiatric report had found Mr Fitzsimons was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress with repeated flashbacks, nightmares and anxiety attacks.

He had also been dismissed by the security firm Aegis while working in Iraq for "extreme negligence". At the time he was taken on by ArmorGroup he was awaiting trial for assault having already been convicted of three other crimes including robbery, possession of ammunition and public order offences. The incident happened within 36 hours of Mr Fitzsimons arriving back in Iraq.

Last night his father and stepmother, both teachers from Manchester, said others also bore responsibility for what happened: "We did not even know he had gone out there," they said. "He patently should not have been allowed to go to Iraq. He is extremely poorly."

ArmorGroup last night said they could not comment on the specific allegations due to the ongoing investigation and added: "Under our terms of employment, employees are obliged to provide a medical certificate prior to posting overseas that confirms they are fit to do so."

But Mike Hancock, the longest-serving member of the Commons defence select committee, said he would be pressing for an early investigation into the controls on private defence firms.

"It's unacceptable for any security company to take on any former member of the armed forces without thorough medical checks and pre-counselling. We need to legislate. Companies that recruit in the UK should be covered by British laws and have a responsibility to check the mental health wellbeing of the people they take on."

In the interview Mr Fitzsimons's father, Eric, and stepmother, Liz, said their son had been diagnosed with a form of stress disorder when he was discharged from the army five years ago. But this had been exacerbated by repeated tours with security companies in Iraq in which he had been injured and lost countless friends to bombs. A recent assessment had found his condition had worsened.

Mr Fitzsimons said his son should be recognised as another victim of the shooting. "We do feel very, very sorry for these two men and their families. But Daniel is also a victim."

The couple explained the family were terrified that he would be made an example of for a multi-billion dollar industry, whose employees recently lost immunity following a shootout involving US security firm Backwater in which 17 civilians were killed.

"We are worried the trial will be rushed through and he will be made a scapegoat. We can't let that happen."

The family said that Mr Fitzsimons was discharged from the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment after tours in Bosnia, Kosovo, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. But they insisted it was the dangerous work that he carried out for private security companies in Iraq that had sent him on a dramatic spiral downwards exacerbated by drink and prescription medication.

The company have agreed to the family's request to send out their own British legal team to Baghdad adding thar ArmorGroup were making arrangement for an English speaking Iraqi lawyer as well.

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army officer, called for regular checks on defence companies' recruitment policies. He said: "They need to be audited in terms of what strictures they apply to the people they recruit. The Government must be involved in that."

Mr Mercer, chairman of the Commons counter-terrorism sub-committee, said the performance of such firms in checking staff were "mentally grounded" was "very mixed".

He added: "I have always argued that the discharge of veterans should be very carefully handled."

Mr Fitzsimons's MP, Jim Dobbin, said last night: "Questions have to be asked about why he was out there, did the company know he had psychological problems, and that he was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Quite honestly if it did know of that, then it must be culpable."

Christopher Beese, director of human resources at ArmorGroup, said: "ArmorGroup has a duty of care to Daniel Fitzsimons as an employee and we are discharging those responsibilities.

"Senior managers are visiting him daily to ensure his human rights are being met, that he is safe, and has an opportunity to communicate with his family and with his lawyer.

"Yesterday he was visited by an ArmorGroup team and representatives of the UK embassy, and provided with medical care, food, water and access to a mobile phone. The company is making arrangements for his UK legal representative to travel to Iraq safely and securely as soon as possible."

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Briton, Australian Contractors Killed in Iraq Shooting
 
 
17/08/2009 12:53:37 AM GMT   
 http://www.aljazeera.com/news/articles/34/Briton_Australian_Contractors_Killed_in_Iraq_Shoo.html

 
Two men, one Australian and one British security contractor, were killed in a shooting inside central Baghdad's secure "Green Zone" early on Sunday, a British embassy official said.
   
"We're looking into an incident... involving some Brits. As far as I know we have two fatalities. One British and one Australian," embassy spokesman Jawad Syed told AFP.
   
The victims were killed in the heavily fortified area which is home to foreign embassies and Iraqi government offices, Syed said.
¬
Source: AJP
 

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Mercenaries and murder in Iraq

As private security firms take on more responsibility in Iraq,
no amount of regulation can stop tragedies from happening

 
Eric Stoner guardian.co.uk, Friday 14 August 2009 18.30 BST
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/aug/14/iraq-private-security-armor-group

 It would be nice to celebrate the recent withdrawal of the remaining British troops from Iraq as the end of the UK's direct involvement in the military occupation there. But such festivities would unfortunately be premature.

The killing last Sunday in Baghdad's Green Zone of two armed contractors working for the London-based mercenary firm ArmorGroup by another British contractor from the company, serves as a grim reminder that Brits are still deeply involved in the prosecution of the war.

In fact, with no countries officially left in the so-called "coalition of the willing", contractors are now playing a more important role than ever, as the Obama administration begins to slowly scale back the war in Iraq.

In June, a Pentagon report revealed that there are still 132,610 contractors in Iraq – effectively doubling the size of the occupation – and that the use of armed "private security contractors" in the country actually increased by 23% during the second quarter of 2009.

The US defence department doesn't break down its data by nationality, but the report does specify that there are 60,244 "third country nationals", or contractors that are neither American nor Iraqi, on the payroll in Iraq. Therefore, the number of British citizens that are part of this shadow army is likely in the thousands.

Sunday's shooting should also dispel the myth, if anyone still believes it, that incidents like this are somehow avoidable. Unlike its competitors Dyncorp, Triple Canopy and Blackwater, whose outrageous scandals continue to mount, ArmorGroup has with few exceptions managed to steer clear of negative press.

Moreover, the company has been an outspoken advocate for more rigorous vetting of armed contractors and for greater outside regulation of the industry as a whole. Back in 2005, for example, an ArmorGroup spokesman said: "We are demanding regulation. It is extraordinary that … any Joe Public can get a Kalashnikov and work with a security company abroad. This is an issue of accountability."

But when ArmorGroup hired Daniel Fitzsimons, who shot his two co-workers during a scuffle after a late night of drinking, the obvious warning signs were not heeded.

In 2007, Fitzsimons was fired and fined $3,000 for "extreme negligence" by Aegis, another British mercenary firm in Iraq, after only a few months on the job. Colleagues said that he had a history of violent conduct and had "been a loose cannon for years".

Not surprisingly, Fitzsimons was also apparently traumatised by his experiences in war. On his Facebook and MySpace profiles he wrote about the challenges of the "war inside your head" and his constant use of alcohol and drugs to numb the pain.

"When I come home from each rotation I give my liver, kidneys and brain cells a good hiding to teach them a lesson, and to help me achieve this I get as wasted as possible at every opportunity," he wrote. "Remember reality is a condition caused by lack of drugs."

ArmorGroup apparently did not pick up on these red flags, however, perhaps because such personal problems are likely par for the course when you enter the world of mercenaries. "Violent conduct" isn't a worrisome trait, but in the end what these security contractors are trained to do. Hence, just as the "laws of war" have not stopped soldiers from torturing and committing war crimes, no amount of internal vetting or government regulation of the mercenary industry – even with the best of intentions – will be able to stop such tragedies from happening again.

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Still Funding Blackwater Mercenaries

Valerie Jarrett: Trust Obama on Blackwater

Jeremy Scahill


 

August 17, 2009

President Obama’s senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett, was confronted over the weekend with the fact that the administration continues contracting with the scandal-plagued mercenary firm Blackwater (which now does business as Xe Services and US Training Center). "He has to balance national security with transparency and I bet with him. I bet with him and I’m asking you to trust him," Jarrett told a raucous crowd Saturday at the NetRoots Nation conference in Pittsburgh.

Jarrett was directly asked why Obama keeps paying millions of dollars to Blackwater—a question which received substantial applause and which Jarrett failed to directly answer. Instead, she appealed to a commitment of faith in Obama by activists and bloggers. "I think the point of the matter is that you also have to say we are six months in. I think you have to accept the fact that some things are going to take a little bit of time and that you have to follow a process where you’re going to get some buy-in from the people who you are counting on," Jarrett said.

The moderator of the event, Baratunde Thurston, asked Jarrett about Blackwater’s ongoing contracts with the US government after a member of the audience shouted an off-mic question about Blackwater.

Jarrett, one of Obama’s closest friends and top advisors, also linked the Blackwater question to the safety of U.S. personnel in war zones: "Do not forget that we have men and women who are at risk every day overseas doing the very best they can to defend our country and so the president has to balance putting them at further risk with having the kind of transparent and open and clear availability of information that you so desperately want." What this has to do with Blackwater is anyone’s guess. If what Jarrett was saying is that Blackwater keeps Americans safe abroad and therefore transparency on the company will not be forthcoming, then that is a pretty scandalous position. If Jarrett was referring to the administration’s blocking of the release of prisoner abuse photos (which was discussed earlier in the event), then it is a bankrupt argument.

The video is here. This exchange happens at around 2:38.
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/1987776

For Jeremy Scahill’s recent Blackwater coverage in The Nation, click here:
http://www.thenation.com/directory/bios/jeremy_scahill



 

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America's Warfare State

Lining the pockets of Pentagon contractors



by Sherwood Ross

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m57055&hd=&size=1&l=e

August 17, 2009

"On my last day in Iraq," veteran McClatchy News correspondent Leila Fadel wrote August 9th, "as on my first day in Iraq, I couldn’t see what the United States and its allies had accomplished. …I couldn’t understand what thousands of American soldiers had died for and why hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had been killed."

Quite a few oil company CEO’s and "defense" industry executives, however, do have a pretty good idea of why that war is being fought. As Michael Cherkasky, president of Kroll Inc., said a year after the Iraq invasion boosted his security firm’s profits 231 percent: "It’s the Gold Rush." What follows is a brief look at some of the outfits that cashed in, and at the multitudes that got took.

"Defense Earnings Continue to Soar," Renae Merle wrote in The Washington Post on July 30, 2007. "Several of Washington’s largest defense contractors said last week that they continue to benefit from a boom in spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…" Merle added, "Profit reports from Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin showed particularly strong results in operations in the region." More recently, Boeing’s second-quarter earnings this year rose 17 percent, Associated Press reported, in part because of what AP called "robust defense sales."

But war, it turns out, is not only unhealthy for human beings, it is not uniformly good for the economy. Many sectors suffer, including non-defense employment, as a war can destroy more jobs than it creates. While the makers of warplanes may be flying high, these are "Tough Times For Commercial Aerospace," Business Week reported July 13th. "The sector is contending with the deepening global recession, declining air traffic, capacity cuts by airlines, and reduced availability of financing for aircraft purchases."

The general public suffers, too. "As President Bush tried to fight the war without increasing taxes, the Iraq war has displaced private investment and/or government expenditures, including investments in infrastructure, R&D and education: they are less than they would otherwise have been," write Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes in "The Three Trillion Dollar War"(Norton). Stiglitz holds a Nobel Prize in economics and Bilmes is former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce. They say government money spent in Iraq does not stimulate the economy in the way that the same amounts spent at home would.

The war has also starved countless firms for expansion bucks. "Higher borrowing costs for business since the beginning of the Iraq war are bleeding manufacturing investment," Greg Palast wrote in "Armed Madhouse"(Plume). And when entrepreneurs---who hire so many---lack growth capital, job creation takes a real hit.

We might recall too, the millions abroad who filled the streets to protest President Bush’s impending attack on Iraq and who have quit buying U.S. products, further reducing sales and employment. "American firms, especially those that have become icons, like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, may also suffer, not so much from explicit boycotts as from a broader sense of dislike of all things American," Stiglitz and Bilmes write. "America’s standing in the world has never been lower," they say, noting that in 2007, U.S. "favorable" ratings plunged to 29 percent in Indonesia and nine percent in Turkey. "Large numbers of wealthy people in the Middle East---where the oil money and inequality put individual wealth in the billions---have shifted banking from America to elsewhere," they say.

Because the Iraq war crippled that country’s oil industry, output fell, supplies tightened, and, according to Palast, "World prices leaped to reflect the shortfall…" What’s more, he points out, after the Iraq invasion the Saudis withheld more than a million barrels of oil a day from the market. "The one-year 121% post-invasion jump in the price of crude, from under $30 a barrel to over $60, sucked that $120 billion windfall to the Saudis from SUV drivers and factory owners in the West." Count the Saudis among the big winners.

The oil spike subtracted 1.2% from the gross domestic product, "costing the USA just over one million jobs," Palast reckoned. Stiglitz and Bilmes said the oil price spike means "American families have had to spend about 5 percent more of their income on gasoline and heating than before." Last year, the Iraq and Afghan wars cost each American household $138 per month in taxes, they estimated. Count the Joneses among the big losers.

Palast writes, "It has been a very good war for Big Oil---courtesy of OPEC price hikes. The five oil giants saw profits rise from $34 billion in 2002 to $81 billion in 2004…But this tsunami of black ink was nothing compared to the wave of $120 billion in profits to come in 2006: $15.6 billion for Conoco, $17.1 billion for Chevron and the Mother of All Earnings, Exxon’s $39.5 billion in 2006 on sales of $378 billion.

Palast notes the oil firms have their own reserves whose value is tied to OPEC’s price targets, and "The rise in the price of oil after the first three years of the war boosted the value of the reserves of ExxonMobil oil alone by just over $666 billion…Chevron Oil, where Condoleezza Rice had served as a director, gained a quarter trillion dollars in value…I calculate that the top five oil operators saw their reserves rise in value by over $2.363 trillion." Who’s surprised when Forbes reports of the ten most profitable corporations in the world five are now oil and gas companies---Exxon-Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Chevron, and Petro-China.

"Since the Iraq War began," Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive wrote, "aerospace and defense industry stocks have more than doubled. General Dynamics did even better than that. Its stock has tripled." An Associated Press account published July 23rd observed: "With the military fighting two wars and Pentagon budgets on a steady upward rise, defense companies regularly posted huge gains in profits and rosier earnings forecasts during recent quarters. Even as the rest of the economy tumbled last fall, military contractors, with the federal government as their primary customer, were a relative safe haven."

Among the big winners are top Pentagon contractors, as ranked by WashingtonTechnology.com as of 2008. Halliburton spun off KBR in 2007 and their operations are covered later. Data was selected for typical years 2007-09.

1.Lockheed Martin 2. Boeing 3. KBR 4. Northrop Grumman 5. General Dynamics 6. Raytheon 7. SAIC 8. L-3 Communciations 9. EDS Corporation 10. Fluor Corporation

# Lockheed Martin, of Bethesda, Md., a major warplane builder, in 2007 alone earned profits of $3 billion on sales of nearly $42 billion.

# Boeing, of Chicago, saw its 2007 net profit shoot up 84% to $4 billion, fed by "strong growth in defense earnings," according to an Agence France-Presse report.

# Northrop Grunman, of Los Angeles, a manufacturer of bombers, warships and military electronics, had 2007 profits of $1.8 billion on sales of $32 billion.

# General Dynamics, of Falls Church, Va., had profits in 2008 of about $2.5 billion on sales of $29 billion. It makes tanks, combat vehicles, and mission-critical information systems.

# Raytheon, of Waltham, Mass, reported about $23 billion in sales for 2008. It is the world’s largest missile maker and Bloomberg News says it is benefiting from "higher domestic defense spending and U.S. arms exports."

# Scientific International Applications Corp., of La Jolla, Calif., an engineering and technology supplier to the Pentagon, had sales of $10 billion for fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2009, and net income of $452 million.

# L-3, of New York City, has enjoyed sales growth of about 25% a year recently. Its total 2008 sales of $15 billion brought it profits of nearly $900 million. Its primary customer is the Defense Department, to which it supplies high tech surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

# EDS Corp., of Plano, Tex., purchased by Hewlett-Packard in May, 2008, had 2007 sales of nearly $20 billion. Its priority project is building the $12 billion Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, said to be the largest private network in the world.

# Fluor Corp., of Irvine, Tex., an engineering and construction firm, had net earnings of $720 million in 2008 on sales of $22 billion.

The good times continue to roll for military contractors under President Obama, who has increased the Pentagon’s budget by 4 percent to a total of about $700 billion. One reason military contractors fare so well is that no-bid contracts with built-in profit margins tumble out of the Pentagon cornucopia directly into their laps. The element of "risk," so basic to capitalism, has been trampled by Pentagon purchasing agents even as its top brass rattle their missiles at socialist governments abroad. If this isn’t enough, in 2004 the Bush administration slipped a special provision into tax legislation to cut the tax on war profits to 7% compared to 21% paid by most U.S. manufacturers.

Former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, according to author Pratap Chatterjee in his "Halliburton’s Army"(Nation Books), raked in "more than $25 billion since the company won a ten-year contract in late 2001 to supply U.S. troops in combat situations around the world." As all know, President Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney previously headed Halliburton (1995-2000) and landed in the White House the same year Halliburton got its humungous outsourcing contract. Earlier, as Defense Secretary, (1989-1993) Cheney sparked the revolutionary change to outsourcing military support services to the privateers. Today, Halliburton ranks among the biggest "defense" winners of all.

Halliburton’s army "employs enough people to staff one hundred battalions, a total of more than 50,000 personnel who work for KBR, a contract that is now projected to reach $150 billion," Chatterjee writes. "Together with the workers who are rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure and the private security divisions of companies like Blackwater, Halliburton’s Army now outnumber the uniformed soldiers on the ground in Iraq."

Accompanying Pentagon outsourcing, Chatterjee writes, "is the potential for bribery, corruption, and fraud. Dozens of Halliburton/KBR workers and their subcontractors have already been arrested and charged, and several are already serving jail terms for stealing millions of dollars, notably from Camp Arifjan in Kuwait."

There’s likely no better example of how Halliburton/KBR literally burned taxpayers’ dollars than its destruction of $85,000 Mercedes and Volvo trucks when they got flat tires and were abandoned. James Warren, a convoy truck driver testified to the Government Affairs Committee in July, 2004, "KBR didn’t seem to care what happened to its trucks…It was common to torch trucks that we abandoned…even though we all carried chains and could have towed them to be repaired."

Bunnatine Greenhouse, once top contract official at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, made headlines by demanding old-fashioned free enterprise competitive bidding. She told a Senate committee in 2005: "I can unequivocally state the abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR represents the most blatant and improper abuse I have witnessed" in 20 years of working on government contracts. Greenhouse was demoted for her adherence to the law, Chatterjee said, but she became a cover girl at "Fraud" magazine and was honored by the Giraffe Society, a tribute to one Federal employee who stuck her neck out.

Tales of Halliburton/KBR’s alleged swindles fill books. Rory Maybee, a former Halliburton/KBR contractor who worked at dining facilities in Camp Anaconda in 2004 told the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee "that the company often provided rotten food to the troops and often charged the army for 20 thousand meals a day when it was serving only ten thousand." Food swindling, though, is small potatoes. Say Stiglitz and Bilmes: "KBR has also been implicated in a lucrative insurance scam that has gouged U.S. taxpayers for at least $600 million."

To fatten profit margins, contractors who cheat U.S. taxpayers apparently think nothing of underpaying their help. "While the executives of KBR, Blackwater, and other firms are making profits, many of those performing the menial work, such as cooking, driving, cleaning, and laundry, are poorly paid nationals from India, Pakistan, and other Asian and African countries," Stiglitz and Bilmes write. "Indian cooks are reported to earn $3-$5 a day. At the same time, KBR bills the American taxpayer $100 per load of laundry." Blackwater, the security firm repeatedly charged with shoot-first tactics, fraudulently obtained small-business set-aside contracts worth more than $144 million, they assert.

According to "Blackwater"(Nation Books) by Jeremy Scahill, the security firm in 2004 got a five-year contract to protect U.S. officials in Iraq totaling $229 million but as of June, 2006, just two years into the contract, it had been paid $321 million, and by late 2007 it had been paid more than $750 million. Scahill reports an audit charged that Blackwater included profit in its overhead and its total costs. The result was "not only in a duplication of profit but a pyramiding of profit since in effect Blackwater is applying profit to profit." Scahill writes, "The audit also alleged that the company tried to inflate its profits by representing different Blackwater divisions as wholly separate companies."

"As of summer, 2007, there were more 'private contractors’ deployed on the U.S. government payroll in Iraq (180,000) than there were actual soldiers (160,000)," Scahill said. "These contractors worked for some 630 companies and drew personnel from more than 100 countries around the globe. …This meant the U.S. military had actually become the junior partner in the coalition that occupies Iraq." And each Blackwater operative was costing the American taxpayers $1,222 per day. The Defense Department remains, of course, America’s No. 1 Employer, with 2.3 million workers (roughly twice the size of Wal-Mart, which has 1.2 million staffers) perhaps because America’s biggest export is war.

"Who pays Halliburton and Bechtel?" philosopher Noam Chomsky asks rhetorically in his "Imperial Ambitions" (Metropolitan Books). "The U.S. taxpayer," he answers. "The same taxpayers fund the military-corporate system of weapons manufacturers and technology companies that bombed Iraq. So first you destroy Iraq, then you rebuild it. It’s a transfer of wealth from the general population to narrow sectors of the population." It’s also been a body blow to Iraq, killing a million inhabitants, forcing two million into exile and millions more out of their homes. Incredibly, the U.S. proposed to reconstruct the nation it invaded with their oil revenues---and then, after taking perhaps $8 billion left the job undone. (Since the U.S. kept no records of how the dough was dispensed, it is not possible to identify the recipients.)

As Stiglitz and Bilmes remind us, "The money spent on Iraq could have been spent on schools, roads, or research. These investments yield high returns." In an article in the August 24th Nation, policy analyst Georgia Levenson Keohane cites the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to the effect that 48 states are reporting deficits totaling nearly $166 billion, projected to reach, cumulatively, $350 billion-$370 billion by 2011. "Although many states have attempted tax increases, these are politically challenging and often insufficient to close the gaps. Consequently, statehouses have been forced to cut vital services at a time when the need for them is ever more desperate," Keohane writes.

In the same issue, reporter Marc Cooper notes the poverty rate in Los Angeles county borders on 20 percent; that California’s schools are ranked 47th nationally; that the state college system has suspended admissions for Spring, 2010; that thousands of state workers are being laid off and/or forced to take furlough days; that unemployment has reached 12 percent; that state parks are being closed; that personal bankruptcies peaked last; that one in four "capsized mortgages in the U.S. is in California." Plus, California’s bond rating is just above the junk level and it faces a $26 billion budget shortfall.

California’s woes need to be examined in the light of the $116 billion the National Priorities Project of Northampton, Mass., says its taxpayers have shelled out for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. Those same dollars roughly would put four million California students through a four-year college. Bear in mind, too, outlays for those wars are but a fraction of all Pentagon spending, so the total military tax bill is far higher than $116 billion to California.

In calling for a reduction in military spending, Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) said, "The math is compelling: if we do not make reductions approximating 25 percent of the military budget starting fairly soon, it will be impossible to continue to fund an adequate level of domestic activity even with a repeal of Bush's tax cuts for the very wealthy….(American] well-being is far more endangered by a proposal for substantial reductions in Medicare, Social Security or other important domestic areas than it would be by canceling weapons systems that have no justification from any threat we are likely to face." On the other hand, maybe Americans want to keep paying to operate 2,000 domestic and foreign military bases and spend more money on armies and weapons of death than all other nations combined. Maybe they like living in the greatest Warfare State the world has ever known. My hunch, though, is a lot of Americans haven’t connected the country’s looming bankruptcy with the greedy, gang from the military-industrial complex out to control the planet, its people, and its precious resources.

After the long-suffering civilian population of Iraq, whose "crime" was having oil---a country Steiglitz says that has been rendered virtually unlivable---the big losers are the American taxpayers who are bleeding income, jobs, and quality of life, not just sacrificing family members, on behalf of a runaway war machine. California’s plight is being repeated everywhere. A great nation is being looted and millions of its citizens are being pauperized before our eyes. #

Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based public relations consultant who has worked as a reporter for major dailies, a publicist in the civil rights movement, and as a wire service columnist. Reach him at [email protected] or visit his web site Sherwood Ross Associates.



 

Offline bigron

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Published on Tuesday, August 18, 2009 by the Chicago Tribune



Afghan Civilians Soured on US Security Contractors

by David Zucchino

KABUL -- Mirza Mohammed Dost stood at the foot of his son's grave, near a headstone that read: "Raheb Dost, martyred by Americans." His son was no insurgent, Dost said. He was walking home from prayers on the night of May 5 when he was shot and killed on a busy Kabul street by U.S. security contractors.

"The Americans must answer for my son's death," Dost said as a large crowd of young men murmured in approval.

The shooting deaths of Raheb Dost, 24, and Romal, 22, who used just one name, by four gunmen with the company once known as Blackwater have turned an entire neighborhood against the American presence here.

Enraged by the deaths of civilians in military airstrikes, many Afghans are demanding more accountability from security contractors who routinely block traffic and bark orders to motorists and pedestrians.

As the war escalates in Afghanistan and the U.S. seeks to win over a wary public, incidents such as the one that left Raheb Dost dead raise uneasy ghosts of the Iraq war.

A June report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan found serious deficiencies among private security companies in Afghanistan in training, performance, accountability and effective use-of-force rules.

The report said U.S. authorities in Afghanistan have not applied "lessons learned" in Iraq after a 2007 incident in which Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad. Iraq revoked the firm's license, and five contractors face federal manslaughter and weapons charges in the U.S. The company is now known as Xe.

The Afghan Interior Ministry has stepped up licensing of security contractors and is demanding stricter monitoring. The ministry says it wants limits on the number of contractors here, even as the Pentagon considers hiring a private security firm to provide more guards for its military bases.

Members of Parliament, responding to complaints from constituents, have proposed legislation cracking down on contractors.

 

Since February, oversight of security contractors in Afghanistan has been entrusted not to Congress or the Pentagon, but to a British-owned private contractor, Aegis. The company was hired by the American government after the U.S. military said it lacked the manpower and expertise to monitor security contractors. Aegis is supposed to help U.S. authorities ensure contractors are properly trained, armed and supervised.

The Interior Ministry has licensed 39 security companies employing 23,000 people who are assigned 17,000 weapons. More than 19,000 of the employees are Afghans.

In all, there are more than 71,000 security contractors or guards, armed and unarmed, in Afghanistan, said P.W. Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively on the subject.

© 2009 The Chicago Tribune

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/08/18

Offline Satyagraha

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America's Warfare State

Lining the pockets of Pentagon contractors

by Sherwood Ross

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m57055&hd=&size=1&l=e

August 17, 2009

...

Among the big winners are top Pentagon contractors, as ranked by WashingtonTechnology.com as of 2008. Halliburton spun off KBR in 2007 and their operations are covered later. Data was selected for typical years 2007-09.

1.Lockheed Martin 2. Boeing 3. KBR 4. Northrop Grumman 5. General Dynamics 6. Raytheon 7. SAIC 8. L-3 Communciations 9. EDS Corporation 10. Fluor Corporation

# Lockheed Martin, of Bethesda, Md., a major warplane builder, in 2007 alone earned profits of $3 billion on sales of nearly $42 billion.

# Boeing, of Chicago, saw its 2007 net profit shoot up 84% to $4 billion, fed by "strong growth in defense earnings," according to an Agence France-Presse report.

# Northrop Grunman, of Los Angeles, a manufacturer of bombers, warships and military electronics, had 2007 profits of $1.8 billion on sales of $32 billion.

# General Dynamics, of Falls Church, Va., had profits in 2008 of about $2.5 billion on sales of $29 billion. It makes tanks, combat vehicles, and mission-critical information systems.

# Raytheon, of Waltham, Mass, reported about $23 billion in sales for 2008. It is the world’s largest missile maker and Bloomberg News says it is benefiting from "higher domestic defense spending and U.S. arms exports."

# Scientific International Applications Corp., of La Jolla, Calif., an engineering and technology supplier to the Pentagon, had sales of $10 billion for fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2009, and net income of $452 million.

# L-3, of New York City, has enjoyed sales growth of about 25% a year recently. Its total 2008 sales of $15 billion brought it profits of nearly $900 million. Its primary customer is the Defense Department, to which it supplies high tech surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

# EDS Corp., of Plano, Tex., purchased by Hewlett-Packard in May, 2008, had 2007 sales of nearly $20 billion. Its priority project is building the $12 billion Navy-Marine Corps Intranet, said to be the largest private network in the world.

# Fluor Corp., of Irvine, Tex., an engineering and construction firm, had net earnings of $720 million in 2008 on sales of $22 billion.



There's nothing we won't do, no one we won't kill, to protect the opium revenues. Last year saw a 12% increase in exports. Way to go on the war on terror... the war on drugs... someone's winning this war... see above quote.

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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C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help in Plan to Kill Jihadists


By MARK MAZZETTI

http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m57123&hd=&size=1&l=e

August 19, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

Officials said the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.

Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license.

Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was "clear and straightforward."

"Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so," Mr. Gimigliano said. "He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it."

A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. "It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for," she said.

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

"It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin," the official said. "It went well beyond that."

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.

The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.

But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.

"I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted," said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.

Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.




 

Offline bigron

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Former CIA Agent: "What the Agency Was Doing With Blackwater Scares the Hell Out of Me"

The dark history behind the explosive revelations of Blackwater's role in the CIA's assassination program.



By Jeremy Scahill, The Nation
Posted on August 20, 2009, Printed on August 21, 2009
http://www.alternet.org/story/142098/

In April 2002, the CIA paid Blackwater more than $5 million to deploy a small team of men inside Afghanistan during the early stages of US operations in the country. A month later, Erik Prince, the company's owner and a former Navy SEAL, flew to Afghanistan as part of the original twenty-man Blackwater contingent. Blackwater worked for the CIA at its station in Kabul as well as in Shkin, along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, where they operated out of a mud fortress known as the Alamo. It was the beginning of a long relationship between Blackwater, Prince and the CIA.

Now the New York Times is reporting that in 2004 the CIA hired Blackwater "as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda." According to the Times, "it is unclear whether the CIA had planned to use the contractors to capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance."

The Times reports that "the CIA did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune." A retired intelligence officer "intimately familiar with the assassination program" told the Washington Post, "Outsourcing gave the agency more protection in case something went wrong." The Post reported that Blackwater "was given operational responsibility for targeting terrorist commanders and was awarded millions of dollars for training and weaponry, but the program was canceled before any missions were conducted."

"What the agency was doing with Blackwater scares the hell out of me," said Jack Rice, a former CIA field operator who worked for the directorate of operations, which runs covert paramilitary activities for the CIA. "When the agency actually cedes all oversight and power to a private organization, an organization like Blackwater, most importantly they lose control and don't understand what's going on," Rice told The Nation. "What makes it even worse is that you then can turn around and have deniability. They can say, 'It wasn't us, we weren't the ones making the decisions.' That's the best of both worlds. It's analogous to what we hear about torture that was being done in the name of Americans, when we simply handed somebody over to the Syrians or the Egyptians or others and then we turn around and say, 'We're not torturing people.'"

Reached by telephone, Illinois Democrat Jan Schakowsky, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said that because of her oath of secrecy on sensitive intelligence issues, she could neither confirm nor deny that Congress was aware of Blackwater's involvement in this program before the Times report. Schakowsky also declined to comment on whether Blackwater came up at a June briefing by CIA director Leon Panetta, which she attended. That briefing sparked calls for an investigation into whether Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the CIA to conceal an assassination program from Congress.

"What we know now, if this is true, is that Blackwater was part of the highest level, the innermost circle strategizing and exercising strategy within the Bush administration," Schakowsky told The Nation. "Erik Prince operated at the highest and most secret level of the government. Clearly Prince was more trusted than the US Congress because Vice President Cheney made the decision not to brief Congress. This shows that there was absolutely no space whatsoever between the Bush administration and Blackwater."

As The Nation has reported, Blackwater continues to operate on the US government payroll in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where it works for the State Department and the Defense Department. The CIA will not confirm whether Blackwater continues to work for the agency (or, for that matter, if it ever has).

Blackwater's work for the CIA was the result of meetings in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 between Prince and Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard, then-executive director of the CIA, the agency's number-three man. Krongard and Prince, according to a former Blackwater executive interviewed by The Nation, "were good buddies." In a 2006 interview for my book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Krongard said that the company was hired to provide security for the CIA in Afghanistan. "Blackwater got a contract because they were the first people that could get people on the ground," Krongard said. "The only concern we had was getting the best security for our people. If we thought Martians could provide it, I guess we would have gone after them."

The relationship between Krongard and Prince apparently got chummier after the contract was signed. One former Blackwater executive said in 2006, "Krongard came down and visited Blackwater [at company headquarters in North Carolina], and I had to take his kids around and let them shoot on the firing range a number of times." That visit took place after the CIA contract was signed, according to the former executive, and Krongard "may have come down just to see the company that he had just hired."

The relationship between Blackwater and the CIA quickly evolved. Shortly after Prince arrived in Afghanistan in May 2002, according to a former Blackwater executive who was with Prince, the Blackwater owner focused on winning more business with government agencies, providing private soldiers for hire. In 2002 Prince, along with former CIA operative Jamie Smith, created Blackwater Security Consulting, which would put former Navy SEALs and other special ops on the market.

Prince subsequently tried to join the CIA but was reportedly denied when his polygraph test came back inconclusive. Still, he maintained close ties with the agency. He reportedly was given a "green badge" that permitted him access to most CIA stations. "He's over there [at CIA headquarters] regularly, probably once a month or so," a CIA source told Harper's journalist Ken Silverstein in 2006. "He meets with senior people, especially in the [directorate of operations]."

Prince would also go on to hire many senior Bush-era CIA officials to work at Blackwater. In July 2007 Buzzy Krongard joined the company's board; Prince offered him a $3,500 honorarium per meeting attended plus all expenses paid. "Your experience and insight would be ideal to help our team determine where we are and where we are going," Prince wrote in a letter to Krongard. At the time his brother, Howard "Cookie" Krongard, was the State Department inspector general responsible for overseeing Blackwater's work for the State Department. In September 2007 California Democratic Representative Henry Waxman accused Cookie Krongard of impeding a Justice Department investigation into Blackwater over allegations the company was illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq.

Prince hired several other former CIA officials to run what amounted to his own private CIA. Most notable among these was J. Cofer Black, who was running the CIA's counterterrorism operations and leading the hunt for Osama bin Laden when Blackwater was initially hired by the CIA in 2002. Black left the government in 2005 and took a job at Blackwater running Prince's private intelligence company, Total Intelligence Solutions.

While at the CIA, Black ran the "extraordinary rendition" program and coordinated the CIA "Jawbreaker" team sent into Afghanistan to kill or capture bin Laden and senior Al Qaeda leaders. In the days immediately after 9/11, he told Bush that his men would aim to kill Al Qaeda operatives. "When we're through with them, they will have flies walking across their eyeballs," Black promised Bush. When Black told Bush the operation would not be bloodless, the president reportedly said, "Let's go. That's war. That's what we're here to win."

Before the CIA Jawbreaker team deployed on September 27, 2001, Black gave his men direct and macabre directions: "I don't want bin Laden and his thugs captured, I want them dead.... They must be killed. I want to see photos of their heads on pikes. I want bin Laden's head shipped back in a box filled with dry ice. I want to be able to show bin Laden's head to the president. I promised him I would do that." According to CIA operative Gary Schroen, a member of the Jawbreaker team, it was the first time in his thirty-year career he had been ordered to assassinate an adversary rather than attempt a capture.

In September 2002, five months after Blackwater's first known contract with the CIA in Afghanistan, Black testified to Congress about the new "operational flexibility" employed in the "war on terror." "There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11," Black said. "After 9/11 the gloves come off." Black outlined a "no-limits, aggressive, relentless, worldwide pursuit of any terrorist who threatens us," saying it "is the only way to go and is the bottom line." Black would later brag, in 2004, that "over 70 percent" of Al Qaeda's leadership had been arrested, detained or killed, and that "more than 3,400 of their operatives and supporters have also been detained and put out of an action." The Times reports that the Blackwater-CIA assassination program "did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects."

In addition to Black, Total Intelligence's executives include CEO Robert Richer, the former associate deputy director of the CIA's Directorate of Operations and second-ranking official in charge of clandestine operations. From 1999 to 2004, Richer was head of the CIA's Near East and South Asia Division, where he ran covert operations in the Middle East and South Asia. As part of his duties, he was the CIA liaison with Jordan's King Abdullah, a key US ally and Blackwater client, and briefed George W. Bush on the burgeoning Iraqi resistance in its early stages.

Total Intelligence's chief operating officer is Enrique "Ric" Prado, a twenty-four-year CIA veteran and former senior executive officer in the Directorate of Operations. He spent more than a decade working in the CIA's Counterterrorist Center and ten years with the CIA's "paramilitary" Special Operations Group.

Total Intelligence is run out of an office on the ninth floor of a building in the Ballston area of Arlington, Virginia. Its Global Fusion Center, complete with large-screen TVs broadcasting international news channels and computer stations staffed by analysts surfing the web, "operates around the clock every day of the year" and is modeled after the CIA's counterterrorist center, once run by Black. The firm employs at least sixty-five full-time staff--some estimates say it's closer to 100. "Total Intel brings the...skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the board room," Black said when the company launched.

Representative Schakowsky says the House Intelligence Committee is investigating the CIA assassination program and will probe alleged links to Blackwater. "The presidential memos (often referred to as 'findings') authorizing covert action like the lethal activities of the CIA and Blackwater have not yet surfaced," says Ray McGovern, a retired twenty-seven-year CIA analyst who once served as George H.W. Bush's national security briefer. "They will, in due course, if knowledgeable sources continue to put the Constitution and courage above secrecy oaths."

Blackwater Strikes Back

The Times report comes as Prince and his Blackwater empire are facing the prospect of a potentially explosive civil trial over the killing of Iraqi civilians. Attorney Susan Burke and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who are suing Prince and his companies on behalf of their Iraqi victims, have alleged that Prince is "equivalent to a top mafia boss who is responsible for all the day-to-day crimes committed at his direction and behest." If the case proceeds, the process of discovery could blow the lid off some of the darkest secrets of the powerful security contractor and its secretive owner. Burke and CCR are suing Prince and his companies directly rather than his individual employees because they say Prince "wholly owns and personally controls all Defendants." Burke also alleges that Prince has committed "violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a federal statute permitting private parties to seek redress from criminal enterprises who damage their property." Among the allegations are war crimes, extra-judicial killings and assault and battery of Iraqis.

Since the first case was filed by Iraqi civilians against Prince and Blackwater over the killing of seventeen Iraqis at Baghdad's Nisour Square on September 16, 2007, the company's high-powered lawyers have fought feverishly to have that and four other cases dismissed. Now, facing a crucial August 28 hearing in federal court in Virginia, they are putting forward a new argument: instead of Prince and Blackwater standing trial, the US government should be the defendant.

In a motion filed August 12, Blackwater's lawyers asked federal Judge T.S. Ellis III to order "that the United States 'be substituted as the party defendant,' in place of all of the current Defendants." In his motion, Blackwater lawyer Peter White of the powerhouse firm Mayer Brown argued that the company was working for the State Department in Iraq and therefore was on official business when the alleged killings and injuries of Iraqis took place. White cites the 1988 Westfall Act, which prohibits suits against government employees for their actions on behalf of the government and states that the government will assume liability for any lawsuits against employees.

Federal tort law defines "employees" in this context as "persons acting on behalf of a federal agency in an official capacity, temporarily or permanently in the service of the United States, whether with or without compensation." The fact that the defendants are "corporate entities" in this instance, White claims, "does not alter that conclusion." In the motion, Blackwater's attorneys note that the company, which recently renamed itself Xe Services, now does business with the government under the name US Training Center (USTC).

"The idea that the United States government should accept liability for the unprovoked criminal manslaughter of seventeen innocent Iraqis by Blackwater mercenaries, and place it on the back of taxpayers, is corporate animism run amok," says Ralph Nader, who has spent his entire career fighting against corporate personhood. "If Blackwater wants to be treated like a person, then its latest mutation, USTC, should be prosecuted, convicted and given the equivalent penalty of corporate capital punishment by revoking its charter and terminating its corporate operations."

The Westfall Act was passed in 1988 as an amendment to the Federal Torts Claim Act "to protect federal employees from personal liability for common law torts committed within the scope of their employment, while providing persons injured by the common law torts of federal employees with an appropriate remedy against the United States." After Westfall, the government assumed legal responsibility for suits filed against federal employees and made the sole remedy for victims suits against the government.

Blackwater has asked Attorney General Eric Holder to intervene in the case and to assume liability for the allegations against Blackwater. If that were to happen, legal experts say, the case would be dead in the water. "It's clear that if they win this motion and the government is substituted, since the wrongs occurred in a foreign country, the government is absolutely immune and the case will be dismissed," says Alan Morrison, a former federal prosecutor who is now the associate dean for public interest at George Washington Law School. "This is an effort [by Blackwater and Prince] to absolve themselves...of any liability for the alleged wrongs to the plaintiffs." He adds: "A gigantic, for-profit corporation is seeking to use this statute, designed to protect government employees, to shield themselves from any responsibility for the deaths and injuries" of Iraqis.

"When Blackwater chooses to interpose itself in the middle and to make profit off these individual employees in the relationship with the government, the notion that Blackwater itself, a corporation, could be an employee is unusual to say the least," says Morrison. "Why would Congress want to, in effect, transfer liability from a large, well-heeled corporation like Blackwater to the United States taxpayers for this kind of conduct? What they'd be saying [if Blackwater's interpretation of the Westfall Act is accepted] is they would have wanted to assume liability for that which they didn't have any liability in the first place."

The Justice Department has not yet issued a position in this case. "Unfortunately, there's nothing we can provide in regard to your inquiry at this time," an official wrote in an e-mail. Earlier, in response to questions from The Nation, a Justice Department spokesperson sent a memo filed by the department earlier this year in a similar case against Blackwater in federal court in Florida, in which the department had rejected the company's attempt to make the government responsible. "Defendants' request for Westfall Act certification should be denied because only natural persons can be considered 'employee of the government,'" Assistant Attorney General Tony West wrote on June 8 in a thirty-five-page filing opposing Blackwater's motion.

Several legal experts interviewed by The Nation said they could not foresee the Justice Department intervening on Blackwater's behalf. But the Westfall Act has been used by attorneys general in both the Bush and Obama administrations to attempt to absolve senior Bush officials of liability for their alleged role in crimes and to make the government liable. On June 26 Holder's office intervened in a lawsuit filed by CCR against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and twenty-three other military and medical officials "for their role in the illegal detention, torture, inhumane conditions and ultimate deaths" of two Guantánamo prisoners.

Citing the Westfall Act, Tony West wrote that "the type of activities alleged against the individual defendants were 'foreseeable' and were 'a direct outgrowth' of their responsibility to detain and gather intelligence from suspected enemy combatants." In defending the government's position, West cited case law stating that "genocide, torture, forced relocation, and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment by individual defendants employed by Department of Defense and State Department were within scope of employment" and similar cases justifying CIA torture as part of official duty.

"It is essentially saying torture is all in a day's work when it comes to holding people in military detention," says Shane Kadidal, who heads the Guantánamo project at CCR. In that case, the issue was not whether Rumsfeld and the others were "employees" but whether they were doing official business. Blackwater's argument is a tougher sell, says Morrison. "Does it hold water?" he asks. "It holds Blackwater."

Meanwhile, in another development, Prince's lawyers have responded to explosive allegations made against Prince by two former employees. In sworn affidavits submitted by lawyers representing the Iraqis suing Blackwater, the two alleged that Prince may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. One of the former employees alleges that Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," and that Prince's companies "encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life." They also charge that Prince was profiting from illegal weapons smuggling. In a motion filed August 10, Prince's lawyers asked Judge Ellis to strike from the record the sworn statements of the two former employees, saying that "the conclusory allegations they contain are inadmissible on multiple grounds, including lack of foundation, hearsay, irrelevance, and unfair prejudice." They charge that the lawyers suing Blackwater are attempting to "use this litigation as a 'megaphone' to increase their ability to influence the public's perceptions regarding the use of contractors in military battlefield situations, the Iraq War, and most particularly about Erik Prince and the other defendants. Unsubstantiated statements made in filings in this Court become 'newsworthy' simply because they appear in those filings." The lawyers characterize the allegations as "scandalous, baseless, inadmissible, and highly prejudicial." Interestingly, nowhere do Prince's lawyers say flatly that the allegations are untrue.

As the cases against Prince move forward, the company continues to do a robust business with the federal government, particularly in Afghanistan. Schakowsky has called for a review of all of the companies' current contracts, and she has called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stop awarding the company contracts. The "Obama administration should at the very least cancel and debar [Blackwater's] present and pending government contracts," says Nader. "Otherwise corporate crimes, privileges and immunities continue to pay and pay and pay."


Jeremy Scahill, an independent journalist who reports frequently for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!, has spent extensive time reporting from Iraq and Yugoslavia. He is currently a Puffin Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute. Scahill is the author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. His writing and reporting is available at RebelReports.com.

© 2009 The Nation All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/142098/

Offline bigron

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CIA Hired Private Military Firm Blackwater for Secret Assassination Program

by Democracy Now!
http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m57138&hd=&size=1&l=e



August 20, 2009
VIDEO :
Jeremy Scahill: CIA Hired Private Military Firm Blackwater for Secret Assassination Program - 1 of 2

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Jeremy Scahill: CIA Hired Private Military Firm Blackwater for Secret Assassination Program - 2 of 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ensj23q41c0&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Euruknet%2Einfo%2F%3Fp%3Dm57138%26hd%3D%26size%3D1%26l%3De&feature=player_embedded

The New York Times is reporting the CIA hired contractors from Blackwater in 2004 as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of al-Qaeda. The CIA spent several million dollars on the program, which the Times claims did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects. We speak to independent journalist Jeremy Scahill, author of the bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. [includes rush transcript]



Guest:

Jeremy Scahill, award-winning investigative journalist and author of the bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. His writing and reporting is available at RebelReports.com.

Rush Transcript

JUAN GONZALEZ: We begin today’s show with an explosive new report about the private military contractor Blackwater. The New York Times is reporting the CIA hired contractors from Blackwater in 2004 as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of al-Qaeda.


Executives from Blackwater helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The CIA spent several million dollars on the program, which the Times claims did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports Blackwater had operational control over the program.


Officials say the CIA did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program. Members of Congress did not learn about it until earlier this year, after it had been canceled.


AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about this story, we’re joined by independent journalist Jeremy Scahill, the author of the bestselling book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. He was working on this story when it broke. His article on the program will appear on thenation.com today.


Jeremy, respond to this exposé.


JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, I think that what we see here in the Times is a very small fraction—and in the Post, for that matter—a very small fraction of this story. Blackwater has had a longstanding relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency, and I go into this at great length in my book.


There are two figures that I think tell the story of Blackwater’s relationship with the CIA. One is a man named Alvin, aka Buzzy, Krongard. The other is a man named J. Cofer Black.


Buzzy Krongard was the executive director of the Central Intelligence Agency when—in 2002, the number three man at the agency. He reportedly was a friend of or an acquaintance of Erik Prince’s father, Edgar Prince. The two of them ended up meeting officially in 2002, when Buzzy Krongard and Erik Prince arranged a black contract for Blackwater with the CIA to deploy a small team of men inside of Afghanistan on the CIA payroll. It was a $5 million contract. And the official reason for Blackwater going into Afghanistan was to provide protection for the CIA operatives that were operating in Afghanistan in the early stages of the US operations there.


So, Erik Prince himself—he’s a former Navy Seal—goes over with that first team of Blackwater guys as one of the operatives, and he goes to Shkin, which is a town along the Afghan-Pakistan border, where the CIA was running a mud fortress that was called the Alamo. Prince stayed there for a little bit of time. And according to another Blackwater executive who was with Prince on that trip that we talked to for my book, Erik Prince spent a few days there and then went to Kabul to try to win more business with other US federal agencies. So that initial relationship, Buzzy Krongard with Erik Prince, started, we understand, this CIA relationship with Blackwater.


Interestingly, when we talked to Buzzy Krongard, reached him on the phone in the course of doing my book, he was sort of startled at the idea that someone was asking about Blackwater and the CIA, and he said, "I don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg," meaning, I don’t know if Blackwater came to us with an offer to work for the CIA or if we we came to them. Now, who knows what’s true and what’s not true?


After that, Blackwater then started a whole division of its company for security operations. That’s pretty much when Blackwater’s role as a provider of private soldiers began. So, after that contract, then Blackwater ended up getting this huge contract inside of Afghanistan.


What the Times and the Post are saying is that, beginning in 2004, Blackwater was hired informally—there was no official contact—through Erik Prince and other executives to actually coordinate assassination teams that would hunt top al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and potentially in Pakistan. Now, I had heard about this program weeks ago and had been doing the work of going through and trying to track down people that could verify this information. I think a lot more is going to come out on this. This is also something—I reached a member of the House Intelligence Committee last night who told me that the Intelligence Committee is, in fact, going to probe the alleged ties of Blackwater to this secret assassination program, that Dick Cheney reportedly ordered hid from Congress.


JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Jeremy, I was struck by how skimpy the Times report was, in terms of actual facts, other than this, as you mentioned, this—the fact that there was no written contract or agreement, that it was all a word-of-mouth agreement between Prince and some CIA officials. But to your knowledge, did Leon Panetta brief members of Congress about this when he began raising questions about past CIA programs?


JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I talked to a member of the Intelligence Committee. I’m not going to reveal who it was. And they said that they could neither confirm nor deny that Congress was aware of an alleged role that Blackwater was playing, nor could they say whether Panetta mentioned this at the briefing. I understand from some sources that it seems that there’s inflated reports on exactly how much of an alarm bell Leon Panetta rang when he briefed the US Congress.


I think a central point here, though, is that it shows how there was no wall between the administration and Erik Prince of Blackwater. They knew that this guy was going to be a loyal foot soldier. And you take this, combined with the fact that a former Blackwater executive has alleged that Erik Prince viewed himself as a sort of crusader fighting a holy war in defense of Christianity in an attempt to, quote, "eliminate Muslims and Islam globally," the idea that then he was working or voluntarily working on some kind of an assassination program makes perfect sense.


Remember also, Juan, that one of the top executives at Blackwater right now is a guy named Cofer Black, twenty-eight-year veteran of the CIA. He was running the assassination program for the CIA in 2002, when Blackwater first started working for the CIA. Cofer Black was head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center. He was the guy who gave orders to the CIA jawbreaker teams: go into Afghanistan, chop off Osama bin Laden’s head with a machete, and bring it back to me in a box with dry ice, because I told the President I would present it to him. He now is running Prince’s private CIA. The notion that Blackwater wouldn’t have developed that kind of a relationship and now has on its payroll three of the biggest clandestine operators of the CIA in modern history, it’s just—it’s incredible.


JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, is it conceivable that the special ops role of Blackwater with the CIA could have affected how the government reacted to the killings that the Blackwater employees were involved in in Iraq?


JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, plausible deniability. Look, if you have a—you create as many barriers between the executive branch and the actual assassinations, because of prohibitions on assassination. This has become a huge issue now in this country. If you can sort of say, this was an arrangement, a private arrangement, between the head of this company and some rogue people at the CIA, then what you’re doing is you’re—and Blackwater is perceived by many as a sinking ship right now.


Part of what could be happening here is that they’re trying to really say Blackwater was actually responsible for all of it, when I think there’s a lot of evidence to indicate that this was an official policy, that Dick Cheney, if he didn’t create the program, was involved with the concealment of the program from the Congress. Look, I had somebody in Congress tell me last night, "Erik Prince was apparently trusted more than the US Congress by the White House, because he knew about this program, and we didn’t." So, I mean, I think, yes, Blackwater—there’s ample evidence to suggest that Blackwater was involved with this program. And I think we need to probe the role. But there’s also the political reality that the Cheney folks are circling the wagons in an attempt to try to absolve themselves of any criminal culpability.


AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, can we get the name straight? What is Blackwater called today?


JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Blackwater has, you know, twenty different iterations, and they have all sorts of companies. In Afghanistan right now, they’re working for the State Department under the banner of U.S. Training Center. They’re working for the Department of Defense under Paravant. They’re working for—with their aviation wing through Presidential Airways. The official name of the company, how they do business overtly with the US government, is through U.S. Training Center. I understand that they also have some companies that are used for covert operations. TigerSwan is a company that I understand has been used for some of their covert work.


AMY GOODMAN: And the New York Times refers to them as Xe Services, X-E.


JEREMY SCAHILL: Yeah, that’s so last week. Amy. I mean, you know, they change—it changes pretty much every week.


The other thing is they have a—they have an offshore operation, which is a classic, old-fashioned mercenary operation called Greystone, which I understand still does business in Iraq.


And let’s remember, Blackwater is not just working for the US government; they work for the International Republican Institute, a John McCain-affiliated organization that’s been involved with interference in democratic processes in countries around the world and destabilizing countries. There are reports that they’ve been in Pakistan recently. And there’s—I understand there’s going to be some probing of that. In fact, Representative Jan Schakowsky, on August 6th, wrote a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asking for information about Blackwater’s alleged role in Pakistan right now. This is a company that continues to work at every level, secret and overt, of the US government.


AMY GOODMAN: And let’s talk about Blackwater’s relationship with the Obama administration, the contracts it currently has.


JEREMY SCAHILL: Right. Well, I mean, I’ve spent the better part of the past month pursuing this, and Blackwater has one official remaining overt contract in Iraq. The State Department has confirmed that Blackwater still is armed in Iraq. They’re working technically on an aviation contract, though the State Department told me that their men are allowed to carry weapons and that it’s countrywide in Iraq. Blackwater has these Little Bird helicopters that have become a central part of the transportation of US officials, occupation officials, around Iraq. That is supposed to end on September 3rd. The Obama administration increased the value of that contract in late July by $20 million to $187 million. So Blackwater has made over a billion dollars in Iraq on diplomatic security, as they call it, though some would say they’re involved in the most undiplomatic work possible. They have that contract.


In Iraq, they’re on the third year of a five-year contract for private security services for the US State Department, where they are one of the premier forces transporting US diplomats around the country. When Ambassador Holbrooke, for instance, goes to Afghanistan, his security detail is in part made up of private soldiers. Hillary Clinton, who said that she would ban Blackwater, if elected president, now is the employer of Blackwater in Afghanistan. For the Department of Defense, Blackwater works in a capacity training the Afghan military forces. These are massive, massive contracts that Blackwater still has with the Obama administration.


JUAN GONZALEZ: And in the about thirty seconds that we have left, could you give us a sense—the Times is reporting that these assassination teams did not actually kill anybody. Is that your understanding, as well?


JEREMY SCAHILL: I would raise very serious questions about that, and I’ll tell you why. Cofer Black, when he was head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, said, shortly after Blackwater started working for the CIA, that they had killed thousands of people and that they either killed or detained thousands of people as part of their covert program. Blackwater is alleged to have been working under the CIA’s paramilitary assassination program.


I think that before we go off to the races with declarations about how programs of this nature didn’t work, let’s remember one very important fact. These guys are former Navy Seals. They are the most sophisticated, highly trained operatives in the US military. That was the bonus of hiring Erik Prince. You are getting, off the books, off the map, unknown, plausibly deniable paramilitary operatives, who were the most seasoned veterans of US covert operations, to work essentially a black program in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I doubt very seriously that, if Blackwater was involved, no one got killed.


AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, thanks so much for being with us. His article will appear at thenation.com today. Jeremy Scahill, award-winning investigative journalist, author of the bestseller Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Good luck on Friday night, tomorrow night, on Bill Maher. Jeremy will be on with Jan Schakowsky, Jay Leno and NBC’s Chuck Todd.



 

Offline bigron

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Source: CIA hired Blackwater to help hunt al Qaeda leaders

Story Highlights:

Program, begun in 2001, came to light this year, when it was canceled
It was part of CIA effort to develop possible covert operations overseas
U.S. official says Blackwater's involvement in program had ended by mid-2006
Ex-CIA director: "This was not a very prominent thing during my time as director"

From Barbara Starr and Pam Benson
CNN


CIA Director Leon Panetta canceled the covert program this year when he learned of its full scope.


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Central Intelligence Agency hired the private security firm Blackwater USA in 2004 to work on a covert program aimed at targeting and potentially killing top al Qaeda leaders, according to a source familiar with the program.

The existence of the program, which began in 2001, came to light earlier this year when CIA Director Leon Panetta canceled the effort, but it is only now that Blackwater's involvement has become known.

That development was first reported Thursday in The New York Times.

The program was part of a broader effort inside the CIA to develop the capacity to conduct training, surveillance and possible covert operations overseas, according to the source. The program was outsourced to contractors to "put some distance" between the effort and the U.S. government.

By mid-2006, Blackwater's involvement in the program had ended, according to a U.S. official. Other contractors were brought in for other parts of the program, another source said.

The total program cost "millions," a U.S. official said. It is not known how much Blackwater was paid. The company -- now known as Xe -- did not return CNN's calls seeking comment.

"The program ebbed and flowed. There were different phases to it. There may have been different folks involved," the source said.

U.S. officials have previously acknowledged that Panetta canceled the entire program this year when he learned of its full scope. At the time of the cancellation, officials said, renewal of the program was being considered. At that point, it had been brought to the new CIA director's attention.

Panetta canceled the effort in part because Congress had not been notified about it, officials said. Also, some in the intelligence community were worried there could be a diplomatic disaster if contractors were caught performing such work in foreign countries.

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who ran the agency from 2006 to 2009, downplayed the program during a speaking engagement in Washington.

"This was not a very prominent thing during my time as director," Hayden said. "What you had were three separate efforts under three different directors to deal with an issue that everyone understood was a problem in a capacity that everyone agreed we should have."

A spokesman for the CIA would not comment on the details of the still-classified program.

"Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so," spokesman George Little said. "He also knew it hadn't been successful, so he ended it. Neither decision was difficult. This was clear and straightforward.

"Director Panetta did not tell the committees that the agency had misled the Congress or had broken the law. He decided that the time had come to brief Congress on a counterterrorism effort."

Blackwater's extensive involvement in U.S. operations overseas, particularly in Iraq, has been controversial. The Iraqi government says that in a shooting in September 2007, Blackwater security guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians. Blackwater says its employees were returning fire after they were attacked by armed insurgents, but an Iraqi investigation concluded that the guards randomly fired at civilians without provocation.

The incident led to the Iraqi government's refusal to renew the firm's operating license in the country when it expired in May.

Although it lost the Iraq contract, the company, which changed its name to Xe earlier this year, continued to get multimillion-dollar contracts from the U.S. government for work in Afghanistan.

All AboutCentral Intelligence Agency • Leon Panetta • Blackwater USA
 

 
 
 
Links referenced within this article

Blackwater
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/blackwater_usa
CIA
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/central_intelligence_agency
Panetta
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/leon_panetta
Central Intelligence Agency
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Central_Intelligence_Agency
Leon Panetta
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Leon_Panetta
Blackwater USA
http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/Blackwater_USA

 

 
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http://edition.cnn.com/2009/US/08/20/cia.blackwater/index.html 

Offline bigron

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August 21, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/21/us/21intel.html?_r=1



C.I.A. Said to Use Outsiders to Put Bombs on Drones


By JAMES RISEN and MARK MAZZETTI

WASHINGTON — From a secret division at its North Carolina headquarters, the company formerly known as Blackwater has assumed a role in Washington’s most important counterterrorism program: the use of remotely piloted drones to kill Al Qaeda’s leaders, according to government officials and current and former employees.

The division’s operations are carried out at hidden bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the company’s contractors assemble and load Hellfire missiles and 500-pound laser-guided bombs on remotely piloted Predator aircraft, work previously performed by employees of the Central Intelligence Agency. They also provide security at the covert bases, the officials said.

The role of the company in the Predator program highlights the degree to which the C.I.A. now depends on outside contractors to perform some of the agency’s most important assignments. And it illustrates the resilience of Blackwater, now known as Xe (pronounced Zee) Services, though most people in and outside the company still refer to it as Blackwater. It has grown through government work, even as it attracted criticism and allegations of brutality in Iraq.

A spokesman for the C.I.A. declined to comment for this article.

The New York Times reported Thursday that the agency hired Blackwater in 2004 as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top Qaeda operatives.

In interviews on Thursday, current and former government officials provided new details about Blackwater’s association with the assassination program, which began in 2004 not long after Porter J. Goss took over at the C.I.A. The officials said that the spy agency did not dispatch the Blackwater executives with a “license to kill.” Instead, it ordered the contractors to begin collecting information on the whereabouts of Al Qaeda’s leaders, carry out surveillance and train for possible missions.

“The actual pulling of a trigger in some ways is the easiest part, and the part that requires the least expertise,” said one government official familiar with the canceled C.I.A. program. “It’s everything that leads up to it that’s the meat of the issue.”

Any operation to capture or kill militants would have had to have been approved by the C.I.A. director and presented to the White House before it was carried out, the officials said. The agency’s current director, Leon E. Panetta, canceled the program and notified Congress of its existence in an emergency meeting in June.

The extent of Blackwater’s business dealings with the C.I.A. has largely been hidden, but its public contract with the State Department to provide private security to American diplomats in Iraq has generated intense scrutiny and controversy.

The company lost the job in Iraq this year, after Blackwater guards were involved in shootings in 2007 that left 17 Iraqis dead. It still has other, less prominent State Department work.

Five former Blackwater guards have been indicted in federal court on charges related to the 2007 episode.

A spokeswoman for Xe did not respond to a request for comment.

For its intelligence work, the company’s sprawling headquarters in North Carolina has a special division, known as Blackwater Select. The company’s first major arrangement with the C.I.A. was signed in 2002, with a contract to provide security for the agency’s new station in Kabul, Afghanistan. Blackwater employees assigned to the Predator bases receive training at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to learn how to load Hellfire missiles and laser-guided smart bombs on the drones, according to current and former employees, who asked not to be identified for fear of upsetting the company.

The C.I.A. has for several years operated Predator drones out of a remote base in Shamsi, Pakistan, but has secretly added a second site at an air base in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, several current and former government and company officials said. The existence of the Predator base in Jalalabad has not previously been reported.

Officials said the C.I.A. now conducted most of its Predator missile and bomb strikes on targets in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region from the Jalalabad base, with drones landing or taking off almost hourly. The base in Pakistan is still in use. But officials said that the United States decided to open the Afghanistan operation in part because of the possibility that the Pakistani government, facing growing anti-American sentiment at home, might force the C.I.A. to close the one in Pakistan.

Blackwater is not involved in selecting targets or actual strikes. The targets are selected by the C.I.A., and employees at the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va., pull the trigger remotely. Only a handful of the agency’s employees actually work at the Predator bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the current and former employees said.

They said that Blackwater’s direct role in these operations had sometimes led to disputes with the C.I.A. Sometimes when a Predator misses a target, agency employees accuse Blackwater of poor bomb assembly, they said. In one instance last year recounted by the employees, a 500-pound bomb dropped off a Predator before it hit the target, leading to a frantic search for the unexploded bomb in the remote Afghan-Pakistani border region. It was eventually found about 100 yards from the original target.

The role of contractors in intelligence work expanded after the Sept. 11 attacks, as spy agencies were forced to fill gaps created when their work forces were reduced during the 1990s, after the end of the cold war.

More than a quarter of the intelligence community’s current work force is made up of contractors, carrying out missions like intelligence collection and analysis and, until recently, interrogation of terrorist suspects.

“There are skills we don’t have in government that we may have an immediate requirement for,” Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who ran the C.I.A. from 2006 until early this year, said during a panel discussion on Thursday on the privatization of intelligence.

General Hayden, who succeeded Mr. Goss at the agency, acknowledged that the C.I.A. program continued under his watch, though it was not a priority. He said the program was never prominent during his time at the C.I.A., which was one reason he did not believe that he had to notify Congress. He said it did not involve outside contractors by the time he came in.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who presides over the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the agency should have notified Congress in any event. “Every single intelligence operation and covert action must be briefed to the Congress,” she said. “If they are not, that is a violation of the law.”

Mark Landler contributed reporting.


Offline bigron

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Blackwater: More Help Than We Thought?

August 23, 20092:31


Blackwater, a private security company, worked with the CIA to help assassinate terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush Administration kept the contract from Congress. So what does it all mean?

Watch:

http://www.newsy.com/videos/blackwater_more_help_than_we_thought