Author Topic: Private Contractor Surge Into Afghanistan-(post all AFPAK contractor news here)  (Read 179361 times)

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Offline bigron

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Published on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 by RebelReports

U.S. Increasing Use of Private Contractors in War Zone

In Iraq, armed contractors are increasing as US troops “drawdown.” In Afghanistan, the increases are across the board.

by Jeremy Scahill

The Department of Defense has released an updated census [1] of Pentagon contractors deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan and CENTCOM's area of operations. The overall number of contractors in the third quarter of 2009 increased slightly from 243,000 to 244,000, which means that private forces continue to constitute about half of the total US force deployed in these two wars.

Two other statistics jump out. First, in Iraq, the DoD reports that there was "a 19 % increase (from 10,743 to 13,232) of armed DoD PSCs in Iraq compared to the 2nd quarter FY 2009 census." The DoD says the "increase can be attributed to an increased need for PSCs to provide security as the military begins to drawdown forces and to our continued improved ability to account for subcontractors who are providing security services." In other words, less soldiers means more mercenaries in Iraq.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, there continue to be more private contractors than US soldiers. There was "a 20% increase (from 4,111 to 5,165) of armed DoD PSCs in Afghanistan compared to the 1st quarter FY 2009 census," according to the DoD.  That increase is, predictably, linked to the overall "build up of forces" in Afghanistan.

In neither Iraq, nor Afghanistan, do these numbers include the armed contractors working for the US Department of State or for private entities or individuals. That means that the Blackwater, DynCorp and Triple Canopy forces working for the State Department are not included in this count. Nor are those who work for the CIA or other covert US agencies. In other words, these statistics are a conservative estimate of the total number of private armed personnel on the US payroll in these countries.

In Iraq, there has been an overall 10% decrease in the total number of private contractors- there are now 119,706. According to DoD this is "due to ongoing efforts to reduce the contractor footprint in Iraq." Interestingly, there has been an increase in the overall number of contractors in Afghanistan- "a 9% increase (from 68K to 74K) in contractor personnel in Afghanistan." Kuwait has also seen a "significant" increase in US contractor personnel. The report was prepared by the Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Program Support [2].

© 2009 RebelReports

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Offline bigron

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Flushing Blackwater

by Jeremy Scahill

August 27, 2009

Blackwater, the private mercenary company owned by Erik Prince, has been thrust back into the spotlight by a series of stunning revelations about its role in covert US programs. Since at least 2002, Blackwater has worked for the CIA in Afghanistan and Pakistan on "black" contracts. On August 19, the New York Times revealed that the company was, in fact, a central part of a secret CIA assassination program that Dick Cheney allegedly ordered concealed from Congress. The paper then reported that Blackwater remains a key player in the widening air war in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it arms drone aircraft. These disclosures follow allegations--made under oath by former Blackwater employees--that Prince murdered or facilitated the murder of potential government informants and that he "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe."

In addition, Blackwater is being investigated by the Justice Department for possible crimes ranging from weapons smuggling to manslaughter and by the IRS for possible tax evasion. It is being sued in federal courts by scores of Iraqi civilians for alleged war crimes and extrajudicial killings. Two of its men have pleaded guilty to weapons-smuggling charges; another pleaded guilty to the unprovoked manslaughter of an Iraqi civilian, and five others have been indicted on similar counts. The US military is investigating Blackwater's killing of civilians in Afghanistan in May, and reports are emerging that the company may be implicated in the CIA's extraordinary rendition program.

And yet, despite these black marks, the Obama administration continues to keep Blackwater on the government's payroll. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, Blackwater still works for the CIA, the State Department and the Defense Department to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and its continuing presence is an indicator of just how entrenched private corporations are in the US war machinery. The United States now deploys more private forces (74,000) than uniformed soldiers (57,000) in Afghanistan. While the majority of these contractors are not armed, a sizable number carry weapons, and their ranks are swelling. A recent Defense Department census reports that as of June 30, armed DoD contractors in Afghanistan had increased by 20 percent from the first quarter of 2009.

With the exception of a few legislators, notably Representatives Henry Waxman and Jan Schakowsky, Congress has left the use of private military contractors largely unmonitored. But the recent disclosures of Blackwater's covert activities may finally force Congress to take action. At the very least, the Obama administration should be required to disclose current and past federal contracts with all of Prince's companies and affiliates, including those registered offshore.

Congress can take Schakowsky's lead and ask the Obama administration why it is continuing to work with Blackwater. Schakowsky has called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates to review all of the company's existing contracts and not to award any new ones to its many affiliates. Congressional intelligence committees should also conduct a wide-ranging investigation into Blackwater's involvement in the CIA assassination program. Were Blackwater operatives involved in actual killings? Who approved the company's involvement? Was Congress notified? How high up the chain of command did the covert relationship with the company go? Was Blackwater active on US soil? What role, if any, did/does Blackwater play in secretly transporting prisoners?

This investigation must include the sworn testimony of former top CIA officials who were later hired or paid by Blackwater. Among these are Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard, the former number-three man at the agency, who gave Blackwater its first CIA contract and then served on the company's board, and J. Cofer Black, the former head of the CIA's counterterrorism unit, which ran the assassination program. Black later became the vice chair of Blackwater and ran Total Intelligence Solutions, Prince's private CIA. Total Intelligence has been simultaneously employed by the US government, foreign governments and private companies, an arrangement that may have created conflicts of interest that the House and Senate intelligence committees are obliged to investigate. Congress should also ask if national security is compromised when the knowledge, contacts and access possessed by former high-ranking CIA officials like Black and Krongard are placed on the open market.

John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has questioned whether Blackwater used its State Department clearance as cover to gather information for targeted killings. Kerry should hold hearings in which Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice would be compelled to testify on the matter. The oversight committees should probe allegations that Blackwater was involved in arms smuggling and extrajudicial killings in Iraq, while committees dealing with military affairs should investigate what impact Blackwater's actions in Iraq have had on the safety of US troops. An invaluable asset for these investigations could be the Commission on Wartime Contracting, established by Senators Jim Webb and Claire McCaskill. Finally, the Justice Department should probe the murder, smuggling and other allegations against Prince and his executives.

In all of this, Blackwater has proved itself to be a whack-a-mole: it keeps popping up. Despite the Iraqi government's ban on the company, its operatives remain in Iraq a full two years after the September 2007 Nisour Square massacre, in which seventeen Iraqi civilians were gunned down in Baghdad. This resilience means that the investigations into the company must be comprehensive and coordinated.

Lastly, it is a mistake to think that Blackwater is the only problem. In Iraq, for example, the Obama administration is replacing Blackwater with the private contractor Triple Canopy, which, in addition to hiring some of Blackwater's men, has its own questionable history, including allegations of shooting civilians and hiring forces from countries with a history of human rights abuses. Blackwater is but one fruit on the poisonous tree of military outsourcing. It is imperative that Congress confront the intimate linking of corporate profits to US wars and lethal, covert operations.


Offline bigron

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Published on Friday, August 28, 2009 by

Blackwater in Court Today in War Crimes Hearing

by Jeremy Scahill

Lawyers for Blackwater and its owner Erik Prince are in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia today where they are arguing that the five lawsuits against them should be thrown out. The judge in the case, TS Ellis III, is a Reagan appointee with an interesting recent history. He presided over the plea agreement of John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taliban;" he sentenced Lawrence Franklin to 12 years in the AIPAC/Israel espionage scandal and he also tossed out a case brought by German citizen Khalid El-Masri against private companies allegedly involved with the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. Judge Ellis said that to allow the case to proceed would "present a grave risk of injury to national security." Blackwater has made a similar argument in this case, essentially that it was involved with sensitive operations on behalf of the government and cannot be sued (This is covered in great detail in my book).

Will a war crimes lawsuit against Erik Prince and Blackwater be allowed to proceed? That is in the hands of a Reagan-appointed judge in Virginia.Ellis has refused to grant Blackwater's request for a gag order in the case, which Blackwater wanted. In my recent piece for The Nation, "Blackwater: CIA Assassins?" the second half of the story got buried because of breaking news. It dealt with Blackwater's attempt to make the US government the defendant in these civil cases instead of Prince and Blackwater. For background, I am posting that section here:

Blackwater Strikes Back

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."

© 2009

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Offline bigron

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Blackwater founder accused of killing Iraqis
29/08/2009 12:35:00 PM GMT

The head of the US 'security contractor' Blackwater, Erik Prince, is accused of deliberately causing the deaths of more than 20 civilians in Iraq between 2005 and 2007.

The accusations were made by attorneys for Iraqis suing the US company in a federal court in Virginia, USA.

According to the attorneys, Erik Prince must be held responsible for the killings as he provided Blackwater agents with weapons and instructions to kill innocent civilians.

Meanwhile, the attorneys have also accused the company of covering up the killings and allegedly plotting to murder witnesses in the criminal probe.

Five former guards working for the US-based 'Blackwater' have already been indicted for their roles in the killing of 17 Iraqi civilians in the Iraqi capital Baghdad nearly two years ago.

Blackwater continues to provide hired guns to the US government, in Washington's self-styled “war on terror,” under the disguise of its new name, Xe Services LLC.
Source: Press TV

Offline bigron

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Thugs of Fortune

Posted By Jeff Huber On August 28, 2009 @ 9:00 pm

A singular absurdity of the 21st century is that the nation that spends more on defense than the rest of the world combined needs to hire mercenaries to fight wars against enemies who have no defense budget at all. 

An August 19 New York Times article revealed that in 2004 the CIA hired Blackwater USA to help "locate and assassinate top operatives of al-Qaeda."  This is the secret program that Dick Cheney ordered the CIA to not tell Congress about for seven years.  "It is unclear," wrote Times reporter Mark Mazetti, "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."  The program, says Mazetti, "did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects," which makes it sound like they tried to kill terrorist suspects and blew it.  There’s something about assassinating "suspects" that makes the mercenary aspect of the program seem trivial.   

It was the mercenary facet, though, according to Mazetti, that led CIA director Leon Panetta to cancel the program in June and then tell Congress about it.  Panetta would have been fine with assassinating suspects, I reckon, if only CIA types had been involved. 

But wait a minute.  An August 20 Times article by Mazetti and James Risen says the CIA is still using mercenaries to help them kill terror suspects.  A "division" of "the company formerly known as ‘Blackwater’" is loading Hellfire missiles and guided bombs on drone aircraft at "hidden" bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  The Blackwater mercenaries, now known as "Xe" (pronounced "zee") mercenaries, also provide security at the bases.  They don’t pull the trigger or pickle off bombs though; CIA "employees" do that by remote control from the agency’s Langley, Virginia headquarters.  CIA types also pick which terror suspects to target.

How is this drone assassination program different from the assassination program Panetta cancelled in June?  Both employ mercenaries.  Both target "suspects."  Both rely on iffy information; our intelligence in that part of the world amounts to beating people up or bribing them so they tell us what we want to hear. 

Our intelligence is so bad that we don’t even know for certain if our drone assassination program has killed any suspects.  We know for sure that we’ve killed a lot of people who aren’t terrorists through collateral damage though, so we can be fairly sure the drone assassination program — like the rest of our woebegone war on terror — creates two or more new terrorists for every one it eliminates.   

In the assassination program that Panetta cancelled, operations to kill or capture suspects had to be approved by the CIA director and presented to the White House.  Risen and Mazetti say that drones land or take off from the bases in the Bananastans "almost hourly," so it’s a good bet that nobody at the White House is getting told about the drone assissination missions, and the CIA director probably gets a weekly summary that he may or may not read.  That means that "employees" are deciding when and where to create collateral damage.   

The assassination program Panetta cancelled probably violated U.S. and international law.  The drone assassination program does too.  We’re running airstrikes, which are acts of war, against targets in Pakistan.  Congress has not specifically approved combat operations in Pakistan, unless you consider the September 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force as a blank check for any president to apply military power anywhere at any time if it involves counterterrorism.  If that’s the case, Mr. Obama can fire bomb Dresden and nuke Nagasaki if he thinks suspected terrorists are hiding there.  Heck, he might delegate those decisions to CIA "employees," or even employees of Blackwater/Xe. 

It speaks philosophical volumes about contemporary American values that an illegal secret assassination program that involved mercenaries had to be shut down, but an illegal overt assassination program involving mercenaries continues without objection.   

In March 2009 Blackwater/Xe lost its billion-dollar contract to protect U.S. diplomats in Baghdad, a job normally done by the U.S. Marines.  Blackwater had been under fire for a 2007 incident in which its security personnel killed 17 civilians in an unprovoked shooting.  Another mercenary outfit, Triple Canopy, won the contract and hired the same security personnel who had just been fired to do the same job they’d been fired from.  Some in the Iraqi government speculated that Triple Canopy subcontracted the job to an outfit called the Falcon Group, which was a Blackwater/Xe affiliate. 

Two former Blackwater/Xe employees have filed sworn statements in a federal court alleging that company founder Erik Prince may have been involved in the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.   The statements assert 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."  There’s plenty more and it’s plenty sordid, and it’s mighty salacious stuff for people to swear to in front of a federal magistrate if it has no basis in truth.  Prince is a former Navy Seal, he’s rich, and he’s politically connected.  He probably knows a few good lawyers.   

There are a number of reasons to hire mercenaries.  Some of them are financial; it’s cheaper to rent a shooter for a short-term job than it is to train a career soldier or intelligence officer or torture specialist whom you have to provide with benefits and retirement pay.  The main reason to use mercenaries, though, is that they exist in a legal twilight zone.  If they operate overseas, they’re not exactly subject to U.S. law or host nation law or international law.  They don’t operate under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or congressional oversight either.  They can get away with shenanigans that even the CIA and Special Forces wouldn’t dirty their hands on.  Nobody has to know how contract interrogators get information from prisoners, and the second the government pays a mercenary outfit the money vanishes from the books forever.   

If, as Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker says, a certain former vice president formed death squads that answered directly to him, they likely contained mercenaries.  Blackwater/Xe may not have been directly involved in any trigger pulling, but former Middle East CIA field officer Robert Baer noted recently at that "Blackwater was not the worst of the contractors, some of which did reportedly end up carrying out their assigned hits."

Doesn’t all this make you proud to be an American?

Read more by Jeff Huber
In Bush’s Footsteps – August 24th, 2009
Look Who’s Not Talking – August 17th, 2009
The Man With the Plan for Bananastan – August 10th, 2009
Wham Bam Bananastan – August 3rd, 2009
Middle East Show of Farce – July 27th, 2009

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Offline bigron

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Contractor Accused of Death Threats

August 28, 2009
Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A military contractor under investigation on allegations he overbilled and did faulty repair work on Navy and Army aircraft has been charged with threatening to kill witnesses in the case, according to a complaint unsealed Thursday.

Keith E. Shaw, owner of Shaw Aero in Louisville, traveled to Tennessee to buy explosives as part of a plot to blow up his former business partner's plane, according to an affidavit filed in federal court by an investigator for the U.S. Department of Defense.

Shaw was arrested Wednesday by deputy U.S. marshals. His attorney, Thomas Clay of Louisville, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The affidavit written by DOD Criminal Investigator Jared Camper was unsealed Thursday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Whalin.

Camper said the department has been investigating Shaw for three years for allegedly defective repair work on Navy fighter jets and Navy Seahawk and Army Blackhawk helicopters. He has not been charged in the contracting investigation.

The DOD investigation also focuses on allegations that Shaw billed for work not done on the LN-93 Laser Navigation System, which is used on the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. Camper wrote that investigators served two search warrants on Aug. 4 and Aug 6 related to that allegation.

Camper said Shaw is also accused of telling employees to fraudulently repair solid state gyros, which are used to measure and maintain stability in Blackhawk and Seahawk helicopters. Both allegations stem from an investigation that Shaw did defective repair work on the inertial navigation system for F-5 jets used by the Navy to train pilots.

Camper wrote that former business partner Dean Dickinson and ex-employee Andrew Brown, along with four confidential informants, provided information about Shaw during the investigation.

At least three confidential informants said Shaw repeatedly talked about killing Dickinson, becoming more serious over time, Camper wrote.

One of the plots involved putting high-powered explosives inside the wings of Dickinson's aircraft, then attacking pressure switches that would cause an explosion once the plane reached a certain altitude, Camper wrote. One informant bought the switches at a hardware store and said Shaw traveled to Tennessee to get the explosives, Camper wrote.

Shaw relayed this plot to another confidential informant, laying out how he would implant the explosives and switches in Dickinson's plane while it was parked at the unguarded airstrip at Kentucky Lake, in western Kentucky, Camper wrote.

A fourth confidential informant told Camper that in December 2008 Shaw offered him $100,000 to kill Dickinson and Brown and delivered him a .308 sniper rifle, Camper wrote.

Federal authorities seized the sniper rifle during a search on Aug. 24.

Dickinson declined to comment to The Associated Press.

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Contractor to pay $15 million to settle lawsuit

Staff report
Posted : Friday Aug 28, 2009 15:28:50 EDT
An Air Force contractor has agreed to pay $15 million plus interest to settle a false claims lawsuit involving computer equipment sold to Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., the Air Force announced Thursday.

The U.S. Attorney General’s Office had accused Dynamics Research Corporation, known as DRC, of selling computer chips and other equipment that failed to meet Air Force specifications to the Electronic Systems Center at Hanscom.

Two former officers of the company, Paul Arguin and Victor Garber, were prosecuted in a separate criminal action, resulting in guilty pleas in 2002 for conspiring to defraud the government.

The lawsuit against DRC alleged that from 1997 to 2000, Arguin and Garber steered Air Force contracts for computer equipment and services to companies owned by the men, Arguin’s wife and others in exchange for kickbacks. The men also were accused of inflating contract prices that produced windfall profits.

In one of the schemes, the two men substituted generic computer chips for name-brand chips that were called for under the contract. The generic chips did not meet military specifications.

The case was uncovered through an anonymous tip and investigated by special agents from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations Detachment 102, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the General Services Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, and the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

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Mercenary Armies: A Worldwide Threat and a Menace to Peace

by Sherwood Ross

August 30, 2009

The growing use of private armies not only subjects target populations to savage warfare but makes it easier for the government to subvert domestic public opinion and wage wars.

Americans are less inclined to oppose a war that is being fought by hired foreign mercenaries, even when their own tax dollars are being squandered to fund it.

"The increasing use of contractors, private forces, or, as some would say, 'mercenaries’ makes wars easier to begin and to fight—it just takes money and not the citizenry," said Michael Ratner, of New York’s Center for Constitutional Rights. "To the extent a population is called upon to go to war, there is resistance, a necessary resistance to prevent wars of self-aggrandizement, foolish wars, and, in the case of the United States, hegemonic imperialist wars."

Indeed, the Pentagon learned the perils of the draft from the massive public protests it provoked during the Vietnam War. Today, it would prefer, and is working toward, an electronic battlefield where the fighting is done by robots guided by sophisticated surveillance systems that will minimize U.S. casualties. Meanwhile, it tolerates the use of private contractors to help fight its battles.

Iraq offers a heart-breaking example of a war in which contract fighters so inflamed the public they were sent to "liberate" that when fighting broke out in Fallujah the bodies of privateer Blackwater’s four slain mercenaries were desecrated by enraged mobs. This horrific scene was televised globally and prompted the U.S. to make a punishing, retaliatory military assault upon Fallujah, causing widespread death and destruction.

Just as the American colonists despised the mercenary Hessians in the Revolutionary War, Iraqis came to hate Blackwater and its kindred contractors worse than U.S. soldiers, who often showed them kindness, according to a journalist with experience in the war zone.

"It wasn’t uncommon for an American soldier, or even an entire company, to develop a very friendly relationship with an Iraqi community. It didn’t happen every day, but it wasn’t unheard of," writes Ahmed Mansour, an Egyptian reporter and talk show host for Qatar-based al-Jazeera, the Middle East TV network.

"It was also definitely not uncommon to see American troops high-fiving Iraqi teenagers, holding the arm of an elderly woman to help her cross a street, or helping someone out of a difficult situation…This was not the case with mercenaries. They knew they were viewed as evil thugs, and they wanted to keep it that way."

In his book Inside Fallujah, Mansour says, "Mercenaries were viewed as monsters, primarily because they behaved monstrously. They never spoke to anyone using words—they only used the language of fire, bullets, and absolute lethal force. It was fairly common to see a mercenary crush a small civilian Iraqi car with passengers inside just because the mercenaries happened to be stuck in a traffic jam."

Mansour, best known as host of the talk show "Without Limits," says his viewing audience was "outraged by the mere idea that a political superpower like the United States would hire mercenaries to do their unpleasant work instead of employing soldiers who believe in their country and its mission. Viewers were also obviously outraged over the horrendous war crimes committed by the mercenaries."

Blackwater was finally censured after its forces mowed down 17 civilians on Sept. 16, 2007, in what Iraqi officials said was an unprovoked assault in Baghdad’s Nisour Square, after which they refused to renew its operating license. The Moyock, N.C.-based security outfit changed its name to Xe Services and, according to The Nation magazine, was still allowed to ink a $20 million renewal pact good through Sept. 3rd, to guard State Department officials. Part of its work, though, has been assumed by Triple Canopy, of Herndon, Va., a firm also with a blemished history.

Triple Canopy employs "private security guards (who) have allegedly targeted Iraqi civilians for sport, attempting to kill them, while doing work for Halliburton/KBR," wrote Pratap Chatterjee in the  book, Halliburton’s Army. Speaking of mercenaries as a group, Brig. General Karl Hors, an advisor to the U.S. Joint Force Command, once observed, "These guys run loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There is no authority over them, so you can’t come down on them when they escalate in force. They shoot people and someone else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place."

On June 27, 2004, the day before L. Paul Bremer III, the administrator of the Coalition Provisional authority, left Baghdad, he issued Order 17 that barred the Iraqi government from prosecuting contractor crimes in domestic courts. Result: When the Iraq government probed Nisour Square, it reported "the murder of citizens in cold blood in the Nisour area by Blackwater is considered a terrorist action against civilians just like any other terrorist operation."

As the Associated Press reported in April, "The company does not face any charges. But the Baghdad incident exacerbated the feelings of many Iraqis that private American security contractors have operated since 2003 with little regard for Iraqi law or life."

Baghdad also charged Blackwater was involved in at least six deadly incidents in the year leading up to Nisour Square, including the death of Iraqi journalist Hana al-Ameedi.

By Spring, 2008, there were 180,000 mercenaries operating in Iraq. How many of them have been killed is not known. Their deaths do not appear on Pentagon casualty lists. Since many perform non-combat duties, it is not likely they have suffered as many deaths and wounds as GI’s. By some estimates, perhaps 1,000 perished in Iraq, about one mercenary for every four GI’s killed.

According to Mansour, an Iraqi group, Supporters of Truth, claims that low-flying U.S. helicopters dropped the bodies of slain mercenaries into the Diyala River near the Iranian border. Another group, the Islamic Army of Iraq, "uncovered mass graves for mercenaries who worked for the U.S. forces….He said uncovering mass graves of mercenaries had become common in Iraq…" Whether these were local mercenaries or imported fighters was not clear.

Many soldiers of fortune on private payrolls previously served dictators in South Africa, Chile, and elsewhere. "In Iraq, the private security firms that are the second-large component of the 'coalition of the willing’ are dipping into experienced pools of trained fighters, almost 70 percent from El Salvador, it is estimated, Noam Chomsky wrote in Failed States, "The trained killers from the Reagan-run state terrorist apparatus can earn better pay pursuing their craft in Iraq than in what remains of their societies at home."

Other mercenaries have been recruited from the Iraqi population itself. Sociologist James Petras, in the book Rulers and Ruled in the U.S. Empire, wrote, "The use of local mercenaries creates the illusion that Washington is gradually handing over power to the local puppet regime. It gives the impression that the puppet regime is capable of ruling, and propagandizes the myth that a stable and reliable locally-based army exists. The presence of these local mercenaries creates the myth that the internal conflict is a civil war instead of a national liberation struggle against a colonial power."

Petras also writes, "the failure of the US policy of using Iraqi mercenaries to defeat the resistance is evident in the escalation of US combat military forces in Iraq in the spring of 2007, after five years of colonial warfare—from 140,000 to 170,000 troops, not counting the presence of some 100,000 mercenaries from American firms such as Blackwater." He said the Iraqi mercenary force is plagued by high levels of desertion.

In The Sorrows of Empire, Chalmers Johnson wrote, "The use of private contractors is assumed to be more cost-effective, but even that is open to question when contracts go only to a few well-connected companies and the bidding is not particularly competitive."

Blackwater Security got a $27 million no-bid contract to guard L. Paul Bremer III, the administrator of the Coalition Provisional authority in 2003. According to the book The Three Trillion Dollar War by Linda Blimes and Joseph Stiglitz, that was expanded to $100 million a year later and by 2007, Blackwater held a $1.2 billion contract for Iraq, where it employed 845 private security contractors.

Stiglitz notes that in 2007 private security guards working for firms like Blackwater and Dyncorp were earning up to $1,222 a day or $445,000 a year. By contrast, an Army sergeant earned $140 to $190 a day in pay and benefits, a total of $51,100 to $69,350 a year.

Since U.S. taxpayers are underwriting private soldiers’ paychecks, where’s the savings? It is money from taxpayer’s pockets that has made these shadow armies great.

In his bestseller, Blackwater: The Rise of The World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, reporter Jeremy Scahill writes:

"Its seven-thousand-acre facility in Moyock, N.C., has now become the most sophisticated private military center on the planet, while the company possesses one of the world’s larget privately held stockpiles of heavy-duty weaponry. It is a major training center for federal and local security and military forces in the United States, as well as foreign forces and private individuals….It is developing surveillance blimps and private airstrips for its fleet of aircraft, which include helicopter gunships."

Company officials say they have been training about 35,000 "law enforcement" and military personnel a year.

The idea of the Pentagon outsourcing much of its work, from kitchen police to war zone truck drivers, came largely from then Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in the early 1990s, when he was tasked by Congress to reduce Pentagon spending after the Cold War thawed. And after leaving his Defense post to become CEO of Halliburton, Cheney also oversaw the use of contractors to support the military then engaged in the former Yugoslavia.

As Chatterjee reminds us in Halliburton’s Army, "Approximately one in one hundred people on the Iraqi battlefield in the 2001 Operation Desert Storm were contractors, compared to today in Operation Enduring Freedom, where the number of contractors are roughly equal to those of military personnel."

And since mercenaries can work in civvies, they are useful to the Pentagon when it seeks to build a military presence in a country without attracting undue attention. As Scahill writes, "Instead of sending in battalions of active U.S. military to Azerbaijan, the Pentagon deployed 'civilian contractors’ from Blackwater and other firms to set up an operation that would serve a dual purpose: protecting the West’s new profitable oil and gas exploitation in a region historically dominated by Russia and Iran, and possibly laying the groundwork for an important forward operating base for an attack against Iran."

Scahill says, "Domestic opposition to wars of aggression results in fewer people volunteering to serve in the armed forces, which historically deflates the war drive or forces a military draft. At the same time, international opposition has made it harder for Washington to persuade other governments to support its wars and occupations. But with private mercenary companies, these dynamics change dramatically, as the pool of potential soldiers available to an aggressive administration is limited only by the number of men across the globe willing to kill for money.

With the aid of mercenaries, you don’t need a draft or even the support of your own public to wage wars of aggression, nor do you need a coalition of 'willing" nations to aid you. If Washington cannot staff an occupation or invasion with its national forces, the mercenary firms offer a privatized alternative—including Blackwater’s 21,000-man contractor database….If foreign governments are not on board, foreign soldiers can still be bought."

In Jan., 2008, the UN working group on mercenaries found an emerging trend in Latin America of "situations of private security companies protecting transnational extractive corporations whose employees are often involved in suppressing the legitimate social protest of communities and human rights and environmental organizations of the areas where these corporations operate."

And South Africa’s Defense Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, termed mercenaries "the scourge of poor areas of the world, especially Africa. These are killers for hire. They rent out their skills to the highest bidder. Anybody that has money can hire these human beings and turn them into killing machines or cannon fodder."

Mincing no words, Ratner warns, "These kinds of military groups bring to mind Nazi Party brownshirts, functioning as an extrajudicial enforcement mechanism that can and does operate outside the law.

Of course, contract warrior firm officials see themselves in a nobler light. Blackwater’s Vice-Chairman Cofer Black in one speech compared his company to King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table, asserting they "Focus on morals and ethics and integrity. This is important. We are not fly-by-night. We are not tricksters. We believe in these things." For all such claims, the final judgment on the performance of contract military firms must come from the people these noble knights purport to serve. And if Blackwater is any example, they are hated.

Sherwood Ross formerly worked for The Chicago Daily News and other major dailies and as a columnist for wire services. He currently runs a public relations firm for "worthy causes". Reach him at [email protected]


Offline bigron

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We Need a Special Prosecutor for Blackwater and Other CIA "Contractors"

By Jeremy Scahill
August 30, 2009

Blackwater’s web of connections includes a Who’s Who of former Bush-era CIA officials. And that’s just one company in a sea of "private contractors"

By Jeremy Scahill

Some parts of Blackwater’s clandestine work for the CIA have begun to leak out from behind the iron curtain of secrecy. The company’s role in the secret assassination program and its continued involvement in the CIA drone attacks that occur regularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan have become front page material in the Washington Post and New York Times. There is much more to this story than has been reported publicly and details will continue to emerge, particularly about Blackwater’s aviation division(s).

Now we learn (unsurprisingly) that Blackwater offered "foreign" operatives to work on the CIA assassination program. Blackwater told the CIA that it "could put people on the ground to provide the surveillance and support — all of the things you need to conduct an operation," a former senior CIA official familiar with the secret program told The Associated Press. If that’s true, those foreign individuals would appear to have been privy to information that vice president Cheney and other US officials deemed not appropriate for Congressional ears, not to mention oversight.

In light of all of these developments, it is important to remember how Erik Prince essentially hired George W Bush’s top people from the CIA’s Directorate of Operations to create his own private CIA, Total Intelligence Solutions. He also offered Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard, the former number 3 man at the CIA, a paid position on Blackwater’s board. Buzzy was the guy who got Blackwater its first known CIA contract back in 2002 in Afghanistan. Buzzy is also the one whining about the CIA’s "morale" problem, in light of the recent scandals, in the Washington Post. "Morale at the agency is down to minus 50," he told the paper.

When you hear reports that a "private" company was hired to do clandestine work, remember that this particular "private" company, Blackwater, is, in part, being run by Agency veterans, including several of the top people running the torture and assassination programs under Bush. At the end of the day, using Blackwater and/or other companies represents taking covert, lethal operations even further away from anything vaguely resembling oversight by the Congress. By using ex-Agency people instead of "current" Agency personnel, yet another barrier is thrown up and the case for "plausible deniability" becomes stronger. When you are dealing with a billionaire like Erik Prince who apparently viewed himself as a crusader tasked with eliminating muslims and Islam globally, as has been alleged by a former Blackwater official, it is not difficult to imagine how all of this could remain—at least in part— off the books. Would it be a great shock if we learn that Prince volunteered some of his men or his company’s time to lethal missions for the CIA free of charge? "I’m not a financially driven guy," Prince told Congress in October 2007. Take that with a grain of salt, but it is probably not flat out false. He was a believer in the crusade.

That is why it is essential that Congress dig deep into all aspects of the CIA assassination program and Blackwater’s total involvement. But it is important to remember that it is so much bigger than this one company and certainly bigger than one clandestine program.

Also, it is very important to remember this: Blackwater is hardly alone. Salon’s Tim Shorrock obtained documents in 2007 from the office of the Directorate of National Intelligence (DNI) showing that Washington spends some $42 billion annually on private intelligence contractors, up from $17.5 billion in 2000. That means 70 percent of the US intelligence budget is going to private companies. "This is the magnet now. Everything is being attracted to these private companies in terms of individuals and expertise and functions that were normally done by the intelligence community," former CIA division chief and senior analyst Melvin Goodman told me a year ago. "My major concern is the lack of accountability, the lack of responsibility. The entire industry is essentially out of control. It’s outrageous."

Attorney General Eric Holder should appoint a special prosecutor just to examine the role that Blackwater and other "private contractors" have played—from the jump—in the torture program, the extraordinary rendition program and the assassination program to name a few. And it should not be just about the operatives in the field. Who hired Erik Prince’s men? Who authorized these contracts? Who "managed" their operations in the field? What exactly did they do? At Guantanamo, there were contractors involved with torture. Same at Abu Ghraib. Same at Bagram. This all needs to be dismantled and investigated.

Blackwater’s Private Spies: A Bush-era CIA Who’s Who

As for Blackwater’s role, I wrote about Prince’s private CIA last summer for The Nation in a piece called "Blackwater’s Private Spies," but thought it would be relevant to repost some of what I laid out then because it is extremely relevant to what is happening right now. [One note: Robert Richer recently left Prince’s employ…]. Excerpt:

Total Intelligence, which opened for business in February 2007, is a fusion of three entities bought up by Prince: the Terrorism Research Center, Technical Defense and The Black Group—Blackwater vice chair Cofer Black’s consulting agency. The company’s leadership reads like a Who’s Who of the CIA’s "war on terror" operations after 9/11. In addition to the twenty-eight-year CIA veteran Black, who is chair of Total Intelligence, the company’s executives include CEO Robert Richer, the former associate deputy director of the agency’s Directorate of Operations and the 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 clandestine operations throughout 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. Prado and Black worked closely at the CIA. Prado also served in Latin America with Jose Rodriguez, who gained infamy late last year after it was revealed that as director of the National Clandestine Service at the CIA he was allegedly responsible for destroying videotapes of interrogations of prisoners, during which "enhanced interrogation techniques," including waterboarding, were reportedly used. Richer told the New York Times he recalled many conversations with Rodriguez, about the tapes. "He would always say, 'I’m not going to let my people get nailed for something they were ordered to do,’" Richer said of his former boss. Before the scandal, there were reports that Blackwater had been "aggressively recruiting" Rodriguez. He has since retired from the CIA.

The leadership of Total Intelligence also includes Craig Johnson, a twenty-seven-year CIA officer who specialized in Central and South America, and Caleb "Cal" Temple, who joined the company straight out of the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he served from 2004 to '06 as chief of the Office of Intelligence Operations in the Joint Intelligence Task Force—Combating Terrorism. According to his Total Intelligence bio, Temple directed the "DIA’s 24/7 analytic terrorism target development and other counterterrorism intelligence activities in support of military operations worldwide. He also oversaw 24/7 global counterterrorism indications and warning analysis for the U.S. Defense Department." The company also boasts officials drawn from the Drug Enforcement Agency and the FBI.

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. "With a service like this, CEOs and their security personnel will be able to respond to threats quickly and confidently—whether it’s determining which city is safest to open a new plant in or working to keep employees out of harm’s way after a terrorist attack."

Black insists, "This is a completely legal enterprise. We break no laws. We don’t go anywhere near breaking laws. We don’t have to." But what services Total Intelligence is providing, and to whom, is shrouded in secrecy. It is clear, though, that the company is leveraging the reputations and inside connections of its executives. "Cofer can open doors," Richer told the Washington Post in 2007. "I can open doors. We can generally get in to see who we need to see. We don’t help pay bribes. We do everything within the law, but we can deal with the right minister or person." Black told the paper he and Richer spend a lot of their time traveling. "I am discreet in where I go and who I see. I spend most of my time dealing with senior people in governments, making connections." But it is clear that the existing connections from the former spooks’ time at the agency have brought business to Total Intelligence.

Take the case of Jordan. For years, Richer worked closely with King Abdullah, as his CIA liaison. As journalist Ken Silverstein reported, "The CIA has lavishly subsidized Jordan’s intelligence service, and has sent millions of dollars in recent years for intelligence training. After Richer retired, sources say, he helped Blackwater land a lucrative deal with the Jordanian government to provide the same sort of training offered by the CIA. Millions of dollars that the CIA 'invested’ in Jordan walked out the door with Richer—if this were a movie, it would be a cross between Jerry Maguire and Syriana. 'People [at the agency] are pissed off,’ said one source. 'Abdullah still speaks with Richer regularly, and he thinks that’s the same thing as talking to us. He thinks Richer is still the man.’ Except in this case it’s Richer, not his client, yelling 'show me the money.’"

In a 2007 interview on the cable business network CNBC, Black was brought on as an analyst to discuss "investing in Jordan." At no point in the interview was Black identified as working for the Jordanian government. Total Intelligence was described as "a corporate consulting firm that includes investment strategy," while "Ambassador Black" was introduced as "a twenty-eight-year veteran of the CIA," the "top counterterror guy" and "a key planner for the breathtakingly rapid victory of American forces that toppled the Taliban in Afghanistan." Black heaped lavish praise on Jordan and its monarchy. "You have leadership, King Abdullah, His Majesty King Abdullah, who is certainly kind towards investors, very protective," Black said. "Jordan is, in our view, a very good investment. There are some exceptional values there." He said Jordan is in a region where there are "numerous commodities that are being produced and doing well."

With no hint of the brutality behind the exodus, Black argued that the flood of Iraqi refugees fleeing the violence of the US occupation was good for potential investors in Jordan. "We get something like 600, 700,000 Iraqis that have moved from Iraq into Jordan that require cement, furniture, housing and the like. So it is a—it is an island of growth and potential, certainly in that immediate area. So it looks good," he said. "There are opportunities for investment. It is not all bad. Sometimes Americans need to watch a little less TV…. But there is—there is opportunity in everything. That’s why you need situation awareness, and that’s one of the things that our company does. It provides the kinds of intelligence and insight to provide situational awareness so you can make the best investments."

Black and other Total Intelligence executives have turned their CIA careers, reputations, contacts and connections into business opportunities. What they once did for the US government, they now do for private interests. It is not difficult to imagine clients feeling as though they are essentially hiring the US government to serve their own interests. In 2007 Richer told the Post that now that he is in the private sector, foreign military officials and others are more willing to give him information than they were when he was with the CIA. Richer recalled a conversation with a foreign general during which he was surprised at the potentially "classified" information the general revealed. When Richer asked why the general was giving him the information, he said the general responded, "If I tell it to an embassy official I’ve created espionage. You’re a business partner."


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Blackwater Offered Foreign Assassins for CIA Program

Serious Questions About Competence for Recruits

Posted By Jason Ditz On August 30, 2009 @ 6:25 pm

According to CIA officials quoted in the Associated Press today, Blackwater USA offered to provide what it insisted were skilled foreign assassins to the covert CIA program of assassination of terrorists in nations where they had no formal presence.

The revelation earlier this month that the long-secret CIA program included the infamous contractor Blackwater brought new attention to a program whose revelation earlier in the year was already drawing uncomfortable attention to the organization’s covert actions.

But officials say the foreign assassins’ competence to live undercover in foreign nations and conduct operations so dangerous and secret that the CIA didn’t even inform Congress of the program’s existence was seriously in doubt. The use of foreigners to carry out covert killings would’ve been convenient, one official said, because” you wouldn’t want to have American fingerprints on it.”

Ultimately though, the CIA insists that the whole grandiose program never actually got off the ground, and despite spending untold millions of dollars (the exact number of which remains classified to this day), they never attempted to kill a single target.

Related Stories
August 24, 2009 -- Justice Dept Eyes Narrow ‘Investigation’ Into CIA Torture
August 21, 2009 -- CIA’s Ties With Blackwater Run Deep
July 7, 2009 -- New Charges Added to Blackwater Lawsuit


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Offline bigron

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Blackwater's unwritten death contract

01/09/2009 02:00:00 PM GMT

'Blackwater launched and operated the administration’s own Gestapo'

 Bush and Cheney made 'terrorification' of Congress a high priority, and congressional leaders caved, winking torture, kidnapping and warrantless eavesdropping.

By Ray McGovern

Hats off to Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times for reporting that it was after CIA Director Leon Panetta’s holdover lieutenants finally told him that, under President Bush, they had farmed out assassinations to their Blackwater subsidiary, that he abruptly stopped the project and told Congress.

I use “they” advisedly, since the CIA officials who had kept Panetta in the dark continue to function as Panetta’s top managers at the agency.

Until now, it was not clear what prompted Panetta to set up hurried consultations in late June with the intelligence oversight committees of the House and Senate. And an odd odor still hangs over the affair.

After being briefed by Panetta, one committee member described him as “stunned” that his lingering lieutenants had kept information on the program from him until nearly five months into his tenure.

And yet there is not the faintest hint that anyone on either committee dared to ask why Panetta continues to leave such tainted officials in very senior positions.

Mazzetti quotes officials as admitting that “the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater” for a program with “lethal” authority.

What Mazzetti does not mention — and what he, like the vast majority of Americans, may not know — is that there is a one-sentence umbrella “contract” available for use as authorization for such activities. It is a legal loophole of sorts, through which Bush and Cheney drove a Mack truck.

Bush administration lawyers were not the first to read considerable leeway into that loophole — one sentence in the language of the National Security Act of 1947. The sentence can be (ab)used as authorization for all manner of crimes — irrespective of existing law or executive order.

A Cheney-esque “unitary executive” perspective and a dismissive attitude toward lawmakers reinforced George W. Bush’s predilection to exploit this ambiguous language, taking it further than it had ever been taken in the past.

The Act (as slightly amended) stipulates that the CIA Director shall:

“Perform such functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the President or the National Security Council may from time to time direct.”

There’s the “umbrella contract.” While more than one past President (I served under seven during my tenure at CIA) has taken advantage of that open language, the Bush administration translated the dodging into a new art form.

This, in turn, was sustained by Frankenstein cottage industries like Blackwater to launch and operate the administration’s own Gestapo. I use the word advisedly; do not blanch before it.

As for outsourcing, the Nazi Gestapo enjoyed umbrella authorization from the Fuhrer; they and the SS knew what was wanted, and famously “followed orders.”

There was absolutely no need to go back to supreme authority for approval to contract out some of their work. German legislators turned out to be even more intimidated than ours — if you can imagine it.

Charlatans can apply…and stay
As for an American President’s freedom of action, all a President need do is surround himself with eager co-conspirators like the sycophant former Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, (not to mention his, and Panetta’s, lingering lieutenants) who give allegiance to their secret world of unchecked power, rather than to the Constitution of the United States.

True, a Vice President thoroughly versed in using the levers of power can be a valuable asset. But the sine quo non for successful subversion of our Constitutional process is this: cowardly members of Congress so afraid of being painted pastel on terrorism that they abdicate their oversight responsibility.

George W. Bush and Dick Cheney made “terrorification” of Congress a high priority, and congressional leaders caved, winking even at torture, kidnapping, warrantless eavesdropping, etc., etc., etc.

Speaking of contracting, Congress’ oversight role was, in a very real sense, “contracted out” — to eight invertebrate leaders from the House and Senate whose unconscionable, see-no-evil acquiescence was driven solely by their felt need to appear tough on terrorism.

“After 9/11 everything changed,” is certainly an overused aphorism. But it does apply to the spirit and soul of our country, after President Bush was given the pulpit at National Cathedral.

Vengeance is ours, said the President. And the vast majority of Christian leaders were cowed into razoring out of their Bibles “Blessed are the Peacemakers.”

The clergy clapped, and so did the Congress and the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM). Don’t you remember?

The situation bears a striking resemblance to that described by writer Sebastian Haffner in Berlin in 1933 after the Reichstag fire (Germany’s 9/11):

“What was missing is what in animals is called ‘breeding.’ This is a solid inner kernel that cannot be shaken by external pressures, something noble and steely, a reserve of pride, principle, and dignity to be drawn on in the hour of trial. It is missing in Germans.

“As a nation they are without backbone. That was shown in March 1933. At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed, yielded to a nervous breakdown, and became a nightmare to the rest of the world.” [Defying Hitler, p. 135]

Stormy applause
And our Congress? During the President’s infamous State-of-the-Union address on Jan. 28, 2003 (yes, the one with the uranium-from-Africa-to-Iraq and other make-believe), Bush got the most unbridled applause when, after bragging about the 3,000 “suspected terrorists” whom he said had been arrested, he added:

“And many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: They are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.”

The lawmakers’ reaction and the cheering that followed in the FCM reminded me of the short italicized note that Pravda regularly tacked onto the bottom of paragraphs recording the text of similarly fulsome leadership speeches: Burniye aplaudismenti; vce stoyat! — Stormy applause; all rise!

Even so, Soviet leaders generally avoided (as not quite presidential) the seeking of applause for thinly veiled allusions to extrajudicial killing.

It is Congress that is collectively responsible for abdicating its oversight responsibility, while cheering on creeps like Cofer Black, CIA’s top counter-terrorism official from 1999 to May 2002 and now one of Blackwater’s senior leaders.

In his prepared testimony to a joint congressional 9/11 inquiry on Sept. 26, 2002, the swashbuckling Black said this about “operational flexibility”:

"All I want to say is that there was ‘before’ 9/11 and ‘after’ 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves came off. ... I know that we are on the right track today and as a result we are safer as a nation. ‘No Limits’ aggressive, relentless, worldwide pursuit of any terrorist who threatens us is the only way to go and is the bottom line.”

What were those “gloves” to which you referred, Mr. Black? Do you mean that legal restrictions were gone? And “No Limits?” Is it the case that there now are no limitations on your pursuit of terrorists?

From what do you derive that kind of authorization, Mr. Black? These are just sample questions that, apparently, occurred to none of the congressional inquiry members to ask.

And authorization? In the Bush/Cheney White House, all it took was a presidential signature, like that appearing in strokes of large felt-tipped pen under the two-page executive memorandum of Feb. 7, 2002.

Last December the Senate Armed Forces Committee, without dissent, concluded that this memo, “opened the door” to abusive interrogation by exempting al Qaeda and Taliban detainees from Geneva protections. Alberto Gonzales, in an inadvertent blunder, released that memo five years ago.

Special presidential memos (often referred to as “Findings”) authorizing covert action like the lethal activities of the CIA and Blackwater have not yet surfaced. They will, in due course, if the patriotic truth tellers who have now spoken to the Times and the Washington Post about CIA and Blackwater continue to put the Constitution and courage above secrecy oaths.

The savage mood
CIA operative Gary Schroen told National Public Radio that, just days after 9/11, Cofer Black sent him to Afghanistan with orders to “Capture bin Laden, kill him, and bring his head back in a box on dry ice.” As for other al Qaeda leaders, Black reportedly said, “I want their heads up on pikes.”

Schroen told NPR he had been stunned that, for the first time in 30 years of service, he had received orders to kill targets rather than to capture them. Contacted by the radio network, Black would not confirm the exact words of the order to Schroen, but did not dispute Schroen’s account.

This quaint tone reverberated among macho pundits in the FCM. Washington Post veteran Jim Hoagland, who was extremely well plugged in to the Bush administration, on Oct. 31, 2001, wrote an open letter to President Bush.

Apparently no Halloween prank, Hoagland strongly endorsed the wish for “Osama bin Laden’s head on a pike,” a wish he attributed to Bush’s “generals and diplomats.” The consummate insider, Hoagland then almost gave the real game away, giving Bush a list of priorities:

“The need to deal with Iraq’s continuing accumulation of biological and chemical weapons and the technology to build a nuclear bomb can in no way be lessened by the demands of the Afghan campaign. You must conduct that campaign so that you can pivot quickly from it to end the threat Saddam Hussein’s regime poses.”

I have the feeling we are in for many more chapters recording how the savage mood in Washington played out during the last seven years of the Bush/Cheney administration.

-- Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was a CIA analyst for 27 years and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

-- Middle East Online


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Published on Tuesday, September 1, 2009 by The Independent/UK

Steroids, Drink and Paranoia: The Murky World of the Private Security Contractor

by Terri Judd

Paranoid, competitive and fuelled by guns, alcohol and steroids. That is how one senior contractor in Baghdad describes the private security industry operating in the city's Green Zone.

File photo shows contractors of the US private security firm Blackwater in Baghdad in 2005. The CIA hired the security firm Blackwater in 2004 as part of its secret program to find and kill Al Qaeda leaders, US media said Thursday, citing current and former intelligence officials. (AFP/File/Ahmad al-Rubaye)

It was the world to which Danny Fitzsimons, a 29-year-old former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and paranoia, and with an extensive criminal past, returned three weeks ago.

Despite rules against alcohol, his ArmorGroup colleagues welcomed him with a drinking session. A fight broke out and he shot and killed two of them - a Briton, Paul McGuigan, and an Australian, Darren Hoare - then wounded an Iraqi, Arkhan Mahdi. He faces a premeditated murder charge and execution if found guilty.

Mr Fitzsimons's family is determined to save him and say he was suffering from severe psychiatric problems after a brutal career in the Army and in the security industry. But those on the ground hold little hope. Figures in the industry told The Independent that the shooting could not have come at a worse time. They are already resigned to Mr Fitzsimons's execution and say that he is a tiny pawn in a huge, expensive and vicious game of chess.

They say the private security business in Iraq is in a vice-like crush. The gold rush that began with the conflict in 2003 is drying up. Contracts are not as lucrative, the trend is towards employing Iraqis instead of Westerners and, crucially, the Iraqi authorities - for so long impotent when it came to controlling the armed men swaggering around their cities - are clamping down.

"We are loathed out here. We are the single most hated entity in Iraq," said Ethan Madison, a security contractor who has worked in Baghdad for five years. "They are going to hang him if he is found guilty. The Iraqis are desperate to put their foot down and make an example, say this is our country and we make the rules."

The big companies - including ArmorGroup - are fighting it out for a lucrative Foreign Office contract worth more than £20m and are determined to survive the fallow period in the expectation that within a few years the big oil companies will bring with them another cash cow.

But just months after the private military contractors lost immunity, the Iraqi police are flexing their muscles. For the first time, foreigners are coming under intense scrutiny, compounds are being searched, licences checked and practices - such as blocking roads or banning locals from driving too close - banned.

In this cut-throat industry, there is open astonishment that a man like Mr Fitzsimons, who had been sacked from two companies, Aegis and Olive, was hired again. "It's a small world. It is easy enough to check on someone with a few emails to former colleagues. I get them all the time," said a former Parachute Regiment officer.

Mr Madison agreed: "Everyone you speak to says there is no way he should have been given a job. Anyone who knew Danny knew he was aggressive and always looking for drama. People were wary. There is a lot of resentment. No one cares that this guy was mentally ill. Paul was such a nice guy. He was larger than life, upbeat, a really friendly big man."

Despite assurances by the British Association of Private Security Companies that the industry takes post-traumatic stress seriously, few on the ground seem to care.

Private security contractors live with intense pressure as they escort clients in the "Red Zone" or in convoys through Iraq. "Every car could be a bomb," said Mr Madison. "There is a management attitude that, if you don't want to do the job, there is plenty more where you came from. There is a divide, open loathing, between the management and the men on the ground. There is no loyalty.

"It is a pressure cooker and you can see guys physically deteriorate. You watch people coming in fresh-faced and two months later they are snappy and irritable. It is constant, nervous pressure. It is a quite regular occurrence for people to die out here, although it doesn't get reported."

At night they return to the Green Zone, where the only releases are working out in the gym - with many also using steroids - or drinking. Many compounds have bars and a shop selling beer and whisky. A lot of contractors, like Mr Fitzsimons, are on contracts which forbid alcohol. But, as the shootings proved, the rule is frequently ignored, and sources say little has changed since that night.

They are often dismissed as mercenaries for chasing the cash, but many contractors sign up for different reasons. Like Mr Fitzsimons, some miss the camaraderie, excitement and sense of belonging they had in the Army or Royal Marines, and are unable to cope with the banality and unfamiliarity of civvie street. But they find the loyalty and bond that held "brothers in arms" together has been replaced by profit.

This latest incident threw a sharp spotlight on the industry. After the shooting, ArmorGroup insisted that it had a stringent vetting process and a strong track record of recruiting high-quality people while honouring its duty of care to its employees.

Mr Madison rejected that claim. "That was a ridiculous comment. Some of the guys sent out are second rate. When a company gets a contract, it waits until the last minute to get people into the country quickly, and that is when the vetting process goes tits-up. When dealing with physical injury, the companies are generally good. And I know they have helped out Iraqi families of men who have died. But for mental illness, there is no provision at all. If you are mentally injured, the attitude is you are a freak, f**k off. It is a real World War One attitude - stand up and fight or else disappear. If I lost a leg they would do something about it. But if I was mentally ill, it is not their problem."

The industry has improved its act since the early days of 2003 when a host of Walter Mittys competed with established companies for massive profits; men were poorly armed and often poorly behaved.

One former policeman who worked with Control Risks staff in Basra in 2006 described the contractors as well-equipped and professional, even eschewing the drinks at the Foreign Office bar. "That was when the industry was at its peak. But [Iraqi] government agencies were starting to look at the money they were spending and tightening the budgets."

In September 2007, 17 civilians were killed in a shoot-out involving contractors with the American firm Blackwater, now Xe. By the start of this year, private security contractors had lost their immunity.

"The Iraqi police are now stamping their authority at checkpoints. They really dislike the private security contractors and now they are in control," said one former Guards officer from Baghdad. "Ministry of the Interior officials are turning up at compounds and searching them. If you don't have a licence for a gun or a licence plate for a car you will be arrested. The days when you just strapped on a side-arm you bought downtown are gone. The Iraqi police attitude is: 'We don't like you, we don't want you in the country. We can't kick you out but we are not going to let you run around like cowboys'."

Other contractors said they would be seen as mercenaries until the business was properly regulated by the UK and US governments. The Government is expected to report back on a six-month consultation later this year, recommending self-regulation with international co-operation, with the aim of raising standards.

Andy Bearpark, the director general of the British Association of Private Security Companies, said that self-regulation was the best option but that a greater level of co-operation between companies was needed.

"The private security industry is essential if the UK is to play its role in reconstruction of fragile states such as Afghanistan and Iraq. The association was formed to ensure that standards in all areas were raised and that the very best practices were used by the industry generally. We have worked with the British Government since our formation in 2005 to ensure that this is the case."

How Mr Fitzsimons will fare is unknown. A team of lawyers sent to Iraq by his family last week said that he could not get a fair trial in the country and called for the case to be transferred to Britain and for the Government to step in. A UK trial would be hampered by the difficulty of contacting witnesses and by the fact that the Iraqi police have gathered the evidence.

Foreign Office sources said that representations would be made if Mr Fitzsimons was found guilty and the death penalty was imposed, but little more could be done other than making appeals through diplomatic channels. A prisoner transfer agreement has yet to be negotiated with Iraq.

In this battle for bucks, many contractors are quietly thrilled that ArmorGroup has, as one contractor said, "dropped a bollock". Mr Madison said: "This shooting will have a serious impact on ArmorGroup as it is bidding for the Foreign Office contract which is now with Control Risks. It is a prime candidate along with Aegis. The damage is done."

The Foreign Office mobile security contract won by Control Risks in 2007-08 came in at just under £21m. ArmorGroup - whose parent company G4S said this week that its half-year turnover was up more than 10 per cent to £3.5bn - won the £17m contract for Afghanistan. The total contracts for the two countries were valued at about £55m a year.

And for the men on the ground, for whom the work is dwindling, there is the consolation that another equally lethal front has opened up.

As Mr Madison explained: "The rumour of the month is that one company is offering £1,000 a day to run convoys from Pakistan into Helmand [Afghanistan]. Of course, it would be operation certain death, but the money is good and some men will go for it."

* Ethan Madison's name has been changed to protect his identity.

Copyright 2009 Independent News and Media Limited


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Offline bigron

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'Deviant hazing' alleged at U.S. embassy in Kabul

Story Highlights :

Watchdog:  Contractor providing security guards allowed "deviant hazing, humiliation"

Video showed naked man, another man apparently drinking liquid poured down back

Watchdog warns Sec. of State Clinton of security threat posed by behavior

Company, ArmorGroup, North America, has contract until July 2010

A spokeswoman for watchdog group POGO said hazing at a camp for security guards went "well beyond partying."

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Some private security guards hired to protect the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan say their contractor has allowed widespread mistreatment, sexual activity and intimidation within their ranks, according to the watchdog group Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

The group sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, and briefed reporters on its findings, which it said are based on e-mails and interviews with more than a dozen guards who have worked at the U.S. compound in Kabul.

The company, ArmorGroup, North America, has a security contract with the State Department to provide services through July, 2010, and has been cited several times for shortcomings in the security required by the contract.

A U.S. Senate panel two months ago was critical of the State Department for not closely supervising ArmorGroup, after a series of warning letters from the State Department in the year leading up to the panel's inquiry.

When CNN contacted Wackenhut, the corporate parent of ArmorGroup, a spokesperson there said the company would have a response Wednesday.

POGO says two weeks ago it began receiving whistleblower-style e-mails, some with graphic images and videos, that are said to document problems taking place at a non-military camp for the guards near the U.S. diplomatic compound in Kabul.

"This is well beyond partying," said Danielle Brian, POGO's executive director, after showing a video of a man with a bare backside, and another man apparently drinking a liquid that had been poured down the man's lower back.

She told CNN that ranking supervisors were "facilitating this kind of deviant hazing and humiliation, and requiring people to do things that made them feel really disgusted."Watch claims that alleged hazing at the U.S. Embassy pose a threat to security »

"This is not Abu Ghraib," she said, referring to images and videos of abuse by U.S. military troops against prisoners held at a facility in Iraq. "We're not talking about torture," she continued, "we are talking about humiliation," by supervisors causing a breakdown of morale, and a "total breakdown in the chain-of-command."

In the letter POGO sent to Secretary of State Clinton, Brian wrote that the problems are "posing a significant threat to the security of the Embassy and its personnel."

Among the recommendations from the group: immediate military supervision of the private security guards, a review of whether the contract should be revoked, and consideration as to whether government forces should replace private security in a combat zone.

Links referenced within this article

Watch claims that alleged hazing at the U.S. Embassy pose a threat to security »


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Offline bigron

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September 2, 2009

Contractors Outnumber U.S. Troops in Afghanistan


Civilian contractors working for the Pentagon in Afghanistan not only outnumber the uniformed troops, according to a report by a Congressional research group, but also form the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel recorded in any war in the history of the United States.

On a superficial level, the shift means that most of those representing the United States in the war will be wearing the scruffy cargo pants, polo shirts, baseball caps and other casual accouterments favored by overseas contractors rather than the fatigues and flight suits of the military.

More fundamentally, the contractors who are a majority of the force in what has become the most important American enterprise abroad are subject to lines of authority that are less clear-cut than they are for their military colleagues.

What is clear, the report says, is that when contractors for the Pentagon or other agencies are not properly managed — as when civilian interrogators committed abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq or members of the security firm Blackwater shot and killed 17 Iraqi citizens in Baghdad — the American effort can be severely undermined.

As of March this year, contractors made up 57 percent of the Pentagon’s force in Afghanistan, and if the figure is averaged over the past two years, it is 65 percent, according to the report by the Congressional Research Service.

The contractors — many of them Afghans — handle a variety of jobs, including cooking for the troops, serving as interpreters and even providing security, the report says.

The report says the reliance on contractors has grown steadily, with just a small percentage of contractors serving the Pentagon in World War I, but then growing to nearly a third of the total force in the Korean War and about half in the Balkans and Iraq. The change, the report says, has gradually forced the American military to adapt to a far less regimented and, in many ways, less accountable force.

The growing dependence on contractors is partly because the military has lost some of its logistics and support capacity, especially since the end of the cold war, according to the report. Some of the contractors have skills in critical areas like languages and digital technologies that the military needs.

The issue of the role of contractors in war has been a subject of renewed debate in Washington in recent weeks with disclosures that the Central Intelligence Agency used the company formerly known as Blackwater to help with a covert program, now canceled, to assassinate leaders of Al Qaeda. Lawmakers have demanded to know why such work was outsourced.

The State Department also uses contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, although both the department and the C.I.A. have said they want to reduce their dependence on outside workers.

Responding to the Congressional research report, Frederick D. Barton, a senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said it was highly questionable whether contractors brought the same commitment and willingness to take risks as the men and women of the military or the diplomatic services.

He also questioned whether using contractors was cost effective, saying that no one really knew whether having a force made up mainly of contractors whose salaries were often triple or quadruple those of a corresponding soldier or Marine was cheaper or more expensive for the American taxpayer.

With contractors focused on preserving profits and filing paperwork with government auditors, he said, “you grow the part of government that, probably, the taxpayers appreciate least.”

Congress appropriated at least $106 billion for Pentagon contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 through the first half of the 2008 fiscal year, the report says.

The report said the combined forces in Iraq and Afghanistan still had more uniformed military personnel than contractors over all: 242,657 contractors and about 282,000 troops as of March 31.

Offline bigron

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Report: State Dept. extends Blackwater contract in Iraq

 By Stephen C. Webster

Published: September 2, 2009

The mercenary group formerly known as Blackwater International, which was banned from Iraq by its government after a Baghdad massacre which killed 17 civilians, will see its contract extended in the country by the U.S. State Department, according to a published report.

ABC News reporter Kirit Radia notes: “Sources say the department has agreed to temporarily continue using the subsidiary known as Presidential Airways to provide helicopter transport for embassy employees around Iraq until a new contract with another security company, Dyncorp International, is fully implemented. Presidential Airways is an arm of U.S. Training Center, which is a subsidiary of the company Xe, formerly and still commonly known as Blackwater.”

Controversy has surrounded the private security firm practically since it was founded, but erupted anew recently when former employees accused Blackwater’s founder and former CEO of murdering or facilitating the murders of other employees who were preparing to blow the whistle on his alleged criminal activities.

The sworn statements also say that founder Erik Prince and Blackwater executives were involved in illegal weapons smuggling and had, on numerous occasions, ordered incriminating documents, e-mails, photos and video destroyed. The former employees described Blackwater as “having young girls provide oral sex to Enterprise members in the ‘Blackwater Man Camp’ in exchange for one American dollar.” They add even though Prince frequently visited this camp, he “failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men.”

One of the statements also charges that “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 former employees additionally claim that Prince was engaged in illegal arms dealing, money laundering, and tax evasion, that he created “a web of companies in order to obscure wrong-doing, fraud, and other crimes,” and that Blackwater’s chief financial officer had “resigned … stating he was not willing to go to jail for Erik Prince.”

The company was also allegedly involved in the planning stages of the CIA’s assassination program, which was reportedly never used, then scrapped by CIA chief Leon Panetta.

Prince has repeatedly insisted his company has done nothing wrong and Blackwater continues to fulfill its contracts with the United States government.

For the massacre of Iraqi civilians, five Blackwater guards were arrested and charged with manslaughter. A sixth guard flipped and agreed to testify against the others. Government informants later claimed the company tried to gather up and destroy weapons involved in the slaughter.

The State Department announced last January that it would not be renewing Blackwater’s contract for security services in Iraq when it was set to expire in May, however the Obama administration decided to extend it through Sept. 3, according to The Nation Jeremy Scahill.

ABC reported the new contract extension is for an unspecified amount of time and could end “within weeks or months.”

When it is finally allowed to expire, Blackwater’s involvement with Iraq will have ended, completely.

Offline bigron

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Embassy Guards Gone Wild: The Pictures (NSFW)

By Daniel Schulman

September 2, 2009

Warning: The Pictures you are about to see are graphic—and may result in you swearing off vodka (and other varieties of hard liquor) permanently. The Project on Government Oversight provided me with a series of photographs—a dozen in all—that depict the bacchanalian goings on at Camp Sullivan, home to the ArmorGroup personnel who guard the nearby US embassy compound in Kabul. On Tuesday, POGO sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton detailing a host of explosive charges relating to ArmorGroup's management of the embassy contract, including evidence of "near-weekly deviant hazing and humiliation of subordinates." According to POGO, "witnesses report that the highest levels of AGNA management in Kabul are aware of and have personally observed—or even engaged in—these activities, but have done nothing to stop them."

As you'll see below, POGO really wasn't exaggerating when it spoke of the "Lord of the Flies environment." Here's the jaw-dropping proof:

The cover shot for a soon-to-be-released Contractors Gone Wild: The Asses of Afghanistan video?

Did these guys send away for coconut bikinis and grass skirts? I can imagine these items are readily available in a conservative Muslim country like Afghanistan.

Apparently this guy is urinating on himself, and smiling about it too.

And here's the infamous butt-shot shot—wrong on so many levels.

If you can stomach any more—and I don't blame you if you've seen enough—you can find the rest of the photos here :
So far ArmorGroup, North America's parent comany, Wackenhut, is declining to comment. Wise, perhaps, since I can't imagine there's a good way to spin on this. Meanwhile, the State Department, which has harbored internal concerns about ArmorGroup's performance for years but still renewed its embassy contract this summer, says it is taking POGO's allegations very seriously. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters yesterday that the matter has been referred to the agency's inspector general. In the coming weeks, the agency is going to have some serious explaining to do. Not only concerning its contractor oversight, but about why a top State Department official told Congress in June that ArmorGroup's "performance on the ground...has been and is sound."


Offline bigron

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POGO : Letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding U.S. Embassy in Kabul

Graphic Images of Guards at U.S Embassy in Afghanistan - Nude Parties - Hazing - abuse subordinates, WATCH :

September 1, 2009

The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary, Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

As you know, last month eight rockets were fired into Kabul, two landing near the U.S. Embassy.1  Not long after, at least seven people were killed and 91 wounded, including children, when a suicide bomber struck close to the Embassy. Following the second attack, a Taliban spokesman declared that the target had been the U.S. Embassy itself. 2 In response to these and other incidents, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen conceded that the situation in Afghanistan is "serious and it is deteriorating."3

In light of this increasingly violent and uncertain environment, effective security of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the nearly one thousand U.S. diplomats, staff, and Afghan nationals who work there 4 is paramount. Security for the Embassy is provided under a Department of State contract with ArmorGroup, North America (AGNA), which is now owned by Wackenhut Services, Inc. (Wackenhut).5 Some 450 guards and their supervisors protect the Embassy and are quartered at Camp Sullivan, a few miles from the Embassy.

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) initiated an investigation after nearly one-tenth of the U.S./ex-pat 6 guards individually contacted us to express concerns about and provide evidence of a pattern of blatant, longstanding violations of the security contract, and of a pervasive breakdown in the chain of command and guard force discipline and morale. This environment has resulted in chronic turnover by U.S./ex-pat guards. According to the State Department, "nearly 90% of the incumbent US/Expats left within the first six months of contract performance."7 According to POGO sources, the U.S./ex-pat guard turnover may be as high as 100 percent annually. This untenable turnover prevents the guard force from developing team cohesion, and requires constant training for new replacement recruits. The guards have come to POGO because they say they believe strongly in the mission, but are concerned that many good guards are quitting out of frustration or being fired for refusing to participate in the misconduct, and that those responsible for the misconduct are not being held accountable.

After extensive interviews with eyewitnesses, and examination of documents, photographs, videos, and emails, POGO believes that the management of the contract to protect the U.S. Embassy Kabul is grossly deficient, posing a significant threat to the security of the Embassy and its personnel—and thereby to the diplomatic mission in Afghanistan.

Ineffectual Oversight by the Department of State

Failed management of security contractors by the Department of State is not new, and since the 2007 Iraqi Mansour Square massacre involving five Blackwater personnel, the State Department has promised repeatedly to strengthen its oversight.8 Yet, as in Iraq, the Department of State has utterly failed to properly manage another contractor, this time at the U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan. State has repeatedly warned AGNA about its performance on this security contract, but its threats have been empty. As a result, violations of the contract continue.

In June 2009, an investigation by the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight revealed a pattern of ineffectual Department of State oversight of the AGNA contract.9 The Senate found, for instance, that in July 2007, State issued a "cure notice," a formal advisory that AGNA's deficiencies were endangering the performance of the contract. In the cure notice, State identified 14 performance deficiencies, including the failure of AGNA to provide an adequate number of guards, relief personnel, and armored vehicles. The contracting official stated "I consider the contract deficiencies addressed below to endanger performance of the contract to such a degree that the security of the US Embassy in Kabul is in jeopardy…."10

In April 2008, the Department of State sent another cure notice notifying AGNA of numerous other serious problems with its performance, including a lack of English proficiency in a large portion of the guard force. State also cited AGNA for failing to correct many of the deficiencies identified in the July 2007 cure notice, including those related to staffing and training of the guard force. State further informed AGNA that, due to the contractor's continued weaknesses and deficiencies, the Department was considering not extending the contract for another year.11

In July 2008, despite AGNA's continuing problems, State decided to extend the contract for an additional year, noting that based on satisfactory meetings with the incoming Wackenhut managers, it was "reasonable" to expect that all performance problems would be corrected by October of that year.12 Just a month later, however, the Department of State reiterated to AGNA that it questioned the contractor's ability to provide security for the U.S. Embassy in the hostile environment of Afghanistan. Citing ongoing staffing concerns, State concluded that "AGNA needs to come quickly to terms with contract requirements especially in light of the current incidents occurring in and around Kabul and the corresponding threat environment they pose."13

By September 2008, AGNA's performance problems had grown so severe that Department of State issued a "Show Cause" letter 14 and advised that it was considering terminating the contract because the failure to provide an adequate number of guards "has negatively impacted the security posture of the Local Guard Program for the U.S. Mission to Kabul….[T]he staffing situation has further deteriorated to a level that…gravely endangers performance of guard services in a high-threat environment such as Afghanistan."15

In March 2009, the Department of State again informed AGNA that it had "grave concerns" relating to AGNA's continuing failure to provide sufficient numbers of guards. In inspections of the guard force operations, the Department of State observed that 18 guards were absent from their posts at the U.S. Embassy Kabul. In response, AGNA stated that the guards' absences were due to "supervisory personnel negligence."16

Despite these and other past problems, senior representatives from the State Department and Wackenhut Services, Inc. offered sworn testimony at a June 2009 Senate hearing that security at the Embassy is effective, and that previously identified problems had been fully remedied.17 The State Department renewed the contract again through July 2010, with the option to extend it until 2012.18 Yet the extensive evidence provided to POGO of continued security problems at the U.S. Embassy Kabul counters those sworn statements; calls into question AGNA and Wackenhut's ability to provide effective security of the Embassy; and makes a clear case that the State Department has failed in its oversight of its security contractor.

Serious Security Vulnerabilities

Was Congress Misled?

Despite Wackenhut Vice President Sam Brinkley's sworn Senate testimony that "…the Kabul contract has been fully-staffed since January 2009…" the truth is that chronic understaffing of the guard force continues to be a major problem.19 And evidence suggests Mr. Brinkley knew that. Around March, according to numerous participants, he was confronted by some 50 guards at Camp Sullivan who complained to him directly about a severe, ongoing guard shortage. Then, in an April 2009 memo to a State Department official, U.S. Embassy Kabul guard force Commander Werner Ilic reported that guard shortages had caused chronic sleep deprivation among his men. He described a situation in which guards habitually face 14-hour-day work cycles extending for as many as eight weeks in a row, frequently alternating between day and night shifts. He concluded that "this ultimately diminishes the LGF's [Local Guard Force's] ability to provide security." (Attachment 1) The contract with the State Department specifies that guards may not be on duty for longer than 12 consecutive hours.20 Interviewees and documents reveal that short-staffing frequently results in the denial of contractually guaranteed leave and vacation, and that those who do not comply are threatened with termination or actually fired.

In further contradiction of Mr. Brinkley's assurances, the Knoxville News reported on August 22 that Wackenhut has moved or is planning to deploy up to 18 guards from the nuclear weapons facilities in Tennessee to cover guard shortages in Kabul, quoting a Wackenhut spokesperson as confirming the use of the guards "to deal with personnel shortages at the embassy…."21

Communication Breakdown?

There is a significant problem with the guards' ability to communicate with each other: most of the Gurkhas 22—nearly two-thirds of the guard force—cannot adequately speak English. Although most of the Gurkha guards are serious about their jobs and perform their duties in a professional manner, the inability to speak English adequately has impaired the guard force's ability to secure the Embassy. According to a Pentagon counter-terrorism expert, tactical communications are critical to success in either preventing a gunfight or the successful execution of one should it occur, and are part of the fabric of a good military or security unit. If different languages are used, the fog of battle is significantly increased, small tactical formations do not adjust as required, and close tactical formations are likely to fail in their mission. Further, any soldier or security officer who does not know of changes in mission orders as the fight continues is more likely to respond incorrectly, unnecessarily placing them in harm's way and increasing the chances of unit fratricide. Poor tactical communications make mission failure highly probable.

This is a real risk at U.S. Embassy Kabul. The language barrier between the non-English-speakers and English-speakers has forced both sides to use pantomime in order to convey orders or instructions and interpreters to convey facilitate radio communications. One guard described the situation as so dire that if he were to say to many of the Gurkhas, "There is a terrorist standing behind you," those Gurkhas would answer "Thank you sir, and good morning." Clearly this is an unacceptable situation, especially given that security emergencies require immediate response.

The State Department has acknowledged the issue as a problem, but has not fixed it. In June 2009, State officials briefed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, admitting that "inadequate English language proficiency among the guard force" remains a contract deficiency.23

Supervisors Engaging in Deviant Hazing and Humiliation

Guards have come to POGO with allegations and photographic evidence that some supervisors and guards are engaging in near-weekly deviant hazing and humiliation of subordinates. Witnesses report that the highest levels of AGNA management in Kabul are aware of and have personally observed—or even engaged in—these activities, but have done nothing to stop them. Indeed, management has condoned this misconduct, declining to take disciplinary action against those responsible and allowing two of the worst offending supervisors to resign and allegedly move on to work on other U.S. contracts. The lewd and deviant behavior of approximately 30 supervisors and guards has resulted in complete distrust of leadership and a breakdown of the chain of command, compromising security.

Numerous emails, photographs, and videos portray a Lord of the Flies environment. One email from a current guard describes scenes in which guards and supervisors are "peeing on people, eating potato chips out of [buttock] cracks, vodka shots out of [buttock] cracks (there is video of that one), broken doors after drnken [sic] brawls, threats and intimidation from those leaders participating in this activity…." (Attachment 2) Photograph after photograph shows guards—including supervisors—at parties in various stages of nudity, sometimes fondling each other. These parties take place just a few yards from the housing of other supervisors.

Multiple guards say this deviant hazing has created a climate of fear and coercion, with those who declined to participate often ridiculed, humiliated, demoted, or even fired. The result is an environment that is dangerous and volatile. Some guards have reported barricading themselves in their rooms for fear that those carrying out the hazing will harm them physically. Others have reported that AGNA management has begun to conduct a witch hunt to identify employees who have provided information about this atmosphere to POGO.

Beyond basic decency standards, the situation at Camp Sullivan is clearly in violation of AGNA's contract with the State Department, which specifies, "Each contractor employee or subcontractor employee is expected to adhere to standards of conduct that reflect credit on themselves, their employer, and the United States Government."24 More broadly, the behavior is evidence of a complete breakdown of discipline and the chain of command among guards and their leadership, itself a significant security issue.

In fact, an email from a current guard expressed concern about the impact of the supervisors' behavior on the chain of command. "I am convinced the greatest threat to the security of the Embassy is the erosion of the guard forces trust in its leadership and ultimately the [Department of State]. The failure of [the supervisors] to protect those they have been tasked to lead is unacceptable, and if not held accountable will further compromise our mission. The chain of command's failure to curtail [one supervisor's] deviant actions and to not hold him accountable for countless infractions involving alcohol has made them ineffective. This has led to threats and intimidation as the only means to accomplish the day to day operations here [at Camp Sullivan] and at the Embassy. This is 'not' a onetime incident that went unnoticed by [his] direct chain of command. These are events [that] took place over the past year and a half and were ignored by the leadership at the cost of the well being of countless guard force members. If these individuals are not held accountable for their actions it will only embolden those who remain to make the same offenses against this guard force." (Attachment 3)

Alleged Victimization of Afghan Nationals

An Afghan national employed as a food service worker at the guard corps' base at Camp Sullivan submitted a signed statement dated August 16, 2009, attesting that a guard force supervisor and four others entered a dining facility on August 1, 2009, wearing only short underwear and brandishing bottles of alcohol. Upon leaving the facility, the guard force supervisor allegedly grabbed the Afghan national by the face and began abusing him with foul language, saying, "You are very good for fXXXing." The Afghan national reported that he "was too afraid of them I could not tell them any thing." (Attachment 4)

There is also evidence that members of the guard force and their supervisors have drawn Afghan nationals into behavior forbidden for Muslims. For example, photographs show guards posing with Afghan nationals at the U.S. facility at Camp Sullivan as both the guards and nationals consume alcoholic beverages in scenes that suggest drunkenness, and one photo shows a near-naked U.S. guard who appears to have urinated on himself and splashed an Afghan national. Afghanistan is a conservative Muslim country where alcohol consumption and public nudity are considered offensive and, in some instances, prohibited by law.25

Supervisors Compromising Security?

Numerous guards raised concerns to POGO about a Spring 2009 extended reconnaissance mission outside the Embassy perimeter for which guard force supervisors took weapons, night vision goggles, and other equipment from Embassy stores. Photographs posted on the internet show Embassy guards hiding in abandoned buildings in Kabul, armed, dressed as Afghans (despite contractual requirements that they be in uniform when on duty), engaged in a mission for which they had never trained. AGNA guards train for their mission of static security of the Embassy, not for reconnaissance exercises away from the Embassy. This incident created the danger that guards could have been drawn into a military incident with or taken hostage by Taliban or Afghan locals, and created a vulnerability at the Embassy by removing military equipment, leaving the Embassy largely night-blind. AGNA management awarded a commendation to 18 participants trumpeting their "Intrepidity" in a document improperly bearing the seal of the Department of State. (Attachment 5)

According to many guards, another situation in which Embassy security may have been compromised is when, on at least one occasion, supervisors brought prostitutes in to Camp Sullivan. This is a breach of security and discipline made worse because the prostitutes were escorted to the facility by some guard force supervisors themselves. Some interviewees recalled that two AGNA guard force supervisors made no secret that, to celebrate a birthday, they brought prostitutes into Camp Sullivan, which maintains a sign-in log. Women believed to be prostitutes were observed attending the birthday party.

Is Protecting a U.S. Embassy in a Combat Zone an Inherently Governmental Function?

Because the diplomatic mission in Afghanistan is so critical, and because that mission is in a combat zone, the need for effective Embassy security is particularly acute. Just this year at the U.S. Naval Academy 2009 McCain Conference, there was a seminar on "Ethics and Military Contractors: Examining the Public-Private Partnership" which looked at the question of whether security in a combat zone is an inherently governmental function. According to the Executive Summary of the conference, "contractors should not be deployed as security guards, sentries, or even prison guards within combat areas. [Armed Private Security Contractors] should be restricted to appropriate support functions and those geographic areas where the rule of law prevails. In irregular warfare…environments, where civilian cooperation is crucial, this restriction is both ethically and strategically necessary."26 Furthermore, Congress itself passed a Sense of Congress that "private security contractors are not authorized to perform inherently governmental functions in an area of combat operations."27 This language was watered down from legislation that had passed the Senate actively prohibiting private security forces from performing inherently governmental functions. 28 In neither case, however, did the legislative language recognize protecting a diplomatic mission in a combat zone as an inherently governmental function. At the very least, this is a question that needs to be examined regarding the protection of the U.S. Embassy Kabul and other embassies in combat zones.

The use of private contractors for security in a combat zone poses several dilemmas. One is the inherent tension between the effective performance of a mission and the financial interests of the contractor. Cutting costs is good for the bottom line, but can put security at risk. A legal case against AGNA brought by two former U.S. Embassy Kabul guard force supervisors, James Sauer and Peter Martino, illustrates this problem. According to the complaint, AGNA officials "acknowledged that AGNA had underbid the contract in order to secure it," and told Sauer and Martino "to 'make do' and put a 'good face' on the situation to ensure that a profit would be made on the contract and that shareholders would be satisfied....Defendants implemented plans requiring more hours per individual and fewer shifts of staff in order to cut costs and maximize Defendants' profit margin." 29 This is a clear example of the contractor endangering the U.S. diplomatic mission in order to advance its bottom line.

Another dilemma is the threat of work-stoppages—which, according to witnesses, has happened at least twice with the U.S. Embassy Kabul guard force. On two separate occasions, the Gurkhas (who make up two-thirds of the guard force) threatened to walk off the job. In fact, in one instance, buses had arrived in order to take the Gurkhas to the airport to return to Nepal. According to POGO sources, the time it took to resolve just one of those incidents resulted in the on-duty guard shift pulling an 18-hour day.

Yet another dilemma is that the laws in place do not adequately hold accountable contractors who violate rules and endanger security in combat zones. Unlike the military, which once had the responsibility of guarding embassies and which is bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice, private employers such as security firms cannot ensure a binding chain of command that provides adequate discipline and professionalism in the guard force.

Contractor in Need of Oversight

POGO is concerned that the security of the U.S. Embassy Kabul is in the hands of a contractor that has knowingly and repeatedly provided substandard equipment and services. For example, to cut costs, AGNA "downgrade[d] the quality of the vehicles to be purchased…."30 AGNA sought to maximize its profit by sacrificing the quality of protective vehicles it bought to secure the Embassy. In addition, as mentioned earlier, the State Department has repeatedly chastised AGNA for the contractor's repeated failures to fulfill staffing, language, and other contract provisions. AGNA has also failed to properly manage Camp Sullivan, as has been detailed above.

The problems with AGNA's U.S. Embassy Kabul security contract do not appear to be unique for this contractor. Recently, an ArmorGroup security guard in Baghdad's Green Zone allegedly shot and killed two fellow guards and wounded at least one Iraqi. Extraordinarily, that guard had a criminal record and was described by one security guard who worked with him as "a walking time-bomb," yet was hired by ArmorGroup anyway.31 This particular incident raises serious concerns about ArmorGroup's vetting process, and adds to the bigger picture of a contractor in serious need of strict oversight.


1. After two years of failed attempts by the Department of State to upgrade the performance of its private security contractors in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the Department should enter into an arrangement with Defense Secretary Gates to provide immediate military supervision of the private security force at the U.S. embassies in Kabul and Baghdad.

2. The State Department should promptly initiate a thorough and independent investigation of the U.S. Embassy Kabul security contract in order to hold corporations as well as individuals accountable for the above noted misconduct and contract violations. Simply removing a few people from contract management at AGNA or Wackenhut, or creating a new corporate ethics compliance officer, is not going to ensure serious accountability. Allowing those responsible to quietly resign and seek work with other U.S. contractors, as guard force whistleblowers report is happening now, will only perpetuate this problem.

3. State Department representatives either knew or should have known about this longstanding and dangerous situation regarding U.S. Embassy Kabul security. The State Department's repeated warnings to AGNA were of no consequence, and Department officials responsible for oversight of this contract themselves should be held accountable.

4. Those whistleblowers who have come forward to disclose the mismanagement of this State Department contract should be protected from retaliation for doing so.

5. The State Department should consider whether the security of an embassy in a combat zone is an inherently governmental function, and therefore not subject to contracting out. The language in the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act could be strengthened to prohibit the reliance on private security contractors for inherently governmental functions, and to include protection of the diplomatic mission in a combat zone as being inherently governmental. If embassy security in combat zones is determined not to be an inherently governmental function, the State Department should consider requiring military supervision of its private security contractors guarding U.S. embassies in combat zones.

6. The State Department should consider initiating suspension and debarment proceedings against the companies ArmorGroup North America, Inc. (AGNA) and Wackenhut Services, Inc., as well as against any individual employees of these companies who were responsible for contract-related improprieties or abuses, to prevent these entities from entering into future contracts with the federal government.

Please contact me at (202) 347-1122 if you have any questions or need further information or evidence to aid your efforts. Thank you for your consideration of this very important matter.


Danielle Brian
Executive Director

Attachments:     5 documents (complete pdf of attachments 1-5)
                       12 photographs :

cc:  Senator Susan Collins
Senator Claire McCaskill
State Department Inspector General Harold W. Geisel
Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan

PDF of POGO letter only :

1 Sanghar Rahimi and Carlotta Gall, "Rockets Hit Afghan Capital, 2 Near the U.S. Embassy," The New York Times, August 4, 2009. (Downloaded August 27, 2009)
2 Rahim Faiez and Jason Straziuso, "7 die, 91 wounded in blast near NATO HQ in Kabul," Associated Press, August 15, 2009. (Downloaded August 27, 2009)

3 Justin Blum, "Mullen Says Afghan Security Situation 'Serious,' Getting Worse,", August 24, 2009. (Downloaded August 24, 2009)

4 E-mail from Caitlin M. Hayden, Senior Advisor for the Department of State, August 26, 2009.

5 Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, New Information about the Guard Force Contract at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, June 2009. p. 1. (Downloaded August 20, 2009)
(hereinafter New Information about the Guard Force Contract at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul). In May 2008, Wackenhut informed the Department of State that it had assumed responsibility for the AGNA U.S. Embassy Kabul contract.

6 Ex-pat is short for expatriot, a blanket designation native-English-speaking guards use to describe themselves. The term, as used by the guards, includes U.S. citizens as well as citizens from other English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.

7 New Information about the Guard Force Contract at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, p. 5.

8 Government Accountability Office, Rebuilding Iraq: DOD And State Department  Have Improved Oversight and Coordination of Private Security Contractors in Iraq, but Further Actions Are Needed to Sustain Improvements, p. 32. (Downloaded August 31, 2009) and Testimony of Ambassador David M, Satterfield, Senior Advisor to the Secretary and Coordinator for Iraq, October 2, 2007, p. 2. (Downloaded August 31, 2009)

9 New Information about the Guard Force Contract at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

10 Letter from James S. Rogers, Contracting Officer, Department of State, to Karl Semancik, President of ArmorGroup North America Incorporated, June 19, 2007, p. 1. (Downloaded August 20, 2009)

11 New Information about the Guard Force Contract at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, p. 2.

12 New Information about the Guard Force Contract at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, p. 2.

13 New Information about the Guard Force Contract at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, pp. 2-3.

14 A show cause letter is presented to a contractor before initiating a suspension or debarment action: "The show cause letter usually provides the general nature of the suspected misconduct...and provides the contractor with an opportunity to submit whatever it wishes to demonstrate it is a presently responsible contractor. A show cause letter does not make a contractor ineligible to do business...but it is an advance notice that such an action may be forthcoming." Department of the Air Force General Counsel, "Air Force General Counsel—FAQ Topic," (Downloaded August 31, 2009)

15 Letter from Sharon D. James, United States Department of State, to Mark Carruthers, ArmorGroup North America Incorporated, September 28, 2008, p. 1. (Downloaded August 20, 2009)

16 New Information about the Guard Force Contract at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, pp. 6-7.

17 Their statements are available at the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs website: (Downloaded August 27, 2009)

18 Local Guard Services Kabul, Afghanistan, Contract No. S-AQMPD-07-C0054, Section B.3 and B.4, pp. 5-19 and, "Federal Contracts for Contract ID Number (PIID) : SAQMPD07C0054, Federal Fiscal Year : 2009."
SAQMPD07C0054&fiscal_year=2009&fromITSearch=true (Downloaded August 27, 2009)

19 Testimony of Samuel Brinkley, Vice President, Homeland and International Security Services, Wackenhut Services, Incorporated, June 10, 2009, p. 1.

20 Local Guard Services Kabul, Afghanistan, Contract No. S-AQMPD-07-C0054, Section C, C.3.1.1 (Guard Duty Hour Limits), p. 35.

21 Frank Munger, "OR guards agree to help in Afghanistan: New posts to alleviate shortages in personnel,", August 22, 2009. (Downloaded August 20, 2009)

22 Gurkhas are people from Nepal and Northern India who are best known for their history of bravery and strength in the Indian Army's Gurkha regiments and the British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas. The term "Gurkha" may also be used generically to describe guards from the region who are employed by private security contractors. There is a high degree of variability in the skills and training.

23 New Information about the Guard Force Contract at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, p. 3.

24 Local Guard Services Kabul, Afghanistan, Contract No. S-AQMPD-07-C0054, Section H, H.4.1 (General), p. 52.

25 Rhoda Margesson, "Afghan Refugees: Current Status and Future Prospects," January 26, 2007, p. 7. (Downloaded August 27, 2009) and Islamic.World.Net, "5 Pillars of Islam." (Downloaded September 1, 2009)

26 United States Naval Academy, Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership, "Symposiums & Seminars: McCain Conference." (Downloaded August 27, 2009)

27 Public Law 110-417, Sec. 832, "Sense of Congress on Performance by Private Security Contractors of Certain Functions in an Area of Combat Operations." (Downloaded August 27, 2009)

28 110th Congress, Senate Bill S. 3001, "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009." (Downloaded August 31, 2009)

29 Sauer v. ArmorGroup North America, Incorporated, COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY, INJUNCTIVE, AND MONETARY RELIEF AND JURY DEMAND, CASE # 1:08-cv-00698-RCL, Complaint, Filed April 24, 2008, pp. 3 and 11.

30 Sauer v. ArmorGroup North America, Incorporated, COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY, INJUNCTIVE, AND MONETARY RELIEF AND JURY DEMAND, CASE # 1:08-cv-00698-RCL, Complaint, Filed April 24, 2008, p. 19.

31 "Briton held in Iraq over shooting," BBC News, August 10, 2009. (Downloaded August 31, 2009); and Deborah Haynes and Richard Ford, "Briton Facing Iraq Murder Trial on Probation for Gun Offence," August 13, 2009. (Downloaded August 31, 2009)



Offline bigron

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Why Doesn’t Hillary Clinton Fire Blackwater?

Posted By Jeremy Scahill On September 3, 2009 @ 11:00 pm

As a candidate for president, Hillary Clinton pledged to ban Blackwater. In February 2008, she announced that she would sign on as the co-sponsor of a little-known bill put forward in the House by Representative Jan Schakowsky and in the Senate by Bernie Sanders. The Stop Outsourcing Security, or SOS Act, sought to end the use of armed mercenaries in US war zones. Clinton became the only other senator to sign on to the bill and the most important political figure in the US to call for such a ban on "Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq."

"These private security contractors have been reckless and have compromised our mission in Iraq," Clinton said in a February 28, 2008 statement on the campaign trail. "The time to show these contractors the door is long past due.  We need to stop filling the coffers of contractors in Iraq, and make sure that armed personnel in Iraq are fully accountable to the U.S. government and follow the chain of command."

As Secretary of State, Clinton now presides over a diplomatic security force in Iraq that for the "indefinite" future will include Blackwater. ABC News’s "The Blotter" is reporting that Blackwater (which now does business as Xe Services and US Training Center) will continue to be the State Department’s aviation contractor in Iraq, despite a supposed Iraqi ban on the company. "We unilaterally extended the current task order … to ensure the continued security and safety of U.S. personnel in Iraq," a State Department official said. As I reported in The Nation weeks ago, Blackwater operatives, according to the State Department, "are permitted to continue carrying weapons" in Iraq for the foreseeable future on that contract. On July 31, the Obama administration extended Blackwater’s Iraq contract, 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.

Meanwhile, according to federal contract data, on August 13, Blackwater was paid another $23 million on a $156 million "security" contract in Afghanistan with the US State Department. That is in addition to Blackwater’s contracts with the Department of Defense and its ongoing work for the CIA as part of its drone bombing raids in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

US government contractors have had their contracts cancelled for far less than the crimes Blackwater is alleged to have committed. See the recent moves involving the Rendon Group, which prepared dossiers on journalists, for instance.

The recently disclosed insane misconduct by US contractors happening at the American embassy in Kabul, brought to light by the Project on Government Oversight, should keep Secretary Clinton busy for some time regarding the issue of contractor oversight.

But here are some questions for Secretary Clinton about Blackwater: Why do you continue to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to a company whose operatives have been indicted for manslaughter of Iraqi civilians; that is under investigation for arms smuggling and other possible crimes; that has been implicated in the CIA assassination program allegedly withheld from Congress; that is owned by a man, Erik Prince, whom a former employee says "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe?" Moreover, why are you using a company you pledged to ban now that you actually have the power to ban them? If you thought in February of 2008 that the "time to show these contractors the door is long past due," what time is it now?

Read more by Jeremy Scahill
We Need a Special Prosecutor for Blackwater and Other CIA ‘Contractors’ – August 31st, 2009
Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder – August 4th, 2009
Senior Obama Official Backs Cheney and CIA – July 17th, 2009
The Democrats’ Selective Amnesia on Assassination – July 15th, 2009
Is Obama Continuing the Bush-Cheney Assassination Program? – July 14th, 2009

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Offline bigron

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Embassy guards 'dress as Afghans'

By Kim Sengupta in Kabul

Friday, 4 September 2009

Private security contractors guarding America's embassy in Kabul dressed as mujahedin fighters and went out on unauthorised night-time military operations in the Afghan capital, according to reports being investigated by the US State Department.

The dossier, seen by The Independent, tells how 18 guards, who are not trained for such missions, exposed the embassy to attack by taking weapons from its armoury. By removing night-vision goggles, they also left embassy staff "largely night-blind" in the event of an emergency, the reports adds.

The company which employed the contractors, ArmorGroup North America (AGNA), is the subject of a highly critical report by the Project on Government Oversight (Pogo), an independent monitoring group which has sent its findings to the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. While other claims have centred on drunkenness and sexual misconduct in the guards' quarters at Camp Sullivan outside Kabul, the new revelations will have a direct impact on security at a legation that Washington acknowledges is a prime target for terrorists.

During their foray into Kabul in the spring of this year, guards are said to have photographed themselves taking part in the "undercover" operation, later posting the images online.

The report reveals that, instead of taking action against the guards involved, AGNA gave them a mocked-up citation which improperly bore the seal of the US State Department and praised them for their "intrepidity".

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Michael Goldfarb's Scurrilous Attack on Rep. Schakowsky and Me.
(P.S.: Erik Prince is Not Valerie Plame)

By Jeremy Scahill

September 4, 2009

Michael Goldfarb of Bill Kristol’s neconservative magazine, The Weekly Standard, which has engaged in quite a bit of masturbation over how awesome Blackwater is, needs to give Rush Limbaugh back his supply of pharmaceuticals. Goldfarb has posted a story comparing the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame to the unsubstantiated claim from a Blackwater/Xe/US Training Center spokesperson that Erik Prince is now on an al Qaeda "Most Wanted" list in the aftermath of reporting on the company’s role in the CIA’s assassination program:

Eli Lake and Sarah Carter have a big scoop this morning on news that the CIA "has asked the Justice Department to examine what it regards as the criminal disclosure of a secret program to kill foreign terrorist leaders abroad." As a result of those leaks, the head of the firm formerly known as Blackwater, Erik Prince, has ended up on an al Qaeda hit list. Given that there is just as much disdain for Prince among left-wing Democrats as there is in the al Qaeda organization, one shouldn’t expect too much concern about this development from those who screamed loudest about the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity. But the facts of the crime are eerily similar — with one key difference: this time it looks like the leak came from Congress and not the administration.

This idiotic comparison basically speaks for itself, but let’s be clear: Erik Prince is no Valerie Plame. Plame was a covert CIA operative who was outed because her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, was speaking out against the Bush administration’s lie-filled drive to the Iraq invasion. Prince is the owner of a mercenary force that has killed innocent civilians (mostly Muslims), put US, Iraqi and Afghan lives at risk regularly, is being sued for war crimes, has had its operatives indicted on manslaughter charges, is being investigated for arms smuggling, etc. etc. In other words, Prince and Plame are basically twins.

Prince, whose former employee described him as a man who "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe," would not need to be associated with a CIA program to be offensive to any Muslims, sane or not. Prince has done a pretty effective job of creating a reason for people of various faiths or political persuasions to despise him. Moreover, this story about Prince being on an al Qaeda hit list has one source: a spokesperson for Erik Prince (whose name the reporters from the Moonie publication, The Washington Times, whom Goldfarb praises for getting the "big scoop," misspelled: it is Erik, not Eric).

Goldfarb then acknowledges that he is "not above speculating on just who leaked the information in question. The source is almost certainly a Democratic member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, given the fact that no one knew of this program’s existence until Leon Panetta appeared before that committee and revealed details of the program in June." He then writes:

"The top candidate there would have to be Jan Schakowsky, the Illinois Democrat whose made the persecution of Blackwater into her own pet cause. Schakowsky has been a key source for Jeremy Scahill, who wrote Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, a full-throttle hit job of the government contractor.

This is a scurrilous allegation about Rep. Schakowsky. In all of the many interviews I have conducted with Rep. Schakowsky, she has gone way out of her way to make clear that she will not, under any circumstances, discuss or reveal any classified information. As for Schakowsky being a "key source" for me, Michael, it is called journalism. Moreover, the fact that Schakowsky has made one of her central foreign policy initiatives holding Blackwater and other "private contractors" accountable should be worn as a badge of pride—especially given Blackwater’s bloody track record and the recent revelations about the despicable (and disgusting) actions of Wackenhut/Armor Group "guards" at the US embassy in Kabul. Goldfarb and his pro-mercenary cronies are the ones with egg on their face these days (or, perhaps Goldfarb writes this tripe because he desperately wants to get an invite to the next Wackenhut party outside the embassy in Kabul. Don’t forget the vodka, buddy). "Persecution of Blackwater?" So, when Bush’s Justice Department indicted five Blackwater operatives for manslaughter, was that Bush "persecuting" Blackwater? What about when the US military and the FBI said Blackwater operatives were shooting civilians unprovoked? Goldfarb needs to put away the Goldschläger.

Goldfarb then writes that Rep. Rush Holt is "also in the running" as the leaker. What is the evidence Goldfarb presents? Holt "recently declared 'I’d like to see something on the scope of the Church committee.’" Oh Lord! Another Church Committee? How terrible it would be to actually get to the bottom of any of the nefarious things that have been done in secret in the name of the American people. To see why a new Church Committee is actually a very good idea, check out my colleague Chris Hayes’s excellent cover story in The Nation, "The Secret Government."

Finally, Goldfarb writes this:

While the leaking of classified material damaging to America’s war against al Qaeda is a travesty, it does hold forth the delightful possibilty of seeing Reps. Schakowsky and Holt put before a panel of DoJ prosecutors while their core body temperature and heart rate are measured by the polygraph for any signs of lying. The thing about these investigations — like the investigation into the Plame affair — is that you never know who’s going to get caught in a lie.

Rather than respond, I trust readers to fill in the blank in responding to this one. Hint: try using these words: Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Tenet, Black, Krongard, Prince…



:: Article nr. 57634 sent on 05-sep-2009 03:26 ECT


Offline bigron

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US Gets Pakistani Column Pulled Over Blackwater Report

US Ambassador Pressed Pakistani Paper to Pull Column

Posted By Jason Ditz On September 6, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

The United States embassy in Pakistan reportedly managed to get the weekly column of a top critic of US policy pulled from the major English-language newspaper in Pakistan “The News International,” following a secret letter from Ambassador Anne Patterson to the newspaper earlier in the week.

The US embassy confirmed sending the letter but would not discuss its content. The newspaper’s editorial team said they were open to publishing the column at a later date, and indeed the article, entitled “Targeting Pakistan and Silencing the Critics” was made available on their website. Still, Pakistani media are saying that the embassy’s ability to block an article it found objectionable from a long-time critic of US policy is a sign of the enormous power the US wields in the nation.

Dr. Shireen Mazari, the author of the article, was interviewed on Iranian state media regarding what she called US censorship, and appeared to be not particularly surprised by the turn of events, though she insisted all the claims she made in the article also appeared in Western media sources, including Deutsche Presse-Agentur. She also vowed to continue her criticism of US policy, insisting “the Americans can’t gag me in my own country.”

Though Ambassador Patterson’s specific objections have not been made public, and she told The News not to publish her letter of complaint, it is widely assumed that Dr. Mazari’s references to Blackwater contractors being used on Pakistani soil was the source of the most vociferous objections.

A member of the opposition Tehreek-e Insaf party, Mazari was the director of a top foreign policy think-tank funded by the Pakistani government, though she was eventually removed from the position after what many in the Pakistani media believe was growing US pressure and warnings from the embassy that so long as she held the position they would treat her comments as official policy.

Following the furore over Dr. Mazari’s column, the Pakistani government officially denied that any Blackwater personnel were in the country, and insisted rules were in place to prevent such a thing happening. The US embassy declined comment, but last month former CIA officials revealed that the company had in fact been providing security on a Pakistani air base from which CIA drones were flown.

Related Stories
August 21, 2009 -- CIA’s Ties With Blackwater Run Deep
September 6, 2009 -- Thousands of Civilians Flee Khyber Offensive
September 5, 2009 -- Pakistan Kills at Least 57 in Khyber Offensive


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Report: Blackwater guard saw Iraqi killings as 9/11 revenge

By Stephen C. Webster
September 8, 2009

Did Blackwater mercenaries murder Iraqis to satiate their thirst for 9/11 revenge?

According to Department of Justice files, at least one did, noted Mother Jones associate editor Daniel Schulman on Tuesday morning.

The revelation was torn from documents relative to the prosecution of Blackwater Worldwide guards involved in a 2007 Baghdad massacre that left 17 dead.

According to the documents Schulman pulled, guards "routinely acted in disregard of the use of force policies," and one, known as "Raven 23," allegedly bragged that disregard for Iraqi lives stemmed from a desire for revenge after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. While Bush administration officials eventually admitted this, in the run-up to invasion they repeatedly implied that the middle eastern nation was loosely connected to the attacks.

A key passage excerpted from the filings reads:

This evidence tends to establish that the defendants fired at innocent Iraqis not because they actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury and actually believed that they had no alternative to the use of deadly force, but rather that they fired at innocent Iraqi civilians because of their hostility toward Iraqis and their grave indifference to the harm that their actions would cause.

Mother Jones has posted the court records online (PDF link).

Controversy has surrounded the private security firm practically since it was founded, but erupted anew recently when former employees accused Blackwater’s founder and former CEO of murdering or facilitating the murders of other employees who were preparing to blow the whistle on his alleged criminal activities.

The sworn statements also say that founder Erik Prince and Blackwater executives were involved in illegal weapons smuggling and had, on numerous occasions, ordered incriminating documents, e-mails, photos and video destroyed. The former employees described Blackwater as "having young girls provide oral sex to Enterprise members in the 'Blackwater Man Camp’ in exchange for one American dollar." They add even though Prince frequently visited this camp, he "failed to stop the ongoing use of prostitutes, including child prostitutes, by his men."

One of the statements also charges that "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 former employees additionally claim that Prince was engaged in illegal arms dealing, money laundering, and tax evasion, that he created "a web of companies in order to obscure wrong-doing, fraud, and other crimes," and that Blackwater’s chief financial officer had "resigned … stating he was not willing to go to jail for Erik Prince."

The company was also allegedly involved in the planning stages of the CIA’s assassination program, which was reportedly never used, then scrapped by CIA chief Leon Panetta.

Prince has repeatedly insisted his company has done nothing wrong and Blackwater continues to fulfill its contracts with the United States government.

For the massacre of Iraqi civilians, five Blackwater guards were arrested and charged with manslaughter. A sixth guard flipped and agreed to testify against the others. Government informants later claimed the company tried to gather up and destroy weapons involved in the slaughter.

The State Department announced last January that it would not be renewing Blackwater’s contract for security services in Iraq when it was set to expire in May, however the Obama administration decided to extend it through Sept. 3, according to The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill.

ABC reported the new contract extension is for an unspecified amount of time and could end "within weeks or months."

When it is finally allowed to expire, Blackwater’s involvement with Iraq will have ended, completely.


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Video: Blackwater Mercenaries in Pakistan


September 8, 2009
Watch :

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


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'Blackwater will never get out of Iraq'


September 8, 2009
Watch :

It seems that everyday there is yet another controversy surrounding private military firm Blackwater International, now known as Xe. Despite the fact that the company is associated with corruption, criminal charges, and negligence, the United States State Department has extended its contract in Iraq. The government in Iraq, however, has said long before it wants the company out after a shootout in Baghdad resulted in the deaths of 17 civilians. Given all this, how is the US Government able to extend the contract and why are they doing this given the tainted image of the company? RT's Dina Gusovsky speaks to Lawrence B. Wilkerson, professor and former chief of staff to Colin Powell.


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US actually increasing personnel in Iraq: More contractors, fewer troops

US forces are not withdrawing from Iraq.

Well, its soldiers are. But not civilian contractors. Despite President Barack Obama's pledge to withdraw US troops from the war-torn country, the US is planning to award contracts to protect US installations at a cost to taxpayers that could near $1 billion.

In fact, the Multi-National Force-Iraq just awarded $485 million in contracts just last week, while Congress enjoyed its summer recess. Five firms will handle private security deals to provide security for US bases. It's a neat rhetorical loophole that will allow US officials to say that the country has withdrawn from Iraq, while its contractors remain.

"Under a similar contract with five security contractors that began in September 2007, the MNF-I spent $253 million through March 2009, with needs growing over that 18-month period," the Washington Post's Walter Pincus wrote in Wednesday editions. "That contract, which was to run three years, had a spending limit of $450 million.

Pincus cites an Inspector General's report, whose fine print notes that these contracts could swell to a whopping $935 million. An earlier IG report documented manifold allegations of fraud and government waste (PDF here) :

Victory Base Camp, one of the US' largest installations, will likely require "approximately 2,600 security personnel," the report said -- just by itself.

The Pentagon's "quarterly report on contracting showed a 19 percent increase from the three previous months in the number of security guards in Iraq hired by the Defense Department. The Central Command attributed the increase, from 10,743 at the end of March to 13,232 at the end of June, mainly to "an increased need for PSCs [private security companies] to provide security as the military begins to draw down forces."

Private guards replaced soldiers at 19 locations. Are taxpayers getting their money's worth by awarding contracts to more efficient private firms?

Nope: security companies are billing the US for more people to do what the military is able to do with less.

"Camp Bucca, primarily a detention facility, called for '417 personnel to free up approximately 350 soldiers for combat operations,'" Pincus notes. "At Forward Operating Base Hammer, the task order called for 124 private guards to allow 102 soldiers to take on combat activities."

At another installation, Camp Taji, about 900 private contractors replaced 400 soldiers.

-John Byrne

Offline bigron

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Federal Prosecutors Say Blackwater 'Specifically Intended to Kill' Civilians

by Jeremy Scahill

September 9, 2009

The US government’s allegations back-up the explosive testimony of two former Blackwater employees. Gov’t says Blackwater shot Iraqis as "payback for 9/11"

By Jeremy Scahill

A month ago, most major, corporate media outlets ignored the sworn statements of two former Blackwater employees, one of whom—identified in court papers as John Doe #2— alleged that the company’s owner Erik 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." Most media outlets ignored the numerous, specific allegations contained in the sworn affidavit of John Doe #1 about Blackwater operatives shooting at defenseless civilians—most of them based on John Doe #1’s personal experience working in Iraq for Blackwater.

Now, it is not just former employees making these allegations.

On September 7, federal prosecutors in Washington DC submitted papers in the criminal case against five Blackwater operatives for their alleged role in the 2007 Nisour Square shooting in Baghdad that killed 17 Iraqi civilians and wounded more than 20 others. Blackwater forces "fired at innocent Iraqis not because they actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury and actually believed that they had no alternative to the use of deadly force, but rather that they fired at innocent Iraqi civilians because of their hostility toward Iraqis and their grave indifference to the harm that their actions would cause," the acting US Attorney in DC, Channing Phillips, alleges in court papers submitted by Kenneth C. Kohl, the lead prosecutor on this case. "[T]he defendants specifically intended to kill or seriously injure the Iraqi civilians that they fired upon at Nisur Square."

The allegation that stands out most in the court filing, as Mother Jones noted, is this one against one of the Nisour Square defendants:

During the twelve months proceeding the events charged in the indictment, while assigned to the Raven 23 convoy operating at various locations in the Red Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, defendant Nicholas Slatten made statements that he wanted to kill as many Iraqis as he could as "payback for 9/11," and he repeatedly boasted about the number of Iraqis he had shot… [During these 12 months,] Slatten deliberately fired his weapon to draw out return fire and instigate gun battles in a manner that was inconsistent with the use of force and escalation of force policies that governed Blackwater personnel in Iraq.
Here are some other key excerpts from the court document:

[T]he United States will seek to introduce evidence that in the year leading up to the events of September 16, 2007, several of the defendants had harbored a deep hostility toward Iraqi civilians which they demonstrated in words and deeds.  The defendants’ demonstrated hostility toward Iraqi civilians bears directly on the defendants’ respective states of mind when they fired  rounds at innocent civilians at Nisur Square on September 16, 2007.  In addition to verbal expressions of hatred towards Iraqi civilians, the defendants engaged in unprovoked and aggressive behavior toward unarmed Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.  In so doing, the defendants routinely acted in disregard of the use of force policies that they were required to follow as a condition of their employment as Blackwater guards.
During the twelve months proceeding the events charged in the indictment, while assigned to a turret gun position on the Raven 23 convoy operating at various locations in the Red Zone in Baghdad, Iraq, defendants Paul Slough, Nicholas Slatten and Evan Liberty routinely threw water bottles and other items at unarmed civilians, vehicles, wagons, and bicycles without justification in an attempt to break automobile windows, injure and harass people, and for sport, and in a manner that was inconsistent with the use of force and escalation of force policies that governed Blackwater personnel in Iraq. Among the items thrown were frozen oranges and frozen water bottles.
On or about May 23, 2007, in the vicinity of Amanat City Hall in Baghdad, Iraq, near an intersection of the city known to Blackwater personnel as "Grey 55," defendant Evan Liberty discharged an automatic weapon from the turret of a Blackwater armored vehicle without aiming the weapon, and without regard for who might be struck by the rounds, and in a manner that was inconsistent with the use of force and escalation of force policies that governed all Blackwater personnel in Iraq.
On or about September 9, 2007, in the vicinity of Amanat City Hall in Baghdad, Iraq, near an intersection of the city known to Blackwater personnel as "Grey 55," defendant Evan Liberty discharged an automatic weapon from a port hole of a Blackwater armored vehicle, while driving that vehicle, without aiming the weapon, and without regard for who might be struck by the rounds, and in a manner that was inconsistent with the use of force and escalation of force policies that governed all Blackwater personnel in Iraq.
It is also significant that federal prosecutors reject any suggestion by Blackwater or the defendants in this case that the men at Nisour Square acted in self-defense in response to an attack by "insurgent," as Blackwater alleged from day one. "None of these victims was an insurgent, and many were shot while inside of civilian vehicles that were attempting to flee" Blackwater’s operatives, prosecutors allege.

Will corporate news outlets pick up this story now?


Offline Harconen

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Shadow Army Now Outnumbers U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

Kevin Gosztola
Sat, 05 Sep 2009 19:25 UTC

An unfortunate milestone in the war in Afghanistan was reported this week: private contractors have outnumbered U.S. troops in Afghanistan since March. Contractors now make up "57 percent of the Pentagon's Afghanistan personnel."

The highest ratio of contractors to military personnel recorded in any war in the history of the United States now exists in Afghanistan, according to a recently released report by a Congressional research group.

Of particular importance, the report concludes that "abuses and crimes committed by armed private security contractors and interrogators against local nationals may have undermined US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan."

That's not surprising. Every day another news link detailing some abuse, mistreatment, violence, neglect, or crime committed by private contractors enters my inbox. If it isn't the CIA that's in the news for something criminal, it's a private contractor instead.

This week Americans were treated to images of private security guards from ArmorGroup at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul "participating in naked pool parties and sex acts to gain promotions or assignment to preferable shifts."

ABC News reported that top supervisors at ArmorGroup (whose corporate parent is Wackenhut) were not only aware of the "deviant sexual acts." They helped to organize them.

A segment on Rachel Maddow September 3rd explored the issue of abuses and misconduct committed by private contractors while also exploring how difficult it is to hold private contractors accountable.

Maddow: We got 2007 investigation by the State Department. We've got a follow-up investigation by the Senate. We've got in the midst of all of this, a re-upping of the contracts for these guys.

What's your take on how the State Department now is handling this? Obviously, the track record was bad. The contract was re-upped this past summer. But what do you think about the way they've responded to you now and what they're doing in terms of taking remedial action?

Brian: Well, I was happy to just get a call about an hour or two ago from the State Department that actually, the number three at the embassy is asked to come over to be briefed by us at POGO next week. So, that's a good sign. What worries me, though, is I've had an e-mail that was circulated to all the guards that told them that while State Department investigators are there, interviewing all the people at the base, they are not aloud to speak to State Department investigator without a supervisor being there with them...

Maddow: Is it harder to pursue accountability generally when government functions are contracted out to private companies? Does that create another layer of insulation for people who act criminally or inappropriately or wastefully on the taxpayers' dime?

Brian: I think there's no question that that's a huge issue. That's one the issues that we raised in our letter to Secretary Clinton was, is this the right place in this case to be having contractors? It really creates a difficult ability to hold them accountable. And that's true in any of these situations.

If reports of contractors peeing on people or taking shots of vodka out of ass cracks aren't bad enough, there is news that contractors may be using USAID money to pay the Taliban.

The Associated Press reports allegations that "USAID money for road and bridge construction in Afghanistan" has been "siphoned off by contractors to pay members of the Taliban not to attack specific projects and workers."

And then, there's the fact that the State Department is renewing Blackwater's contract. (Of course, Jeremy Scahill has been all over this.)

ABC News reports that the State Department "agreed to temporarily continue using the subsidiary known as Presidential Airways to provide helicopter transport for embassy employees around Iraq until a new contract with another security company, Dyncorp International, is fully implemented."

Presidential Airways is part of U.S. Training Center, which is a subsidiary of Xe. Xe is the euphemism or new name for Blackwater. It's for people who are willing to forget the crimes that Blackwater has committed.

Before you think you should be happy about the fact that DynCorp may take the profits Blackwater could have gotten, let me inform you that in 2002 it was reported that Dyncorp in 1999 had employees and supervisors "engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] werepurchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in other immoral acts"coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased."

And, no, these women were really not women. Actually, that sentence should probably be referring to the women as girls---kids.

Here's another excerpt from Corpwatch on this contractor:

"...a DynCorp employee in Bosnia who "weighed 400 pounds and would stick cheeseburgers in his pockets and eat them while he worked.The problem was he would literally fall asleep every five minutes. One time he fell asleep with a torch in his hand and burned a hole through the plastic on an aircraft." This same man, according to Johnston, "owned a girl who couldn't have been more than 14 years old. It's a sick sight anyway to see any grown man [having sex] with a child, but to see some 45-year-old man who weighs 400 pounds with a little girl, it just makes you sick." It is precisely these allegations that Johnston believes got him fired."

So, the Obama White House is deciding to not renew the contract with the private contractor accused of massacring civilians in Nisoor Square, whose founder Erik Prince has publicly stated Blackwater was in Iraq to wage a crusade against Islam, and is deciding to instead give the contracts to a contractor that has engaged in sex trafficking or sex with children?

The sad part isn't that America has hired private security contractors that commit such foul acts. What's really sad and despicable is that pigs will keep finding food in the trough as long as the U.S. continues to engage in war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc.

If we have troops in a country, there will be contractors getting rich off of taxpayer dollars and showing complete and total disregard for humanity.
Resist. Rebel. Cry out to all peoples and nations from the sky as the lightening flashes from the east to the west and judge the living and the dead.Or choose submission and slavery.

The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.  (John 1:5)

Offline bigron

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Court Rejects Suit Against CACI Over Abu Ghraib Torture

Contractor Granted Wartime Immunity

By Mike Musgrove, Washington Post Staff Writer

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit Friday against CACI International that accused the firm's employees of taking part in the torture and abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

In a 2 to 1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit dismissed the case on the grounds that CACI should be immune from prosecution because the company's employees were under U.S. military authority.

"During wartime," wrote Judge Laurence H. Silberman, "where a private service contractor is integrated into combatant activities over which the military retains command authority, a tort claim arising out of the contractor's engagement in such activities shall be preempted."

The decision reversed a lower court's ruling in March that the company must face a lawsuit filed by former detainees who claim that they were tortured at the detention center near Baghdad.

Ever since the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted in May 2004, CACI has maintained that it was not involved in the facility's mistreatment of its detainees, a stance the firm repeated Friday. The Arlington-based government contractor had provided interrogators to the U.S. military in Iraq.

"The court's decision today is an important step toward resolving all legal matters regarding the company's mission and duties in Iraq," Jody Brown, executive vice president for public relations at CACI, said in a statement. "We have said from day one that these lawsuits are completely without merit and designed to pursue a political agenda."

The attorney who argued the case on behalf of the Abu Ghraib detainees, Susan L. Burke, said on Friday that her legal team intends to file for an "en banc" review of the case, under which all nine of the court's judges would hear the appeal.

"We are cautiously optimistic that we will receive en banc review and that it will be reversed," she said. "We anticipate that the majority of jurists hearing the matter will adhere to the rule of law."

"Although we are disappointed, this is an anticipated setback in what will continue to be an ongoing battle against torture," Burke said.

In a dissenting opinion filed Friday, Judge Merrick B. Garland argued that there is no judicial precedent that would prohibit the detainees from suing government contractors.

"The plaintiffs in these cases allege that they were beaten, electrocuted, raped, subjected to attacks by dogs and otherwise abused by private contractors," he wrote. "At the current stage of the litigation we must accept these allegations as true."


Offline bigron

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Undercounting deaths of US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan

Contractor deaths are rarely reported

By Bernd Debusmann
Global Research, September 12, 2009
Reuters - 2009-09-10

WASHINGTON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - By most counts, the death toll of U.S. soldiers in America's wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stood at 5,157 in the second week of September. Add at least 1,360 private contractors working for the U.S. and the number tops 6,500.

Contractor deaths and injuries (around 30,000 so far) are rarely reported but they highlight the United States' steadily growing dependence on private enterprise.

It's a dependence some say has slid into incurable addiction. Contractor ranks in Iraq and Afghanistan have swollen to just under a quarter million. They outnumber U.S. troops in Afghanistan and they almost match uniformed soldiers in Iraq.

The present ratio of about one contractor for every uniformed member of the U.S. armed forces is more than double that of every other major conflict in American history, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

That means the world's only superpower cannot fight its war nor protect its civilian officials, diplomats and embassies without support from contractors.

"As the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have progressed, the military services, defense agencies and other stakeholder agencies...continue to increase their reliance on contractors. Contractors are now literally in the center of the battlefield in unprecedented numbers," according to a report to Congress by the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"In previous wars, the military police protected bases and the battle space as other military service members engaged and pursued the enemy," said the report.

In listing the 1,360-plus contractor casualties, it said that criticism of the present system and suggestions for reforming it "in no way diminish their sacrifices."

So why are they not routinely added to military casualty counts? And why should they? A full accounting for total casualties is important because both Congress and the public tend to gauge a war's success or failure by the size of the force deployed and the number of killed and wounded, according to George Washington university scholar Steven Schooner.

In other words: the higher the casualty number, the more difficult it is for political and military leaders to convince a sceptical public that a war is worth fighting, particularly a war that promises to be long, such as the conflict in Afghanistan. Polls show that a majority of Americans already think the Afghan war is not worth fighting.

Figures on deaths and injuries among the vast ranks of civilians in war zones are tracked by the U.S. Department of Labor on the basis of claims under an insurance policy, the Defense Base Act, which all U.S. contracting companies and subcontractors must take out for the civilians they employ outside the United States.


The Labor Department compiles the statistics on a quarterly basis but only releases them in response to requests under the Freedom of Information Act. This can take weeks. The Department gives no details of the nationalities of the contractors, saying that doing so would "constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" under the U.S. Privacy Act.

Writing in last autumn's Parameters, the quarterly journal of the U.S. Army War College, Schooner said that an accurate tally was critical to any discussion of the costs and benefits of the military's efforts in the wars. What's more, the American public needs to know that their government is delegating to the private sector "the responsibility to stand in harm's way and, if required, die for America."

Schooner wrote it was troubling that few Americans considered the deaths of contractors relevant or significant even though many of them performed roles carried out by uniformed military only a generation ago. "Many...concede that they perceive contractor personnel as expendable profiteers, adventure seekers, cowboys, or rogue elements not entitled to the same respect or value due to the military."

That's not surprising after a series of ugly incidents involving armed security contractors. They make up for a small proportion of the total (about 8 percent) but account for almost all the headlines that have deepened negative perceptions and prompted labels from mercenary and merchant of death to "the coalition of the billing."

In the most notorious incident, two years ago, employees of the company then known as Blackwater opened fire in a crowded Baghdad square, killing 17 Iraqis. Five of the Blackwater shooters, who were working for the Department of State, have been indicted on manslaughter and weapons charges.

The Pentagon describes private contractors as a "force multiplier" because they let soldiers concentrate on military missions. Some of the actions of private security contractors could be termed a "perception multiplier." Such as the after-hours antics of contractors from the company ArmorGroup North America guarding the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

Shaking off the image of rogues became even more difficult for private security contractors after a Washington-based watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight, accompanied a detailed report on misconduct and morale problems among the guard force with photographs showing nearly nude, drunken employees in a variety of obscene poses and fondling each other.

Whether contractors, even rogue elements and cowboys, should not be counted in the toll of American wars is another matter. Doing so would be part of the transparency Barack Obama promised when he ran for president.

You can contact the author at [email protected]


Offline bigron

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Judges Shame America

By Sherwood Ross

September 13, 2009 -

 The federal Appeals Court decision to toss a lawsuit claiming contractors tortured detainees in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison is what you’d expect from a tyranny.

The new ruling brushes off the charges by 212 Iraqis who said they or their late husbands were abused by U.S. personnel at Abu Ghraib. The suit charged private security firm CACI International Inc., of Arlington, Va., of crimes inside the Baghdad hellhole.

Yet in a 2-1 ruling, the D.C. Court of Appeals said CACI "is protected by laws barring suits filed as the result of military activities during a time of war," the Associated Press reported. This opinion was written by Judge Laurence Silberman, a Reagan appointee, and supported by Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a Bush appointee.

"During wartime, where a private service contractor is integrated into combatant activities over which the military retains command authority, a tort claim arising out of the contractor's engagement in such activities shall be pre-empted," Silberman wrote. If so, with about as many U.S.-led contract mercenaries as regular army involved in the Iraq conflict, this decision preposterously exempts some 150,000 fighters from legal action for any crimes they commit. It gives a shoot-to-kill pass to privateers such as Blackwater, whose operatives on one occasion are said to have gunned down 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians.

"This abuse and torture of these prisoners detained during war time constituted war crimes and torture in violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the U.S. War Crimes Act, the Convention against Torture, and the U.S. Federal Anti-torture Statute---felonies, punishable by death if death results as a violation thereof," said Francis Boyle, an international law authority at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

"Judges Silberman and Kavanaugh have now become Accessories After the Fact to torture, war crimes and felonies in violation of United States federal law and international criminal law," Boyle asserted. (See if they are ever prosecuted!)

Dissenter Judge Merrick Garland, appointed by President Bill Clinton, argued the law does not protect independent contractors, particularly when they are accused of acting outside the rules or instructions of their military overseers. But where Silberman said most of the claims were limited to "abuse" or "harm," not war crimes or torture, according to Courthouse News Service, Garland "found the claims much more alarming."

"The plaintiffs in these cases allege they were beaten, electrocuted, raped, subjected to attacks by dogs, and otherwise abused by private contractors working as interpreters and interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison," Garland said.

"No act of Congress and no judicial precedent bars the plaintiffs from suing the private contractors---who were neither soldiers nor civilian government employees," he wrote.

"Neither President Obama nor President Bush nor any other Executive Branch official has suggested that subjecting the contractors to tort liability for the conduct at issue here would interfere with the nation's foreign policy or the Executive's ability to wage war," Garland pointed out.

"To the contrary, the Department of Defense has repeatedly stated that employees of private contractors accompanying the Armed Forces in the field are not within the military's chain of command, and that such contractors are subject to civil liability," he wrote.

Judge Silberman was named to the Federal bench in 1985 by President Ronald Reagan and in 2008 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, from (surprise!) President George W. Bush, the man who launched the Afghan and Iraq aggressions.

Silverman was supported in his opinion by Kavanaugh, a former legal aide to President Bush who was later appointed by Bush to the Federal bench. In July, 2007, Senators Patrick Leahy(D-Vt.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) accused Kavanaugh of "misleading" the Senate during his nomination.

In a statement issued at the time opposing the appointment, Sen. Durbin prophesied, "By every indication, Brett Kavanaugh will make this judgeship a gift that keeps on giving to his political patrons who have rewarded him richly with a nomination coveted by lawyers all over America." And that, of course, is exactly what happened. Here’s what aroused Durbin’s concern:

"For example, he (Kavanaugh) would not tell us his views on some of the most controversial policy decisions of the Bush administration--like the issues of torture and warrantless wiretapping. He would not comment. He would not tell us whether he regretted the role he played in supporting the nomination of some judicial nominees who wanted to permit torture as part of American foreign policy… It would have been so refreshing and reassuring if Brett Kavanaugh could have distanced himself from their extreme views. But a loyal White House counsel is not going to do that. And that is how he came to this nomination." And that is how he came to dismiss the torture charges against contractor CACI. Surely, Kavanaugh’s decision in the CACI case is proof he misled the Senate and merits impeachment.

In Jan., 2005, The New York Times reported testimony suggesting that guards and/or interrogators at Abu Ghraib were urinating on detainees, pouring phosphoric acid on them, sodomizing them with a baton, tying ropes to their penises and dragging them across the floor, and jumping on their wounds. Some prisoners were hung with their hands tied behind their back until they died. It should be remembered that the Abu Ghraib inmates were suspects, imprisoned without due process or trials. Abu Ghraib’s commanding officer Brig. General Janis Karpinski estimated that 90 percent of them were innocent.

According to an article by Jeffrey Toobin in the September 21 issue of The New Yorker, President Obama already has the chance to nominate judges for 21 seats on the federal appellate bench---more than 10 percent of the 179 judges on those courts, and at least half a dozen more seats should open in the next few months.

In a Detroit speech, Obama said the role of our courts "is to protect people who don’t have a voice…the vulnerable, the minority, the outcast, the person with the unpopular idea, the journalist who is shaking things up…And if somebody doesn’t appreciate that role, then I don’t think they are going to make a very good justice."

Surely, hundreds of foreign prisoners tortured in an illegal war made by the U.S., or their survivors, are supplicants entitled to a fair hearing, not non-persons to be brushed aside as judges Silberman and Kavanaugh have done this past week. Their ruling that, essentially, injured parties cannot sue the Warfare State and its contractors, drives a tank through the Constitution. Americans had better pray Obama’s judicial choices will aspire to a higher standard.

(Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based media consultant who has written for major dailies, wire services, and national magazines. To reach him or support his Anti-War News Service contact him at [email protected]. )


Offline bigron

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September 14, 2009

Prosecutors in Iraq Case See Pattern by Guards


WASHINGTON — Private security guards who worked for Blackwater repeatedly shot wildly into the streets of Baghdad without regard for civilians long before they were involved in a 2007 shooting episode that left at least 14 Iraqis dead, federal prosecutors charge in a new court document.

While traveling through Baghdad in heavily armored vehicles, at least one of the guards, under contract with the State Department to provide security for United States Embassy personnel, fired an automatic weapon “without aiming” while another deliberately fired into the streets to “instigate gun battles in a manner that was inconsistent with the use of force and escalation of force policies that governed all Blackwater personnel in Iraq,” the federal prosecutors stated.

The new accusations were included in a document filed by prosecutors last week in the criminal case against five former Blackwater guards who have been charged with manslaughter in federal court in Washington in connection with the shootings in Nisour Square, in Baghdad, on Sept. 16, 2007.

The guards have pleaded not guilty and have argued that they did not fire their weapons with criminal intent in the Nisour Square case.

The prosecutors are trying to prove that the shootings were part of a larger pattern of reckless behavior.

“These prior bad acts are relevant to establish that the defendants specifically intended to kill or seriously injure the Iraqi civilians that they fired upon at Nisour Square,” the court document says.

Part of the evidence relates to the states of mind of the Blackwater guards, and whether statements they allegedly made about killing Iraqis were factors in the shootings. The document says, for example, that one of the guards, Nicholas Slatten, told people that “he wanted to kill as many Iraqis as he could as payback for 9/11 and he repeatedly boasted about the number of Iraqis he had shot.”

The new allegations also seem to raise questions about whether there was adequate oversight of the security details by either Blackwater or the State Department.

Defense lawyers have not formally responded to the government’s latest document, and a defense lawyer for one of the guards reached on Sunday declined to comment. Previously, the defense stated that the government’s evidence was weak and that its case was without merit. The trial is set to begin in February.

The guards were indicted by a federal grand jury last December after a criminal investigation by the F.B.I. in Iraq and were arraigned in federal court in Washington in January. The case involves by far the bloodiest episode in Iraq linked to private security guards protecting American diplomats, and it has transformed the debate in both Washington and Baghdad over the proper role of private contractors in a war zone.

The Blackwater guards, assigned to a four-vehicle convoy known as Raven 23, drove into a traffic circle at Nisour Square in downtown Baghdad around noon that day and opened fire with a sniper rifle, machine guns and grenade launchers.

After the episode, Blackwater officials said that the guards had been responding to fire from insurgents, but prosecutors charge that they fired on unarmed civilians, including many who were shot in their cars while they were trying to flee.

The government points to specific prior incidents to make the case that the Nisour Square shootings were not isolated. In May 2007, one guard, Evan Liberty, fired his automatic weapon without aiming from the turret of a Blackwater vehicle near Amanat City Hall in Baghdad, according to the document.

That September, it states, Mr. Liberty was driving a vehicle near the same city hall and fired an automatic weapon without aiming and while still trying to drive. That second incident occurred just one week before the Nisour Square shootings.

Mr. Liberty and two other guards, Paul Slough and Mr. Slatten, were also said to have routinely thrown frozen water bottles, frozen oranges and other items at unarmed civilians and vehicles as they drove through Baghdad, “in an attempt to break automobile windows, injure and harass people, and for sport,” the court document states.

The two other guards named in the case are Dustin L. Heard and Donald W. Ball.

The document does not specify the source or sources of information for the new accusations. But in prosecuting the men, federal lawyers appear to be relying heavily on testimony from a sixth guard, Jeremy P. Ridgeway, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government.

Blackwater, which has changed its name to Xe Services, has not been charged in the case, but the shooting aftermath has hurt the company’s business deeply. This year, Xe (pronounced “zee”) lost its contract to provide diplomatic security for United States Embassy officials in Baghdad, and its longstanding, but more secret, ties to the Central Intelligence Agency have come under new scrutiny as well.

The shootings have caused a deep-seated political reaction in Iraq against private security contractors, leading the Iraqi government to demand successfully that the United States agree to make the contractors subject to Iraqi law.

Previously, the contractors had been granted immunity from Iraqi law, even while it was unclear which American laws governed their behavior.

The company also faces a civil lawsuit filed in the United States on behalf of the Iraqi victims that day.

This summer, Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, told Congress that he had found that during the Bush administration, the agency had once considered using Blackwater in a covert assassination program.

Officials have said that the plan was never implemented. But the company still has other contracts with the C.I.A., including one that calls for Xe’s personnel to handle and load bombs and rockets on Predator drones at secret bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan. see :

Offline bigron

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NYT Reports on Justice Dept. Charge That Blackwater Saw Killing Iraqis as "Payback for 9/11"

When will a major paper report on the allegation that Erik Prince "views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe"?

By Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports
Posted on September 14, 2009, Printed on September 15, 2009

Last week, I wrote about the U.S. Justice Department’s allegations about Blackwater, which were filed in the criminal case against the men alleged to be responsible for the Nisour Square massacre. Blackwater forces "fired at innocent Iraqis not because they actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury and actually believed that they had no alternative to the use of deadly force, but rather that they fired at innocent Iraqi civilians because of their hostility toward Iraqis and their grave indifference to the harm that their actions would cause," the acting U.S. Attorney in DC, Channing Phillips, alleged in court papers submitted by Kenneth C. Kohl, the lead prosecutor on this case. "[T]he defendants specifically intended to kill or seriously injure the Iraqi civilians that they fired upon at Nisur Square." Prosecutors also allege that "defendant Nicholas Slatten made statements that he wanted to kill as many Iraqis as he could as 'payback for 9/11,' and he repeatedly boasted about the number of Iraqis he had shot."

The New York Times reporter Jim Risen reports on these charges today. His report is here :
The dramatic understatement of the piece is this line: "The new allegations also seem to raise questions about whether there was adequate oversight of the security details by either Blackwater or the State Department." No comment.

I am still waiting for a major paper in the U.S. to report on the allegation made in a sworn statement by a former Blackwater employee that the company’s owner, Erik 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."

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

© 2009 Rebel Reports All rights reserved.
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Offline bigron

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Xe Worldwide (Blackwater) spreads tentacles to Karachi

By: Maqbool Malik | Published: September 15, 2009
Islamabad - US private security outfit Blackwater has begun to expand its presence in Karachi port city in the backdrop of the Peshawar debacle last month when Craig Davis a suspected operative of the US company was caught red handed involved in objectionable activities.

Well-placed sources told The Nation on Monday that Blackwater, which has been operating in the region including in Afghanistan and Pakistan under different names, is believed to have hired on rent at least seven private houses in posh Defence area of Karachi port city.

Sources were not sure whether the move to hire houses was part of any long-term strategy or as a stopgap arrangement because plans were afoot to hire services of retired personnel of Pakistani law enforcement agencies to oversea various operations including logistical support to handle consignments of the US private security company.

It was further learnt from knowledgeable sources that Blackwater had acquired hundreds of acres of land near Pataro in Sindh in order to launch a supposedly Agriculture Research Institute.

Craig Davis along with some other US citizens came into spotlight in Peshawar after their Pakistani neighbours wrote a letter to the Interior Ministry demanding a thorough probe into their dubious activities.
Later Craig Davis was identified as operative of Creative Associates International Inc; a Washington- based US firm believed to be one the wings of Blackwater, now renamed Xe Worldwide. Davis, who had to leave Pakistan, is learnt to have returned again and resumed his “official” activities.

However, despite frequent attempts, it was not immediately possible to contact the US Embassy to confirm the status of Craig Davis.

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Why Is Obama Still Using Blackwater?

By Jeremy Scahill

September 16, 2009

Two years ago on September 16, 2007, on a steamy hot Baghdad day with temperatures reaching 100 degrees, a heavily armed Blackwater convoy entered a congested intersection at Nisour Square in the Mansour district of the Iraqi capital. The once-upscale section of Baghdad was still lined with boutiques, cafes and art galleries dating back to better days. The ominous caravan consisted of four large armored vehicles with machine guns mounted on top.

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As the Blackwater convoy was entering the square that day, a young Iraqi medical student named Ahmed Hathem Al-Rubaie was driving his mother, Mahasin, in the family's white sedan. As fate would have it, they found themselves stuck near Nisour Square. The family were devout Muslims and were fasting in observance of the holy month of Ramadan.

Ali Khalaf Salman, an Iraqi traffic cop on duty in Nisour Square that day, remembers vividly when the Blackwater convoy entered the intersection, spurring him and his colleagues to scramble to stop traffic. But as the Mambas entered the square, the convoy suddenly made a surprise U-turn and proceeded to drive the wrong way on a one-way street. As Khalaf watched, the convoy came to an abrupt halt. He says a large white man with a mustache, positioned atop the third vehicle in the Blackwater convoy, began to fire his weapon "randomly."

Khalaf looked in the direction of the shots, on Yarmouk Road, and heard a woman screaming, "My son! My son!" The police officer sprinted toward the voice and found a middle-aged woman inside of a vehicle holding a 20-year-old man covered in blood, who had been shot in the forehead. "I tried to help the young man, but his mother was holding him so tight," Khalaf recalled. Another Iraqi policeman, Sarhan Thiab, also ran to the car. "We tried to help him,'' Thiab said. "I saw the left side of his head was destroyed and his mother was crying out: 'My son, my son. Help me, help me.'''

Officer Khalaf recalled looking toward the Blackwater shooters. "I raised my left arm high in the air to try to signal to the convoy to stop the shooting." He says he thought the men would cease fire, given that he was a clearly identified police officer. The young man's body was still in the driver's seat of the automatic vehicle and, as Khalaf and Thiab stood there, it began to roll forward, perhaps as a result of the dead man's foot remaining on the accelerator. Blackwater guards later said they initially opened fire on the vehicle because it was speeding and would not stop, a claim hotly disputed by scores of witnesses. Aerial photos of the scene later showed that the car had not even entered the traffic circle when it was fired upon by Blackwater, while the New York Times reported, "The car in which the first people were killed did not begin to closely approach the Blackwater convoy until the Iraqi driver had been shot in the head and lost control of his vehicle," meaning Blackwater had already shot the man. "I tried to use hand signals to make the Blackwater people understand that the car was moving on its own and we were trying to stop it. We were trying to get the woman out but had to run for cover," Thiab said.

"Don't shoot, please," Khalaf recalled yelling. But as he stood with his hand raised, Khalaf says a gunman from the fourth Blackwater vehicle opened fire on the mother gripping her son and shot her dead before Khalaf's and Thiabs' eyes. "I saw parts of the woman's head flying in front of me, blow up," Thiab said. "They immediately opened heavy fire at us." Within moments, so many shots had been fired at the car from "big machine guns" that Khalaf says it exploded, engulfing the bodies inside in flames, melting their flesh into one. "Each of their four vehicles opened heavy fire in all directions, they shot and killed everyone in cars facing them and people standing on the street," Thiab recalled. "When it was over we were looking around and about fifteen cars had been destroyed, the bodies of the killed were strewn on the pavements and road." When later asked by US investigators why he never fired at the Blackwater men, Khalaf told them, "I am not authorized to shoot, and my job is to look after the traffic."

The victims were later identified as Ahmed Hathem Al-Rubaie and his mother, Mahasin. That attack on Ahmed and Mahasin's vehicle would be the beginning of a fifteen-minute shooting spree that would leave seventeen Iraqis dead and more than twenty wounded.

One of the Blackwater "shooters" that day, Jeremy Ridgeway, later admitted in sworn testimony, that he had killed Mahasin by firing "multiple rounds" into her vehicle and that "there was no attempt to provide reasonable warning."

After Ahmed and Mahasin's vehicle exploded, sustained gunfire rang out in Nisour Square as people fled for their lives. In addition to the Blackwater shooters in the four Mambas, witnesses say gunfire came from Blackwater's Little Bird helicopters. "The helicopters began shooting on the cars," officer Khalaf said. "The helicopters shot and killed the driver of a Volkswagen and wounded a passenger" who escaped by "rolling out of the car into the street," he said. Witnesses described a horrifying scene of indiscriminate shooting by the Blackwater guards. "It was a horror movie," said officer Khalaf. "It was catastrophic," said Zina Fadhil, a 21-year-old pharmacist who survived the attack. "So many innocent people were killed."

Another Iraqi officer on the scene, Hussam Abdul Rahman, said that people who attempted to flee their vehicles were targeted. "Whoever stepped out of his car was shot at immediately," he said.

"I saw women and children jump out of their cars and start to crawl on the road to escape being shot," said Iraqi lawyer Hassan Jabar Salman, who was shot four times in the back during the incident. "But still the firing kept coming and many of them were killed. I saw a boy of about 10 leaping in fear from a minibus--he was shot in the head. His mother was crying out for him. She jumped out after him, and she was killed."

Salman says he was driving behind the Blackwater convoy when it stopped. Witnesses say some sort of explosion had gone off in the distance, too far away to have been perceived as a threat. He said Blackwater guards ordered him to turn his vehicle around and leave the scene. Shortly after, the shooting began. "Why had they opened fire?" he asked. "I do not know. No one--I repeat no one--had fired at them. The foreigners had asked us to go back, and I was going back in my car, so there was no reason for them to shoot." In all, he says, his car was hit twelve times, including the four bullets that pierced his back.

Ridgeway, the Blackwater operative, admitted that he and the other Blackwater operatives "opened fire with automatic weapons and grenade launchers on unarmed civilians." None of the victims that day "was an insurgent," he said, adding that "many were shot while inside of civilian vehicles that were attempting to flee." Ridgeway said one Iraqi was shot "while standing in the street with his hands up."

Mohammed Abdul Razzaq and his 9-year-old-son, Ali, were in a vehicle immediately behind Ahmed and Mahasin, the first victims that day. "We were six persons in the car--me, my son, my sister and her three sons. The four children were in the back seat." He recalled that the Blackwater forces had "gestured stop, so we all stopped.... It's a secure area so we thought it will be the usual, we would stop for a bit as convoys pass. Shortly after that they opened heavy fire randomly at the cars with no exception." He said his vehicle "was hit by about thirty bullets, everything was damaged, the engine, the windshield the back windshield and the tires.

"When the shooting started, I told everybody to get their heads down. I could hear the children screaming in fear. When the shooting stopped, I raised my head and heard my nephew shouting at me 'Ali is dead, Ali is dead.' "

"My son was sitting behind me," he said. "He was shot in the head and his brains were all over the back of the car." Razzaq remembered, "When I held him, his head was badly wounded, but his heart was still beating. I thought there was a chance and I rushed him to the hospital. The doctor told me that he was clinically dead and the chance of his survival was very slim. One hour later, Ali died." Razzaq, who survived the shooting, later returned to the scene and gathered the pieces of his son's skull and brains with his hands, wrapped them in cloth and took them to be buried in the Shiite holy city of Najaf. "I can still smell the blood, my son's blood, on my fingers," Razzaq said two weeks after his son died.

In all, the melee reportedly lasted about fifteen minutes. In an indication of how out of control the situation quickly became, US officials report that "one or more" Blackwater guards called on their colleagues to stop shooting. The word cease-fire ''was supposedly called out several times,'' a senior official told the New York Times. "They had an on-site difference of opinion." At one point a Blackwater guard allegedly drew his gun on another. "It was a Mexican standoff," said one contractor. According to an Iraqi lawyer who was in the square that day, the Blackwater guard screamed at his colleague, "No! No! No!" The Iraqi lawyer himself was shot in the back as he tried to flee.

As the heavy gunfire died down, witnesses say some sort of smoke bomb was set off in the square, perhaps to give cover for the Blackwater Mambas to leave, a common practice of security convoys. Iraqis also said the Blackwater forces fired shots as they withdrew from the square. "Even as they were withdrawing, they were shooting randomly to clear the traffic," said an Iraqi officer who witnessed the shootings in Nisour Square.

Within hours, Blackwater would become a household name the world over, as word of the massacre spread. Blackwater claimed its forces had been "violently attacked" and "acted lawfully and appropriately" and "heroically defended American lives in a war zone." "The 'civilians' reportedly fired upon by Blackwater professionals were in fact armed enemies." In less than twenty-four hours, the killings at Nisour Square would cause the worst diplomatic crisis to date between Washington and its own puppet regime in Baghdad. Though its forces had been at the center of some of the bloodiest moments of the war, Blackwater had largely existed in the shadows. Four years after Blackwater's first boots hit the ground in Iraq, it was yanked out of the darkness. Nisour Square would send Erik Prince down the fateful path to international infamy.

Jeremy Ridgeway later pled guilty to one count of manslaughter. Five other Blackwater guards have been indicted on manslaughter and other charges for their role at Nisour Square that day. Blackwater forces "fired at innocent Iraqis not because they actually believed that they were in imminent danger of serious bodily injury and actually believed that they had no alternative to the use of deadly force, but rather...because of their hostility toward Iraqis and their grave indifference to the harm that their actions would cause," US prosecutors allege. "The defendants specifically intended to kill or seriously injure the Iraqi civilians that they fired upon at [Nisour] Square." Prosecutors also allege that "defendant Nicholas Slatten made statements that he wanted to kill as many Iraqis as he could as 'payback for 9/11,' and he repeatedly boasted about the number of Iraqis he had shot." Blackwater's owner, Erik Prince, has faced no consequences for the actions of his forces.

Two years to the day after the Nisour Square massacre, Blackwater remains in Iraq, armed and dangerous. As The Nation has reported, the Obama administration recently extended the company's contract there indefinitely. Blackwater has big-money contracts in Afghanistan as well, working for the State Department, the Defense Department and the CIA. As in Iraq, Blackwater forces are alleged to have shot and killed innocent civilians there. We now know that Blackwater was hired as part of the secret CIA assassination program that former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered concealed from Congress and that the company continues to work for the CIA as part of its drone bombing campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A former Blackwater employee, known as John Doe #2, recently alleged in a sworn statement originally obtained by The Nation that Erik 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." Prince, the former employee charged, "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.... 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.' "

Another former Blackwater employee, an ex-US Marine, charged in a sworn statement 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."

Meanwhile, a new lawsuit has been filed against Prince by four Iraqis who claim they were shot by Blackwater operatives a week before Nisour Square on September 9, 2007. According to Susan Burke, the lawyer for the Iraqis who works with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Prince runs the operations of his "heavily armed private army" in Iraq and elsewhere from a twenty-four-hour command center known as the "war room." Burke also alleges that in Iraq "Prince's private army of men went 'night hunting' on more than one occasion. This 'night hunting' entailed Mr. Prince's men, armed with night goggles and riding in Mr. Prince's wholly-owned helicopters after 10 pm over the streets of Baghdad, killing at random."

On the second anniversary of the single worst massacre of Iraqi civilians committed by a private force since the US invasion, President Obama should be forced to explain to the American people and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan why he continues to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to this company and why he permits them to remain on the ground, representing the United States in these countries. At a recent hearing of the bipartisan Wartime Contracting Commission, commissioner Linda Gustitus asserted that in not canceling Blackwater's contracts after Nisour Square, the State Department "helped to send a message to other contractors that you can do a lot and not have your contract terminated."

About Jeremy Scahill
Jeremy Scahill, a Puffin Foundation Writing Fellow at The Nation Institute, is the author of the bestselling Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, published by Nation Books. He is an award-winning investigative journalist and correspondent for the national radio and TV program Democracy Now!.

Offline bigron

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Blackwater Offers Training to 'Faith Based Organizations'

by Jeremy Scahill

September 17, 2009

This is not a story from The Onion.

In its ever-evolving re-branding campaign, Blackwater has created a new alter-ego for part of the company’s business. Meet the "Personal Security Awareness" program,
 which appears to be an off-shoot of Erik Prince’s Greystone, Ltd., a classic mercenary operation registered offshore in Barbados. On its website, which was registered on February 20, 2009 and went live recently, the "program" is described as "a multi-phase course which is designed to assist Non-Government Organizations, Faith Based Organizations and Commercial Businesses by providing individual personal awareness and driver training for their personnel when deployed to unfamiliar environments." It adds: "Greystone recognizes the importance of "preparation by doing" and looks forward to you joining us for this exciting training!"

Blackwater, of course, works for such organizations as the International Republican Institute,
but "Faith Based Organizations?" Are they serious? I’m sure there are just scores of Islamic aid groups just lining up to take courses from Blackwater, Xe,  US Training Center, Greystone,  Personal Security Awareness. Moreover, any legitimate "faith based organization" that wants harmony with other faiths would be insane to work with this company. One of the courses offered is described as teaching "persons traveling to foreign environments how to remain safe during their travels in a vehicle." This truly is surreal. What would seem more appropriate would be a company offering courses on how to  "remain safe" in a vehicle when going anywhere near Blackwater forces. Remember how those unarmed Iraqi civilians were blown up in their car by Blackwater operatives at Nisour Square? Or the Afghan civilians allegedly killed in their car by Blackwater operatives in Afghanistan in May?

Also, lets remember that Blackwater—headed by a man described in a sworn statement by a former employee as "view[ing] himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe"— is itself a twisted faith-based organization—and a very violent one at that.

Then there is this course in Session III: "Teaches rules of the road and includes specific driving techniques for a specific region." I can just imagine what goes on during this course: If you are trying to convert Muslims in a Muslim country and some Muslims happen to come near you, "'lay [the] Hajiis out on cardboard’ as 'payback for 9/11.’" (see)

In Session I there is a course that purportedly "Describes the criminal mindset." Well, that’s something Blackwater knows a lot about. I hope they assign, as part of the curriculum, the US Justice Department’s 34-count indictment of Blackwater forces for the Nisour Square massacre.



Offline bigron

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Another lawsuit targets founder of Blackwater

The lawsuit by four Iraqi citizens alleges that Erik Prince “directed and permitted a heavily-armed private army … to roam the streets of Baghdad killing innocent civilians.” Xe had no immediate comment on the suit. (Virginian-Pilot File Photo)

Yet another civil lawsuit accuses Blackwater guards of driving through the streets of Baghdad randomly shooting innocent Iraqis.

The latest case accuses Blackwater founder Erik Prince of personally directing murders from a 24-hour remote monitoring "war room" at the private military company's Moyock, N.C., headquarters.

Prince "personally directed and permitted a heavily-armed private army... to roam the streets of Baghdad killing innocent civilians," alleges the suit, filed by four Iraqi citizens.

Prince was well aware that his men, including top executives, "viewed shooting innocent Iraqis as sport," the suit says. In fact, "those who killed and wounded innocent Iraqis tended to rise higher in Mr. Prince's organization than those who abided by the rule of law."

Prince's top executives openly discussed "laying Hajjis out on cardboard" and "bragged about their collective role in killing those of the Islamic faith," the suit alleges.

On more than one occasion, the suit says, Prince's men went "night hunting" in helicopters after 10 p.m. over the streets of Baghdad, wearing night goggles, killing at random.

The lawsuit says Prince caused murders to occur on at least 11 occasions, including one and perhaps more in the United States.

The suit describes one case in which a young man, not identified in the court papers, died after photographing Anna Bundy, a Blackwater executive, packaging illegal weaponry outfitted with silencers for shipment to Iraq.

One employee is said to have warned the young man that such photographs "are what get people killed." Lawyers for the plaintiffs plan to use the legal discovery process to learn whether Prince participated in the events leading to his death.

The latest suit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, is the sixth civil case brought against Prince and his company, now known as Xe, by the Washington law firm Burke O'Neil on behalf of more than 60 Iraqis or their estates.

Many of them were injured or killed two years ago today - Sept. 16, 2007 - in Baghdad's Nisoor Square in a shooting incident that left 17 Iraqis dead and ultimately led to the loss of Blackwater's diplomatic security contract.

Five former Blackwater guards face criminal charges of voluntary manslaughter in that incident. Last week, federal prosecutors filed papers alleging a yearlong pattern of hostile action against Iraqis by the defendants leading up to that shooting.

In one episode described in those papers, one of the five defendants, Evan Liberty, allegedly drove through Baghdad on Sept. 9, 2007, a week before the Nisoor Square incident, randomly shooting Iraqis through the porthole of an armored vehicle.

The latest civil suit is an apparent outgrowth of that event. The plaintiffs are four Iraqis who operated a shop in Baghdad and were allegedly injured by Liberty's "wanton shooting."

Xe had no immediate comment on the new allegations.

Bill Sizemore, (757) 446-2276, [email protected]


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Offline Satyagraha

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Blackwater Offers Training to 'Faith Based Organizations'

by Jeremy Scahill

September 17, 2009

This is not a story from The Onion.

I had to laugh at Scahill's preface - "This is not a story from the Onion".  It simply defies all common sense that there EXIST faith-based organizations that would allow Blackwater to cross their doorsteps! So you have to accept the fact that these "faith-based organizations" are simply fronts. No faith at all (not in "God" at any rate).

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

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Published on Friday, September 18, 2009 by ProPublica

Former Iraq Security Contractors Say Firm Bought Black Market Weapons, Swapped Booze for Rockets

by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica and Aram Roston, Special to ProPublica

Last spring, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Iraq got a makeover,replacing the scandal-plagued Blackwater private security company with a firm named Triple Canopy.

The new $1 billion contract cemented Triple Canopy's status as the pre-eminent provider of private security services in Iraq, with its heavily armed employees appearing side by side with senior State Department diplomats.

But the company's rise to prominence followed a long, often chaotic route, marked by questionable weapons deals, government bungling and a criminal investigation that was ultimately closed without charges being filed, according to newly released investigative files.

Company employees told federal investigators that Triple Canopy swapped booze for weapons and supplies from the U.S. military. They said the company bought guns and other arms on the black market in Iraq. Some worried that the money was flowing into the hands of insurgents, records show.

The previously undisclosed documents and interviews with current and former Triple Canopy officials raise new questions about the U.S. government's ability to oversee private security contractors in a fluid and uncertain legal environment. And they give a glimpse into the messy business of creating a private army on the fly in the middle of a war zone.

Watch excerpts from Ronald Boline's deposition.

[1]"We're spending a lot of money on these rifles, millions of dollars -- where do you think that money is going to?” [2] [1] Ronald Boline, a former Triple Canopy manager, said in a lawsuit deposition videotaped [3] [2] in June 2007. “Who are we supporting in doing that? We're supporting people who are trying to kill Americans is the logical conclusion."

That lawsuit against the company, filed in a Virginia circuit court by other former employees who sued Triple Canopy for wrongful termination, was settled this week, records show, but no terms were disclosed.

The criminal investigation began in 2007 after federal investigators received a tip that Triple Canopy was using stolen cars and captured Iraqi weapons [4] [3] to boost profits to over 40 percent on some contracts. Andrew T. Baxter, the interim U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York, declined to comment on why his office decided not to file charges. (His office handled the case because Triple Canopy’s invoices were paid out of a nearby federal contract processing center.)

Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, who oversaw the investigation, refused to talk about details. But he said the difficulty in building the case were indicative of the haphazard atmosphere in which billions of dollars of U.S. money was spent in Iraq without oversight.

"It's unclear if anything that Triple Canopy did was criminal, but it was symptomatic of the chaos that prevailed at the time," Bowen said. "It's another example of contracting gone wrong."

Triple Canopy officials said the firm had done nothing wrong. They acknowledged buying weapons in Iraq when they were unable to import U.S. guns. But Lee Van Arsdale, a retired Delta Force colonel who was the company’s CEO until recently, said in an interview before retiring that the firm had taken every precaution to ensure that no money wound up in insurgents’ hands.

"Not only are we former military, but our former colleagues are still serving in uniform, living, eating and breathing right beside us in some cases. In some cases, we've got family members out there," Van Arsdale said. "To say that we're going to fund the insurgency either directly or indirectly, that's insulting."

Triple Canopy began in September 2003, when two former Special Forces soldiers formed the company to take advantage of the burgeoning market for private security. Iraq was exploding in violence, and the U.S. lacked enough soldiers to protect U.S. and Iraqi officials, infrastructure and diplomatic outposts.

Within three months, the company got its first break: The U.S. awarded Triple Canopy a contract to protect more than a dozen sites across Iraq. At the time, the company had only a handful of employees. More serious, it didn't have licenses to import the hundreds of weapons needed to guard sites across Iraq.

The company immediately applied for licenses after winning the contract, according to documents provided by Triple Canopy. Yet the government took months to approve the deal, not authorizing the company to collect the weapons until June 2004. In essence, the U.S. had awarded the company a lucrative contract, but then provided it little ability to arm for the job.

To get the firepower it needed in the meantime, the company turned to the unregulated and unlicensed Iraqi market, purchasing AK-47s and other weapons from local dealers, according to company officials and court records.

The transactions concerned some company officials, according to previously undisclosed records. One midlevel manager told federal investigators that Triple Canopy had purchased weapons "off the street." He "wondered if the proceeds of those sales was funding the insurgency," an investigator wrote.

Former managers also told investigators that the company obtained U.S. military equipment from troops at little or no cost. One man told investigators in an October 2008 interview that the company sometimes obtained Army supplies “for liquor,” and that Triple Canopy employees routinely made “deals with Army units that were rotating in and out of Iraq, to obtain medical supplies, water, MRE’s and vehicle tires, to name a few.”

Boline, the former manager, said the company bought Cuban cigars and liquor to trade for U.S. military equipment. He spoke to investigators in 2007, according to records and officials, and his testimony became public later that year, when he provided a sworn statement as part of the employees’ lawsuit.

"The whole mind-set at the time was, whatever it takes to get the job done we're going to do it," [5] [4] said Boline, who had been fired from the company after disagreements with supervisors. He provided the deposition several months after his termination.

Van Arsdale acknowledged that importing U.S. weapons was "problematic" as the company began operations in Iraq. But he said the company took steps to make sure that it purchased weapons legally.

"There were a few months in there that, ‘all right, now what do we do?,’" Van Arsdale said. "The answer to that was that we establish … a procedure to procure weapons on the local market to mitigate the possibility of that fungible money getting into the wrong hands."

Van Arsdale said Triple Canopy turned to a trusted local buyer recommended by the U.S. government. Triple Canopy produced documents showing that the man it said purchased the weapons, an Iraqi businessman, had been vetted by Defense Department officials.

The company also produced several letters of recommendation from military officials praising the man, who also acted as a translator for U.S. military units.

Van Arsdale said the company had not swapped goods with soldiers for equipment. He said Triple Canopy fully investigated Boline's charges and found no evidence to support them.

He questioned Boline’s motives, noting that Boline waited until 2007 to make his accusations. In his deposition, Boline acknowledged threatening to go public with his charges if Triple Canopy officials blocked his attempts to receive a security clearance in order to obtain a new job.

Reached by e-mail, Boline declined to comment, citing a nondisclosure agreement that he signed when he took his job with Triple Canopy.

Van Arsdale acknowledged the hectic pace of fulfilling contracts. But he said that even under tight deadlines the company didn’t break the rules.

"We defined the gold standard for training and equipping people at great expense to ourselves as well as great time to ourselves,” he said. “At a period of hurry up, hurry up, hurry up, we took over two weeks to train guys to make sure they were prepared to go in country. To say that we're cutting corners and we're opportunistic and we're war profiteers, all of the facts argue against that.

"In terms of weapons procurement, the rules were clear and we followed them," Van Arsdale said.

But former senior officials with the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. occupation government that controlled Iraq until June 2004, questioned whether there were any established procedures for buying weapons from Iraqis.

They noted that any Iraqis with large quantities of weapons to sell were most likely businessmen or military officials associated with the former regime of Saddam Hussein.

Some former U.S. officials in Iraq said that buying guns locally was by definition illicit. Steve Casteel, the U.S. senior adviser to the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior at the time, said there was a "disconnect" between Washington and what was happening on the ground in Iraq.

"There was no legal market for the sale of weapons, so if they bought them it had to be black market," said Casteel, who now works for another private security company. "It wouldn't have been legal under U.S. guidance. It wouldn’t have been legal under any Iraq law that I'm aware of."

Triple Canopy's frustrations with the U.S. government were hardly unique. In numerous interviews, former U.S. and industry officials described a crazed atmosphere in which U.S. contracting officers demanded guns on the ground and asked few questions.

One private security company official said Iraqi vendors sold weapons at open-air markets, the tables stacked high with AK-47s and other armaments, in full view of U.S. officials.

"It was wide open. It was like a swap meet," said the official, who works for a Triple Canopy competitor and did not want to be identified. "I'm not aware of any company that didn't use it."

Companies that wanted to conduct business in normal channels were stymied by short deadlines, constantly changing requirements and bureaucratic clashes between U.S. officials on the ground in Iraq and in offices back in Washington.

"People needed to have weapons,” said one former official with the Coalition Provisional Authority. “So of course you went out and bought them on the black market because you couldn't get them from anywhere else. If you have a demand, you are going to have a supply."

CPA officials were aware that there were few controls over the weapons used by their private security contractors. But ideas to exert greater control were ignored.

"We recognized there was a problem, the CPA official said. “We had inconsistent quality. There was not as much control and accountability of those weapons as we wanted."

Other companies also found means. Blackwater, now known as Xe, said in a statement that it had obtained valid U.S. import and export licenses for its employees’ weapons. The company has been investigated for weapons smuggling, though no charges were filed and it denies the allegations.

An official with DynCorp, the second-largest security contractor in Iraq, said weapons were obtained from a variety of sources. In some contracts, requests for licenses were granted, allowing the import of U.S. weapons. For other contracts, requests were denied and the firm turned to the local weapons market.

"We were forced to turn to the local market even for U.S. government contracts and subcontracts because there weren't mechanisms in place to allow export of weapons in Iraq, yet we had the responsibility to provide services under those government contracts," said one DynCorp official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic.

A State Dept. official acknowledged that the department had been slow to respond to the need to arm the private companies it was hiring to carry guns. Until late 2004, the department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls blocked most requests for the export of automatic weapons to private firms — the result of a decades-old policy to cut down on international arms trafficking.

When private security companies began requesting weapons to fulfill U.S.-issued contracts, the department was caught off guard, the official said. It wasn't until November 2004 that the policy was changed to grant private security companies export licenses — more than a year and a half after the first such firms were hired in Iraq.

"This was something that the State Department hadn't considered as a possibility" until the requests for licenses started coming in, said the official, who spoke on background per department policy. "What they did was go through a relatively long discussion and decision process to figure out how to deal with the problem."

While the system for importing weapons has improved in Iraq, industry and State Department officials acknowledged that problems remain in Afghanistan.

Partly, this reflects the fact that more groups are at work there. Unlike Iraq, there is a substantial presence of nonprofits and international aid organizations in need of security. Companies buying weapons from local sources continue to run the risk of money flowing to insurgents, one official said.

Afghanistan is similar in one way, however. Just as in the early days in Iraq, there are comparatively few investigators on the ground to watch the billions of dollars now flowing into the country.

"It's an even worse Catch-22 over there," one industry official said.

© Copyright 2009 Pro Publica Inc.


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Offline bigron

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Pakistani police raid homes of U.S. embassy contractor

Story Highlights :

Homes belong to owner of Inter-Risk, which provides security for U.S. Embassy

Police: Two arrested after not being able to provide licenses for weapons

High-powered automatic assault rifle and 61 other rifles confiscated

From Reza Sayah

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistani police confiscated dozens of illegal weapons in a Saturday morning raid of two homes belonging to the owner of a security firm linked to the U.S. Embassy.

The homes belong to Capt. Syed Ali Zaidi, who owns Inter-Risk, a Pakistan-based company that provides security for the U.S. Embassy and its consulates in the South Asian nation, said Islamabad police official Rana Muhammad Akram.

He said among the weapons were a high-powered automatic assault rifle and 61 other rifles.

Police arrested two people after they couldn't provide documentation and licenses for the weapons, and are still looking for Zaidi for further questioning. Akram said the company's ties to the U.S. Embassy had nothing to do with the raid.

A spokesman confirmed that the embassy hired Inter-Risk last year, but he said he knew nothing about the allegations of illegal weapons.

"We hired them to augment at the embassy and our consulates. They applied for licenses to fulfill their contractual obligations with the us. We assumed they had their licenses," said Rick Snelsire.

"The minute we engaged them we notified the Pakistani government," he said. "We've been very transparent. We apprised them that they would be seeking to import weapons and get licenses, and my understanding is they did obtain licenses for these types of weapons."

Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report.

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Offline EchelonMonitor

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20% of contractor money, US taxpayer dollars, goes to the Taliban, which even has an office in Kabul for calculating and collecting the payments (I know, sounds absurd, but it's true).

You need a healthy enemy to justify healthy payments of taxpayer dollars to the defense industry.