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BLACKWATER : All contractor news here please.....

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« on: August 07, 2010, 06:56:39 am »

Published on Friday, August 6, 2010 by Foreign Policy in Focus

Blackwater: Can't Stop, Won't Stop


by Fouad Pervez

Blackwater (rebranded as Xe in an effort to escape the negative publicity associated with their former name), recently received a $100 million contract  [1]from the CIA to secure its bases in Afghanistan. The State Department also awarded them $120 million to provide security for new diplomatic buildings, including consulates outside Kabul, giving the firm a total of $220 million in new contracts in Afghanistan [2]. This seems remarkable, given the extremely negative image Blackwater has throughout the world. That people even know about a private security company is a bad sign in itself. Not surprisingly, CIA Director Leon Panetta had to go on the offensive to defend the contracts.
The contracts are certainly problematic. But the real issue is not Blackwater itself, but U.S. military grand strategy.

From a financial aspect, it is not surprising that Blackwater got the contracts. For the CIA contract alone, Blackwater bid a full $26 million below the next lowest bidder, quite significant considering the contract was for $100 million. This low bid was made possible largely by the many huge contracts Blackwater received in Iraq. With close ties to the Bush administration, Blackwater was the 12th largest contractor in Iraq, even though it was not tasked to build embassies and roads. They pulled in almost $500 million between 2004 and 2006 [3]. They are the State Department’s most frequently used security contractor and get 90 percent of its money from the government, two-thirds of which are no-bid contracts. Thus, Blackwater built a comparative advantage over its rivals during the Bush years. This advantage, which the company still enjoys today, enables Blackwater to bid lower amounts since their profit margins are not as tight as other companies.

Garrisoning the Globe
However, the reason companies like Blackwater, even with their troubling histories, are in demand in the first place has to do with U.S. grand strategy. American foreign policy has become increasingly aggressive over the years, under both Republican and Democratic administrations [4]. It is not just increased aggression, but increased residency — we keep a presence in more places than before. For instance, there are more than 850 U.S. military bases overseas, a number that does not include bases in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other sensitive locations [5]. An all-volunteer army exacerbates the problem, as there are fewer troops to handle a larger mission. Engaged in two major conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and maintaining bases and troops in over 100 countries translates into serious military overstretch. American foreign policy from the 1940s on, especially toward Western Europe, has been consistently geared [6]toward global hegemony. Instead of passing the buck to Western Europe at critical junctures when it would have been better and cheaper to do so, the United States undermined Western European efforts to gain military independence and autonomy during the Cold War [7] because it was more concerned with global hegemony than the Soviet threat.

The United States seems unwilling to scale back its global military presence. The Obama administration’s National Security Strategy no longer explicitly opposes the rise of any real competitor. But the divergence with the Bush administration approach is somewhat cosmetic [8]. Obama does call for a decrease in direct uses of power and acknowledges that America has no real rival, but does not rule out unilateral action and, more importantly, calls for a maintenance of the level of U.S. military superiority. More troops are necessary to keep up with the mission.

This is where private military contractors like Blackwater become important. These modern-day Hessians provide America a significant amount of needed foot soldiers. They come with other perks as well — they are often beyond the reach of military rules of law, allowing them greater discretion in inflicting disproportionate force to pacify areas. More significantly, increased Blackwater troops mean fewer official U.S. troops. Private military troops now outnumber U.S. troops in Afghanistan [9]. The advantage of a private military to a political leader is the public cost. Military deaths play a significant role in American foreign policy. The rising troop deaths in Vietnam eventually turned the public against that war. However, if the soldiers are increasingly from private companies, public costs decline. Except for the occasional anomaly, such as the hanging of four Blackwater troops off a bridge in Fallujah [10], no news headlines announce the deaths of Blackwater soldiers.

But this increased U.S. military presence, so dependent on private contractors, has serious deleterious effects [11]. The more troops, the more resistance. Tellingly, over 700 international relations scholars, who rarely agree on anything, opposed the Iraq War for this very reason [12]: concern about negative ramifications of the U.S. military presence.

Blackwater Despite the Risks
Despite its horrific track record in Iraq, the connection between founder and former CEO Erik Prince and religious extremism [13], and the accusations that the company defrauded the federal government through phony billing [14], Blackwater might obtain a $1 billion contract from the U.S. government for work in Afghanistan next year [10]. The comparative economic advantage Blackwater gained during the Bush administration explains why it's positioned to win more contracts. But the lack of change in the overall U.S. mission of global military primacy explains why private military contractors like Blackwater have the impact they have in the first place.

Congress has begun to express some reservations [2] about the contracts. A federal commission [15]established to study wartime contracting slammed State Department officials in a hearing over the $120 million contract they awarded to Blackwater [16]. They were unable to get an answer from officials as to how Blackwater’s history in Iraq figured into the contract. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a strong Blackwater critic, strongly condemned the contract, wondering “why any branch of the government would decide to hire Blackwater, such a repeat offender. We’re talking about murder…a company with a horrible reputation that really jeopardizes our mission in so many different ways.” Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and Representative Jim Moran (D-VA) have also been vocal about questioning Blackwater contracts [17].

However, the real test is whether these contracts are reversed and/or future contracts are given in a much more limited manner or with much greater scrutiny of private military companies. Except for the initial protests from several members of Congress, there has been no new congressional activity on the contracts — no hearings or investigations scheduled.

However, even if Congress does eventually act, it will have addressed only part of the problem. Without either a shift away from maintenance of America’s current global military superiority or from the current U.S. military presence in over 100 countries, there will be a serious problem of military overstretch. By either adopting a more defensive role as an offshore balancer, or significantly scaling back its global military presence, or both, the U.S. military could ameliorate its overstretch problem. Short of that, contractors like Blackwater provide political leaders a convenient “out” from the problem of a draft, which could generate a major public backlash.  Because of their economic and political utility, private military contractors like Blackwater will continue getting contracts, regardless of their toxic baggage.

This work is licensed under Creative Commons.
Fouad Pervez is a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus, where he writes on U.S. foreign policy and security issues in South Asia. He is currently pursuing his PhD in International Relations. He is a writer and policy analyst, and occasionally blogs on There is No Spoon [18]. He can be reached at fouad0 at gmail dot com.


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

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/08/06-12

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« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2010, 07:03:20 am »

Military Subcontractors Bribing U.S. Personnel With Prostitutes?
The Shady World of War Contracting in Afghanistan and Iraq


Taxpayer cash is flowing to subcontractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, who engage in shady, illegal practices with few repercussions.


By Nick Schwellenbach and Lagan Sebert, The Huffington Post Investigative Fund
Posted on August 30, 2010, Printed on August 31, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/148019/


When federal investigators discovered that the manager of a Saudi Arabian company paid bribes to win two lucrative subcontracts supplying food to American troops in Iraq, they naturally wanted to know more. Did he act on his own? Had U.S. taxpayers been cheated?

Five years later, investigators are still largely in the dark. They suspect similar activities by other subcontractors may have tainted contracts worth up to $300 million. But the investigators are unable to uncover even basic information, such as how the manager of the Saudi company had come up with $133,000 in bribe money.

The investigators likely could have compelled a U.S.-based contractor to turn over financial records. But the Saudi firm still hasn’t shared its books with Pentagon auditors or KBR, the big U.S. company through which it operated as a subcontractor. Nor does it have to. The long arm of the U.S. law doesn’t extend to foreign businesses on which the military increasingly depends – and spends huge sums.

Even now, as the U.S. military anticipates withdrawal from Iraq and transferring of vital functions to civilian businesses, foreign subcontractors are playing an enormous role in war zones. Often operating through larger big-name U.S. contractors, they ferry supplies such as ammo and weapons through dangerous terrain. They provide translators and food for troops, help build military outposts, and keep soldiers and civilians safe. Without such local and regional subcontractors, the modern military says it could not operate in two war zones halfway around the globe.

The foreign firms are seen as so essential, in fact, they’re not part of the $100 billion cutback in contractor spending being urged by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has complained about “our over-reliance on contractors.”

But a series of ongoing congressional and military investigations underscore the perils of unbridled dependence on foreign firms – and the difficulties in making sure money is well spent. Reliance on foreign companies often involves murky arrangements that can endanger U.S. troops and strategic goals, and put taxpayer dollars to bad use. Customary contracting rules don’t apply, and even big U.S. companies aren’t always sure whom they are ultimately paying. That can lead to fraud and shoddy work.

Interviews, testimony, and records of recent and ongoing investigations – like the one involving a Saudi company – reviewed by the Center for Public Integrity and the Huffington Post Investigative Fund suggest more extensive problems with subcontractors than previously known. Besides the bribery case involving a Saudi company, the government suspects certain foreign subcontractors providing security in Afghanistan of bribing both sides in the conflict – officials of the U.S.-supported Afghan government as well as leaders of the Taliban.

In Iraq, meanwhile, U.S. money for trash collection, administered by a bevy of foreign subcontractors, has allegedly ended up in the pockets of insurgents, according to one investigation. In Baghdad, a whistleblower is alleging that Middle Eastern subcontractors with special security access sneak prostitutes into the highly secure Green Zone, in an effort to persuade contractors and the U.S. military to hire the company.

Taxpayer funds have even wound up in the hands of enemy fighters – despite efforts undertaken by top military officers such as Gen. David Petreaus, who warned in an August memo on counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan that “money is ammunition; don’t put it in the wrong hands.”

“Without good subcontract control by prime contractors and good oversight by the government,” Michael Thibault, co-chair of the Wartime Contracting Commission, said in a written statement, “we risk not only wasting money, but also depriving our troops of support they need, overlooking misconduct that alienates local populations, and even handing funds to violent insurgents.”

Foreign subcontractors are virtually untouchable in other ways, too. When something goes awry – such as a foreign subcontractor’s involvement in a officer’s accidental death – the government and the officer’s family have less recourse for compensation in the courts than if the company had been based in the U.S.

Warlords, Inc.

Christopher Shays, a former Republican lawmaker, co-chairs the bipartisan Wartime Contracting Commission, which Congress created in 2008 to investigate whether billions of dollars are being wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan. “There are good reasons for using subcontractors,” he said. But “what makes sense for a renovation project in Connecticut or Maryland can create some unique risks when the contractor is hiring subcontractors in a combat zone halfway around the world.”

Warnings have been sounded for years. As early as 2007, Rep. Henry Waxman, then chairman of the chief investigative committee in Congress, complained of an inability to follow the money. The California Democrat described the subcontracting world as “so murky that we can't even get to the bottom of this, let alone calculate how many millions of dollars taxpayers lose in each step of the subcontracting process.” Although Congress in 2008 ordered an exact count of the number of private contractors working in Afghanistan, the figure was still unknown this year and auditors remain uncertain whether the U.S. was spending money properly, the Investigative Fund reported in March.


Subcontractors pose unique challenges. The Pentagon and some of the biggest corporate names in the defense industry have a history of failing to oversee the local businesses they hire on the government dime. And even when U.S. authorities detect signs of fraud or corruption, they often can’t pursue their investigation or case. Auditors have no authority, and investigators need cooperation of people in other countries, including war-torn regimes where officials “don’t take this as seriously as we do,” a Pentagon criminal investigator told the Center for Public Integrity and the Huffington Post Investigative Fund. Whistleblowers, often helpful in prosecuting fraud, are less inclined to cooperate when they work for subcontractors; protections against retaliation under U.S. law do not apply to them.

Even a seemingly simple question – how much total federal spending goes to foreign subcontractors annually  – has no clear answer, largely because of the complex chain of contractors involved.

At a July hearing of the Wartime Contracting Commission, Edward Harrington, an Army procurement official, couldn’t be more precise about how much the Pentagon spent on foreign subcontractors than offering an estimate in the “lower billions of dollars.” Likewise, the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development do not know how much they spend on foreign subcontractors. Government officials also have trouble keeping track of companies who abscond with startup fees, do no work, and then re-emerge under new identities that allow them to collect fees again.

Worse, worries Raymond DiNunzio, head of investigations for the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, is that the U.S. may be helping its enemies. The government “does not have the ability to monitor Afghan security contractors or determine the nature of their affiliation or allegiance,” he said.

An investigation by the House oversight subcommittee on national security found that multiple private security subcontractors were warlords, strongmen, commanders, and militia leaders – adversaries who are “in fundamental conflict with U.S. aims to build a strong Afghan government,” according to a subcommittee report, “Warlord, Inc.”

Hard to Follow the Money

The Tamimi Group, a Saudi-based conglomerate of 37 companies, has businesses in everything from supermarkets and hotels to tire retreading and catering. Despite a five-year criminal investigation, the United States is still unable to determine how Tamimi’s top manager for Iraq and Kuwait obtained at least $133,000 to bribe employees of the global construction and engineering company KBR (formerly Kellogg Brown & Root and a subsidiary of Halliburton) for subcontracts.

In 2006, Mohammad Shabbir Khan, a Tamimi manager and naturalized U.S. citizen, was sentenced to 51 months in prison in the U.S. after pleading guilty to 14 charges related to kickbacks. Fifteen more months were tacked on last year when he was convicted of two further counts of witness tampering. He has admitted he paid $133,000 in bribes to American KBR employees to win $21.8 million in subcontracts to supply food to troops in Iraq and Kuwait.

Tamimi has refused to turn over its financial records to the Defense Contract Audit Agency and to prime contractor KBR, which want to examine the company’s books in connection with the Kahn case, according to Charles Tiefer, a University of Baltimore law professor specializing in government contracts who is a member of the Wartime Contracting Commission. Altogether in Iraq, as much as $300 million in “tainted subcontracts” could potentially be involved in multiple kickback schemes perhaps implicating various foreign subcontractors, Tiefer estimated in July.

Perry V. Dalby, a retired U.S. Army officer who now serves as Tamimi’s ethics director, said Tamimi did nothing wrong, did not provide money for kickbacks or benefit from them, and is complying with the terms of its contract with KBR. “What happened with Mr. Khan was a terrible thing,” Dalby said. The company, after checking its own records, found no sign of having paid for the bribe. “We cannot find where we are missing $133,000,” Dalby said.

KBR says that subcontractor costs passed on to the U.S. taxpayer are not inflated because of kickback schemes and that they will “vigorously defend” challenges by government auditors over “unallowable” costs allegedly included in the Pentagon’s tab, according to a July filing by KBR with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company has said it effectively manages thousands of subcontractors. During  testimony before the Wartime Contracting Commission, Cheryl Ritondale, the company’s procurement director, described “extensive oversight processes” while acknowledging that “challenges do remain” in monitoring foreign companies. Tamimi, she noted, refused to produce accounting records when KBR asked for them on behalf of the Defense Contract Audit Agency. KBR shared with auditors whatever invoices it had, she added.

Parties and Prostitutes?

A previously unpublished homemade video allegedly taken at a subcontractor-organized party in March 2005 may provide a glimpse at what some dub the “Wild West of contracting” in Iraq – a reference to the unbridled flow of U.S. taxpayer dollars without much in the way of an overseeing sheriff. A copy of the video, never before seen publicly, was provided to authorities by a whistleblower and obtained by the Center and the Investigative Fund. It shows two women moving across the laps of three Western men who wear tan-colored vests, clothing common to civilian contractors in Iraq. Music is playing in the background.

“It was common practice for [foreign] subcontractors to provide prostitutes at these parties” inside the Green Zone, the source of the video alleged to investigators for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service in 2007, according to a transcript of their interview. The whistleblower supplied short clips of video, taken with a cell phone camera, that he said were taken at one of the parties. (The interview documents and the video were made available to the Center and the Fund on the condition that the news organizations do not reveal the whistleblower’s name.)

Investigators from the FBI, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Department of Homeland Security are familiar with the videos and the circumstances. Agents began interviewing the whistleblower in 2005, according to the documents. The investigation, which a Pentagon source says is ongoing, focuses on alleged foreign subcontractor kickback schemes for Iraq reconstruction contracts awarded by the U.S. Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment in San Antonio.

Military officials declined to discuss the allegations. “The issue is still in a legal investigation so we can offer no further comment,” Air Force spokesman Doug Karson said in an e-mail.

The whistleblower “cited the issuance of [common security access cards] to Middle-Eastern contractors as contributing to multiple problems, including the [alleged] provision of prostitutes to U.S. government and U.S. contractor personnel,” according to a Defense Criminal Investigative Service interview report of the whistleblower’s allegations obtained by the Center and the Investigative Fund.

Possession of a security access card allegedly allowed a contractor to escort up to five people into the Green Zone without having his automobile searched, the DCIS interview report said. One reconstruction contractor based in the Mideast “managed to routinely have prostitutes at their parties,” the whistleblower alleged in the report. The FBI record of the interview indicates the whistleblower alleged to agents that the prostitutes were young Iraqi women, “generally dressed in what he described as ‘belly-dancer’ outfits.”

The company declined e-mail requests for comment. Though an investigation is said to be ongoing, no charges have been filed in connection with these specific allegations. The extent to which law enforcement authorities are focusing on the whistleblower’s allegations of security violations or methods of swaying contracting officers is unclear.

Other allegations accuse Iraqi contractors of similar abuses. The Baghdad-based Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, in a report issued in March, detailed two operations where Iraqi women were allegedly brought to U.S. military personnel for money.  In one case, it was an Iraqi translator who “brought different girls for the U.S. officer on every visit and let him use his own bedroom.” The other instance involved an Iraqi who “has a badge for access to the nearby American military base who are the main clients,” similar to the other allegation of security card abuse in the Green Zone.

The military “does not condone” prostitution, a spokesman for the U.S. Forces in Iraq, which is part of U.S. Central Command, said in an e-mailed statement to the Center and the Fund.

Prostitution can give the mission a "terrible black eye," because success hinges on the U.S. government building a good relationship with the local Islamic communities, noted Steven Cullen, a former JAG Corps attorney. “Contractors abusing local girls could get people killed…or at least cause people to stop cooperating with us.”



© 2010 The Huffington Post Investigative Fund All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/148019/
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« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2010, 08:09:49 am »

Blackwater Won Contracts Through a Web of Companies

By JAMES RISEN and MARK MAZZETTI

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/04/world/middleeast/04blackwater.html?_r=2&pagewanted=print

September 3, 2010

WASHINGTON — Blackwater Worldwide created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq, according to Congressional investigators and former Blackwater officials.

While it is not clear how many of those businesses won contracts, at least three had deals with the United States military or the Central Intelligence Agency, according to former government and company officials. Since 2001, the intelligence agency has awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates, according to a United States government official.

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week released a chart that identified 31 affiliates of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services. The network was disclosed as part of a committee’s investigation into government contracting. The investigation revealed the lengths to which Blackwater went to continue winning contracts after Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September 2007. That episode and other reports of abuses led to criminal and Congressional investigations, and cost the company its lucrative security contract with the State Department in Iraq.

The network of companies — which includes several businesses located in offshore tax havens — allowed Blackwater to obscure its involvement in government work from contracting officials or the public, and to assure a low profile for any of its classified activities, said former Blackwater officials, who, like the government officials, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement that it was worth "looking into why Blackwater would need to create the dozens of other names" and said he had requested that the Justice Department investigate whether Blackwater officers misled the government when using subsidiaries to solicit contracts.

The C.I.A.’s continuing relationship with the company, which recently was awarded a $100 million contract to provide security at agency bases in Afghanistan, has drawn harsh criticism from some members of Congress, who argue that the company’s tarnished record should preclude it from such work. At least two of the Blackwater-affiliated companies, XPG and Greystone, obtained secret contracts from the agency, according to interviews with a half dozen former Blackwater officials.

A C.I.A. spokesman, Paul Gimigliano, said that Xe’s current duties for the agency were to provide security for agency operatives. Contractors "do the tasks we ask them to do in strict accord with the law; they are supervised by C.I.A. staff officers; and they are held to the highest standards of conduct" he said. "As for Xe specifically, they help provide security in tough environments, an assignment at which their people have shown both skill and courage."

Congress began to investigate the affiliated companies last year, after the shooting deaths of two Afghans by Blackwater security personnel working for a subsidiary named Paravant, which had obtained Pentagon contracts in Afghanistan. In a Senate hearing earlier this year, Army officials said that when they awarded the contract to Paravant for training of the Afghan Army, they had no idea that the business was part of Blackwater.

While Congressional investigators have identified other Blackwater-linked businesses, it was not the focus of their inquiry to determine how much money from government contracts flowed through the web of corporations, especially money earmarked for clandestine programs. The former company officials say that Greystone did extensive work for the intelligence community, though they did not describe the nature of the activities. The firm was incorporated in Barbados for tax purposes, but had executives who worked at Blackwater’s headquarters in North Carolina.

The former company officials say that Erik Prince, the business’s founder, was eager to find ways to continue to handle secret work after the 2007 shootings in Baghdad’s Nisour Square and set up a special office to handle classified work at his farm in Middleburg, Va.

Enrique Prado, a former top C.I.A. official who joined the contractor, worked closely with Mr. Prince to develop Blackwater’s clandestine abilities, according to several former officials. In an internal e-mail obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Prado claimed that he had created a Blackwater spy network that could be hired by the American government.

"We have a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations," Mr. Prado wrote in the October 2007 message, in which he asked another Blackwater official whether the Drug Enforcement Administration might be interested in using the spy network. "These are all foreign nationals," he added, "so deniability is built in and should be a big plus."

It is not clear whether Mr. Prado’s secret spy service ever conducted any operations for the government. From 2004 to 2006, both Mr. Prado and Mr. Prince were involved in a C.I.A. program to hunt senior leaders of Al Qaeda that had been outsourced to Blackwater, though current and former American officials said that the assassination program did not carry out any operations. Company employees also loaded bombs and missiles onto Predator drones in Pakistan, work that was terminated last year by the C.I.A.

Both Mr. Prince and Mr. Prado declined to be interviewed for this article.

The company is facing a string of legal problems, including the indictment in April of five former Blackwater officials on weapons and obstruction charges, and civil suits stemming from the 2007 shootings in Iraq.

The business is up for sale by Mr. Prince, who colleagues say is embittered by the public criticism and scrutiny that Blackwater has faced. He has not been implicated in the criminal charges against his former subordinates, but he has recently moved his family to Abu Dhabi, where he hopes to focus on obtaining contracts from governments in Africa and the Middle East, according to colleagues and former company officials.

After awarding Blackwater the new security contract in June, the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, publicly defended the decision, saying Blackwater had "cleaned up its act."

But Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she could not understand why the intelligence community had been unwilling to cut ties to Blackwater. "I am continually and increasingly mystified by this relationship," she said. "To engage with a company that is such a chronic, repeat offender, it’s reckless."

It is unclear how much of Blackwater’s relationship with the C.I.A. will become public during the criminal proceedings in North Carolina because the Obama administration won a court order limiting the use of classified information. Among other things, company executives are accused of obtaining large numbers of AK-47s and M-4 automatic weapons, but arranging to make it appear as if they had been bought by the sheriff’s department in Camden County, N.C. Such purchases were legal only if made by law enforcement agencies.

But defense lawyers say they hope to argue that Blackwater had a classified contract with the C.I.A. and wanted at least some of the guns for weapons training for agency officers.


 
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« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2010, 01:08:30 pm »

Iraq: End of combat yields surge of contractors


by Derrick Z. Jackson





Contractors working for Blackwater take part in a firefight in Iraq in 2004. (File 2004/Associated Press)


September 4, 2010

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/09/04/end_of_combat_yields_surge_of_contractors?mode=PF

EVEN AS President Obama claimed this week that the end of combat operations in Iraq "completes’’ a transition in which Iraqis have taken responsibility for their own security, he knows that the US pullout is not as thorough as he let on. The American presence takes the form not just of uniformed personnel — tens of thousands of whom will remain — but also of largely unaccountable private security contractors, whose numbers are likely to grow.

The number of US troops in Iraq peaked at 169,000 in 2007, and by following through on a planned withdrawal Obama has at least signficantly lowered America’s official exposure. This is no small step in a war that President Bush began under false pretenses and that has cost the lives of more than 4,400 American soldiers, 10,000 members of Iraq’s security forces, and at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians.

But while Obama talked about the 50,000 troops that will stay in "advising and assisting’’ roles, he made no mention of our shadow private military. With our troops leaving, the State Department confirmed (after it was brought to light by the New York Times) that it will increase its private security contractors to protect diplomats from its current 2,700 to between 6,000 and 7,000 people. In keeping mum about private security contractors, Obama is following in Bush’s murky tradition.

A July report from the Congressional Research Service indicates that the number of private security personnel has risen by 26 percent during the drawdown. The report also says there are 11,600 private security forces in Iraq operating under the Department of Defense, a number corroborated by the federal bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting. So the total US security force level in Iraq — both military and private — is around 64,000.

A hybrid force where one of every four or five soldiers is privatized — and which surely will be fired upon — is grounds for concern. Contractors repeatedly demonstrated throughout the Iraq war and occupation that they are accountable to no one. The most notorious is Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater USA, which was involved in the killing of 17 people in Baghdad in 2007. This month the firm agreed to pay $42 million in fines for hundreds of illegal weapons export violations and unauthorized troop and police training in countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, and Taiwan. Ongoing investigations of company executives and employees involve more weapons violations, bribes to Iraqi officials, and fatal shootings in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, private contractors from multiple companies were involved in the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Yet, because it is cheaper to outsource services, the United States clings to the modern mercenary. As a candidate, Obama railed, "these private contractors, they go out and they’re spraying bullets and hitting civilians and that makes it more dangerous for our troops.’’ But this summer, Xe still won $220 million of contracts from the State Department and the CIA for Afghan security operations, with CIA director Leon Panetta saying the firm has "shaped up their act.’’ This is despite a June report by the Government Accountability Office that found that the Defense Department, "has not fully planned for use of contractors’’ and has an "unreliable’’ contractor data collection system.

This echoed a 2009 interim report from the contracting commission that said the government "still lacks clear standards and policy on inherently governmental functions. This shortcoming has immediate salience given the decisions to use contractors in armed-security and life-support tasks for military units.’’

These private military operatives make up a minority of the US contractor presence, which will likely stay at about 90,000 people, according to the contracting commission. Two-thirds of contractors are in more ordinary functions of base support in kitchens, ground maintenance, and laundry, but those operations have their own problems. There have been extraordinary reports of fraud and waste.

It was important for Obama to get official troop numbers down to 50,000. But the US presence is now disproportionately private, and there are still no clear standards of accountability. Obama said, "it’s time to turn the page’’ to Afghanistan and the economy. Unstated was the hope that the remaining pages in Iraq will not be stained with blood spilled by undisciplined private forces.

Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at jackson@globe.com.



 
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« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2010, 01:39:07 pm »

Blackwater's Black Ops



by Jeremy Scahill

http://uruknet.info/?p=m69779&hd=&size=1&l=e


The Nation , September 15, 2010

Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater's work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater's owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.


One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the "intel arm" of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince's companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.

On September 3 the New York Times reported that Blackwater had "created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq." The documents obtained by The Nation reveal previously unreported details of several such companies and open a rare window into the sensitive intelligence and security operations Blackwater performs for a range of powerful corporations and government agencies. The new evidence also sheds light on the key roles of several former top CIA officials who went on to work for Blackwater.

The coordinator of Blackwater's covert CIA business, former CIA paramilitary officer Enrique "Ric" Prado, set up a global network of foreign operatives, offering their "deniability" as a "big plus" for potential Blackwater customers, according to company documents. The CIA has long used proxy forces to carry out extralegal actions or to shield US government involvement in unsavory operations from scrutiny. In some cases, these "deniable" foreign forces don't even know who they are working for. Prado and Prince built up a network of such foreigners while Blackwater was at the center of the CIA's assassination program, beginning in 2004. They trained special missions units at one of Prince's properties in Virginia with the intent of hunting terrorism suspects globally, often working with foreign operatives. A former senior CIA official said the benefit of using Blackwater's foreign operatives in CIA operations was that "you wouldn't want to have American fingerprints on it."

While the network was originally established for use in CIA operations, documents show that Prado viewed it as potentially valuable to other government agencies. In an e-mail in October 2007 with the subject line "Possible Opportunity in DEA—Read and Delete," Prado wrote to a Total Intelligence executive with a pitch for the Drug Enforcement Administration. That executive was an eighteen-year DEA veteran with extensive government connections who had recently joined the firm. Prado explained that Blackwater had developed "a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations." He added, "These are all foreign nationals (except for a few cases where US persons are the conduit but no longer 'play' on the street), so deniability is built in and should be a big plus."

The executive wrote back and suggested there "may be an interest" in those services. The executive suggested that "one of the best places to start may be the Special Operations Division, (SOD) which is located in Chantilly, VA," telling Prado the name of the special agent in charge. The SOD is a secretive joint command within the Justice Department, run by the DEA. It serves as the command-and-control center for some of the most sensitive counternarcotics and law enforcement operations conducted by federal forces. The executive also told Prado that US attachés in Mexico; Bogotá, Colombia; and Bangkok, Thailand, would potentially be interested in Prado's network. Whether this network was activated, and for what customers, cannot be confirmed. A former Blackwater employee who worked on the company's CIA program declined to comment on Prado's work for the company, citing its classified status.

In November 2007 officials from Prince's companies developed a pricing structure for security and intelligence services for private companies and wealthy individuals. One official wrote that Prado had the capacity to "develop infrastructures" and "conduct ground-truth and security activities." According to the pricing chart, potential customers could hire Prado and other Blackwater officials to operate in the United States and globally: in Latin America, North Africa, francophone countries, the Middle East, Europe, China, Russia, Japan, and Central and Southeast Asia. A four-man team headed by Prado for countersurveillance in the United States cost $33,600 weekly, while "safehouses" could be established for $250,000, plus operational costs. Identical services were offered globally. For $5,000 a day, clients could hire Prado or former senior CIA officials Cofer Black and Robert Richer for "representation" to national "decision-makers." Before joining Blackwater, Black, a twenty-eight-year CIA veteran, ran the agency's counterterrorism center, while Richer was the agency's deputy director of operations. (Neither Black nor Richer currently works for the company.)

As Blackwater became embroiled in controversy following the Nisour Square massacre, Prado set up his own company, Constellation Consulting Group (CCG), apparently taking some of Blackwater's covert CIA work with him, though he maintained close ties to his former employer. In an e-mail to a Total Intelligence executive in February 2008, Prado wrote that he "recently had major success in developing capabilities in Mali [Africa] that are of extreme interest to our major sponsor and which will soon launch a substantial effort via my small shop." He requested Total Intelligence's help in analyzing the "North Mali/Niger terrorist problem."

In October 2009 Blackwater executives faced a crisis when they could not account for their government-issued Secure Telephone Unit, which is used by the CIA, the National Security Agency and other military and intelligence services for secure communications. A flurry of e-mails were sent around as personnel from various Blackwater entities tried to locate the device. One former Blackwater official wrote that because he had left the company it was "not really my problem," while another declared, "I have no 'dog in this fight.'" Eventually, Prado stepped in, e-mailing the Blackwater officials to "pass my number" to the "OGA POC," meaning the Other Government Agency (parlance for CIA) Point of Contact.

What relationship Prado's CCG has with the CIA is not known. An early version of his company's website boasted that "CCG professionals have already conducted operations on five continents, and have proven their ability to meet the most demanding client needs" and that the company has the "ability to manage highly-classified contracts." CCG, the site said, "is uniquely positioned to deliver services that no other company can, and can deliver results in the most remote areas with little or no outside support." Among the services advertised were "Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence (human and electronic), Unconventional Military Operations, Counterdrug Operations, Aviation Services, Competitive Intelligence, Denied Area Access...and Paramilitary Training."

The Nation has previously reported on Blackwater's work for the CIA and JSOC in Pakistan. New documents reveal a history of activity relating to Pakistan by Blackwater. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto worked with the company when she returned to Pakistan to campaign for the 2008 elections, according to the documents. In October 2007, when media reports emerged that Bhutto had hired "American security," senior Blackwater official Robert Richer wrote to company executives, "We need to watch this carefully from a number of angles. If our name surfaces, the Pakistani press reaction will be very important. How that plays through the Muslim world will also need tracking." Richer wrote that "we should be prepared to [sic] a communique from an affiliate of Al-Qaida if our name surfaces (BW). That will impact the security profile." Clearly a word is missing in the e-mail or there is a typo that leaves unclear what Richer meant when he mentioned the Al Qaeda communiqué. Bhutto was assassinated two months later. Blackwater officials subsequently scheduled a meeting with her family representatives in Washington, in January 2008.

Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater also did business with a range of multinational corporations. According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world's largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto's security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson "understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name.... Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for." Black added that Total Intelligence "would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto." Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater "could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally." Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto's "generous protection budget" but would eventually become a line item in the company's annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto's Wilson initially said, "I'm not going to discuss it with you." In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating "there was no such discussion." He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto "with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites." Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was "a completely separate entity from Blackwater."

Monsanto was hardly the only powerful corporation to enlist the services of Blackwater's constellation of companies. The Walt Disney Company hired Total Intelligence and TRC to do a "threat assessment" for potential film shoot locations in Morocco, with former CIA officials Black and Richer reaching out to their former Moroccan intel counterparts for information. The job provided a "good chance to impress Disney," one company executive wrote. How impressed Disney was is not clear; in 2009 the company paid Total Intelligence just $24,000.

Total Intelligence and TRC also provided intelligence assessments on China to Deutsche Bank. "The Chinese technical counterintelligence threat is one of the highest in the world," a TRC analyst wrote, adding, "Many four and five star hotel rooms and restaurants are live-monitored with both audio and video" by Chinese intelligence. He also said that computers, PDAs and other electronic devices left unattended in hotel rooms could be cloned. Cellphones using the Chinese networks, the analyst wrote, could have their microphones remotely activated, meaning they could operate as permanent listening devices. He concluded that Deutsche Bank reps should "bring no electronic equipment into China." Warning of the use of female Chinese agents, the analyst wrote, "If you don't have women coming onto you all the time at home, then you should be suspicious if they start coming onto you when you arrive in China." For these and other services, the bank paid Total Intelligence $70,000 in 2009.

TRC also did background checks on Libyan and Saudi businessmen for British banking giant Barclays. In February 2008 a TRC executive e-mailed Prado and Richer revealing that Barclays asked TRC and Total Intelligence for background research on the top executives from the Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) and their potential "associations/connections with the Royal family and connections with Osama bin Ladin." In his report, Richer wrote that SBG's chair, Bakr Mohammed bin Laden, "is well and favorably known to both arab and western intelligence service" for cooperating in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Another SBG executive, Sheikh Saleh bin Laden, is described by Richer as "a very savvy businessman" who is "committed to operating with full transparency to Saudi's security services" and is considered "the most vehement within the extended BL family in terms of criticizing UBL's actions and beliefs."

In August Blackwater and the State Department reached a $42 million settlement for hundreds of violations of US export control regulations. Among the violations cited was the unauthorized export of technical data to the Canadian military. Meanwhile, Blackwater's dealings with Jordanian officials are the subject of a federal criminal prosecution of five former top Blackwater executives. The Jordanian government paid Total Intelligence more than $1.6 million in 2009.

Some of the training Blackwater provided to Canadian military forces was in Blackwater/TRC's "Mirror Image" course, where trainees live as a mock Al Qaeda cell in an effort to understand the mindset and culture of insurgents. Company literature describes it as "a classroom and field training program designed to simulate terrorist recruitment, training, techniques and operational tactics." Documents show that in March 2009 Blackwater/TRC spent $6,500 purchasing local tribal clothing in Afghanistan as well as assorted "propaganda materials—posters, Pakistan Urdu maps, etc." for Mirror Image, and another $9,500 on similar materials this past January in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to internal documents, in 2009 alone the Canadian military paid Blackwater more than $1.6 million through TRC. A Canadian military official praised the program in a letter to the center, saying it provided "unique and valid cultural awareness and mission specific deployment training for our soldiers in Afghanistan," adding that it was "a very effective and operationally current training program that is beneficial to our mission."

This past summer Erik Prince put Blackwater up for sale and moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. But he doesn't seem to be leaving the shadowy world of security and intelligence. He says he moved to Abu Dhabi because of its "great proximity to potential opportunities across the entire Middle East, and great logistics," adding that it has "a friendly business climate, low to no taxes, free trade and no out of control trial lawyers or labor unions. It's pro-business and opportunity." It also has no extradition treaty with the United States.

Jeremy Scahill






 
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« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2010, 05:51:50 am »

Disney, Chevron and Monsanto Contracted with Blackwater for Intelligence, Training and Security Services

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater sought to become the "intel arm" of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups.


By Jeremy Scahill, The Nation
Posted on September 16, 2010, Printed on September 17, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/148202/

Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater's work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater's owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the "intel arm" of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince's companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.

On September 3 the New York Times reported that Blackwater had "created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq." The documents obtained by The Nation reveal previously unreported details of several such companies and open a rare window into the sensitive intelligence and security operations Blackwater performs for a range of powerful corporations and government agencies. The new evidence also sheds light on the key roles of several former top CIA officials who went on to work for Blackwater.

The coordinator of Blackwater's covert CIA business, former CIA paramilitary officer Enrique "Ric" Prado, set up a global network of foreign operatives, offering their "deniability" as a "big plus" for potential Blackwater customers, according to company documents. The CIA has long used proxy forces to carry out extralegal actions or to shield US government involvement in unsavory operations from scrutiny. In some cases, these "deniable" foreign forces don't even know who they are working for. Prado and Prince built up a network of such foreigners while Blackwater was at the center of the CIA's assassination program, beginning in 2004. They trained special missions units at one of Prince's properties in Virginia with the intent of hunting terrorism suspects globally, often working with foreign operatives. A former senior CIA official said the benefit of using Blackwater's foreign operatives in CIA operations was that "you wouldn't want to have American fingerprints on it."

While the network was originally established for use in CIA operations, documents show that Prado viewed it as potentially valuable to other government agencies. In an e-mail in October 2007 with the subject line "Possible Opportunity in DEA—Read and Delete," Prado wrote to a Total Intelligence executive with a pitch for the Drug Enforcement Administration. That executive was an eighteen-year DEA veteran with extensive government connections who had recently joined the firm. Prado explained that Blackwater had developed "a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations." He added, "These are all foreign nationals (except for a few cases where US persons are the conduit but no longer 'play' on the street), so deniability is built in and should be a big plus."

The executive wrote back and suggested there "may be an interest" in those services. The executive suggested that "one of the best places to start may be the Special Operations Division, (SOD) which is located in Chantilly, VA," telling Prado the name of the special agent in charge. The SOD is a secretive joint command within the Justice Department, run by the DEA. It serves as the command-and-control center for some of the most sensitive counternarcotics and law enforcement operations conducted by federal forces. The executive also told Prado that US attachés in Mexico; Bogotá, Colombia; and Bangkok, Thailand, would potentially be interested in Prado's network. Whether this network was activated, and for what customers, cannot be confirmed. A former Blackwater employee who worked on the company's CIA program declined to comment on Prado's work for the company, citing its classified status.

In November 2007 officials from Prince's companies developed a pricing structure for security and intelligence services for private companies and wealthy individuals. One official wrote that Prado had the capacity to "develop infrastructures" and "conduct ground-truth and security activities." According to the pricing chart, potential customers could hire Prado and other Blackwater officials to operate in the United States and globally: in Latin America, North Africa, francophone countries, the Middle East, Europe, China, Russia, Japan, and Central and Southeast Asia. A four-man team headed by Prado for countersurveillance in the United States cost $33,600 weekly, while "safehouses" could be established for $250,000, plus operational costs. Identical services were offered globally. For $5,000 a day, clients could hire Prado or former senior CIA officials Cofer Black and Robert Richer for "representation" to national "decision-makers." Before joining Blackwater, Black, a twenty-eight-year CIA veteran, ran the agency's counterterrorism center, while Richer was the agency's deputy director of operations. (Neither Black nor Richer currently works for the company.)

As Blackwater became embroiled in controversy following the Nisour Square massacre, Prado set up his own company, Constellation Consulting Group (CCG), apparently taking some of Blackwater's covert CIA work with him, though he maintained close ties to his former employer. In an e-mail to a Total Intelligence executive in February 2008, Prado wrote that he "recently had major success in developing capabilities in Mali [Africa] that are of extreme interest to our major sponsor and which will soon launch a substantial effort via my small shop." He requested Total Intelligence's help in analyzing the "North Mali/Niger terrorist problem."

In October 2009 Blackwater executives faced a crisis when they could not account for their government-issued Secure Telephone Unit, which is used by the CIA, the National Security Agency and other military and intelligence services for secure communications. A flurry of e-mails were sent around as personnel from various Blackwater entities tried to locate the device. One former Blackwater official wrote that because he had left the company it was "not really my problem," while another declared, "I have no 'dog in this fight.'" Eventually, Prado stepped in, e-mailing the Blackwater officials to "pass my number" to the "OGA POC," meaning the Other Government Agency (parlance for CIA) Point of Contact.

What relationship Prado's CCG has with the CIA is not known. An early version of his company's website boasted that "CCG professionals have already conducted operations on five continents, and have proven their ability to meet the most demanding client needs" and that the company has the "ability to manage highly-classified contracts." CCG, the site said, "is uniquely positioned to deliver services that no other company can, and can deliver results in the most remote areas with little or no outside support." Among the services advertised were "Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence (human and electronic), Unconventional Military Operations, Counterdrug Operations, Aviation Services, Competitive Intelligence, Denied Area Access...and Paramilitary Training."

The Nation has previously reported on Blackwater's work for the CIA and JSOC in Pakistan. New documents reveal a history of activity relating to Pakistan by Blackwater. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto worked with the company when she returned to Pakistan to campaign for the 2008 elections, according to the documents. In October 2007, when media reports emerged that Bhutto had hired "American security," senior Blackwater official Robert Richer wrote to company executives, "We need to watch this carefully from a number of angles. If our name surfaces, the Pakistani press reaction will be very important. How that plays through the Muslim world will also need tracking." Richer wrote that "we should be prepared to [sic] a communique from an affiliate of Al-Qaida if our name surfaces (BW). That will impact the security profile." Clearly a word is missing in the e-mail or there is a typo that leaves unclear what Richer meant when he mentioned the Al Qaeda communiqué. Bhutto was assassinated two months later. Blackwater officials subsequently scheduled a meeting with her family representatives in Washington, in January 2008.

Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater also did business with a range of multinational corporations. According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world's largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto's security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson "understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name.... Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for." Black added that Total Intelligence "would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto." Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater "could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally." Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto's "generous protection budget" but would eventually become a line item in the company's annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto's Wilson initially said, "I'm not going to discuss it with you." In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating "there was no such discussion." He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto "with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites." Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was "a completely separate entity from Blackwater."

Monsanto was hardly the only powerful corporation to enlist the services of Blackwater's constellation of companies. The Walt Disney Company hired Total Intelligence and TRC to do a "threat assessment" for potential film shoot locations in Morocco, with former CIA officials Black and Richer reaching out to their former Moroccan intel counterparts for information. The job provided a "good chance to impress Disney," one company executive wrote. How impressed Disney was is not clear; in 2009 the company paid Total Intelligence just $24,000.

Total Intelligence and TRC also provided intelligence assessments on China to Deutsche Bank. "The Chinese technical counterintelligence threat is one of the highest in the world," a TRC analyst wrote, adding, "Many four and five star hotel rooms and restaurants are live-monitored with both audio and video" by Chinese intelligence. He also said that computers, PDAs and other electronic devices left unattended in hotel rooms could be cloned. Cellphones using the Chinese networks, the analyst wrote, could have their microphones remotely activated, meaning they could operate as permanent listening devices. He concluded that Deutsche Bank reps should "bring no electronic equipment into China." Warning of the use of female Chinese agents, the analyst wrote, "If you don't have women coming onto you all the time at home, then you should be suspicious if they start coming onto you when you arrive in China." For these and other services, the bank paid Total Intelligence $70,000 in 2009.

TRC also did background checks on Libyan and Saudi businessmen for British banking giant Barclays. In February 2008 a TRC executive e-mailed Prado and Richer revealing that Barclays asked TRC and Total Intelligence for background research on the top executives from the Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) and their potential "associations/connections with the Royal family and connections with Osama bin Ladin." In his report, Richer wrote that SBG's chair, Bakr Mohammed bin Laden, "is well and favorably known to both arab and western intelligence service" for cooperating in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Another SBG executive, Sheikh Saleh bin Laden, is described by Richer as "a very savvy businessman" who is "committed to operating with full transparency to Saudi's security services" and is considered "the most vehement within the extended BL family in terms of criticizing UBL's actions and beliefs."

In August Blackwater and the State Department reached a $42 million settlement for hundreds of violations of US export control regulations. Among the violations cited was the unauthorized export of technical data to the Canadian military. Meanwhile, Blackwater's dealings with Jordanian officials are the subject of a federal criminal prosecution of five former top Blackwater executives. The Jordanian government paid Total Intelligence more than $1.6 million in 2009.

Some of the training Blackwater provided to Canadian military forces was in Blackwater/TRC's "Mirror Image" course, where trainees live as a mock Al Qaeda cell in an effort to understand the mindset and culture of insurgents. Company literature describes it as "a classroom and field training program designed to simulate terrorist recruitment, training, techniques and operational tactics." Documents show that in March 2009 Blackwater/TRC spent $6,500 purchasing local tribal clothing in Afghanistan as well as assorted "propaganda materials—posters, Pakistan Urdu maps, etc." for Mirror Image, and another $9,500 on similar materials this past January in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to internal documents, in 2009 alone the Canadian military paid Blackwater more than $1.6 million through TRC. A Canadian military official praised the program in a letter to the center, saying it provided "unique and valid cultural awareness and mission specific deployment training for our soldiers in Afghanistan," adding that it was "a very effective and operationally current training program that is beneficial to our mission."

This past summer Erik Prince put Blackwater up for sale and moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. But he doesn't seem to be leaving the shadowy world of security and intelligence. He says he moved to Abu Dhabi because of its "great proximity to potential opportunities across the entire Middle East, and great logistics," adding that it has "a friendly business climate, low to no taxes, free trade and no out of control trial lawyers or labor unions. It's pro-business and opportunity." It also has no extradition treaty with the United States.


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

© 2010 The Nation All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/148202/
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« Reply #6 on: September 24, 2010, 06:11:02 am »

U.S. Businessman: Blackwater Paid Me to Buy Steroids and Weapons on Black Market for Its Shooters

Lowry: "It was like a frat party gone wild. Drug use was rampant. There was **** all on the tables. There were blocks of hash, and you could smell it in the air."

By Jeremy Scahill, The Nation
Posted on September 23, 2010, Printed on September 24, 2010
http://www.alternet.org/story/148277/

A Texas businessman who has worked extensively in Iraq claims that Blackwater paid him to purchase steroids and other drugs for its operatives in Baghdad, as well as more than 100 AK47s and massive amounts of ammunition on Baghdad's black market. Howard Lowry, who worked in Iraq from 2003-2009, also claims that he personally attended Blackwater parties where company personnel had large amounts of **** and blocks of hashish and would run around naked. At some of these parties, Lowry alleges, Blackwater operatives would randomly fire automatic weapons from their balconies into buildings full of Iraqi civilians. Lowry described the events as a "frat party gone wild" where "drug use was rampant." Lowry says he was told by Blackwater personnel that some of the men using the steroids he purchased were on the security detail of L. Paul Bremer, the original head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Lowry also claims that Blackwater's owner Erik Prince tried to enlist his help to win contracts for Blackwater with the Iraqi government using an off-shore security company, Greystone, which Prince owns. The purpose, Lowry says, was to conceal Greystone's relationship to Blackwater.

Lowry made his statements in a deposition on September 10 as part of a whistleblower lawsuit brought by two former Blackwater employees. The suit was filed in 2008 by former employees Brad and Melan Davis. They allege that Blackwater tried to bill the US government for a prostitute for its men in Afghanistan and for strippers in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The lawsuit claims that Prince personally benefitted from alleged fraud. The Nation obtained Lowry's deposition from publicly available court filings.

Blackwater, Lowry alleges, paid for the steroids using company funds and the purchases were coordinated by Blackwater's Iraq country manager. "Not only did I purchase the pharmaceuticals," Lowry said in his deposition, "but i was also given money and asked to acquire syringes and other forms or modes of injection as well." Lowry said that Blackwater used him to purchase the drugs and other devices because, unlike Blackwater personnel, he could move freely and discreetly around Baghdad. Lowry says he personally witnessed several Blackwater operatives injecting themselves with steroids.

Lowry says in the deposition that he was a close friend of Jerry Zovko, one of the four Blackwater men killed in the infamous ambush in Fallujah, Iraq in March 2004. Zovko, Lowry says, "provided me tremendous insight into the company and confirmed that the use of steroids and human growth hormone, testosterone, were pretty endemic to them and almost companywide." Lowry said that it was a "wide-ranging problem, and this included individuals that were on [L. Paul] Bremer's personal detail." Bremer was guarded by Blackwater when he ran the CPA from 2003-2004. Lowry says he would purchase the drugs for Blackwater "by the case," adding, "It was as large a quantity as I could get, which was usually a case." He said that the "volume I was being asked to purchase on a daily basis was going up substantially as time went on."

Lowry also claims that he purchased a wide variety of weapons, ammunition and armor for Blackwater on the black market in Baghdad. "I purchased no less than a hundred AK47s for Blackwater personnel to keep them safe," Lowry says. Such purchases, he says he believed, were necessary because Blackwater was not adequately arming its personnel.

Lowry also describes instances of Blackwater personnel firing randomly at Iraqi pedestrians and into buildings for no apparent reason. He details one night where several Blackwater operatives were at his hotel drinking until 5am. When they left, Lowry says, they fired their weapons at random as they drove off. Lowry describes parties that he says some Blackwater personnel would throw at the al Hamra hotel in Baghdad that he says were like "a frat party" with rampant drug use:
***
"One of the suites would be absolutely packed with gentlemen running around with either no clothes on, no shirt on. It was like a frat party gone wild. Drug use was rampant. There was **** all on the tables. There were blocks of hash, and you could smell it in the air...walking up to the door."
***
Lowry described one party where "there was a pile of **** that one Blackwater person had estimated to be over an ounce of coke." Lowry said, "to me, considering the job that these gentlemen are doing... at that time [they] were protecting the US ambassador, Ambassador Bremer, seemed a little bit out--well, beyong out of control. And these parties were a weekly ritual." Lowry alleges that at these parties on several occasions Blackwater personnel would pull out AK47s and go out onto the balcony and "would just spray the building next door, which housed Iraqi civilians."

Lowry also says that he had several meetings with Erik Prince where Prince asked him for assistance in winning contracts with Iraqi government for an off-shore company Prince owns called Greystone. It is registered in Barbados. Lowry, who says he knew the Iraqi Interior and Defense Ministers "very well," claims Prince wanted to offer the Iraqi government Greystone's training and security services. Lowry says that Prince stated "very clearly" to him that Greystone was "set up to deflect any liability, future liability, that he may have with respect to any weapons sales or any bodily harm or anything else, contract issued with both the US and the Iraqi governments." Lowry claims the Iraqis were aware of Greystone's connection to Blackwater and "detested" the companies.

Lawyers representing the self-exiled Blackwater owner have asked a federal judge in Virginia for a protective order against the tenacious lawyer who took Lowry's deposition. For years, attorney Susan Burke has pursued Prince and Blackwater with a string of civil lawsuits. In August, Burke flew to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, where Prince and his family have relocated, to conduct a seven-hour deposition of Prince in connection to the whistleblower claim she filed on behalf of the former Blackwater employees. After the deposition ended on August 23, according to Burke, Prince threatened to "come after" her.

Soon thereafter, Prince's lawyers declared the entirety of the transcript of Prince's deposition to be confidential material and asserted that it should be sealed. Prince's attorneys filed papers in the case asking the judge to allow Prince and his lawyers to classify any information or documents Prince provides or any information or documents Burke obtains from Prince or Blackwater as "confidential" and therefore barred from public dissemination. Prince's lawyers have also asked that all documents they provide in the case be destroyed within 120 days of the conclusion of the case.

Prince's lawyers have alleged that Burke intends to use the media to embarrass Prince and to litigate her case outside of court and have asked for a "gag order" against her and the other attorneys litigating the case. Burke, in her court filing, points out that the actions of Prince and his companies have generated tremendous publicity and attention. Burke writes:
***
"Defendant Prince and his companies create the media stir by their own actions.  Indeed, their misconduct has led to a series of indictments, charging letters from the State Department, and criminal trials.  Indeed, Defendant Prince seeks publicity that serves his own ends.  He voluntarily participated in a Vanity Fair interview, pressing his view that anyone who criticizes his misconduct must have a “political agenda.”  Defendant Prince voluntarily cooperated with a book about his life, called Master of War. In the book, he voluntarily revealed, among other things, that he fathered a child out of wedlock and cheated on his wife who was dying of cancer."
***
On September 22, Burke filed a motion opposing the gag order and what she sees as Prince's attempt to "seal everything." In her motion, Burke reveals that she provided the US State Department with a transcript of the deposition for review of potentially classified material. A State Department contracting official wrote, “[a]s contracting officer I do not require any redactions to the subject transcript of the Erk Prince deposition before it is made publicly available.”

In arguing against a gag order, Burke writes that media coverage results in witnesses coming forward who will "be helpful in showing the jury that [her clients'] claims of widespread fraud and misconduct have merit." To support her argument, Burke cited Howard Lowry, whom she says contacted her after seeing media reports on Prince and Blackwater.

Lowry says he contacted Burke "because I believe there is a tremendous lack of moral and business ethics on behalf of the owner of the company and, I believe, companywide." he added, "Because of that, I feel that numerous families of individuals of Blackwater employees that have been killed on the job are not getting the true story."


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

© 2010 The Nation All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/148277/


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« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2010, 06:14:58 am »

Contractor Deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan Outnumber Service Member Deaths

By ROGENE FISHER JACQUETTE

http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/23/contractor-deaths-in-iraq-and-afghanistan-outnumber-service-member-deaths/

September 23, 2010

More private military contractors than uniformed service members were killed while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan between January and June of this year, marking the first time that corporations have lost more personnel on America’s battlefields than the United States military, according to ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative reporting group. More than 250 civilians working under American contractors were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan during the first six months of 2010, while 235 soldiers died in that same period, according to the latest report in ProPublica’s Disposable Army series.

The numbers, while disheartening, are not surprising. Private contractors have provided more support operations for America’s military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan than for any other armed conflicts in United States history. With the Aug. 31 drawdown of American combat troops in Iraq and the reliance on contractors for covert operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it seems likely that the contractor death toll will continue to climb.

There were 207,600 private contractors employed by the Department of Defense, 19 percent more than the 175,000 uniformed personnel members employed by the department, according to a July report by the Congressional Research Service. In Iraq and Afghanistan, contractors make up 54 percent of the Defense Department’s workforce, according to the report.

As of June, contractor deaths represented over 25 percent of all United States fatalities since the beginning of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, according to a report by Steven L. Schooner and Collin D. Swan at the George Washington University Law School.

See The New York Times’s coverage of private military contractors here.
http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/p/private_military_companies/index.html


 
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« Reply #8 on: September 25, 2010, 09:41:57 am »

Sued U.S. defense contractor in Iraq (died)

By Emma Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 24, 2010; B6
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/09/23/AR2010092306215_pf.html


Shane Schmidt, a private security guard in Iraq who raised questions about lax government oversight of U.S. defense contractors when he accused his boss of randomly shooting at, and perhaps killing, civilians in Baghdad, died Sept. 19 at a hospital in Marshfield, Wis. He was 33.

Mr. Schmidt, a Haymarket resident who was visiting family in Wisconsin, was crossing a road near Marshfield just after midnight when he was struck by a vehicle. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died, according to a news release from the local sheriff's department. The incident was under investigation.

Mr. Schmidt was a Marine Corps sniper who served two tours in Afghanistan before taking a job in 2004 with Triple Canopy, a Herndon-based company and one of the largest defense contractors working with the U.S. military in Iraq.

For $500 a day, he provided protection for American bases and visiting military personnel and contractors.

On July 8, 2006, the former Marine was one of four Triple Canopy employees traveling in an armored sport-utility vehicle to the Baghdad airport.

One of the four, shift leader Jacob C. Washbourne, was scheduled to leave Iraq the next day for a vacation in the United States. "I want to kill somebody today," he said as he cocked his gun, according to the other three men in the vehicle.

In two separate encounters later that day, Washbourne fired unprovoked into the windshields of an occupied taxi and pickup truck, said Mr. Schmidt and a colleague, former Army Ranger Charles L. Sheppard III. They suspected that civilians had been seriously injured or killed, although they didn't know.

"I do not have a problem killing bad guys, that's what we do," Mr. Schmidt told the New York Times in 2006. "But murdering innocent civilians? That is wrong, and justice has to be served."

Mr. Schmidt and Sheppard, who said they feared reprisal from Washbourne, waited two days until he had left the country before reporting what they had witnessed to top Triple Canopy managers.

An internal investigation followed. Washbourne denied every accusation. Triple Canopy fired Mr. Schmidt and Sheppard, saying that they had violated company policy by failing to report the shootings right away.

The fourth guard, Fiji native Isireli Naucukidi, reported the July 8 incidents immediately - offering an account that differed slightly from the others - and then left Triple Canopy on his own.

"I couldn't stand what was happening," Naucukidi told The Washington Post in 2007. "It seemed like every day they were covering something up."

The incident might never have become public had Mr. Schmidt and Sheppard not decided to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against Triple Canopy in 2006. The pair said that they had been fired for reporting Washbourne's attempted murders.

The case went to trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court in August 2007, and a jury found in favor of Triple Canopy.

On appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court overturned that ruling and ordered a new trial, saying that the judge had given the wrong instructions to the jury in the original trial.

The parties reached a settlement out of court. The terms were not disclosed.

In recent years, Mr. Schmidt worked for several defense contractors, working up from field security operations to positions in management.

Shane Beauford Schmidt was born May 27, 1977, in Wausau, Wis. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1994, before graduating from high school, and left for boot camp the following year.

He served in the Marine Corps until 2003. His military decorations included the Navy Commendation Medal.

Mr. Schmidt's first marriage, to Cori Markof, ended in divorce. He married Joanne Miller in January.

In addition to his wife, of Haymarket, survivors include two children from his first marriage, Sabrina Schmidt and Roman Schmidt, both of Marshfield; his mother, Diane Schmidt of Wausau; his grandfather, Kenneth Schmidt Sr. of Wausau; and two sisters.

Although what happened on the road to the Baghdad airport July 8, 2006, might never be clear, media coverage of Mr. Schmidt's story helped draw attention to questions about how and whether the U.S. government and its defense contractors handled allegations of criminal misconduct by private employees.

Working for a security outfit in Iraq was a lot like going to war with the Marine Corps, except there were fewer restrictions, Mr. Schmidt said.

He told former Post reporter Steve Fainaru, who wrote the book "Big Boy Rules," about the culture of lawlessness among contractors working in Iraq: "The rules of engagement, the way they were briefed to me, was, 'If you feel threatened, take a shot.' "



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« Reply #9 on: October 02, 2010, 09:26:31 am »

Published on Friday, October 1, 2010 by FireDogLake.com

State Department Re-Ups With Blackwater


by Spencer Ackerman

The State Department’s $10 billion, five-year contract with private security firms is finally out. Guess who’s still a part of it?

I have an exclusive over at Danger Room about how an arm of Blackwater successfully formed a “joint venture” to stay in the picture [1]. Here’s what I’d highlight for you:
http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/10/exclusive-blackwater-wins-piece-of-10-billion-merc-deal/

Don’t see any of Blackwater’s myriad business names on there? That’s apparently by design. Blackwater and the State Department tried their best to obscure their renewed relationship. As Danger Room reported on Wednesday [2], Blackwater did not appear on the vendors’ list for Worldwide Protective Services. And the State Department confirms that the company, renamed Xe Services, didn’t actually submit its own independent bid. Instead, they used a blandly-named cut out, “International Development Solutions,” to retain a toehold into State’s lucrative security business. No one who looks at the official announcement of the contract award [3] would have any idea that firm is connected to Blackwater.

Blackwater’s “affiliate U.S. Training Center is part of International Development Solutions (IDS), a joint venture with Kaseman [4],” according to an official State Department statement to Danger Room. “This joint venture was determined by the Department’s source selection authority to be eligible for award.”

I mean, just try Googling “International Development Solutions.” You see a lot of information about what this company is? It’s hard not to recall Paravant. As Senator Levin explained [5]: “The investigation revealed that Paravant had never performed any services and was simply a shell company established to avoid what one former Blackwater executive called the ‘baggage’ associated with the Blackwater name as the company pursued government business.”

© 2010 FireDogLake.com
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

URL to article: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/10/01-9


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« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2010, 06:49:01 am »

Blackwater in Afghanistan ‘dissolved,’ Kabul claims


By Agence France-Presse
Sunday, October 3rd, 2010 -- 11:01 am
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/10/blackwater-afghanistan-dissolved/


Afghanistan has formally banned eight foreign private security firms, including the controversial company formerly called Blackwater, a spokesman for President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday.

The Afghan government announced in August that it was giving security firms working in Afghanistan four months to cease operations, potentially hitting hard efforts by NATO-led troops fighting a nine-year insurgency in the country.

"The process of dissolving eight private security companies and collecting their weapons has been carried out successfully," Waheed Omer told reporters.

Xe, the former Blackwater, and White Eagle Security Services, which provides security for Afghan government officials and NGOs in particular, are among the first companies banned.

The August presidential decree ordered the 52 private security contractors operating in the country, both Afghan and international, to cease operations by January 1, 2011.


Many fear the measure could create huge problems for the military and other international entities that depend on the estimated 40,000 employees of private security contractors.

Karzai had accused the security companies of running an "economic mafia" based around "corruption contracts" favored by the international community.

He has said the firms duplicate the work of the Afghan security forces and divert much-needed resources, while Afghans criticize the private guards as overbearing and abusive, particularly on the country's roads.

Critics, though, say the tight deadline will not allow enough time to negotiate an alternative to private contractors in a country were security is a priority and police are generally not trusted.

Private security firms in Afghanistan are employed by US and NATO forces, the Pentagon, the UN mission, aid and non-governmental organizations, embassies and Western media.

They employ about 26,000 registered personnel, though experts say the real number could be as high as 40,000.

The contractors themselves have been reluctant to comment publicly but some have said privately they believe many of their clients would leave the country if they could not source their own security.

Xe, formerly Blackwater, gained notoriety in Iraq after guards protecting a convoy opened fire in a busy Baghdad square in September 2007, killing as many as 17 civilians.

Last month two former Blackwater security guards went on trial in the United States, accused of the murder of two Afghan citizens in a 2009 shooting.
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« Reply #11 on: October 25, 2010, 03:35:34 pm »

Karzai: Blackwater behind terrorism

Mon Oct 25, 2010 3:59PM
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/148217.html



Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said US private security firms, including Xe Services LLC, formerly known as Blackwater, are being behind terrorism in the country.

At a press conference in Kabul, Karzai said that US security companies have been behind explosions that have claimed the lives of women and children.

The Afghan president added that they have caused "blasts and terrorism" in different parts of Afghanistan over the past months.

The Afghan president said his administration cannot even distinguish between the bomb blasts carried out by US security firms and those of the Taliban militants.

"In fact we don't yet know how many of these blasts are by Taliban and how many are carried out by them (US security companies)."

Blackwater has been involved in the murder of several Afghan citizens over the past years. The company has also been struggling with a trail of legal cases and civil lawsuits, including one for killing 17 Iraqi civilians during a Baghdad shootout in 2007.

Earlier in June, the CIA reportedly admitted that Blackwater had been loading bombs on US drones that target suspected militants in neighboring Pakistan.

The Afghan president has also pointed out that American private security firms are corrupt and have fueled nine years of war.

"Deals under the name of private security companies are cut in the hallways of American government buildings. It involves 1.5 billion dollars," he said.

Karzai has accused security companies of running what he called an economic mafia based on crooked contracts.

"The money, 1.5 billion dollars, is being distributed there (in the United States) on Blackwater [sic] and this and that."

The developments come as the notorious Blackwater has been awarded a five-year State Department contract worth up to USD 10 billion for operations in Afghanistan.

In August, Karzai ordered all security firms to disband before the end of the year.

Some diplomats and military officials say Karzai has been under intense pressure to reconsider his decision.

However, Karzai says he is steadfast in his decision to dissolve foreign security firms in the country despite US pressure to reconsider the decision.

The private companies are said to be in charge of providing security for foreign officials and embassies as well as development projects in Afghanistan.

Karzai has blamed mercenaries for civilian deaths and corruption in the troubled region.

JR/HGH/MMN
Related Stories:
Karzai determined to ban mercenaries
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/148051.html

In Afghanistan, 17 US soldiers killed
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/148148.html

Wikileaks vows more Afghan war leaks
http://www.presstv.ir/detail/147896.html


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« Reply #12 on: November 01, 2010, 06:20:28 am »

Who’s calling the shots in Afghanistan? The Pentagon or the Mercenary Outfits?

By Robert Bridge
 
Global Research, October 30, 2010
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=21702
Russia Today 


In the latest incident of a US military contractor overstepping its powers, the Pentagon accused one of its own members of organizing an “illegal spy ring” in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The story sounds like something straight out of James Bond: A renegade, out-of-control corporation, led by a former military officer and armed with state-of-the-art spyware, breaks out on its own to serve justice as it sees fit.

The only problem is that this is not some Hollywood fiction, but a real-life Pentagon investigation against a former US military officer who was somehow able to “overstep his powers” in Afghanistan and Pakistan, allegedly going so far as “calling the shots” against suspected militant hideouts.

Michael Furlong, a military defense contractor, is the subject of an ongoing investigation into an illegal spy ring, known as "Information Operations Capstone.” The network, a collection of small companies that used agents to collect intelligence on militant groups inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, operated under a $22 million contract run by Lockheed Martin.

In a 15-page classified Pentagon report that was leaked to the Associated Press, investigators concluded that Furlong created an “unauthorized” intelligence network to collect information in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which was then forwarded to US military commanders. The investigators say the illegally collected information was used to strike suspected militant groups.

The Pentagon prohibits the hiring of private contractors as spies.

The New York Times, quoting unnamed sources, reported that the group was only supposed to “provide broad information about the political and tribal dynamics in the region – called ‘atmospherics’ – and ‘force protection’ information that might protect American troops from attack.”

To be fair to Mr. Furlong, there seems to be a very fine line between reporting on the “political and tribal dynamics” and informing headquarters about the coordinates of proven militant hideouts. Indeed, as the report acknowledges, it did not take long before the group made the “transition into traditional spying activities.”

The Associated Press reported that Furlong denied the accusations, saying he was never questioned by the investigators or privy to the contents of the report so that he may respond to the charges.

Furlong is on administrative leave, pending final review of the case by the Air Force inspector general, which will determine whether or not he overstepped his duties.

Is the Pentagon pacifying Pakistan?

The New York Times first broke the story in March under the headline: “Contractors tied to effort to track and kill militants (March 14, 2010).”

“Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program,” the story began, “a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants…”

The story was based on comments anonymous military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

“Michael D. Furlong… hired contractors from private security companies that employed former CIA and special forces operatives,” The paper reported, only citing anonymous sources. “The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

Yet despite the fact that “senior generals” used the collected information, Mr. Furlong is now in hot water for “overstepping his powers.” It has not been disclosed how the military commanders were in the dark about Furlong’s activities, or even how he managed to penetrate hostile regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan without the help of coalition forces.

Eventually, the report noted, some “American officials…became troubled that Mr. Furlong seemed to be running an off-the-books spy operation.”

The next paragraph, which mentions Pakistan’s irritation over increasingly frequent incidences of US drone attacks on its territory, provides a possible explanation for the US government coming down hard on Furlong and his “spy ring.”

n Pakistan, where Qaeda and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, the secret use of private contractors may be seen as an attempt to get around the Pakistani government’s prohibition of American military personnel’s operating in the country.”

In other words, Furlong may well be the scapegoat of a secret military contract that attracted too much attention to itself. But if it is true that one individual and his mercenary band of former military officers really did perform undercover spy work in Afghanistan and Pakistan, picking and choosing where to initiate airstrikes, this would represent yet another disturbing trend in the US military’s history of using private military contractors.

Yet if history is a reliable indicator of future events, Mr. Furlong has little to worry about as far as justice goes. Indeed, the failure by US prosecutors to bring charges against former personnel of Blackwater, which is now known as Xe Services, has been stymied every step of the way.

According to The New York Times, “Late last year, charges were dismissed against five former Blackwater guards who had been indicted on manslaughter and related weapons charges in a September 2007 shooting incident in Nisour Square in Baghdad, in which 17 Iraqi civilians were killed.”

In September, a Virginia jury was unable to reach a verdict in the murder trial of two former Blackwater guards charged of killing two Afghan civilians.

In these cases, defendants are practically free from prosecution thanks to the so-called “Garrity Warning,” which says that defendants risk losing their jobs if they do not talk, but that they would be granted immunity from prosecution for anything they say.

Meanwhile, according to an article in the Huffington Post, “Blackwater…just can’t be disqualified from winning lucrative government contracts, no matter what they do.”

Blackwater, despite the buckets of blood on its hands, continues to win lucrative government contracts.

As Danger Room reported earlier this month, “Blackwater did not appear on the vendors' list for Worldwide Protective Services. And the State Department confirms that the company, renamed Xe Services, didn't actually submit its own independent bid.

“Instead, they used a blandly named cut-out, ‘International Development Solutions,’ to retain a toehold into State's lucrative security business. No one who looks at the official announcement of the contract award would have any idea that firm is connected to Blackwater.”

Clearly, this is a very disturbing trend when private corporations are operating with impunity and judicial immunity in highly sensitive war zones, risking the disruption of diplomatic means to ending conflicts on which Barack Obama placed so much emphasis during his presidential campaign.

Hopefully these mercenary outfits don’t have any illusions about taking their private activities into another hotbed of heated passions known as Iran.

It’s time to reign in these mercenary corporate outfits and leave them to the imagination of James Bond movies.


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